It’s that time of year when the interwebs are flooded with blog posts about the ‘must-follow trends’ or ‘the next big thing’ in marketing that’s going to change the way you engage with your customers and revolutionise the digital marketplace. Well, we’re here to cut through that noise and look at how much of this stuff is a load of hullabaloo, whether these hot trends are either a fad, or the future.
There’s no hiding from the fact that voice search will be a thing in 2019 and it’s a market that is growing rapidly. Comscore recently projected that by 2020, 50% of all search queries will be voiced-based, while OC & C Strategy Consultants forecast that the market for voice search devices will grow to $40 billion by 2022 (it’s currently at $2 billion).
These are some big claims.
But when was the last time you actually used Siri? Or asked Google? And what role is Alexa actually playing in your everyday life?
If you’re anything like the majority of the population then you haven’t used the voice assistant on your phone for months, if not years, and it’s been a feature of Google smartphones since 2010 and Apple since 2011.
As for Alexa, she’s currently a glorified playlist curator. Yes, there are brands such as Domino’s Pizza who have used voice technology with success, but those cases seem few and far between.
The reality is that our generation has had voice-search capable devices in our pockets for the last 5+ years and it hasn’t really impacted the way we search. The change has come with the Amazon Echo and Google Assistant devices, which are currently more of a novelty than a must-have. Whether our children, a generation that destroys flatscreen TVs as they mistake them for a touchscreen device, will be more responsive to voice search as the technology evolves, we will have to wait and see.
In its current guise voice search feels a touch gimmicky and is more of a fad than future tech. The technology has been readily available for a while and while the proliferation of voice assistants has exploded over the last 12 months there isn’t a game-changing feature on offer in these devices (yet) to make them a compulsory purchase, especially in a commercial sense. Do keep an eye on the B2C market though as there are opportunities as being evidenced by CES 2019 and the development of products such as voice-activated parasols and as surprising as it sounds, a $7,000 Alexa-enabled toilet. Clearly there is an appetite for ‘voice’, but we’re still looking for purposeful uses for the technology.
Here’s two eye-opening stats for you:
- 4 billion people a year are now interacting with chat bots.
- In a recent study by Oracle, 80 percent of businesses reported that they already use or plan to use chatbots by 2020.
There are many case studies flying around the internet showing that chat bots can make your business more profitable, whether its raising revenue by 17% or cutting customer service costs by 30%. 24/7 availability without the requirement for an off-day is certainly appealing to employers who are looking to offer out of hours support.
A chat bot has perfect recall of your purchase history and infinite patience. Monotonous tasks are not an issue for their happiness and ongoing performance, freeing up actual human beings for more important work.
Adding to this, 53% of customers say they would prefer to use online chat before calling a company for support. Unsurprisingly, this is a trend that is stronger in millennials than baby boomers (millennials are 20% more likely to prefer live chat to have their basic customer support questions answered), because as a society we’re being conditioned to value speed and convenience. From microwave meals to contactless payments and self-service checkouts, Uber and Netflix, the message is clear to business owners – convenience sells, or rather, retains your customers. And as the old adage goes, it costs five times more to acquire a customer than to retain one…
Mobile is also another area of strength for chat bot technology, especially in messaging-based applications. Both the food/ordering industry and travel/tourism industry are making use of chat bots to add a new channel to their revenue stream and reaping the rewards.
If we keep chat bots in generic B2C service roles to reduce overheads and increase efficiency in real-time, I can see how they can be impactful, but generally speaking the sophistication and affordability of AI isn’t at a place yet where chat bots are a viable option for many businesses. Yes, there are off-the-shelf and easily configurable chat bots/live help functions you can install on your website, but do you need an over-valued digital answerphone in the next 12 months?
More and more its apparent that customers are rejecting one-size-fits-all marketing strategies for timely and relevant marketing messages. A collection of data points such as geographic, demographic or behavioural attributes combined with your purchase history and browsing tendencies make personalisation a powerful marketing tool.
Amazon and Netflix are two to the best at leveraging personalisation with Amazon’s “People who bought this item also bought…” being an instantly recognisable example of how to improve your revenue with personalisation, while Netflix’s entire interface when logged in is specific to the user, to the extent even the programme’s preview image is tailored to your preferences.
The difficulty with personalisation is it requires data, and lots of it, which requires collecting and then analysing in order to empower your decision-making, which isn’t cheap. Furthermore, recent scandals with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have many people on edge about what data is being collected about them and why, while links between Amazon and the CIA are causing others to wonder quite why we’re all installing these ‘always-on listening devices’ in our homes.
Personalisation works and the biggest firms online – Google, Facebook, Amazon have been collecting data on us for years now and continue to utilise it to maximise their profits. eConsultancy reported that 44% of users who have a personalised shopping experience are more likely to become repeat buyers, while 96% of marketers think personalisation advances customer relationships, so it’s hard to label this as anything other than the future, although do expect some pushback from various social groups.
Google has coined the phrase “micro-moments” to summarise the ‘new consumer behaviour’ of a mobile-first generation, spending over 3.5 hours per day on their smartphones.
This is essentially the relabelling of the sales cycle for a digitalised society focused on immediacy – where to eat, what to purchase, where to go, and serviced by the likes of Google Maps, YouTube and Amazon.
We’re already seeing this impact search marketers who are starting to focus more on searcher task accomplishment – helping a searcher satisfy that expression of need, suggesting this reconceptualisation will be impactful in 2019.
Of the five ‘hot trends’ featured in this article, micro-moments are the one I have the most time for because it feels reactive to changing consumer behaviour and an attempt to optimise around a shift in the way users commonly make purchase decisions. It doesn’t require a business to reinvent their processes or invest in new technology but rather consider how immediacy has become a driving factor in decision-making, and how they can position their business or service to meet that requirement.
It’s overstating the mark to label micro-moments as the ‘future’ and calling it a fad isn’t right either. It’s more of an Emperor’s new clothes moment, an adjustment in understanding the sales cycle in the 21st century.
As with micro-moments, influencer marketing is a rebranding of celebrity endorsements for the digital generation. Rather than Steve McQueen, Gary Linekar and George Foreman endorsing your brand or products its now PewDiePie (80m+ YouTube subscribers), Ninja (largest ever Twitch stream – 630,000 concurrent users) and Kim Kardashian (122m Instagram followers). See how Iceland saw their approval ratings jump from 10% to 80% after partnering with Channel Mum after ditching Kerry Katona and Peter Andre.
It should be noted though you don’t need international superstars to make influencer marketing work – you need a genuine voice with some traction for your demographic. If that’s a food vlogger, YouTube content creator, or Twitch streamer, so be it. A great example of this is Youfoodz working with 81 different micro-influencers to target their respective niches and generate nearly 70,000 direct engagements on campaign content.
Tom Goodwin, author of Digital Darwinism, has jokingly referred to influencer marketing as “hot people holding things” and he has a point, but its origins lie in the prevalence of consumer reviews and opinions, widely available online, having a greater value than the words of a random celebrity.
Lazy influencer marketing – simply copy/paste spamming their chosen message will see a lot less traction in 2019, but collaborative co-created content will remain a powerful marketing tool, so expect influencer marketing to grow in 2019.
If you’d like help with your digital marketing, please contact Ross Miles on 01202 559 559 or drop us an email.
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