Our 2018 Digital Marketing Forecast

7 minute read

It’s a New Year, and anything is possible! Unfortunately, your digital marketing strategy can’t sit back and wait to be surprised.

BSTRO’s in-house experts, who are immersed in the thick of web design, email marketing, data, technology and more, have cast their 2018 predictions for what’s in store. Hang onto your hats, because we’re about to blow them right off.

The tools and trends shaping web design this year

 Anastasia Chetvertukhina, Designer

Along with mobile traffic growth — which is pretty expected, and in some cases outnumbers visits from desktop — I believe traffic from voice search will become more prominent. For us designers, that means more structured information, content, and navigation, so it’s digestible for voice search. Voice design UI services will be offered by more and more digital marketing agencies.

In this light, it will become more important than ever that designers make sure content on a page makes sense for user at every step of their journey — whether they came from a voice search for the first time, a social media post after a week of following, or used a website for many years on their desktops.

Information about users is being shared across channels, and the difference between websites and apps has almost evaporated. That’s why I believe more and more users will expect websites they visit to be personalized, similar in look and feel to a mobile app’s tactile experience.

Brand values will claim a key role in storytelling

 Ron Woloshun, Creative Director

We’re seeing emerging brands whose business model is an integral part of their product (think Warby Parker, Quip, Pretty Litter and others). Right now, a subscription or online-only model is enough to make a brand stand out, but that will change — as other brands enter the category and have the same model, it stops being a meaningful point of differentiation.

Smart companies are planning for how they can evolve past the initial novelty phase, in part by building a brand on qualities that are unique to their products and their values. When there are four subscription toothbrush brands to choose among, you need to find a way to stay one step ahead — which makes solid, thoughtful branding all the more critical.

Values will play a larger and larger role in brand conversations, as well. Whether it’s dropping gender-specific language from toys and clothes, helping revitalize a local economy, or taking a stand on issues like racial and LGBTQ+ equality, brands will need to be clear on where they stand. Consumers have begun to see every dollar they spend as a vote for more of what they want to see in the world.

Oh, the humanity (of content marketing)!

 Lisa Schaffer, Director of Business Development

Content Marketing will continue to be Queen! Brands must continue to humanize their digital marketing efforts and show real value to consumers, and the strongest way is through meaningful and relevant content that customers can relate to. Embrace and share; it’s about genuine human connections.

Quality content should first and foremost provide instant value, and not be an overt sales tool. This is a fine line for marketers who are working on TOFU (top of the funnel) and even MOFU (middle of the funnel) efforts; they need to educate and convert without coming across as too heavy-handed. Consumers want to be given information that adds value for free without feeling like something is then expected of them.

My side prediction is a shift in how brands use influencers for content delivery — consumers are getting wiser, and influencers driving content for brands will need to be engaged and genuine to gain traction.

One data tool to rule them all

 Pam Berg, Content Marketing Specialist

We are living in a data-driven world, and I am a data-driven nerd! The importance of gathering data to refine your strategies and creative is being understood more and more widely — this is good! Businesses now mostly grasp that user data needs to be gathered by methods beyond Google Analytics to gain a solid understanding of their audiences, and improve user experiences across the board.

I see a shift to developing and using all-in-one tools to handle all aspects of data research, analysis, and reporting in all areas of marketing. With the growth of data-dependence came an oversaturation of tools to perform various tasks. Emerging all-in-one tools will help keep our stacks simple, storing everything in one place for internal efficiency and sharing of user learning between strategists, sales, and marketing.

Also, two words: predictive analytics!

Shopping and AI in emails, oh my!

 Amy Tebbs, Email Campaign Manager

This year we’ll definitely see an emphasis on increased data collection and progressive profiling, to drive further segmentation — even narrower audiences, with more specific targeting by location, interests, and buying behaviors.

Interactive emails will take off, giving audiences enhanced experiences such as being able to shop within the email, or not having to click through to the site to access an abandoned cart purchase. We can also expect to see AI used in email marketing, generating subject lines, body copy, and even CTAs tailored to the reader, for increased opens, clicks, and conversions.

And of course, we can expect to continue improving personalization efforts. Relevant content served at the right time to the right people will always be the driving force behind successful email marketing campaigns.

Disruptions in e-commerce and search capabilities

 Mary Puls, EVP Managing Director

I’m really interested to see how voice shapes the coming year. I recently spent a week at a friend’s house that was wired to respond to Google Echo commands. It’s amazing how quickly you get used to telling your “assistant” to turn the lights off and on, play your favorite music or give you the weather forecast. By the end of 2018, it’s predicted that over 30% of homes will have an assistant and these devices will primarily replace the in-home usage of mobile devices. A recent study from NPR said that 65% of smart speaker owners would not want to return to life pre-speaker days and 42% said it’s now essential to their life. Talk about fast adoption!

Thinking beyond the home, how about asking your Alexa-enabled headphones to order you energy bars after your workout. Once you can talk, why would you write!

 Jill Tracy, Founder & Chief Creative Officer

With up to 76% of shoppers saying they would do most of their holiday shopping on Amazon, the online giant is going to continue to surprise and dominate in 2018. By absorbing e-commerce from individual brands, changing how we physically shop (no cash registers in brick and mortar stores!), launching their own cryptocurrency, and/or by making another game-changing acquisition like Whole Foods, Amazon is the company with the most potential to disrupt business as usual.

We’re continuing to work with brands this year on developing and optimizing their Amazon selling strategy, so I predict it’s going to be a great year to be in digital — and to be at BSTRO.

New social media challenges for advertisers

 Lana Olmer, Account Executive

Instagram will continue to grow as a key way to reach audiences, especially Millennials and Gen Z. I see additional changes taking shape within Instagram, to make it more business-friendly. With added features like shopping, the ability to swipe up on Stories, and the new highlights feature, the platform is already making it easier than ever for businesses to drive consumers to purchase. I expect even more features to be released this year for all the advertisers who are flocking to the platform.

Speaking of advertisers, changes to Facebook’s algorithm will bring additional challenges as the platform prioritizes engaging instead of passive content. Marketers will have to work harder to make sure that users are not just consuming their content, but actually interacting with it.

And influencers are definitely here to stay! As savvy brands look to humanize their advertising efforts, I think we’ll see more companies investing in influencers to create valuable content that feels relatable and less commercial.

The last word on content in 2018

 Katie Rottner, Senior Copywriter

I think emails are still going to be huge, but they’re going to get even shorter and even more visually focused. But don’t worry, words aren’t going anywhere: we’ll need them to overlay on top of our videos when we’re either too lazy to invest the time of watching, or we’re on mute at work.
Text, image, and motion are working together in a brand new way, and I think we’re going to see that relationship evolve in the years to come. As Gen Z gets older and the toddlers of tomorrow come of age, static narratives will be a book-only feature and advertising will either adapt to be dynamic or become ignored.

We will all regret our readiness to support Amazon.com as we come to fully realize the complete and utter control we have willingly handed to Oligarch In Chief Jeff Bezos. But who can complain? Our free electronic voting tablets will come in only two days with our selection pre-checked for President Zuckerberg!


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