Not so long ago, companies could get by without a website or any digital presence to speak of. Today, with so many consumers going online to research the brands they buy from, the internet represents a massive opportunity for companies to engage with customers and build trust with their audience.
But in this fast-paced and ever-evolving digital world, companies need to keep their finger on the pulse in order to identify new opportunities as they arise. Today, we’ll be exploring the new trends, technologies, and platforms that are shaping the future of digital marketing.
New trends in digital marketing
New trends can rise and fall in the blink of an eye, particularly within the digital space. But it’s from within this ever-shifting landscape that long-term changes can transform the future of digital marketing forever.
Let’s explore some new trends in digital marketing that you can expect to stick around for years to come.
Engaging younger audiences
Millennials are now the largest adult cohort worldwide, with Gen Z hot on their heels as they reach the age of maturity. As Millennials and Gen Z grow in buying power, businesses will need to dedicate more of their marketing budget to connecting with these younger generations.
Ironically, despite being two of the most ‘connected’ generations in history, younger people are some of the hardest individuals for brands to connect with via traditional marketing methods. After all, they grew up in a time where the average person sees an estimated 10,000 advertisements a day, making them very good at tuning out ads. Brands will need to optimize digital experiences and leverage new platforms, as well as cutting-edge technology to engage these tech-savvy generations.
But more than just the method of engagement, companies will also need to improve their messaging. For example, younger generations tend to be more concerned about their impact on the planet, so companies will need to find ways of demonstrating that they’re a responsible brand.
Short form video content and the rise of TikTok
With well over a billion monthly active users and over 3.5 billion all-time downloads, TikTok remains the most downloaded app of all time. Between January 1 and March 31, 2022, it was downloaded a whopping 175 million times. This makes it a powerful tool for connecting with younger generations, particularly Gen Z who make up roughly 60% of its user base.
But beyond the platform itself, TikTok has transformed the digital marketing landscape in general, influencing other platforms – such as Instagram and Facebook – to focus more on short form video content. Brands that can create valuable, engaging, and entertaining videos will be better positioned to connect with younger generations who are accustomed to digesting and interacting with this form of content.
The marketing funnel is dead, long live the flywheel!
With customer retention driving more sales and better revenue – at a lower cost – marketers are shifting away from one-directional marketing strategies such as the marketing funnel.
Instead, businesses are now putting greater emphasis on inbound marketing strategies such as the Flywheel Model. This model aims to build strong, long-term customer relationships that continue to drive revenue for years to come. Such strategies put the customer experience at the center of their marketing efforts, continuing to engage people – even after making a purchase – to inspire further purchases in the future.
Inbound marketing strategies such as the Flywheel are based on findings that it’s both easier and more cost-effective to retain an existing customer than continuously attract new ones.
AR and VR technology: The next reality in marketing
AR and VR technology allows brands to enhance more traditional forms of digital content with immersive brand experiences.
The flexibility of AR and VR technology means that you can take the digital experience into the real world with scannable QR codes that lead to branded 3D content. These QR codes can be printed directly onto packaging, banners, flyers, and more, for audiences to scan and view on their phone.
Check out the ARtillery Intelligence video below to learn more about how AR and VR technology is shaping the future of digital marketing – and what you can do to be a part of the AR revolution.
Building trust with user-generated content (UGC)
With the majority of consumers trusting earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, over branded content, encouraging UGC can play a vital role in any digital marketing strategy.
Turning your customers into brand ambassadors, UGC can make a company seem more authentic and trustworthy, while serving as a valuable resource for customers looking to make a purchase.
At its core, a UGC strategy relies on delivering high-quality products, content, and experiences, as well as building a brand identity that customers want to engage with and share with the world. Be sure to also provide incentives for customers to review and share your products publicly – such as discounts and rewards.
Creating rich and exciting experiences at events and trade shows is another way you can encourage your customers to share content online and spread the word about your brand.
Content is still king
Audiences are still looking for valuable online content such as blogs, videos, and case studies. But with technology becoming more accessible to the public, almost anyone can create great content and share it with the world. This leaves businesses competing for views with other brands as well as the general public. Brands will need to put greater effort into creating unique and high-quality content to stand out online.
One way of cutting through all the noise is by building a reputation for delivering new information and quality content. By becoming a thought leader in your industry, people will actively seek your content out, giving you a direct line to your most relevant audience.
Making a connection through influencer marketing
With more and more social media platforms pivoting towards video content, influencers have become a driving force in digital marketing. This means brands that can align with a relevant influencer may be able to connect with thousands, if not millions of internet users.
The good news is, that smaller companies can leverage influencer marketing without blowing their budget. Micro-influencers – who typically have between 1,000 and 10,000 followers – can offer a direct line of contact to a smaller yet more targeted audience, allowing you to connect with online communities without the high price tag.
Creating hybrid marketing experiences
Experiential marketing invites an audience to interact with a business in a real-world setting, such as during events. By participating in hands-on experiences, customers can get to know a brand better – not just what they sell, but what they stand for as well.
During the Covid pandemic, many brands sought ways of replicating face-to-face interactions by creating virtual experiences. But studies have found that more event attendees feel more connected to brands after a physical event compared to a virtual one. To help boost engagement and connectedness, brands can get the best of both worlds by creating digital experiences that tie into real-world experiences.
The good news is, that we’re now at a pivotal point where 5G, AI, and edge-computing enable companies to seamlessly combine virtual and physical worlds. Experiential marketing no longer needs to be restricted to the physical world. Now, it can cross oceans and time zones to create a truly global experience.
For example, 3D content can be embedded into digital content, or even printed onto physical marketing collateral. This allows customers to access rich, AR experiences from anywhere with nothing more than their phone.
Diving into the metaverse
The metaverse is a digital universe in which reality and virtual worlds merge. One common description of the metaverse is as a ‘3D internet’ in which people can enjoy live and interactive experiences – often involving many participants. With AR and VR technology growing faster and more powerful every day, those experiences are only going to become more immersive.
This represents a significant opportunity for brands. More than just digital billboards, companies can create rich digital experiences within the metaverse to enhance brand perception and allow customers to engage with brands like never before.
The metaverse has been thriving throughout digital communities for many years, particularly within the gaming industry. To learn more about the rise of the metaverse and where it may take us in the future, check out McKinsey and Company’s report on Value Creation in the Metaverse.
4 Brands already leveraging the metaverse
We’re entering the next stage of digital evolution. Within the metaverse, forward-thinking brands will be able to seize new opportunities and transform the way they connect with their customers.
In fact, there are already a number of brands that have been leveraging the metaverse in order to connect with previously inaccessible online communities:
Samsung launched its first metaverse store, Samsung 837x, in Decentraland in January 2022. The store is modeled after its physical store at 837 Washington Street in New York.
Luxury brand Balenciaga released its first NFT wearables on Fortnite in September 2021. Containing a range of outfits, bags, and accessories, players can purchase and equip these items onto their avatars.
Italian luxury car maker, Ferrari, also joined the ranks of brands leveraging the Fornite metaverse when they released their 296 GTB in July 2021 – before the model made its physical debut. This detailed and realistic model allowed players to drive the car in the metaverse while building excitement for the upcoming, real-world release.
Vans also got involved in metaverse marketing when they partnered with Roblox to create immersive 3D skateboarding experiences. Vans World is a virtual skatepark that went online in September 2021, allowing players to meet like-minded people and try out new tricks that they might be wary of attempting in the real world.
Users can even earn points which can be redeemed in the virtual Vans store to customize their avatar with authentic Vans products.
5 Ways to Future Proof Digital Marketing Strategies
Based on all of the above, what are the tactical takeaways for brand advertisers looking to raise their game with emerging and immersive technologies? Here are five points to get started.
1. Be innovative
Keep an eye out for new trends and technology so you can take advantage of any opportunities that arise.
2. Be flexible
Continue using channels that are performing well, but be willing to redirect your marketing efforts when a channel stops delivering – or another one starts achieving better results.
3. Focus on quality
Dedicate your time to creating quality content, quality experiences, and quality relationships with your customers.
4. Remember your audience
Consider the needs and interests of your target market to ensure you’re delivering the right message at the right time and on the right platforms. Remember, it’s better to engage 100 highly targeted individuals than 1000 people who aren’t interested in what you have to offer.
5. Be willing to experiment
The digital space is always changing, so it can take a bit of trial, error, and experimentation to stay ahead.
Try dedicating the majority of your marketing budget to platforms and strategies that you already know to be effective. Commit the remaining portion to exploring new technology, techniques, and platforms so you can identify opportunities as they arise.
Hennika Kestilä is Head of Marketing at JigSpace.