It’s still hard to believe it’s a new decade! The world doesn’t look exactly like old movies predicted for the year 2020. Still, we’ve experienced monumental changes in technology and cultural trends in recent years. And those advancements will continue.
We may not get every prediction right about the future, but people make them because it’s a mark of leadership. With any major milestone like the turn of a decade, we should all be observant of where we are and where we’re headed.
A lack of awareness of industry trends and our own professional outcomes leads to stagnation and eventually leaves us irrelevant. For those of us in digital marketing– or business in general– it’s especially critical to stay atop changes as new digital platforms arise often, and the strategies that were winning yesterday may not be today.
We look at what’s ahead, not only so we don’t miss lucrative opportunities but also to be early adopters and strategic leaders. But before we look ahead at the 2020 marketing trends we foresee, let’s take a quick glance at the past to be mindful of what shaped the business world – and daily life – the past 10 years.
Trends that Shaped the 2010s
At the turn of the last decade, LinkedIn was on the rise, reaching 70 million followers. Shortly after that, their company went public and introduced their “Apply with LinkedIn” feature. In less than 2 years, their users more than quadrupled.
Also in 2010, Steve Jobs was still leading the way. Apple released the first high-resolution retina screen. It was also the year of the first iPad. Jobs is quoted to have said, “Once you use a retina display, you can’t go back.” He also predicted that location services would be a “really big deal.” Think of what geo-targeting has done for marketing since then!
A few years into the decade, we also experienced motion data processing that changed how we track our fitness, not to mention the ever-improving camera capabilities on our phones.
These historical moments, along with many others, changed the way we apply for jobs, market ourselves, capture life’s moments, and consume daily content in the past decade. For example, at the start of 2010, only 3.8% of internet traffic was from a mobile device. By the middle of the decade, mobile users accounted for over 50% of internet traffic.
Marketing in 2020 and Beyond
So, what’s next for business marketing in our modern roaring 20s? I believe there are 3 clear priorities.
Connection over Content
The tools we use for both business and recreation will support these priorities. Let’s discuss them more in-depth.
1. Connection over Content: The Online Community
For several years now, consumers have expressed their value of authenticity – and the lack thereof that they experience online. They’re becoming more discerning while also numb to the overload of content. They often ignore or skip digital ads. They question– and even attack– brands online. So why do consumers even gravitate towards digital spaces?
We cannot forget that most of the internet is made up of communities. People connecting with each other for discussions, schools of thought, shared interests…united as an audience to consume information or entertainment. This led Bill Gates to say “Content is King” during the rise of the internet.
One of the greatest landmarks of community in the 2010s was the rise of social media. One could easily argue that the original purpose of social media was connection.
I believe that’s the only reason overly curated (aka. fake) content from social influencers is still around today; because of how well these personalities connect with their audience. Plus, they do produce appealing content.
Good content is still vitally important for business marketing. We need great design. We need messages that stick with people. So we’re left finding a way to marry good content with real connection.
Let’s move beyond solely leveraging our content with a “Click Now to Buy” at the end. Every. Single. Time. That buy button works for Amazon because they fulfill an outrageously smooth customer experience (that’s a conversation for another time). We, however, must do all we can to show our customers/prospects/followers we’re real and that we care about them, not just their money.
Groups on Social Media
On social media this year, it will be more important to directly connect with other users than to produce and post original content every day.
Connections can still be made by sharing your own content, but social engagement is trending towards primarily participating in social media through Groups on Facebook and LinkedIn and interacting with other people’s content.
Within these spaces, let’s have real conversations with Group members in comment threads.
Why choose sharing in a Group over a general post? A Group has structure and focus. Most of them have official rules. It will be easier to grow a Facebook Group’s following than a Facebook Business Page because of the clarity of purpose and emphasis on connection, when done well. This is also because, according to Facebook, their new algorithm gives higher priority to Groups.
When you do decide to share original content inside a Group, you can be confident it’s hitting the nail on the head because of the knowledge you have about its members and why they’re there.
Virtual Reality and other Experiences
Other ways to marry content and connection include doing more of the following:
Virtual Reality Content
You might find the idea of gaming incongruent with business. But nowadays they’re already closer than you think! Live video, for example, allows a person to craft their content based on the comments and questions they receive in real-time. It’s interactive.
In 2020, forward-thinking businesses will find more ways to shift their video efforts to choice-driven ones. This makes the viewer feel like they can “choose their own adventure.” Both B2C and B2B businesses can use this to showcase their offerings in customized fashion, give behind-the-scenes looks at processes, and much more. There are many apps available that make this video style easier, like this one here.
If you use Instagram, you’ve probably noticed Story filters with a random generator above your head while you record your own selfie. Within seconds, an automatic selection is made telling you “what Disney character you are” or “what city you’re meant to live in.” This is gameplay. The filters already available on social media channels are simpler versions of virtual reality too. A few look very realistic.
Gaming, in the traditional sense of the word, is also not going anywhere. On average, a person spends longer on an online game in a day than they do on any social media channel. Because of their undivided attention while playing versus distracted scrolling on social media or news sites, marketing leaders recommend partnerships or sponsorships with gaming brands. Brand partnerships will be increasingly effective in marketing in 2020.
It may sound contrary to the bullet points above, but the pendulum is also swinging back toward in-person events as an important part of sales and marketing. This is demonstrated by coworking spaces, ThinkTanks, MeetUps, Pop-up classes, and other millennial-style networking efforts. These events work best when mirrored with an online experience, primarily on social media. These events garner the most impact when they’re shared as a Facebook event for registration and promotion. Facebook events for in-person events also give businesses the opportunity to go “Live” on the event page to include everyone in a little of the experience, even if they cannot attend.
That one word also sums it up: experience. This decade will present new ways for people to experience a brand. Experiential marketing, or engagement marketing, will lead the way in marketing techniques making someone feel connected to your business. And with the right data, it will be more personalized than ever.
2. Data Integration: Usable and in Real-Time
Speaking of data, only 2% of B2B marketers are capitalizing on automated, data-driven marketing.
Data warehouses (DPD) and customer relationship management (CRM) software have been around a while (and a majority of businesses still aren’t fully utilizing them). However, these platforms fall short in how data is integrated, updated, and synthesized.
In the case of a CRM, its primary focus is internal processes and interactions with the current customer base. And we already mentioned the lag in its data.
But what if we could receive and use data in real-time to create unique identities for potential customers? This requires working from a system that integrates with every digital medium you have to connect a potential customer with your business.
Luckily, Customer Data Platforms (CDP) exist to do just that.
Forward-thinking businesses will begin utilizing CDPs to manage their sales and marketing. The more advanced versions also include performance analytics and predictive analytics features.
As a person reading this, this technology may sound like an invasion of privacy. In a sense, it could be. Still, it’s only reading the data sets you’ve already shared at some point on the internet. It’s just reading it more intelligently now.
In a positive light, this technology could result in a better online experience for you personally. We’ve all seen a digital ad we strongly felt didn’t apply to us. This may help you enjoy parts of the internet again! What if it means fewer junk emails in your inbox?
As a business, CDPs enable you to reach people in a more customized – and effective – way. Less mass-marketing results in more impactful, less annoying connections with your audience. It should also mean a higher conversion rate.
Because preferences and behaviors are always changing, businesses should use the data they collect to constantly update and support their customer journey. Collecting the data is just the start. We’ve been doing that for years. Seamlessly integrating and activating it into the content we deliver is this decade’s game-changer.
3. Sales Enablement: A Better Journey for Your Team & Customer
We’ve talked about marrying content with connection. There’s another marriage to look forward to, and it’s between sales and marketing.
For far too long they’ve run as separate and siloed departments. I just mentioned the evolving customer journey. Decision-making, or purchasing, is cyclical (and includes many factors). The path between sales and marketing should be too.
A lead shouldn’t be passed to the sales team, never marketed to or nurtured again. This is true even after they become a happy customer. Otherwise, you’re missing opportunities to reconnect and reconvert.
It’s pointless to establish marketing goals or track KPIs if you’re unaware of sales or the overarching goals of your organization.
Working from a comprehensive system like a CDP, or CRM with dual sales and marketing capabilities, will help the two teams communicate with each other using the same language. When a marketing team collects good data, they should share it in a way that empowers the sales team.
Sales and marketing should also collaborate on the collateral they create towards their goals. This keeps you from wasting resources on work that’s ineffective or limited in use. You don’t want one-off sales pieces that are so customized that they eat up a specialist’s time, like your graphic designer.
This shift alone could help some companies remain financially solvent in the coming years, especially in industries like manufacturing where AI is encroaching on its workforce. Identify the superfluous or ineffective tasks. Increase the quality of the output.
When sales and marketing work hand in hand, the result should be a smoother and smarter brand experience for the customer. From discovery to nurturing to converting to onboarding and/or delivery, we must communicate consistently with customers at all times. Remember: anytime we talk to them, we’re branding and selling ourselves.
How to Be Forward-Thinking as a Business
We’ve looked ahead today. Honestly, I’m excited about the possibilities.
Nevertheless, when it comes to the future, who really knows for certain? That’s why it’s important to stay abreast of rising trends in the business world.
Technological advancements have always played a role. World affairs and public figures also impact what we care about. And now more than ever, we have the ability to hear from customers: who they are, what they want.
Think about this: If electric cars become more common, a business’s green initiative might become their biggest “it” factor in the 2020s. If self-driving cars take center stage, it could completely change the way we spend our “free” time.
In 2020, keep your eyes open for emerging business marketing opportunities – or simply marketing opportunities you haven’t been bold enough to pursue in the past. Most importantly, make sure you observe the world around you, listen to your customers, and always be willing to adapt!
If you’ve made it to the end of this blog, then you’re already on your way to doing just that! It’s clear you care about where digital marketing is headed in 2020 – but maybe your next steps don’t feel so clear. If that’s the case – let’s get coffee and talk about the possibilities.