2020 and beyond will be like nothing like what we’ve seen in the past, in terms of technological evolution or the marketing landscape, both digital and offline. In many ways, this year will determine and shape the future of technology and digital marketing.
With almost half the population quarantined and a more populous internet, moving forward, the online competition for attention by brands, businesses and influencers will be unprecedented. The need of the hour is digitization of sorts in terms of businesses relying on AI and Programmatic Advertising to be noticed; build brand awareness and brand affinity while B2B models will completely rethink their marketing strategies this year.
There are several reasons why this is, primarily though, the timing of the 4th Industrial Revolution and the COVID-19 virus coinciding will act a catalyst for an expedited tech evolution, digitization of almost every avenue of product and service delivery and all things IoT.
E-commerce sales surpassed $4 trillion last year and a crucial factor of that growth still centers on successful deliveries of customer-wants and marketing support post purchases.
Digital marketers are continually transforming their approach to bespoke customer experiences and communications to better reflect how customers are shifting their buying behaviors and how brands clearly deliver value.
Having said that, what are the biggest business to business digital marketing and branding trends shaping the year ahead? How will B2B marketers approach the increasing need brand affinity while attracting new customers and growing revenue in the digital world where the only guarantee is change?
Here are some of the trends which need to be incorporated in the marketing strategies to have an impact on the digital marketing landscape in 2020 and beyond.
Interactive content takes off
Ninety-one percent of buyers are looking for more interactive content online. In 2020, content marketing will shift its focus to give audiences more of what they want: shoppable posts, AR/VR, 360-degree video, quizzes and polls are just a few examples of interactive content.
Rome: A Guided City Tour is a great example of a 360-degree video:
Closer to home, here in the United Arab Emirates, Alserkal Avenue is a brilliant example of quick and on your feet thinking, especially at times of quarantine.
The reason interactive content will be one of 2020’s top marketing trends is because this level of interactivity in retail is new and original—take for instance, a shoppable ad on Instagram. When a user taps the photo, the product name and price appear. When tapping the price, the user is taken to a screen with more information and the option to view the item on the website. This type of ad cuts through the noise, and gives visitors a reason to stay and engage. And if it’s extremely shareable, it expands an ad’s reach even further.
Lattice Engines produced a buyer’s guide to help educate marketing directors and managers on how predictive lead scoring can impact their business. It was bundled with an interactive checklist that guided prospects through the decision-making process. This mix of traditional and interactive content influenced more than 20 opportunities for Lattice, and the buyer’s guide was downloaded more than 200 times.
Leveraging these types of insights can help B2B companies differentiate themselves from competitors.
Shifting from brand awareness to brand affinity
How can you best position your company to attract new customers and grow relationships with existing customers?
Typically, marketing and website strategies have been focused on increasing the number of people who know (or are aware of) your brand or offering. Focusing on building awareness seems like a logical goal to help you reach audiences but realistically buyers today choose to purchase from companies that they can relate to and connect with, hence the importance of testimonials and influencers. This connection ultimately leads to trust, which is a necessary component to digital sales.
Marketing with brand awareness in mind focuses on an audience who doesn’t know your brand and introducing them to you.
Marketing with brand affinity in mind focuses instead on building emotional connections between your existing customers around shared values.
Instead of focusing on new audiences with your messaging and positioning, focus should be on your existing customers and making them promoters.
Create a brand that has a personality and purpose and your customers will promote for you.
Messaging and positioning in 2020 needs to revolve around creating fandom and brand advocates.
Find examples and ideas on the transition from brand awareness to brand affinity here.
Content written for user intent and Google BERT
Keyword focused content is rapidly becoming obsolete.
With the BERT update from Google, there is a much bigger focus on delivering content that matches the intent of the searcher. Google’s focus is on truly understanding the meaning behind what the searcher is trying to find.
Content that is keyword-driven and focused will quickly lose organic traffic. In order to rank well and be found on Google, companies need to begin focusing content on the intent of the searcher.
We will need to “Focus on how our users talk about their issues, problems, and needs at each aspect of the buyer’s journey much more” according to Keith Goode, Sr. SEO Strategist, IBM.
To read all about the Google BERT update, click here.
Optimizing for mobile doesn’t seem like it should be a trend in 2020. Google announced that it would be mobile-first indexing sites in 2018 and mobile searches have outweighed desktop searches for a while.
Even though it’s proven that your website mobile page is more important, the mobile version tends to be de-prioritized.
If your website isn’t built so it’s responsive (adapts across multiple devices without a mobile-version of your site loading), you’ll likely see your traffic decline.
Focus on UX initiatives for mobile such as page speed, responsiveness and proper sizing of images and clickable areas.
You can easily check if your website is mobile-friendly with this free tool from Google.
Customer focused content
Ninety-two percent of consumers trust organic, user-generated content more than they trust traditional advertising.
Empowering your consumers to participate in content creation adds an element of ownership while adding to the brand value.
The faces and voices of your customers embody what your brand is all about. They’ll also be promoting your brand which increases visibility and builds community.
User-focused content can take many forms such as photos and videos, podcasts, case studies, video testimonials or even unboxing videos. An example would be HubSpot’s case study of ShoreTel.
Personalized web experiences
While content is the backbone of every Inbound Marketing strategy. Every web page, campaign, blog, email and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaign requires content. Content helps brands and businesses connect with their target audience, educate and inform interested parties and generate high-quality leads – so without it, they stand no chance of standing out from the competition online.
However, as more and more businesses get on board with content marketing (more accurately, Inbound Marketing) just producing high-quality content is no longer enough. People today want personalised experiences. They want to feel as if a piece of content, campaign or web page was tailored specifically for them.
Its essential for companies today to create a “personalized” experience for website visitors with cookie tracking and smart content. You’ve likely seen this when you return to a website and your name or company name appears on a website or chatbot.
For example, here is what the standard un-personalized page looks like:
And here is what it looks like with the personalized background image (of a spa) and personalized headline (“Luxury spa breaks” replaced “Luxury hotels”):
Most businesses talk about how great they are and how they are different in their website messaging.
Buyers will come to your website and ask one question before choosing to continue learning: Does this solve my problem? The biggest focal point of the question is that word “my.”
In addition to marketing teams retooling websites and messaging to allow prospects to have personal experiences, you also need to go through your company homepage and see how many times you use words like “we” or “our.”
Compare that to the amount of times the words “you” or “your” are being used. The ideal ratio is 5-to-1, meaning you refer to your buyers five times more than yourselves.
Reframing your website to speak to buyers’ problems as they express them will help them see that you understand their problems. With this understanding, they can believe that you can solve for their specific problems.
Podcasts (both advertising on them and creating them)
The amount of people listening to podcasts has steadily increased in the last decade. When looking at 2019 compared to 2009, the number is almost tripled.
Clearly, they are quickly becoming a preferred method for learning and consuming content.
In a world where all marketers are trying to capture attention, the engagement rates with podcasts are worth noting.
Ninety-three percent of podcast fans listen to most of an episode, which means a deep level of engagement and interest.
There are a couple of ways that you can leverage this growing popularity. You can create your own podcast, be a guest on one, or advertise on another.
Because podcasts are often highly targeted, all of these options are cost-effective ways to reach an engaged and interested audience.
The continued importance of local SEO
An increasing number of searchers are looking for businesses close to them, which have been deemed “near me” searches.
From 2013 to 2017 there was a 900% increase in “near me” searches. In the past two years, there has also been a 200% growth for phrases like “now” + “near me.”
For businesses that operate on a local level, there is a massive opportunity to capture buyers at a moment where there is an immediate need.
Optimizing for local SEO starts with creating and optimizing your listing on Google My Business. These local listings from Google My Business will show up before the organic listing.
Think of your Google My Business listing as the local extension to your website. If your business operates on a local level, optimizing your website and Google My Business for local SEO is paramount.