Digital Marketing: Trends and Opportunities in 2018

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With consumers spending more time online, discover the key trends that will help you harness the power of digital marketing. Here is our roundup of Digital Marketing: Trends and Opportunities in 2018:


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Irish consumers are among the most digitally savvy in Europe. According to a Deloitte report, Global Mobile Consumer Survey: Ireland 2016, an overwhelming majority own or have access to a smartphone (86%), a laptop computer (80%), and a tablet (60%).

While according to PwC Ireland’s Irish Total Retail 2017 Survey, 71% of Irish respondents shop at Amazon. It predicts that Ireland’s e-commerce industry will double in value to €14.1bn in the next four years, and while a quarter of respondents said they shop online weekly, nearly half said they would be willing to make purchases on their mobile device.

“Businesses in Ireland directly targeting consumers must market to them online,” says Cormac Farrelly of Dublin-based digital marketing agency WSI. “Sales people need to adapt to this new reality or be replaced.”

How are Ireland’s businesses performing?

In 2018, Irish businesses are expected to perform relatively well in the digital space. In the European Commission’s European Digital Progress Report 2017, Ireland ranked top of all EU countries for selling goods and services online. Some 30% of SMEs are selling online, which is nearly double the average of their European counterparts. E-commerce accounted for 21.8% of total revenue in Ireland from small and medium-sized businesses.

This strong online performance reflects a significant shift in mindset, which will drive a more strategic approach to digital marketing in 2018.

“Five years ago we were educating businesses on the benefits of incorporating a digital marketing element into their overall marketing mix, and companies were reluctant to turn away from tried and trusted marketing tactics that leveraged offline channels like TV, radio and print,” says Farrelly.

“Today companies don’t need to be persuaded that they should be online. However, sometimes businesses have a very short-term vision and look to specific tactics, like Google Search, for a quick fix. Companies that take the time to put together a longer-term strategy will be more successful.”

Steven Dunlop, owner of Killinick-based Steve’s Online Marketing, agrees. “Many companies use all the different platforms, but they use them in isolation of each other instead of effectively linking them all together to form a more powerful overall approach.”

Getting it right with digital marketing

A key development in 2018 will be a repositioning of digital marketing as a core function within many businesses. Digital marketing has a lot of different facets: social media channels, a professional-looking website, messaging, email marketing, analytics, strategic online advertising, reviews and customer relationship management are all part of the picture. Yet some businesses still fail to invest in the proper skills and training.

“Your Facebook page might be run by an employee who has other things they have to be doing or is not a digital native. Giving your staff the right knowledge is a challenge all the way from sole traders right up to the IBMs of this world,” says Aaron McKenna, managing director of the Digital Marketing Institute.

 

“Don’t try and make your customers use a new technology for your services – go with what they’re used to or what they are expecting”

David Douglas, Managing Director, ebow

 

David Douglas, managing director of digital agency ebow, agrees that people need to understand and be aware of the level of investment and time needed. “It’s not simple and it’s not quick. If businesses can improve on their expectations as well as accept the quirks of the playing field then they will see gains.”

Crucially, your digital marketing strategy needs to be tailored to your target audience. “Use what your customers use,” advises Douglas. “Don’t try to make your customers use a new technology for your services – go with what they’re used to or what they are expecting.”

Spending wisely on digital marketing

However much firms decide to allocate to an online marketing budget, many struggle to get a clear perspective of the results. When evaluating a campaign, it’s important to take a holistic view: Farrelly notes that many businesses fail to spot the effectiveness of elements such as online videos because they forget that, much like billboard advertising, videos can serve to keep you on a potential customer’s radar, eventually resulting in a sale.

“Typically, companies use a ‘last click’ attribution model,” says Farrelly. “This attributes the conversion, be it a product purchase or a lead, to the last click in the chain. Usually this means that search campaigns get credited with the sale as this is often the last channel that the potential customer comes in on prior to converting. We often hear companies say, ‘We advertised using video but it didn’t generate any leads.’ However, if they hadn’t been running a video campaign the person [may not] have searched for their brand.”

Gauging the effectiveness of a campaign will become easier as businesses start to demand more transparency from marketing agencies, says McKenna. “There is a big trend around the verifiability of your marketing, with brands like P&G [Procter & Gamble] pushing for more accountability from their agencies and media platforms.”

This means there’s a growing demand for accurate statistics, and for agencies to be open about the commissions they receive for placing ads. “If they’re buying media on your behalf, ask if they’re getting commission on that – ignore any faux outrage at the question; go and do it and do pay attention,” says McKenna.

Technical advances are also driving future digital marketing trends. And below are five to watch out for in 2018.

1. Augmented reality (AR)

“Brands have been experimenting with AR for some time now and we are starting to see creative uses of AR that deliver real value to the consumer and enhance sales,” says Gaëlle Robert, marketing communications executive for the Marketing Institute of Ireland. A recent example is the Starbucks Cup Magic app that superimposes digital animation over a cup of coffee when you view it through your phone’s camera.

2. Mobile-friendly websites

“Google is pushing ahead with what it calls Mobile First, which means that your website needs to be mobile friendly,” says Dunlop. The shift to Mobile First means that Google algorithms will primarily rank a website's pages using the mobile version of the site, rather than the desktop version. You can check your site’s mobile friendliness here.

3. Artificial intelligence/chatbots

“Chatbots are a great way for marketers to exploit the opportunity presented by the rise of messaging apps,” says Robert. “As they come of age, we expect that they will become more mainstream and allow brands to offer a more seamless, instant and personalised user experience.”

4. Dark social

With consumers sharing content mostly through private communication channels (known as dark social), marketers are starting to find ways to exploit these channels. One way is to place sharing buttons for dark social channels, such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram on your website.

5. Voice recognition

“With voice accounting for 20% of search last year, marketers will have to start optimising search for voice,” says Robert. “This involves a shift from keyword optimisation towards finding out the main questions that customers ask, and providing clear answers.”

Dunlop expects a return to long-tail keywords as speech recognition and speech searches increase. “This will make quality, relevant content, and lots of it, more important on your website. When people type into a search engine they use a few words or a short sentence.

On a mobile device, the search is even shorter, maybe just two or three words, but with speech recognition users’ searches will get much longer as it’s very quick and easy to speak an entire sentence or phrase. Searches will become longer and more specific, hence search engine optimisation will need to take these longer search phrases into account.”

Over to you now. Has your business looked at or implemented any of these new digital marketing technologies? How are they working for you? Tell us your experience in the comments below. 

 

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