Online attention spans are shorter than ever, with users clocking up an average read time of less than a minute. With so little time, it’s imperative to capture a consumer’s attention, and a huge challenge to keep it. We are fortunate enough to work with many businesses who are finding creative ways to convey their brand stories. With that in mind, here’s our pick of this coming year’s marketing trends…

The Art of Storytelling

Since Snapchat pioneered their “stories” function, other social media platforms have been scrambling over themselves to launch their own version of the FOMO inducing feed. With Instagram creating Stories, Youtube releasing a stories format of their own called “Reels”, and Facebook and WhatsApp not far behind, it’s clear social media “stories” need to be at the top of marketeers’ agendas this year.

Whilst each platform has its own slight variation on the theme, the essence remains the same: creation of snackable, engaging content that has a short shelf life, ready to be gobbled up by Millennials. 2018 is sure to be a big year for stories, the question is not if, but how brands now start to think about stories as a key part of their social marketing strategy.

Rich Experiences

Despite much of the tech carrying a pretty hefty price tag, the number of people owning virtual reality headsets is predicted to grow to over 200 million by 2020. With this in mind, there’s an expected surge in brands looking to integrate VR tech into their campaigns. The optimists amongst us are looking to a bright new future for marketing thanks to this amazing creative tool. VR will be an especially interesting trend as Nielsen reports that 81% of millennials prefer experiences to any other form of marketing. Can VR help brands tap into this sometimes elusive audience?

Virtual Reality is the ultimate empathy machine as it allows users to stand in other people’s shoes. It can help consumers understand the huge efforts made by athletes, musicians and even astronauts. Empathy is an incredibly strong prompt for action – brands looking to champion social causes and explain their brand purpose, take note. Brilliant apps such as Google’s Abbey Road VR experience are already leading the way as engaging and powerful additions to the format.

Voice Control

Humans are able to speak 150 words per minute, whilst we can only type a measly 40 words per minute. Nonetheless, nobody expected the smart speaker industry to blow up the way it did in 2017. Long since a mainstay of science fiction, people are starting to interact with these devices as part of their daily routine, using voice commands and listening back to results. In fact, 28% of people now think voice search is a more accurate way of finding what they need, and by 2021 more than 4bn mobile assistants will be used globally.

The rapid rise of voice search and digital assistants such as Amazon Echo, Google Home, Siri, and Cortana mean consumers are gradually getting used to interfaces that require no visual surface or physical inputs, and that’s going to have a huge impact on how marketers communicate with them. With dwindling interactions with the screen, brands will need to engage through a personalised user experience, answering questions and even having fun with music.

Automation

We’ve already talked about the rise of automation in some of our other trends pieces, and without labouring the point too much, it really is a huge trend for 2018. Sitting behind the systems and making them so smart are algorithms, these are used as a general term to explain the underpinnings of everything, from big data to machine learning. One of the main functions of algorithms is to process the masses of our online data, using the patterns of our past behaviour to guess what we will do next. Marketing today is increasingly about using these algorithms to get the best predictions, whilst still using design, maths and science to better understand, engage and connect with audiences.

Thomson Reuters is an example of a business that used marketing automation to improve its targeted messaging. Email marketing was producing a high number of leads but not all were of the highest quality. Automation technology enabled an improvement of segmentation and targeting through a system of lead scoring, it was also able to create ideal customer profiles who could then be targeted with advertising. This resulted in a 23% increase in new leads and a lead conversion time improvement of 72%. With many companies having a vast amount of data at their fingertips, the potential of automation to utilise the data to staggering effects is huge.

Here at Underscore we are excited to see which brands will adopt these marketing trends in 2018.

To find out how we can help you bring the right stories to the right people, get in touch at hello@underscore.co.uk

References;
https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/marketing-resources/ai-personalized-marketing/
https://theglassroom.org/exhibit/#open_the_box
https://www.digitaldoughnut.com/report/d0e8606e-3520-44bc-aa75-d55c1b81ac47
https://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2017/12/28/7-online-marketing-trends-that-will-dominate-2018/#2203896e2c19
http://www.thedrum.com/opinion/2018/01/12/5-digital-marketing-trends-will-shape-your-2018
http://www.thecustomerframework.com/reach-and-relevance-the-need-for-balance-in-data-driven-marketing/
https://econsultancy.com/blog/63748-marketing-automation-six-case-studies-and-an-infographic-on-how-it-improves-sales-and-revenue
https://www.theguardian.com/media-network/2016/dec/16/six-steps-successful-vr-marketing
https://www.snapapp.com/blog/54-content-marketing-stats-guide-your-2018-strategy