Trendwatch 2020: Digital Marketing Trends on the Horizon

December 9, 2019 Christine Otsuka

Let’s face it. When it comes to trends, there are those you want to follow right now because they’re certain to work. And there are those that are unproven and you’d rather take a wait-and-see approach. I’m here to tell you about the latter. 

In a survey of 330 marketers, we asked what burgeoning trends they’re keeping their eye on in 2020 and beyond. And here are some of the most interesting answers:

Digital Marketing Trend 1: Original Episodic Content

Original content isn’t just for the Netflixes, Apples, and Amazon Primes of the world. Brands are becoming brand publishers and not just blogging or creating promo videos. Instead, they’re creating their own short-form shows and series to engage their target audience on an ongoing basis. Brands like National Geographic (with its Untamed series on InstagramTV) and Airbnb (with its Six Strangers series on Facebook) are investing in video formats to keep audiences coming back. Marketers are keeping their eyes on this trend and marking it on their “to watch” list as a way to build audience relationships at scale. 

Digital Marketing Trend 2: TikTok and LinkedIn Live

Social channels aren’t going anywhere but marketers are keeping their eyes on some new ones. For consumer brands, TikTok is the key to reaching and getting in sync with a younger demographic who wants to laugh and be entertained. Nearly 50% of TikTok’s global audience is under the age of 34 with 26% between 18 and 24. The short-form video app already has brands like Chipotle, Guess, The Washington Post, and the NBA creating content regularly. 

For B2B brands, LinkedIn Live is the next social media channel marketers will be watching closely. LinkedIn Live’s beta launched early last year and was available through invites only. While relatively late to the live video trend, LinkedIn is the first of its predecessors to be business focused. Recent statistics show that 80% of the content on LinkedIn is video and users are 20 times more likely to share a video than any other type of post. 

Digital Marketing Trend 3: Automating the Marketing Team

Don’t freak out. None of the marketers who responded to our survey said they’re looking for robots to replace their jobs, but they do see the potential for AI-powered tools to help save time and costs by handling repetitive marketing tasks. Some thought that lead scoring, cold emailing and follow-up, and even AI-generated copy could give marketers more time to be creative and strategic. Artificial intelligence is no longer just a tool marketers use to personalize content recommendations or make chatbot responses, or, in essence, automate the prospect or customer experience. Rather, in this trend, AI is automating the marketing team. 

And they’re not wrong. Forrester predicts cognitive technologies such as AI and machine learning will replace 16% of U.S. jobs by 2025. Of those jobs, administrative support staff are the ones most likely to be disrupted. Automating admin tasks is both exciting and scary for marketers, making this trend one we’re keeping our eyes on.

Digital Marketing Trend 4: Interactive Marketing

In interactive marketing, prospects and customers are encouraged to interact with a brand’s marketing. It’s often trigger-based, meaning a prospect or customer will take a specific action that triggers specific marketing on the part of the brand. In some instances, prospects and customers are asked questions that reveal their preferences and their experience reflects the answers they’ve chosen, like the “Choose Your Own Adventure” style storybooks or the Bandersnatch Black Mirror episode. Most marketers are already familiar with the types of content used to support these programs such as interactive content or storytelling, games and contests, polls and quizzes, and calculators. 

While marketers are curious about this trend, they’re hesitant to dive in headfirst as it requires a lot of work upfront to create something truly interactive. 

Digital Marketing Trend 5: Micro Content

Micro content is extremely short-form content that’s high-value but low cost to create. One of the simplest examples of micro content is a tweet. It’s 140 characters but can tell a story, go viral, be incredibly insightful, rich, or shareable and easy to publish. An increase in mobile browsing and social media app usage are leading the charge when it comes to micro content. 

Forms of micro content survey respondents mentioned include micro blogging, especially as a LinkedIn status update, and micro videos created specifically for social. Why micro content? It’s easily digestible and appeals to a very busy audience, which it seems like most brands have come up against. Early adopters are finding good engagement with short-form content, but it hasn’t reached a tipping point yet.

Digital Marketing Trend 6: Intent Data

Smart marketers are already leveraging intent data, especially for their account-based marketing programs. It holds a lot of value in marketing circles as the key to identifying buyers who are in the market earlier as well as the topics they’re interested in. But a lot of marketers are looking at intent data with a certain amount of fear and hesitation—how best can we leverage the data, how reliable is it, and will it help or turn off future customers? It can be an incredibly powerful tool for personalization, especially as it pertains to timing and delivery of both content and experiences. Time will tell if intent data will reach a mainstream-level of not only acceptance but execution.

Taking a Wait-and-See Approach

There’s nothing wrong with taking a more cautious approach when it comes to trends. In fact, many of the trends our survey respondents said they were merely watching were what other marketers listed as their 2020 priorities. Depending on your industry, company, and risk tolerance, you could find yourself on either side of the equation. But there’s no doubt marketers continue to have their eye on what’s just over the horizon.

About the Author

Christine Otsuka

Christine is an experience-obsessed marketer. Officially, she's Uberflip's Senior Content Marketing Manager, where creating engaging content experiences for marketers is a challenge she accepts daily. She believes that if you can't attract, engage, and compel that next action with your content, then why bother? She also has a thing for pugs, but who doesn't.

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