It may be a new year and a new decade, but the evolving challenges and goals for marketers in 2020 look a lot like the ones they were met with in 2019.
Although the technology available to marketers continues to proliferate, I believe 2020 will be a “back to basics” year for brands in a lot of ways.
Topics like personalization, AI machine learning and voice search optimization will continue to be top of mind for modern marketers, but I believe the following trends will be the most critical for brands’ success this year.
Renewed focus on understanding consumer behavior and intent.
You can have all the data and martech tools in the world, but if you aren’t able to draw meaningful conclusions from your consumer interactions, your tools and content are essentially useless. This is a challenge that has grown along with the complexities of today’s omnichannel marketing environments and siloed tech stacks.
And it’s not just what marketers seek, but what consumers demand. In fact, Salesforce reports that 76 percent of consumers now expect companies to understand their needs and expectations.
To be fully tapped into consumers’ ever-changing wants, needs and expectations, brands must centralize their systems and data, develop sophisticated multi-touch attribution models and begin implementing AI tools to help them identify meaningful insights that can deepen their understanding and anticipation of customers’ needs and inform their ongoing marketing and communications strategy.
Shifts from macro influencers to organic influencers.
After years of high-profile scandals, frauds and fakes, the influencer industry is in the midst of a fundamental shift away from traditional macro influencers, who have massive followings and get paid by brands to post about their products, and towards organic influencers, the everyday people who organically create content about their favorite brands.
Today, only 4 percent of people trust what social media influencers say online. To dig themselves out of this trust deficit, brands are beginning to turn instead to the content people inherently view as trusted and authentic: user-generated content.
This year will see the next evolution of influencer marketing in new tools that enable brands to find, engage and motivate their organic advocates to create the high-quality, authentic content their brands want and their customers crave.
Content diversification will continue to skew towards video and ephemeral content.
As the number of consumer channels persist in expanding and diversifying, so must the types of content that brands produce and publish — and audio/visual content is in higher demand than ever.
Twenty nineteen saw growth in Instagram Stories and the rise of TikTok — both of which point to trends around people’s shortened attention spans, “always-on” mentalities and insatiable desire for fresh, visual content.
In 2019, TikTok became one of the most downloaded apps with over 500 million active users. It’s popularity with Gen Z is what really has brands flocking to the platform, hoping to reach and resonate with this elusive and potentially very lucrative generation. In 2020, marketers can take a page out of brands like Chipotle, Fenty Beauty and the NBA’s book when it comes to creating fun, informative and engaging content on TikTok.
Instagram Stories, like the Snapchat Snaps that preceded them, rely on their ephemeral quality to keep people coming back for more for fear of missing out (no one likes to experience FOMO). The short-lived nature of this kind of content also opens the door to more conversational and interactive ways of communicating with your audiences. Give followers a behind-the-scenes look at your brand, ask a live poll question, start a countdown for an upcoming event or maybe even spark a customer challenge.
For example, Ikea USA uses Instagram Story poll questions to engage their audiences and display their diverse product catalog while gathering anecdotal data on their social audiences’ preferences (see the first trend we covered). In the image below, you can see that their followers overwhelmingly prefer light kitchen cabinets and backsplashes.
Greater need for transparency.
With online misinformation at an all-time high, trust in brands is at an all-time low. What does this mean for marketers? Trendiness is out and transparency is in.
Edelman recently reported that 75 percent of consumers say they value trust more than trendiness, and according to Label Insight, 73 percent would be willing to pay more for a product that offers complete transparency.
The fashion industry has been especially affected by this growing trend, with more and more consumers wanting transparency across brands’ value and supply chains. As a result, many retailers — particularly DTC (direct-to-consumer) brands — are now practicing what the industry has coined “radical transparency.” By exposing details around their products’ materials, costs and manufacturing, retail brands — like Everlane, Patagonia and others — help to build more trust with shoppers and ultimately boost sales and loyalty.
Growth in branded newsletters.
As Casey Newton recently stated (ironically in his own newsletter), “Newsletters are the new websites.”
Many marketers have already started taking a content-as-a-service approach to their brand marketing, and to great success. In 2020, we can expect this strategy to expand into more thoughtful email newsletters from brands that focus more (or at least just as much) on cultivating engaged communities as they do on selling.
Women’s wellness brand, Cora, is a great example of a company that has built a loyal community through their editorial arm, called Blood + Milk, which has a weekly newsletter sharing quality and thoughtful content on “the physical, physiological, emotional, spiritual, psychological, social, political, cultural, and economic forces that influence the way women exist in their female bodies while striving for wellness.”
Brands that can get real with audiences and create a newsletter sharing content that’s directly relevant and valuable to their customers will make large strides towards community growth and engagement in 2020.
Further blurring of the line between in-store and online retail.
While investments in social commerce and digital ad spend will continue to increase as more brands take advantage of new tools like Instagram Shopping Posts, retailers like American Eagle, Sephora and Amazon are incorporating online technology into their in-store shopping experiences as well.
Sephora has been striving for years to make shopping more personalized and seamless for their customers. Not only does their Sephora Virtual Artist mobile app help customers find the perfect shade of makeup for them wherever they are, but today their physical stores are also armed with this AI and AR technology that allows shoppers to test how different make-up will look on them without actually needing to apply any products.
Similarly, American Eagle has brought commerce technology into their fitting rooms, offering customers a seamless way to “scan items, look up product information, request additional sizes, see in-store inventory, calculate costs and email themselves product information” — effectively removing a number of in-store pain points for shoppers.
And Amazon Go stores’ automated checkout is arguably one of the most revolutionary examples of the blurring between on and offline shopping, having completely redefined what seamless, tech-driven in-store shopping experiences look like.
Global online sales continue to rise, with a 17.9 percent increase in 2019 from 2018, but it will be the companies who can seamlessly connect their online interactions with their in-store experiences that will be the real winners of 2020.