There’s no denying 2018 was a big year for the marketing and communications space. Paid, earned, and owned media became more integrated and more valuable to brands than ever before, thanks to analytics and insights.
But what’s in store for 2019? Steve Arentzoff, Cision VP of digital marketing, and Nick Bell, Cision VP of marketing communications and content, offer their insights on what they see on the horizon for the industry in 2019.
Previous articles in this series
Search is changing
Arentzoff: It’s amazing how quickly voice search has grown: Seventy-six percent of smart speaker users conduct local searches weekly, and 53% use local voice search daily. How consumers search for products and businesses is evolving quickly, and marketers need to stay on top of that.
Featured snippets and no-click searches are having a big impact now, and optimizing your website SEO for this is important. Answering questions succinctly on your site is critical because this provides SEO benefits for all types of emerging search trends.
Bell: And visual search is also becoming bigger. We’ve now got the capability to search for information using images, but we’ve only just scratched the surface in terms of the marketing potential of this technology.
Last year we acquired image monitoring software brand ShareIQ, a tool that tracks a brand’s images across the web to understand its reach, engagement, and conversion. So, let’s say you create an infographic for your blog and work to get it to go viral. How can you know where it’s posted without spending hours searching online? With this new technology, you can embed tracking data in that infographic and see exactly where it ends up online. It’s fascinating.
Chatbots will become expected communication tools
Arentzoff: I’m really eager to see how brands will use chatbots in 2019. Chatbots can provide efficiency to businesses and potentially enhance website and call center experiences for consumers. Thirty-five percent of consumers say they would use a chatbot to resolve a complaint or problem. While basic customer service is an early implementer of chatbot technology, additional opportunities are growing for customer usage: providing real-time answers to questions, making reservations, paying a bill, buying basic items. The possibilities are endless, but brands must also ensure a high-quality experience. A weak chat experience can degrade the brand and cause customers to avoid purchases when needs aren’t met.
Brands should also recognize that identifying individual customer preferences for interaction is critical to sustained customer satisfaction. Separating customers who prefer the easy access to 24/7, real-time information that bots can provide from those who prefer human interaction will enable brands to deliver the experience customers and prospects prefer. This helps deliver sustained positive experiences.
Seventy-six percent of smart speaker users conduct local searches weekly, and 53% use local voice search daily. How consumers search for products and businesses is evolving quickly, and marketers need to stay on top of that.
Bell: And natural language programming is making chatbots more useful over time, increasing their value as they use better intelligence to predict what a customer wants. For example, if you’re on a retailer’s website and you’re looking for green corduroy pants, you could interact with the chatbot, who could send you links for products that match what you’re looking for faster than you could find it yourself. If the chatbot knows your size and preference, it can present you with even more specific results. Top that off with a special discount just for you, and that site just made a sale!
Social media commerce and influencers are gaining traction
Bell: Brands are looking for new, effective ways of delivering their messages to targeted audiences. For example, social advertising is one avenue we’ll see traction in, with budgets for social ads expected to double by 2023 (PDF). Social advertising channels continue to innovate in delivering advertising in more immersive and less obvious ways.
Expect advertising channels — including social media, with innovators such as Facebook in this space — to continue to come up with ads that don’t look like ads and advertising that consumers actually enjoy engaging with.
Arentzoff: Another area we’ll see more focus on this year is influencer marketing. But it won’t be celebrity influencers getting all of the attention: Micro-influencers will take more of the overall influencer share. Brands are starting to see that they can get more impact by working with many influencers with smaller but very niche audiences than they can with uber-celebrities.
Communications will continue to benefit from AI
Bell: I get really excited about how much data we’re able to glean around marketing and PR campaigns these days. I predict that this year deeper analytics will drive better earned media results. Cision Impact and prominence scoring can help you understand how effective your earned media campaigns are.
This unprecedented level of data, generated through artificial intelligence, helps communications professionals not only get results but also justify spend on PR and marketing.
Social advertising channels continue to innovate in delivering advertising in more immersive and less obvious ways. Expect advertising channels to continue to come up with ads that don’t look like ads and advertising that consumers actually enjoy engaging with.
Arentzoff: The same applies to social media analytics, and I think we’ll see even more of that in 2019. Understanding your social share of voice, as well as using sentiment analysis to understand what people think of your brand, can help you better strategize for your social media marketing campaigns. We at Cision are taking a huge step to focus more on social in 2019 with our acquisition of Falcon.io. The platform will be integrated with the Cision Communications Cloud to expand social media capabilities to earned media and communications professionals.
Integrations will bridge the gap
Arentzoff: One more area I think will be important this year is integrations. Rather than using each martech tool individually, we’re seeing some innovative partnerships between brands that make it possible to manage technologies and campaigns in an easier way.
Bell: Right, and they’re bridging the gap between earned, owned, and paid media in interesting ways. Look for Cision to add to its list of integrations this year. Right now, our users can integrate Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics into the Cision Comms Cloud. We’ll continue to find meaningful and valuable partnerships for Cision users that help them connect the dots between their marketing and PR efforts.