Our online world is becoming increasingly visual and increasingly automated, and marketers are responding accordingly.
Thanks to industry giants and innovators like Google, Apple, and Facebook, marketing teams have a whole new toolbox for experimenting with things like automation, video, augmented reality, and more.
Keep an eye out for these four digital marketing trends in 2018.
1. AR will enter the marketing mainstream
We’ll see even more clever, more sophisticated applications of virtual and augmented reality technology in 2018. By 2021, VR and AR traffic will increase to 20 times what it was in 2016, according to research from Cisco.
Adventurous brands are already experimenting with AR-enhanced shopping experiences. IKEA rolled out its virtual catalog back in 2013, allowing customers to place virtual furniture in their homes using IKEA’s mobile app before purchasing. Yelp’s Monocle feature, first launched in 2009, lets users see nearby businesses’ ratings and reviews through their phone’s camera.
As more and more AR development tools become available to the masses, like Apple’s ARKit, expect to see even smaller businesses experimenting with AR-enhanced marketing campaigns.
2. Visual search will change how customers learn about your business
Search technology is finally catching up to users’ demand for a search engine that accommodates both text and image queries. These advances in visual search will change where and how customers encounter your business and its products, and marketers will have to be ready.
Pinterest has already become a powerful platform for product discovery thanks to its Lens feature. With Pinterest Lens, users can snap a photo of an item to uncover where to purchase it online, find similar items, or view pinboards of complementary items curated by other Pinterest users—a valuable opportunity for marketers to get their products in front of prospective customers without relying on paid advertising.
Amazon’s CamFind also helps shoppers locate a real-world item in Amazon’s massive inventory by snapping a photo. Google, too, has doubled-down on developing its visual search technology—Google Lens, slated to debut on Google devices in late 2017, will turn users’ phone cameras into search tools.
Thanks to visual search, marketers will have even more opportunities to draw prospective customers’ eye and match them with the perfect product.
3. Live video will become a content marketer’s best friend
Live streaming video has become an essential part of nearly every major social platform, and its popularity shows no signs of slowing. By 2021, live streaming video traffic will have grown 15-fold, according to research from Cisco.
Live video has opened the door for companies to reveal the personal, un-edited face behind their brand. Viewers don’t just tolerate candidness in live video content—they expect it, and embrace it.
Whether it’s a behind-the-scenes look at life in the office or a virtual launch party, live video humanizes your brand and builds trust with your audience in ways more polished and produced content never could, and its immediacy keeps your audience watching.
Now that Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and others have launched their own live streaming video features, it’s never been easier for businesses of every size to make live video a part of their marketing strategy.
4. Messaging apps will play an even larger role in customer experience
The world’s most popular messaging apps now command a larger userbase than the world’s most popular social media platforms. The shift happened back in 2015, and brands are starting to understand what that means for customer experience.
Messaging apps offer teams an even more private, personal channel for connecting with customers—more private than posting to a company Facebook page or tweeting at a brand on Twitter.
Messaging apps aren’t just for addressing complaints, either. Services like Kayak and Trulia are using Facebook Messenger to connect users with the perfect flight or apartment, freeing them from the hassle of wading through pages of search results. Starbucks, Pizza Hut, and Lyft all use custom chatbots to streamline the process of placing an order.
In addition to being a useful sales tool, messaging apps have also opened a new frontier for marketers. For brands like Sephora and Burberry, chat apps are a prime place to give customers personalized product suggestions and point shoppers toward helpful styling content.
Businesses no longer need an in-house programmer to build their own chat platform, either—creating a Facebook Messenger chatbot doesn’t require special skills or software. Expect to see messaging apps become a key part of customer experience in 2018.
Consumers are changing their minds about when and how they want to hear from brands. They’re demanding richer, more streamlined customer experiences and even more transparency from brands. Watch these trends, marketers—2018 is just around the corner.
Meredith Wood is the editor-in-chief at Fundera, an online marketplace for small business loans that matches business owners with the best funding providers for their business. Prior to Fundera, Meredith was the CCO at Funding Gates. She is a resident Finance Advisor on American Express OPEN Forum and an avid business writer. Her advice consistently appears on such sites as Yahoo!, Fox Business, Amex OPEN, AllBusiness, and many more.