6 Marketing Trends to Look Out for in 2018

It’s crazy to think that just ten years ago, smartphones were almost nonexistent, limited to just a few business professionals.

Fast-forward to today, and it seems like almost everyone has a touch-screen smartphone. And many of us use those smartphones for everything: to communicate, take pictures, search for information, buy products, book trips…

The spread of smartphones has completely changed the world of marketing. Bottom line: Marketing is an ever-changing industry, and if you don’t stay in the know, your business is going to get left behind.

To make sure you stay in the know and that doesn’t happen, I’ve compiled a list of the six trends that are on the rise in 2018.

Let’s dive in.

1. Transparency

Brand transparency is no longer an option; it’s a must for businesses that want to retain their old customers and acquire new ones.

But like anything, there’s a scale of transparency; some brands out there are 100% devoted to revealing everything, while other brands only choose to share certain things when and where they want. And then unfortunately there are some dishonest brands out there that try to come off as perfect and even deceive people into buying. Definitely don’t be one of those.

So why does transparency really matter, anyway?

Today’s consumers are savvier and smarter than ever. They don’t fall for gimmicks and tricks. Or if they do, they will most likely take their business elsewhere the next time around.

Moreover, consumers have grown tired and wary of cause marketing. Now, this doesn’t mean that companies should not support any cause. To the contrary: ¾ of respondents to Elite Daily’s 2015 Millennial Consumer Study said that it was either fairly or very important that a company give back to society in some shape or form. But here’s the thing: it has to be done in a genuine way and not in an opportunistic way. Because consumers can see right through the latter.

It probably goes without saying that transparency increases loyalty. One study found that nearly 94% of consumers are more likely to be loyal to a brand if it’s completely transparent.

Take Buffer for example, a company that takes transparency to a whole new level. The company shares things like their employee salaries, equity, company revenue and the books that team members are reading. The culturally is also internally very transparent; every email that’s sent out can be seen by anyone on the team.

Now from a consumer standpoint, isn’t that refreshing? Just knowing that Buffer has nothing to hide increases their appeal dramatically.

What this means for your business:

Skip the gimmicks and tricks. Don’t offer potential customers something if there’s a hidden catch.

Be upfront about your product or service and its limitations. Share your core values and projects that your team members are working on. Own up to the things that your company needs to improve upon. And in all your efforts, be genuine.

2. Live Video

There’s just something about live video that has always been intriguing. It’s why things like sports events and presidential debates or speeches just aren’t the same when you watch them afterwards.

Livestream recently conducted a survey with New York Magazine, which found that 80% of respondents would prefer to watch a live video than read a blog post. And 87% would rather watch video online if it meant they had access to more behind-the-scenes content.

People want to feel like they are being given exclusive access to content that isn’t available anywhere else at that point in time. That’s part of what makes live video so powerful. It’s also more human and realistic than pre-recorded video, which helps to increase brand transparency.

What this means for your business:

Use Facebook Live, Instagram Live Stories or Periscope to post a behind-the-scenes glance at your company. What do your employees do on a day-to-day basis?

You could also build a little suspense and use live video to reveal a launch or big announcement. Or once you’ve built an audience, you could conduct a live interview with an influencer in your industry.

Just make sure that whatever you decide to broadcast is representative of your brand’s personality and image. If your brand has a more formal voice, then your live videos should also be more formal. If it is lighthearted and fun, then your videos should also be.

3. Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual reality (VR) is another trend that is picking up speed in the marketing world; it’s expected to grow from over $5 billion in 2016 to more than $160 billion by 2020.

As Adweek describes it, VR “uses a 360-degree video to move you from your current environment and into a new digital (virtual) world.” Viewers put on a pair of glasses or goggles and are immediately transported into a completely different 3D world—one that looks and feels like the real world.

Many brands have been using VR as a platform to communicate their core values and illustrate their products or services in action.

The New York Times had a campaign several years ago, in which they gave away a million Google Cardboard viewers to all their Sunday newspaper subscribers, so that they could watch “The Displaced,” an 11-minute VR video that showed “children around the world who had been displaced by war and conflict.”

The New York Times is known for being traditional and old-fashioned; this was a more modern way for them to tell a story. Moreover, it allowed the brand to connect with their readers on a more emotional level.

The hardware store, Lowe’s, has taken a different approach. They use a “Holoroom,” where their potential customers can use VR to see what a remodeling project would look like “in the home of their dreams.” For those who don’t feel like coming into the store, online customers can do the same using Google Cardboard viewers at home.

What this means for your business:

Use virtual reality to communicate what your brand is all about and its core values…or you could use it to show potential customers what they can expect from a product or service after buying from you. Take them on a journey. Transport them to a whole other world, so that when they take off their viewers, they will feel a deeper and more meaningful connection to your brand.

4. Augmented Reality (AR)

Many people confuse AR and VR, even though they are completely different forms of marketing. As mentioned, virtual reality is when users put on a pair of viewers and are transported to a whole other 3D world. Meanwhile, augmented reality is the use of a computer or app to digitally augment the environment one is currently in. In other words, “VR replaces your reality, while AR enhances it.”

Marketers have been using AR as a way to let people “try out” products before buying them. For instance, through a Facebook Messenger bot called LipArtist, Estee Lauder lets its users try out different shades of their lipstick.

Ikea now has an app, which lets its users visualize how the Ikea furniture would look like in their own rooms.

And AMC Cinemas has created an app that lets users simply point their phones at a movie poster to get information about that movie. No Google search required.

What this means for your business:

If your company is product-based, you could use AR to let your potential customers experiment with your products before buying. You could also let your customers scan your products with their phones in store, and then provide them with more information about those products, like prices and reviews.

5. Chatbots

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard the word “chatbot” a lot lately. A chatbot is basically a form of artificial intelligence, in which a computer program converses with a human user, mostly via some social media platform. According to a study by Business Insider, 80% of businesses will be using chatbots by 2020.

Chatbots are already being used by many brands and their use will only continue to grow down the road, with bots that will become more and more complex and human-like.

The 3D design software maker, Autodesk, is trying to create a help service that will let people interact with what seems to be a real, live human being. Next year, it will have a new version of an Autodesk Virtual Agent (AVA) avatar, with “an exceedingly lifelike face, voice, and set of ‘emotions’ provided by a New Zealand AI and effects startup called Soul Machines.”

She will essentially be a “digital human” that will react as a normal human would. She will even have the same physical flaws that humans have, like visible pores and face splotches. She will have muscle twitches and other subtle, human-like reactions. The idea is for her to be realistic and not totally perfect looking—otherwise, it’s just not believable.

She will be able to pick up on a user’s tone of voice and respond accordingly, with an extensive dialog that’s meant to be as human as possible. She might make mistakes from time to time, as a normal human would, but she will be “incapable of feeling anger. [The bots] are built to be bottomless wells of empathy, no matter how nasty a customer gets.” She will “never blame the customer.”

What this means for your business:

It’s pretty strange to think that soon, you will probably have human-like bots serving your customers and speaking on behalf of your company. If you aren’t using chatbots already, now is a good time to start.

Consumers expect to be paid constant attention. The beauty of chatbots is that now, it’s actually possible for businesses to be on call 24/7. Just be sure that you have some human backup support available in case the bot is unable to answer any questions your customers have.

In addition to using chatbots to better serve your customers, you could also use them to gather data about your audience. Create automated questions and use the answers to find out what your audience likes and doesn’t like so that you can best cater to their needs.

6. Micro-moments

Google defines micro-moments as those moments “when people reflexively turn to a device—increasingly a smartphone—to act on a need to learn something, do something, discover something, watch something, or buy something. They are intent-rich moments when decisions are made and preferences shaped.” They are the “I want-to-know moments, I want-to-go moments, I want-to-do moments, and I want-to-buy moments.”

Nowadays, people don’t want to wait. When they want something, they want it right away. Google research found that mobile searches related to “same-day shipping” have increased more than 120% since 2015. And travel searches related to “tonight” and “today” have gone up over 150% on mobile over the past two years.

People don’t have the patience that they used to. And they certainly don’t have patience to wait for a site to load. Google found that 53% of website visits are abandoned if a site takes longer than three seconds to load.

Google research also discovered that people have become extremely picky over the last few years. Mobile searches that include the word “best” have grown over 80% over the past two years.

Finally, people expect to be greeted with personalized, localized experiences; the same research also found that nearly 2/3 of smartphone users “are more likely to purchase from companies whose mobile sites and apps customize information to their location.”

What this means for your business:

With people more impatient, picky and demanding than ever, brands that don’t take advantage of these micro-moments are going to be pushed out of the marketplace. Find out what your target audience is searching for and how you can best provide them what they are looking for. Fulfill the need for immediacy by responding to your leads and customers right away with an experience that’s personalized to their wants and needs as much as possible.

So there you have it. What do you think? Are there any trends that I missed? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below!