2017 was certainly a year of development in the digital sphere in terms of hardware and software. As a marketer, it is vital to be aware of new technological innovations and how new tools will impact the relationships between a brand and the consumer.

2018 will mark a more pronounced shift in the world of digital marketing and with more advancements brings more pressure for companies to adapt to this ever-evolving landscape or risk being left at the bottom of the theoretical ‘digital dump’. The public are now seeking more integrated experiences and this year, emerging technologies opens new doors for brands whilst also presenting renewed challenges.

Here is our run-down of four major digital marketing trends for 2018.

  1. Voice Search aka ‘The End of Typing’:

Not sold on the idea of using your voice to find out the latest cinema times or the best Italian restaurant in the area? Well you may start getting used to it. Voice search is here to stay and companies like Amazon and Apple will make sure of it. Whilst some may feel apprehensive to talk to the ominous box in the corner, talking to your devices can have its plus points. For instance, voice search is hands-free, meaning we can get on with those daily chores such as cooking or cleaning whilst finding out the information we need. It’s essentially easier and faster than typing and could result in more free time in the long run.

Consumers are becoming more accustomed to voice-activated searches thanks to the likes of Alexa and Siri. It is estimated that by 2020, voice searches are expected to account for 50% of all online enquiries, which is up from 20% in 2016. This year will see voice-search develop even further with these technologies being able to do an even better job of understanding us and all the nuance that comes with natural language.

Facebook has recognised the opportunity this presents and will launch Facebook ‘Portal’ this year, but more on that later. Voice technology is rapidly developing and now is the optimal time for brands to revaluate their SEO strategy to account for the new methods that people will search and receive information.

  1. Augmented Reality becomes an increasing reality

Augmented reality will see increased use in 2018 by social media marketers, with unique opportunities to make content more interactive and engaging. Last year we witnessed the birth of the iPhone X and this brought with it enhanced capabilities for social apps to utilise AR. In 2018 we will see the likes of Samsung and LG follow suit and unleash powerhouse mobile devices onto the market, ready for the AR revolution. Pokémon Go gave us a glimpse of the opportunities with AR. Ikea launched their ‘Place’ app last year which allows homeowners the chance to visualise that dreamy sofa in their living space. Brands have learnt lessons from the success of these apps and this year we will see sponsored AR content appearing in cities, content that can only be accessed at a certain spot, at a specific time. Facebook and Snapchat will pioneer the AR revolution in 2018, making it easier for brands to create these unique interactions. In December 2017, Facebook announced a new suite of AR tools for Messenger – called “world effects” which essentially allows users to drop real-time 3D objects into photos or videos within the camera frame. Not one to be behind the times, Snapchat also announced the launch of their Lens Studio, an app that allows users to develop their own AR lens for Snapchat. The use of Augmented Reality on mobile devices provides a niche and engaging way for marketers to reach their target audience – it’s quick, easy and very interactive.

  1. Rise of the Chatbots

Have you experienced the surreal interaction with a Chatbot yet? A brand page is responding to your query but it’s not actually a person typing? How bizarre right? Over time it will become something we are accustomed to and reliant on, 2018 will be the year that brands need to start thinking about social media bots. Chatbots have been around for years, but they’ve seen bigtime improvements recently. More and more brands are working on using chatbots for customer support and perfecting their chatbot marketing strategy. Chatbots can be set up to answer the most basic requests of customers, such as delivering order status updates, scheduling appointments, answering common user questions, and providing simple automated services during the hours when a business is closed.

This year we will see the global roll-out of ‘Direct’, essentially Messenger for Instagram. If you install Direct, the inbox disappears from the Instagram app and can only be accessed in the messaging app. Chatbots integrated into Direct means that Instagram can now allow advertisers to sell products on its platform, without users ever exiting the app. This was launched in select territories in 2017 but will see a major push in 2018. But who exactly is using chatbots? It looks like Millennials are the main culprits. According to a survey by Retale, 58% of Millennials have used a chatbot before and 71% say they would try interacting with a chatbot from a major brand. With this key demographic on board, it’s only a matter of time before these chatbots become the new normal.

  1. Seriously social shopping

This year, the juggernauts, Google and Facebook, will lead the charge of instant commerce, using their platforms to change the way the public interact with digital advertising and therefore increasing the amount of money spent on advertising within their platforms. Broken down, consumers will essentially be able to buy their new outfit, presents and groceries without even leaving the social media platforms. Facebook has now extended this set-up to Instagram with the ‘tap-to-view’ style adverts, which act as a digital store and offer users an easy way to find and buy products whilst remaining on Instagram. As a brand you may be thinking, “how would this digital storefront ad benefit my company or brand?”. If you represent a product or retailer, then the applications for your brand are obvious. Yet, not all companies are attempting to sell a good or service that the consumer can attain online. For example, if you represent a restaurant, you may wish to invest in digital marketing to drive brand awareness in a bid to increase physical sales. If that is the case then digital storefronts made available through Facebook, Instagram and Google may not be for you however understanding this trend towards instant commerce remains important!

So, there you have it, 2018 presents opportunities for brands to be innovative and engage with their target demographics in new and exciting ways. Over the next 12 months we will see the world’s most recognisable companies utilising these new methods in inventive ways, further enhancing their digital footprint. We can’t wait to see how it will all play out and roll out some of these new solutions for our clients!

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