Which digital marketing trends will be most important to you and your business in 2018? As everyone is aware, the online marketing environment is constantly changing. What worked well one year, or even for several years, may not work in upcoming years.

Tried-and-true techniques soon become yesterdays-news, and the cycle-time is always getting faster. Keeping up with the trends in online marketing becomes a full-time occupation. But don’t worry, at WL Media HK we have you covered and keep track of them on your behalf.

So here is what we see in our crystal ball for as the top 8 digital marketing trends going forward into 2018.

1. Personalize the Customer Experience

In 2018, personalisation is everything. It increases the engagement of your audience, as well as your brand’s relevance online. Personalization can come in the form of commerce or content or both; the important thing is to make your online presence important to each person. Use of AI technology to make this happen is more affordable than ever and will use your customers’ profiles and search patterns to deliver targeted ads and content that are designed to appeal to each person’s unique interests.

2. Make Marketing Activities a Natural Part of the Customer Experience

Customers are becoming used to marketing in every part of their dealings with you. This way, they will come to expect it, and it will seem like a natural part of being online, rather than an intrusion. To make this work the marketing needs to be effective, personal (see point 1 above) and hence meaningful.

Marketing and simply being informative merge together and meet the expectation that the modern person has, driven by Google Now or Assistant, Siri or Cortana that the right information is available to you at all times. You can use tools such as customer journey mapping targeting different hypothetical personas to help you pinpoint what types of marketing experiences are going to be most effective with your customers at each point of their journey with your company.

3. Make Social Messaging Apps a Part of Your Communications Toolbox

People have turned to social messaging apps, and making them a normal part of their lives, just as the telephone and television before them. How many people sit on a bus or MTR and read a newspaper? Not many. So while the population are getting their information from Facebook, WhatsApp, WeChat and Instagram that is where your messages needs to be as well.

You should be integrating your message into the social messaging apps for customer convenience, as most people are used to having this technology handy. Trying to create your own apps to capture audience attention is unlikely to work though. The Park’n’Shop “MoneyBack” app is a great example with a score of 3.1/5 and lots of complaints it would have been better to invest in a great presence on WeChat, perhaps a Facebook Messenger Bot or other mainstream social engagement.

4. Do Not Neglect Content Marketing

It’s been said for years that content is king, and this is still quite true. In fact, content marketing is one of the few digital marketing trends that is not forecast to undergo any dramatic changes in 2018. It is still as relevant as ever. If you combine it with personalisation, it becomes even more so. Content is an ideal customer engagement and retention tool. The higher quality content you use, the more seriously your customers will take you, and the more likely they will be to stay with you.

The content has to be useful, interesting, engaging or in some way attractive. This isn’t just about creating words for Google to index, you have also to do something that will catch the attention of a fickle audience of ever thumb-flicking-scrolling consumers. A job harder said than done but the next item may give one opening.

5. Make Liberal and Copious Use of Video

If there is anything that comes even close to competing with textual content for the top spot of important digital marketing tools, it is video. Customers today, especially younger ones, want video. They crave it and thrive on it. The most popular brands all have some kind of video marketing strategy, and usually a presence on YouTube or some other video upload site to go with it. YouTube is actually a good thing to incorporate into your digital marketing, as it is now an even bigger, more popular search engine than Google.

With native video becoming a mainstay on most other platforms, even to the venerable business-like LinkedIn, it isn’t something that can be ignored. That doesn’t necessarily mean investing in high-end video equipment, or outsourcing to professional production companies, there are ways to use a more casual and personal approach that will resonate with many people today.

That said, every year for the last 10 years seems to have been the “year of video”, and it continues to grow gradually rather than becoming all-encompassing.  Perhaps 2018 will finally be the breakout year.

6. Make Search Marketing a Natural Part of Content Marketing

Include options for searching within your content, while also optimising your content for search. Despite many claims to the contrary, SEO is still alive and well. All of your content should be perfectly optimised for search marketing, as this is still a larger source of traffic for most businesses online than social media (though social media can be used in conjunction with other marketing activities to drive traffic to your website). Also, including options for searching within your content, with results that lead back to sales pages for your business, or additional content from your company, increases customer engagement, and optimises your chance for sales from each person who uses it.

This means breaking down the silos within your own organisation between digital marketing, offline marketing, sales, customer support, and even production, repair and other back-end” functions.  Everybody within the organisation needs to have at least a basic understanding of digital marketing, because every function can have an influence.

Consider giving the whole team some basic SEO training and an in-house training session, and that is something we can help with, so that for example the people writing the technical manuals for your products will realize that the exact things they are developing might make great content for a social media marketing campaign.  Talk about connecting the dots!

7. Integrate Data from a Variety of Sources

Use more than one source to learn where your customers are coming from and what they want from you. There are tools that integrate marketing insights from social media, and others that use data from paid media ads. You can also use Google AdWords, which remains a relevant marketing tool. The important thing is to use more than one source for your marketing data, as this will give you a broader range of data on a more diverse population of customers and potential customers. With each new data source you add, you have a new tool to find customers you might have otherwise missed.

8. Create and Use Your Own Influencers

Once someone loves your company and brand, that person is in a perfect position to become a word of mouth ambassador for you. The trick is converting casual customers into powerful influencers. So many people use businesses and buy products based on recommendations from their friends, as well as from people they follow on social media. If those influencers are praising your product or service, you will attract many more new customers than you would without them.

To create your own influencers, simply be attentive and responsive to your customers. Acknowledge what they need and give them what they want. Prove to them that you genuinely understand them and have the solutions they want, and they will be loyal to you for a long time.

Don’t neglect your in-house influencers either, whether it be your CEO tweeting or someone in production with a passion for Instagram images of the products, the same rules of influence can apply.

Bonus. Do the unusual

It is no longer good enough to just do the usual. Everybody is doing the usual. Somehow you need to come up with alternative ways of getting your message out there, and as they are new and hence experimental some will fail.  Many will fail.  In fact, if you haven’t had many failures with new marketing concepts then you are certainly not trying hard enough to find something original.

But when you do find the that new thing, all the items above from Influencers to social to video to personalisation will amplify what you have done.  And that is what you are looking for.

2018 is not 2017

As you can see, the world of digital marketing looks a bit different in 2018 than it has in past years. Some innovations have been made, and some things are more important to do than they have been in the past. And, as we might expect, some things, like content marketing, have remained the same, and just as important as ever. By staying on top of these digital marketing trends, you can always be sure your business has the tools it needs to thrive in the digital world, as well as the real one.

Bonus ^2

Oh, and cats.  I don’t think the internet has yet reached cat-saturation level.  Maybe next year.


Raymond Lowe is an Internet Marketing Analyst at WL Media HK. He likes cats, though perhaps not as much as Winnie TsoiConnect with him on LinkedIn for the latest on Internet Marketing and how it applies to Hong Kong businesses or read his blog posts for more thoughts on the Life, the Internet, and Everything. 

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