Oh how time flies! We’re entering the last quarter of 2018, which means that 2019 is just around the corner.

With each and every year, there are always a lot of changes in the marketing landscape. Some small, some larger ones and some game-changers!

A huge secret of success for small business owners, entrepreneurs and marketers, is to stay ahead of the game (I know you’ve heard that before). You MUST be able to notice and adapt to upcoming changes so that you can consistently stay ahead of your competition.

With that being said, here we will share our prediction for 10 of the hottest digital marketing trends in 2019. This way, you can plan ahead and make the necessary preparations and even implement some of these changes as we are entering the end of 2018.

Let’s begin!

1. The significance of online video content

Video has been the primary content medium in recent years, mainly thanks to the rise of YouTube and Netflix, among other platforms. In the U.S., Netflix alone contributes to 37% of internet traffic. Combined with YouTube, it’s quite possible that half of the internet traffic in the U.S. goes to video streaming.

However, that statistic will be totally modest compared to what’s yet to come: Cisco predicted that video traffic will reach 82% of the total internet traffic all around the world by 2021, and we can almost be sure that video will continue to grow in 2019 and onwards.

When done properly, video can be an effective marketing channel with high ROI. For next year, live-streaming and interactive video will be more popular, and we should definitely utilize them throughout the various stages of the buyer’s journey.

So, if you haven’t already, it’s definitely time to invest in video content. You can start with simple video tutorials for your product/service or behind-the-scenes videos like the making of your product or a video about your team’s activities.

2. Voice search as the primary search medium

In recent years, we have seen more and more people using voice search both on their mobile phones and home assistants like Alexa, Google Home, and so on.

In 2019 and onwards, we can expect this trend to continue, if not grow. In fact, many studies are predicting that by 2020, 30% of our overall online activities -not just searches- will be done via voice.

This trend is also caused by how voice recognition technology is now so reliable, but we can expect it to get even better in the years to come.

So, how can we effectively utilize voice search to get more marketing results? The answer is voice SEO. Yet, we should understand that SEO for voice search is very different from traditional SEO, mainly because we use different words and languages when speaking.

For voice SEO, we should focus on conversational queries and keywords. Also, we should develop content with a more conversational approach.

Today, we mainly use voice search as a complementary metho, for example, when our hands are busy. However, in 2019 and onwards as voice recognition accuracy will be more reliable, voice search will be even more common and quite probably will be our primary search method.

3. The new SEO: content clustering

While there have been many claims about “the death of SEO”, the fact is that SEO is alive and well, if not more important than ever in this noisy, saturated digital world.

However, it’s true that SEO has changed significantly in recent years, especially regarding content and keyword. Now, Google regards the expertise of a site over a specific topic as one of the strongest ranking signals.

What does this mean? In 2019, we should approach SEO based on this content clustering concept: develop one pillar content covering the main keyword, usually an outline of the whole topic. Then, develop clusters of content pieces covering other keywords (including long-tail ones) related to the topic.

Let’s use an example to better illustrate this: let’s assume your topic is “best restaurants”, and so your pillar content can be something like “Top 20 Best Restaurants in 2018”, while your cluster content pieces can cover a review for each restaurant, or reviews for specific types of restaurants (i.e., best sushi places, best fried-chicken restaurants, etc.).

4. A.I-Driven Chatbots

Since 2017 or so, A.I.-powered chatbots have risen in popularity to replace human customer services. By 2020, it is predicted that chatbots will dominate 85% of the overall customer engagements.

A single chatbot can engage many different customers in real-time, saving your human resources costs. Chatbots will also enable a 24/7 customer service without having too many people onboard.

The A.I. technology is still quite far from perfection (if we can define the perfection of A.I.). However, even today, the technology is quite reliable, with a customer survey by Digital Pulse reported that 85% of the surveyed users are satisfied with chatbots.

There are many different applications of using chatbots to improve user experiences. For example, we can utilize chatbots to qualify leads by asking preliminary questions before passing the prospect to human salespeople.

Implementing chatbots is now fairly affordable with so many different vendors available. If you haven’t implemented a chatbot for your small business, you definitely should in 2019.

5. Influencer Marketing

While influencer marketing has been one of the most influential marketing tactics in recent years, we can expect it to be even bigger in 2019 and onwards.

The online world is now so saturated, and it’s really hard to get our voice heard amidst all the noises. This is why working with the right influencers can be really important: they are trusted by their loyal followers, and so you can effectively reach their audience.

We can also expect some changes to influencer marketing in 2019, especially because of two major factors: first, due to the rising demands of influencer, not only they can be very expensive, they are getting pickier. Second, customers are getting more resistant to paid promotions, and more of them are ignoring promotional posts by celebrities and major influencers.

The solution for those two issues is utilizing micro-influencers, which are those with followers between 10,000 and 500,000.

Obviously, micro-influencers are more affordable than macro and mega-influencers, but they also have the benefit of being more authentic, meaning, less resistance from their audience.

6. Social Proofs over Advertising

Nowadays, customers are getting smarter and many of them will avoid or resist promotions, especially advertisements. This is especially true for millennials, and we can safely say that advertising is no longer as effective as a decade ago or so.

Back in 2015, a report from Nielsen (PDF) has suggested that purchase decisions are now mainly influenced by : peer recommendations, branded sites, editorial sites, and social proofs like reviews and user testimonials. How about advertising? It’s placed near the bottom.

In 2019, we can expect this trend to continue, and so we should shift our focus from advertising to building credibility through social proofs and publishing valuable content regularly. Influencer marketing, which we have discussed above, can also be effective here.

This is, however, not saying that advertising is now totally useless. When done right, and especially if we utilize the newer options like remarketing and programmatic advertising, we can still optimize the ROI.

7.Remarketing

We have briefly touched remarketing above, and remarketing as an advertising medium has been really popular in the past couple of years or so. Yet, what actually is it?

In a nutshell, remarketing is showing your ads to people who have visited your website in the past, or have triggered certain actions (searched for specific keywords, visited your competitor’s site, and so on). This way, we can ensure that our ads are displayed to those who have shown interest in your brand, or at least, your niche.

The most common remarketing application is to target people who have visited your site but haven’t purchased anything. Also, recently Google Adwords introduced new remarketing features to target audiences who have searched for certain keywords, but with a lower cost compared to traditional search ads. We can also target those who have visited certain site(s), including your competitors.

You can also use the lookalike audiences feature offered by Facebook or Twitter. This way, the social media platform can extract our site visitors’ data and will use it to find similar audiences by demographics, interests, etc. on their platform. This is an effective way to find new leads with a fairly low cost and potentially high ROI.

8. Transparency and Honesty Are Keys To Success

In the past, marketers can get away with negative activities like unethical advertising practices, exaggerated hard-selling, and even downright lies.

Yet, in this social media age, everyone can find information about your brand, product, and/or service, meaning, now we need to always be honest. In 2019, we can expect this need for transparency to be even more important than before.

First, address negative complaints honestly and immediately, especially those on your social media channels. Deliver your promises, and be honest with your value propositions. On the other hand, diligently collect customer feedback, and encourage them to leave positive reviews (if any).

For next year and onwards, we can expect the increase of two-way communications between brands and customers. Also, respect and protect customer’s privacy at all cost. Remember that trust and credibility are your most important assets, develop and maintain them at all costs.

9. Improved Marketing Automation

Marketing automation tools like HubSpot, ActiveCampaign, and others have been really popular in the past few years or so, even for small businesses as they are getting more affordable than ever.

Many premium marketing automation tools have recently offered advanced lead qualification features, mainly by using algorithms to predict lead scores.

However, these predictive features are still unreliable at times and so haven’t really picked up in popularity during 2018. But, with all the rapid advancements in machine learning and A.I. technologies, we could see major advancements in various predictive analysis features including lead scoring.

In a nutshell, with machine learning, the marketing automation tool can better understand various user behaviors, and so you can have better insights about your prospects and customers.

How can small businesses take advantage of this trend? First, as we have mentioned, marketing automation tools are now more affordable than ever, so maybe it’s finally time to research your options. Make sure your automation tool has a machine learning feature or at least is planning to implement machine learning in the near future.

10. Inbound Marketing

We saved the best for the last. Inbound marketing certainly has been the buzzword of the recent years, but what actually is it?

Inbound marketing, in essence, is regularly publishing high-quality, relevant articles to establish your position as the thought leader/expert of your niche. For example, if you are a healthy restaurant, you can start a food blog/YouTube channel to regularly post about healthy diet options and even recipes. (hint: don’t be scared to share your expertise)

As we have mentioned repeatedly above, people are now getting more resistant to advertisements and other promotional content. These activities are aimed to ush’ your message outwards, disrupting your prospect’s current actions. This is where we get the term utbound’ marketing.

Inbound marketing, on the other hand, aims to ull’ interested prospects toward your brand by providing information and solutions they might need.

So, if you haven’t already, figure out ways where you can share your expertise online: it can be a blog, YouTube channel, answering questions in platforms like Quora, or even simply by being active in social media channels and online forums.

In 2019, inbound marketing will continue to grow in popularity. Probably, there will be changes in how we deliver the content (medium), as video and audio content will also become more popular. Remember that content development is only half of the process,as your content will only bring value when they are visible to your audience. This is where SEO and content promotion comes in, and stay tuned for our guide on this topic in the near future.

Lastly…

There are certainly other marketing trends we can expect in 2019. For example, we can also expect virtual reality and the internet of things to be even bigger next year. However, the ten we have shared above are in our opinion, the most important and potentially game-changing ones.

Do you have other predictions? Or any questions? Leave it in the comment section below.