9 marketing trends you should track in 2018

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Weighing in on this year’s most important trends

It’s a New Year! An opportune time to re-examine and refresh your marketing strategy for the next 12 months.

In our first post of 2018, we’ve identified 9 of the most important marketing trends to consider this year.

They range from prioritizing data governance to identifying your “True North” metric(s). From micro-moment marketing to branded chatbots.

And to speak to these trends, we gathered insights from several top experts from across the marketing spectrum.

We reached out to Taylor Loren, a LinkedIn Top Voice, about authentic video content like Facebook Live and Instagram Stories. We consulted Roger Dooley, an expert in neuromarketing, about the importance of emotions in our marketing strategies. We also chatted with Aaron Orendorff, Editor-In-Chief of Shopify Plus, to get his take on conversational marketing.

So here, in no particular order, are our top 9 marketing trends to track in 2018:

1. Video & the Authentic Marketing Voice

In the era of fake news and over-stylized imagery, people crave authenticity in their online interactions. Marketers are shifting to video as a way of making genuine connections with their audience.

Natasha Wahid Marketing Manager on Video
Expect to see more of Natasha Wahid, Marketing Manager. We’re very keen on this trend for 2018!

It’s a way to attach a person to the marketer’s brand to mimic the face-to-face interactions offline. And it’s working.

Consider these stats:

  • Viewers are 64%-85% more likely to buy after watching a product video (Kissmetrics).
  • Nearly 50% of people search for videos related to a product or service before visiting a store (ThinkWithGoogle).
  • Marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than non-video users (VidYard).

We’re paying close attention to two different forms of video: ephemeral content and live broadcasting.

Ephemeral Video

Instagram stories and SnapChat paved the way for ephemeral video: Video that disappears after 24 hours. It means that marketers are producing content that is the opposite of evergreen.

But if your audience is part of the 200+ million users on Instagram, it is likely a valuable investment.

Instagram Stories
The Instagram Stories feature blew up in 2017 and is only going to be more of a focus for marketers in 2018.

“Stories” has become one of the most used functions of Instagram. They are less polished productions than the imagery the platform has become known for. And stories stay at the top of your followers’ news feed for 24 hours or until viewed.

“Ephemeral video content like Instagram and Snapchat stories exploded in 2017, and you can expect 2018 to be the year that brands go all in on “disappearing” videos.

Taylor LorenWith the decrease of organic reach on Instagram due to the algorithm, Instagram Stories provide an engaging and effective way for brands to stay in touch with their followers.

Now that businesses with over 10,000 followers can add links to stories, we’ll see an increase in brands using Instagram Stories to drive traffic and even make sales.

Plus, with the new Instagram Stories Highlights feature, brands have more incentive to post ephemeral video content, because they can keep their best converting content on their profile. For the first time, you can now group together your Instagram Stories and showcase them on your Instagram profile for as long as you want using the new highlights feature,” explains Taylor Loren, one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices of 2016 and Content Marketing Manager at Later.

Live Broadcasting

Facebook Live draws 135% more organic views than images on the newsfeed.

And because the Facebook algorithm has made it challenging for content to be seen organically, live streaming is becoming an important tactic for your organization’s social media strategy.

When you go live, your followers automatically get a notification, drawing interest to your feed.

Facebook Live
Facebook Live allows you to broadcast live to your followers while also interacting with them in real time.

Using Facebook or YouTube Live, you can announce new products, host interviews, and conduct demonstrations in a broadcast to your followers.

Live broadcasting through Facebook Live or YouTube Live provides a platform for raw conversations with your customer community. Followers can ask questions or make comments in real time, emphasizing accountability and genuine two-way communication.

“When it comes to using live video for business, it’s more about conversation than conversion. What idea or thought can you spark in your viewer that will make them engage with your brand? Authenticity is more valued than ever before on an overly cluttered, often divisive web, making this shift from over-produced to highly ephemeral video content both incredibly impactful and important,” says Jenny Mudarri, Content Marketing Manager at Wistia.

You can even go live in your Instagram story or create a multi-account discussion with multiple users using Instagram’s collaborative live broadcasting feature.

2. The shift from “CRO” to organizational experimentation

“CRO”. “Conversion optimization”. These terms have dominated this field since its inception more than a decade ago. But the industry is shifting from a narrow focus on “conversion rate” to a broader view of experimentation as an organizational focus.

Experimentation is not just A/B testing. It’s a mindset. It changes the ways traditional marketers view their profession.

True North Metric

True North Metric. North Star Metric. However you phrase it, this year, optimization champions will be focused on identifying their organization’s most important growth metric.

Experimentation as an organizational strategy means that your experimentation program will bridge different departments, allowing a cross-pollination of ideas about what can be tested. This is leading to new hypotheses. It is leading to new success metrics.

But with so much data and so many possibilities, how do you know what will truly drive growth for your business?

“There’s such a huge amount of data that when you don’t have some sort of guiding force that works as an anchor, it becomes absolute chaos. There are a lot of proxy metrics that only sound like improvements, but don’t improve the ‘North Star’,” Chad Sanderson, Experience Optimization Manager at Subway, explained in the article, “Website Conversions and the ‘North Star’ Metric.”

For many companies, it’s about finding the metric that improves customer loyalty. The True North Metric is often focused on the customer’s lifetime value, rather than a single conversion.

Trends are great. Implementing new marketing strategies is better...

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Sean Ellis Growth HackersTo uncover your North Star Metric, you must understand the value your most loyal customers get from using your product. Then you should try to quantify this value in a single metric. There may be more than one metric that works, but try to boil it down to a single NSM.

Sean Ellis, Founder of GrowthHackers in “What is the North Star Metric?

Here’s a short list of True North Metrics for well-known companies:

  • Google optimizes for longer sessions per user.
  • Airbnb optimizes for the increased number of nights booked.
  • Subway optimizes for the frequency of orders over time.

What is your company’s True North Metric?

Useful Resources for the Optimization Champion:

The Return to Server-Side Experimentation

Server-side experimentation is becoming a huge trend in conversion optimization (again). And that’s because it provides the technological capability to embed experimentation into the organization, enabling the testing of algorithms and features.

Server-Side Experimentation Inforgraphic
Notice how the server-side experiment derived all the way from the server.

There are pros and cons to both server-side and client-side testing. If you want to test more complicated features, including user log-in states or pricing, you can experiment using server-side. Because new features are built in the source code, server-side experiments are slower to develop but can be faster to implement once you have a winning variation.

Client Side Experimentation Infographic
Notice how the client-side experiment is only deriving from the browser, rather than coming directly from the server.

Client-side experimentation, however, facilitates speed, especially when you are testing basic changes like copy or color tweaks. But there is only so much you can test on the front end.

To ensure your server-side client testing program is a long-term program, it’s not something that fizzles out short-term but that it becomes core to your business. Make sure that you’re not choosing just client-side or server-side outright. You’re not asking yourself which ones is right for my company but which one is right for this experiment.

Dennis Pavlina, Optimization Strategist at WiderFunnel

Server-side experimentation is not going to replace client-side experimentation by any means, but organizations should determine the right mix of both in order to build the most successful program.

3. The Artificial Intelligence Revolution

Artificial intelligence is the hot topic in marketing. It’s on every trend forecast I’ve seen for the year.

We began to tackle this topic at the end of last year in a blog post called, “Beyond the buzzword: What “artificial intelligence” means for marketers right now.” And it has already become one of our most popular posts.

People are curious about what AI means in the marketing field and we covered the basics of machine learning, deep learning and natural language processing in our post. But at the forefront of the artificial intelligence trend this year is the chatbot.

Communicating with Niki.Ai WiderFunnel
The Niki.Ai chatbot allows you to order whatever you need.

The chatbot will likely be one of the most widely implemented forms of AI over the next year. Marketers are branding their chatbots so that customer service is both memorable and useful. These bots have humor or personality in their interactions with customers. And they are designed to offer personalized service.

An example of this is Whole Foods’ Facebook messenger chatbot. Not only can you search for an ingredient, the chatbot also provides personalized recommendations; the customer just has to click on the ingredient emoji to receive recommendations for recipes.

Whole Foods Chatbot - WiderFunnel
Powered by Conversable, the Whole Foods Chatbot will recommend recipes based on the food emoji of your choice.

It also adapts FAQs using machine learning and natural language processing. Meaning that it will get smarter the more people interact with it.

And with 1.2 billion Messenger users, it is definitely going to progress.

4. Don’t Forget About Data Governance

Big data is a valuable commodity. But data breaches are regularly making headlines.

Data governance will become a more prevalent topic in the next year. No longer just the realm of Chief Technology Officers, the data security conversation is important for all different departments.

For example, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union is coming to effect in May 2018. And it will affect how companies everywhere handle customer data.

Companies will need to be more accountable to customers for how they manage their information.

Collecting and storing data, especially personal data, brings serious legal and regulatory obligations. Therefore, it is vital any organisation factor data ownership, privacy and security issues into their data strategy. Ignoring these issues, or failing to properly address them, could see data go from a huge asset to a huge liability.

Leaders must evaluate their data governance practices in advance of the GDPR deadline, asking:

  • What sensitive data are we collecting?
  • How is this data going to be used (if at all)?
  • How is this data going to be stored and secured?
  • Where are we vulnerable for a security breach?

And they’ll need to keep their word through regular documentation and evaluation. Unfortunately, Forrester predicted that this year, 80% of the companies affected by GDPR will not comply―either by choice or through failure.

As a marketing trend, data governance is about improving your customer relationships.

Optimizely Data Security Practices
Our partner, Optimizely, recently tweeted about their security practices. Expect to see more transparency in an organization’s communications surrounding their data security practices.

In the next year, expect to see more marketers communicating how their organizations are acquiring, storing, and keeping customer data secure. It’s a marketing effort aimed at protecting the brand reputation.

You’ll need to communicate to your customer what they will get in exchange for their information. You may also want your customer to feel they have control through implementing opt-in procedures.

It’s all about building trust.

5. Adopting the Single Customer View

While brands are gathering customer information at multiple touch points, there will be increased emphasis on creating a single customer view.

We wrote about Under Armour’s creation of a single customer view through its collection of data and its implementation of IBM Watson in our recent artificial intelligence post.

Under Armour Apps
The data acquired when Under Armour purchased a variety of apps is helping the company create a single customer view.

“Our acquisitions of MapMyFitness, EndoMondo, and MyFitnessPal made us the largest digital health and fitness community in the world. These apps produce a vast amount of data; 215 million people have downloaded one of our apps.

People tell us how much they sleep, how much they eat, how much they workout, and the types of workouts they do. We also get data from brand interactions, which are when someone comes into our retail stores, visits our e-commerce site, or interacts with us in some way that we can track.

By combining the data from the apps with the brand interaction data, we can understand buying decisions. More importantly, we understand the behavior behind the buying decisions. That has been a huge success for us.

We are creating a new digital experience for our athletes by combining connected fitness and our e-commerce engine and our global technology platform. It is game changing for us and our athletes,” explained Paul Fipps, Under Armour’s Chief Technology Officer in Forbes.

For Under Armour, creating a single customer view is allowing them to offer recommendations and feedback on everything from products to wellness to fitness performance. It’s advanced personalization.

Consolidating the data from various touchpoints―whether in-store or e-commerce sales, mobile searches or app engagement―ensures that you have a true understanding of the customer journey. How they engage with your brand. How they find and buy products. What influences their buying decisions.

This is what big data is all about.

*Other terms for the single customer view include “360-degree customer view” or even “customer identity management”.

6. Marketing for the Micro Moment

The customer journey is broken down into moments. Micro-interactions where someone searches on her device for something to learn, do, discover, watch, or buy.

People also search for what is near, using location-based searches on Google maps to find businesses located in close proximity.

Location Search Using Google Maps
We can search on Google Maps for all the things to learn, do, discover, watch, or buy near the WiderFunnel office.

Mobile devices and subsequent searches bridge the online and offline world, allowing location-based searches and revealing micro behaviors.

Quality, timing, and relevance are essential in micro moment marketing. These are moments when a person has a high intent to act.

“Micro Moment marketing” is a term invented by Google used to illustrate the idea that marketing is more than just getting your message in front of your target market―that the *timing* of the messaging, being present at just the right time with the right message, has an enormous impact on marketing effectiveness.

They’re of course, referring to paid/organic search, and remarketing which has the ability to target users at the precise moment an idea enters into their conscience, which is why Google is so effective over other channels.

It’s challenging to personalize those micro-moments as brand experiences as there are limitations to how much information can be conveyed in a paid search ad, organic search listing, or remarketing ad.

What I’ve found is that if you just show up at the micro-moment, you’ve already lost, as people tend to click on the brands they’ve previously heard of.

So the key is actually getting in front of your target audience long before their micro-moments, so that when they do search for your stuff, they will remember your brand essence and be biased towards choosing your listing over others.

We’ve found that the pre-existence of brand affinity increases click through rates and conversion rates from between 200-300% respectively,” shares Larry Kim, thought leader, speaker, and CEO of MobileMonkey.

Marketing through these micro interactions needs to have high relevance. The question marketers will be asking in 2018 is, “How can I personalize and brand those micro experiences?”

7. Talkin’ Bout Conversational Marketing

Television and radio are broadcast technologies. Ads on these platforms communicate one message to an audience of many. It was a marketing style that was a top-down, one-to-many approach, all about reach.

But traditional marketing, like advertising, is now declining in reach. Broadcasted messages aren’t going to cut it for marketers in 2018. Instead, customers want to connect with brands genuinely through two-way communication.

You’ve long heard that the power of word of mouth has been amplified on digital media. You know that your customer’s opinion can influence their social networks in one tweet or post. But your customers also expect to have a voice―they want to be able to relate, engage, and even converse.

Conversational marketing is emerging as highly personalized, intuitive, relational, emotional, authentic―and it creates brand loyalty. People want to interact with brands and businesses on social media, through Facebook or WhatsApp, or even text messages.

Aaron Orendorff is a master at conversation marketing, leaving links in the comment section rather than making the link the primary focus.

“Online customers are burnt out with one-size-fits-all approaches. This is especially painful when it comes to B2B marketing via social media. Branded content is self-serving and your audience knows it. One more white paper is just white noise.

The future belongs to B2B e-commerce and B2B salespeople that combine a content backbone that’s supplier agnostic — meaning, it adds value in advance of and independent from any product — and conversational.

Rather than blast out a new report, enable your sales team to post excerpts, data, and quotes **without** linking back to a landing page. Simply allow them to build up their personal brands, with genuine interactions. The calls-to-action will come … but only in the context of relationships,” explains Aaron Orendorff, Editor-In-Chief of Shopify Plus and Forbes Top 10 B2B Content Marketer.

Conversational marketing is focused on the customer experience. Because conversation is two-way, marketing involves both listening and communicating.

You must first listen to the nuances of your customer’s wants and needs. And secondly, communicate your brand’s message when it is natural to the conversation.


8. Emotional Marketing

Neuromarketing. Behavioral Economics. Marketing Psychology.

You’ve likely seen these terms more frequently these days. Despite their differences, these terms all have emotion at their core.

In October 2017, behavioral economist, Richard Thaler, won the Noble Prize for proving that people are anything but rational when it comes to decision-making. While economic theory presumed for years that people behave rationally, he proved that emotions are what really incite action.

“Richard Thaler’s Nobel Prize underscores the importance of understanding that consumers make financial and purchase decisions using processes that aren’t based on logic and calculation. Added to Kahneman’s earlier win, it is clear that “irrational” consumer behavior is a legitimate field for academic research. I expect to see more actionable research and greater business acceptance of non-conscious decision-making in the coming years,” says Roger Dooley, author of “Brainfluence“.

“There is definitely a trend toward using more non-conscious factors in advertising and marketing. While products like fragrances and fashion have always focused on emotion, the vast majority of marketers continue to talk about product features and benefits.

This information is sometimes necessary, but often doesn’t close the sale. This is changing.

Books like Dan Ariely’s “Predictably Irrational”, Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow”, and my own “Brainfluence” showed marketers that customer decisions aren’t usually driven by logic.

Instead, tools like priming, anchoring, framing, social proof, and dozens of others can be used to make an offer more appealing and conversion more likely.”

This year, emotion is not just a consideration in your marketing strategy; it’s a necessity.


9. Moving from Marketing to Growth

“Growth marketing” has become mainstream.

Experimentation is revolutionizing organizational culture and breaking down internal silos. Testing is bridging sales, marketing, and product development teams with a singular goal: growth. As early adopters to growth marketing, we’re excited to see this development.

This shift from traditional marketing to a focus on growth requires technical know-how and a strategic mindset. It makes the customer experience essential to a marketer’s success; experimentation ensures the customer’s preference trumps all other opinions and assumptions.

Enterprise companies like Coca Cola, The Hershey Company, and Kellogg Company have all hired a Chief Growth Officer in recent months, even replacing the Chief Marketing Role.

Interestingly, out of 455 CGOs in the United States, nearly half of them are in smaller start-up companies. The type of organizations that tend to act as disruptors in their industries.

Since “growth marketing” has become mainstream, marketers need to lead growth strategies to stay relevant in 2018 and beyond.


Here, we’ve highlighted the marketing trends that we think you should watch this year, but this list is certainly not exhaustive. What marketing trend(s) are you tracking this year? We’d love to hear your plans for 2018 in the comments section below.

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Lindsay Kwan

Content Marketing Coordinator

Lindsay Kwan is an avid writer, reader and social media enthusiast. She writes and posts about conversion optimization and digital marketing for WiderFunnel.

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