The Top Marketing Trends: Automation and AI Are the 'New Normal'
“With advanced analytics helping to decipher customer segments, machine learning can prescribe what to do next based on the data, look for sizable segments that warrant action, then act and improve the customer experience,” says Julie Bustos, senior vice president of marketing at the Lacek Group, a data-driven communications firm. “Numerous interaction touchpoints provide ample opportunity to aggregate and analyze existing data to ensure customer needs are at the forefront and that this is a two-way relationship built on value exchange,” she says.
AI can be used both from an analytics perspective and as a means to fuel other emerging trends, like chatbots and voice search. It holds promise to increase the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of both strategic and operational marketing activities.
INCREASE IN SMS/TEXTING
The rise in smartphone usage has not gone unnoticed by marketers, so it is no surprise that businesses are increasingly turning to short message service (SMS) to connect quickly with consumers. And going forward, that trend is only predicted to rise, according to experts. It has a way to go to achieve critical mass, though.
In its “The Inside Look at Mobile Marketing” report, Iterable argued that “despite texting’s integral role in consumers’ daily mobile usage, only 8 percent of all mobile messages were SMS, and 80 percent of companies did not deploy SMS messages at all.”
Interestingly, consumer use of texting is sky-high. Research from Zipwhip, a business texting solution provider, found that 77 percent of consumers use texting more than other messaging tools, and 80 percent of consumers want businesses to offer the option to text them. The coronavirus just accelerated this trend, according to Zipwhip’s chief marketing officer, Scott Heimes. “The virus is accelerating digital transformation and setting the tone for texting to become the primary method of marketing and communications for 2020 and beyond,” he says.
Heimes holds out the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services as an organization that has used text messaging effectively to connect with its audience. Alaska’s population is largely rural and very dispersed, and texts have been used to rapidly deploy surveys and to share nightly press briefings, he says.
“The pandemic has brought into focus the need for businesses to reach their customers directly, whether it is to share an emergency alert, retain a customer base that can no longer visit in person, or provide a new product or service that would be of help during these unsettling times,” Heimes says.
PODCAST AND VIDEO POPULARITY TO CONTINUE
Two other areas expected to see continued growth in 2020 and 2021 are podcasts and video.
“One of the hottest marketing trends, with a technology element, is the podcast,” says Kent Lewis, president and founder of Anvil, a search engine marketing agency. “This is particularly relevant in a post-COVID world, as remote working is the new norm,” he says.
Lewis, who has been producing podcasts for several years, says, “We’ve learned a good deal as we’ve built out additional podcast strategies for ourselves and our clients.” In terms of best practices, he recommends the following:
• Start small. Basic equipment is very inexpensive and can be upgraded as marketers build audience.
• Market aggressively. He recommends optimizing podcasts to rank in related searches, syndicating across podcast channels like iTunes, Stitcher, and Sound Cloud, and buying targeted advertising on podcast networks, Google, and social platforms.
Similarly, video will continue to resonate with consumers and marketers in 2020 and beyond, says Arti Bedi Pullins, founder and CEO of Pundit Consultantz, a healthcare innovation and creative services design agency. “Video content, which was already rising pre-COVID, will become the new email communication for marketers,” Pullins says.
Companies like Spotify, Red Lobster, Target, and P&G might have cut back on traditional advertising avenues during the pandemic, but Pullins predicts that “their trajectory into utilization of video and personalized content will see a V-shaped growth trajectory over these next nine to 36 months.”
COVID-19 is forcing marketers, and others, to think differently about how they operate and how they connect with key audiences. The forced experiment is both accelerating the use of newer technologies and spurring marketers to take a new look at how they might use existing technologies more effectively.
In many regards, the trends predicted by marketing experts serve to fuel a mandate for self-service as consumers turn to their devices to find answers, products, services, and support.
Linda Pophal is a freelance business journalist and content marketer who writes for various business and trade publications. Pophal does content marketing for Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, and individuals on a wide range of subjects, from human resource management and employee relations to marketing, technology, healthcare industry trends, and more.