Okay, we’ll admit it, we’re a little bit put out that flying cars and robot butlers aren’t a regular feature of our lives, but there’s no denying that we’re living in the future. Digital is an integral part of everyday life, and the advances in technology and tools show no sign of stopping. With so much opportunity and so many options out there in 2020 for brands in the digital space, we’ve pulled together the digital trends and strategies that just can’t be ignored.
Putting the user first in your organic search strategy
As brands become more au fait with paid digital media, and the quick wins it can give them, CRO and SEO will require more skill and time investment to make gains.
CRO focuses on maximising traffic that’s already hitting the site by running small incremental tests, frequently to make marginal gains in conversion rates.
SEO is important to capture users are various stages in their intent funnel, whether they’re just starting their research journey or know exactly what they want and they’re ready to convert.
An SEO strategy needs to reflect this by making sure each step of the journey has content relevant to the intent of the user and not based solely on keywords.
Integrating both these disciplines will be a big 2020 trend as more companies place a focus on making sure that their site makes sense and serves a purpose every step of the way. And if it doesn’t, test and iterate to improve performance.
Focusing on authenticity and ROI with influencer marketing
Last year saw people starting to lose faith in influencers, with scandals such as popular parenting influencer Mother of Daughters (Clemmie Hooper) being outed for trolling her family and friends, and influencers starting to lose faith in the platforms where they have built their audiences, with algorithm changes restricting reach and Instagram removing ‘like’ counts from their interface.
However, influencers are still a key part of the digital landscape and this is only set to continue as 2020 goes on, but brands will likely be more careful who they choose to work with. Authenticity will be the name of the game on both sides, with influencers seeking a deeper connection with their audience, and brands seeking influencers who have that deeper connection, and the ability to prove that their connection will translate into cold hard sales. Brands will likely seek longer-term relationships with influencers who not only take a pretty picture and have a big following, but whose values align with their own.
Video will continue to be big for influencers, with the rise of TikTok and IGTV providing even more opportunities to create content and entertain audiences. However, more and more influencers, having been let down by platforms more invested in the bottom line than in fostering community, will look to grow their own platforms and, by extension, their own brands. We’ve already seen the podcast boom, but more influencers will look to grow their web presence outside of Instagram - including a return to blogging for some, newsletters and other ‘ownable’ content. The bigger influencers will absolutely continue to pivot into their own products and brands, rather than relying on sponsored content to pay the bills.
With more and more pressure to prove that ROI, more ‘traditional’ entertainers like singers, actors and TV personalities will continue to move into the influencer space, starting YouTube channels, getting in on TikTok (hello, Will Smith) and cashing in on ‘sponcon’ on Instagram. However, with legislation cracking down, and users becoming savvier than ever, they shouldn’t expect an easy ride - authenticity will be just as important for megastars as it is for micro-influencers.
Shoppable posts are going big
With more than 130 million taps on shopping tags on Instagram alone each month, a direct buying option is the next step in online shopping.
Users can simply go from scrolling to action with a simple click of a button, and without leaving the Instagram app. It’s a win-win for brands, Instagram and shoppers with its easy to use functionality; there’s no need to leave the app to buy. The checkout feature is currently being tested with 20 brands, including Burberry and Nike, and has seen positive results. It’s set to open up to business accounts in the upcoming months and could drastically change the way that people shop.
Platforms like Pinterest have recently jumped on the bandwagon and announced a similar advertising feature. Although this is likely built more for e-commerce brands, it’s the start of them using the platform to drive more direct action. It combines social engagement with in-platform shopping and should be set to drive a lot of revenue for a lot of companies, even allowing influencers to send links to their clients’ shops - adding in a further affiliate opportunity.
Restaurants embracing online
The hospitality industry has traditionally lagged behind in digital innovation, often distracted by the more immediate demand of maintaining their operations and physical restaurants over their online territory.
But as customer experience becomes irrevocably intertwined with tech, in 2020 we can expect the dining industry to really step up their digital game, both online and in restaurants.
Tools to streamline the dining process such as booking bots, order at table and mobile payments are likely to become more commonplace, especially in the casual dining market where customers are prioritising fast, convenient service over a more personal, face-to-face experience.
This desire for convenience can also be seen in the food delivery boom, with Deliveroo recently announcing they now have 30,000 UK restaurants signed up to their platform. It wouldn’t be surprising to see some dining brands reducing their physical locations in 2020 to invest more in off-premise revenue streams, or at least developing dedicated online delivery teams in sites.
It’s no secret that Facebook started using Artificial Intelligence to try and automate communication between brands and consumers. A very good example is the Messenger Bot. Also considered as being the next step up from lead gen ads, Facebook Bots are meant to be user-friendly and to produce faster results at a higher engagement rate.
Whether it’s allowing users to book an appointment, ask for their email address or telephone number or generating leads for building your own CRM, Facebook Bots can help. Some might say they fulfill the same function as email marketing, except they’re better and quicker.
There are plenty of reasons why investing in a Messenger Bot should be a part of a brand’s immediate future plans. 20 billion messages are sent between businesses and users each month on the Facebook network, with 1.3 billion in terms of unique users each month. Another reason why they score such high engagement rates is because people generally have the urge to open their messages and respond to them, which helps businesses get past the banner blindness phenomenon.
Automation: It’s everywhere
In this day and age, everyone can become an entrepreneur, an influencer, a blogger or even an online shop owner - you name it. It’s never been easier to set up your own online business. All you need is WIFI and an account with Wordpress or Shopify.
With no sign of stopping, automation has scaled drastically over the past decade. It sprung its way across the whole sector with companies like SquareSpace opening up the floodgates of website building and management to everyone.
People can now create their own websites and run paid campaigns with just a few clicks of the mouse. Automation then helps them scale their business even more - without the burden of handling mundane PPC tasks (negative keywords we’re looking at you). Yet, you can expect 20-30% of the returns of what we, humans, could do.
But what is the real cost of automation?
Despite the wonders it has done to our daily lives and jobs, automation is perceived as a necessary evil. Partly because it’s everywhere - there’s no escaping it. But also, in a world where almost all decisions are taken after analysing the data, human interactions seem to take the hit.
There’s no denying that a data driven approach is key to any business. In fact, if you don’t follow the data, you probably won’t succeed. It is, however, essential for human interactions to stay at the forefront of all our automated endeavours. Emotions and relevance can’t quite be quantified…yet!
Emerging and evolving social
Video-music sharing app TikTok surged into mainstream consciousness in 2019, amassing more than 600 million downloads globally and ranking higher than both Facebook and Instagram on the App Store.
Offering the unique ability for literally anyone to create bite-sized, viral content, the app has proven particularly popular amongst Gen Z, as well as in emerging markets like China and India. As such, it’s no surprise that more and more brands, public figures and influencers have started to take notice.
Whilst advanced advertising and shopping features will no doubt be rolled out in due course, brands’ immediate focus will be on the type of content they’re producing for the app. With TikTok’s use of ephemeral video, they will no longer be able to simply carry over production-heavy campaign assets, and instead have to rely on creating new organic, low-budget, high-value content, designed to entertain a younger audience.
Aside from how brands adapt, it will also be interesting to see how Facebook and Instagram’s different solutions to TikTok’s dominance play out…
Facebook launched a standalone TikTok clone - Lasso - with next to no fanfare back in 2018, and have been quietly developing it over the past year. Whilst currently only available in the US, recent rumours about an expansion into TikTok-mad India could be an indication that it’s ready for the next stage.
If Lasso ultimately makes use of Facebook’s user-base, financial and technological resources, it could become quite a serious player, but the platform’s older user base could slow the rate of adoption, as we’ve seen in the underwhelming use of its Stories feature.