For the average consumer, 70 percent of the buying process is complete before they reach out to sales for more information. And most of that 70 percent takes place online.
If you want to reach your potential customers when and where they're doing their research, you need an effective online marketing strategy. The trouble is, the digital marketing landscape is constantly changing. What worked like gangbusters over the last 12 months won't necessarily work as well (or even at all) next year.
Let's look at some of the most important digital marketing trends to be aware of in 2020.
Sales and marketing processes are often called "funnels" because of the way they're structured. The front-end of the process, or top of the funnel, is the widest point, to reach as many potential leads as possible.
As they work their way through your marketing process, you'll have fewer people but they'll be more likely to convert to customers. This narrowing process continues until the bottom of the funnel, where leads exit the funnel by becoming paying customers.
Digital marketing has generally been more focused on the top of the funnel or the lead generation process. This is changing though, with more focus on existing customers and figuring out ways to generate more revenue from them.
Digital marketing has always been more of a "push" process, with companies finding ways to put their content in front of their audience. When someone wanted to talk back, they had to send an email or submit their inquiry through a form and wait for a response.
This kind of delay is no longer acceptable to most people. They want to have a real-time conversation to get the answers to their questions.
Technology like intelligent chatbots helps your customers get the level of service they expect. With the improvements in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), these automated tools are going to become more important (and more effective) in 2020.
One of the reasons digital marketing is so powerful is the amount of information you can track about your leads and buyers. This wide range of information gives you the ability to track leads and conversions with a great deal of detail.
Heading into 2020, ad networks like Facebook and Google Ads will continue to give advertisers more data about their audiences. They will also continue to add new ways to leverage that data, such as remarketing capabilities and ad extensions that let you put more targeted information directly in your ads.
The trend towards better consumer privacy flies in the face of the data-driven marketing trend to some degree. Consumers are getting more and more savvy about protecting their personal information online. Issues like the misuse of user data by certain Facebook apps and data breaches at large companies has shone a light on this problem.
This means marketers will have to find new ways to connect with their target audience and create a more personalized experience. As people take better control of what they share online, you won't be able to gather as much information unless they trust you and give it up willingly.
Social Media Influencers
Social media influencer marketing has been trending for several years but the landscape is changing a bit. It's not about having the largest following anymore, it's about having a loyal following.
Influencers who connect with their audience can offer more value than the most popular celebrities. People don't necessarily trust what celebrity influencers have to say because they know they're being paid to say it.
Smaller influencers make a better connection with their audience. They might still be getting paid for the promotion but their audience puts more trust in what they say.
Video marketing will continue to grow in 2020. 74 percent of US consumers watch streaming video at least weekly and 41 percent of them watch it daily.
As streaming video has become part of their daily lives, people are getting less tolerant of boring advertising. Video marketing will continue to evolve into new formats, such as YouTube's 6-second pre-roll ads. These "bumper" ads play before the main video and are short enough that they don't create negative feelings for the viewer.
If you can come up with short, effective ads to fill these types of spots, more people will pay attention.
The Rollout of 5G Networks
5G is the next generation of cellular networks that are slowly being rolled out across the US and around the world. 5G is much faster than the current 4G networks and will help push mobile web use to even higher levels than it already is.
Video marketing can lead to bottlenecks on current networks. Once the higher bandwidth of 5G is widely available, it will see even faster growth.
Even on the current 4G networks, mobile has seen huge growth over the last several years. This has led to what Google calls micro-moments.
Micro-moments are moments where people want to know something, do something, buy something, or go somewhere and use their mobile devices to find those answers. This is often at, or very close to, the buying decision so if you can get your product, service, or message in front of them at the right time, you'll have a much better chance of converting them into a paying customer.
For example, according to Google, 82 percent of smartphone users check their phones for reviews when they're standing in a store deciding what product to buy. And 10 percent of them end up buying something different than they had planned based on what they learn in that micro-moment. That's a perfect opportunity to reach that buyer.
Social Media Stories
Snapchat Stories started the trend but most of the big social networks have adopted similar technology. Facebook, Instagram, and Tik Tok are three of the most widely used services.
These stories are "ephemeral" content - they disappear after a certain amount of time passes. If your audience doesn't see the story before it goes away, they've missed it for good.
This creates a feeling of FOMO, or fear of missing out, which keeps them coming back for more content, on a more regular schedule. Younger audiences have embraced these networks so it's perfect if that's your target market.
Native advertising is a way of integrating ads with regular content on a website. These ads are designed with the same look and feel like the main content, making them blend in.
This helps to avoid "ad blindness" which is common with banner ads and pop-ups. People click past them or ignore them, missing your message and wasting your ad dollars.
Native ads have been around for years but the trend in 2020 will be to offer more value instead of clickbait headlines that get the click but deliver little or no substance.
As we've already discussed, the mobile is going to get even bigger than it already is with the move to 5G. Mobile advertising will grow along with it.
Mobile advertising needs a different approach from traditional digital marketing though. The smaller size of the screen is one aspect but you also need to consider how people use their mobile devices.
Because they're often used in the micro-moments we've already discussed, you need to tailor your marketing strategy to target people closer to when they're making a buying decision.
Companies like GoPro and Warby Parker have been using user-generated content in their digital marketing for years but it's something every business should consider in 2020.
User-generated content connects with your audience better because it's more "real" than a typical ad campaign. It also creates more engagement with your existing customers since they can submit content to you. If you end up using it, it can create a sense of partnership.
This works better in some markets than others but you can get creative. Even if you're in a B2B market with no clear opportunity to make user-generated content, you might be able to come up with some hybrid ideas.
For example, you could interview one of your B2B customers and turn the interview into a white paper or case study about their success. They might be able to use this content in their marketing as well, making it worth the time and effort to create it.
Staying On Top of Digital Marketing Trends
Digital marketing trends are constantly changing, the same as any other technology-based industry. Staying on top of the latest trends so you know what is working now, what's coming soon, and what doesn't work anymore can be a full-time job.