For the past 15 years, the Anvil team has put on thinking caps, gazed into the crystal ball and read tea leaves to predict digital marketing trends that will alter the landscape for marketers and brands alike in the coming year. This December, we decided to review and grade our 2019 digital marketing predictions for accuracy.
2019 Digital Marketing Prediction: How Did We Do?
Brands Will Make Major Strides with In-Game and eSport Sponsorships and Related Advertising Opportunities
While online gaming, especially multiplayer, has been around since Doom in the early 90s, recent explosive growth, thanks in part to games like Fortnite, have changed the game for brands looking to target GenZ in particular. Online gaming enthusiasts range in age from 10 to 65, yet a whopping 73 percent of 14- to 21-year-olds in the US identify as a competitive gamer (including 56 percent of females in that same age group), according to a WaPo study. Anvil believes game makers will not be able to resist lucrative partnerships, sponsorships and advertising opportunities. Recent examples include Wreck-It Ralph Breaks the Internet and Fortnite including a brief cameo in the movie and an Easter Egg embedded in the popular game. Look for more cross-over partnerships in the future. There is another large audience relating to gaming and that is spectators and fans. Electronic sports (esports) are increasingly a spectator sport, drawing millions to global competitions (physically and virtually). While most gamers play for social reasons, 35 percent play to win prizes or acclaim. Look for brands to increase sponsorship budgets to get in front of gamers by associating brands with high profile players.
GRADE: A. We feel this was a bullseye based on brand investment in eSports and egaming in 2019.
With Search Growing More Prevalent, Google Will Introduce Campaigns Specifically for Voice-Assisted Devices
With voice search becoming more prevalent, we believe the trend will affect Google search with a new campaign type. This campaign type would specifically be for voice search and would allow targeting with bid adjustments by the type of voice search device including mobile phone voice search as well as the specific voice-assisted devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home.
GRADE: D. We were counting on Google and Amazon to launch a variety of voice-related advertising products to take advantage of the growing voice search audience and we were dead wrong. Look for this trend to be an A grade in 2020.
AEO and REO Will Replace the Outdated SEO Model
Search Engine Optimization will fall by the wayside in favor of Answer Engine and Research Engine optimization. SEO is becoming a broad term that is beginning to encapsulate digital marketing as search engines are more and more able to anticipate user intent. At the same time, SEO is becoming more siloed as websites are beginning to focus more on their own specialty. As a website’s optimization aligns more and more with where users are in their specific journey, websites will have to think about how to optimize to answer questions, allow for research, or convert from search engine results pages directly.
GRADE: D. We missed this boat on this prediction, likely because our optimism got the best of us. It will take a few more years to turn the ship and change behavior in order to make this an A grade.
Voice Assistants Enter More Homes and Businesses Than Ever Before
Use of voice search will continue to increase. Facebook, Google, and Amazon have all doubled down on in-home voice assistants and Amazon has just stated that their biggest Cyber Monday saw the most sales of their Amazon Echo and Echo Dot. Voice search isn’t going anywhere, and these massive companies are attempting to make it easier and easier for users to utilize voice in their everyday lives. Not only that, but voice assistants are moving into the business sphere more and more.
GRADE: A. While Google and Alexa failed to offer advertising products to brands and agencies in 2019, consumers purchased millions of smart speakers and other devices with voice assistant capabilities that are now in wide use.
Blockchain Is Going to Lie Low
After the crypto gains in 2017, many companies engaged in the marketing ploy of launching blockchain products, trying to ride the media coattails surrounding the emerging technology and buzzwords associated with it that most people don’t truly understand. A year later and crypto markets are in the middle of a tailspin. As mainstream attention cares only about the dollar signs associated with crypto, companies will keep quiet about their blockchain products until the next bear market. As for crypto, many projects will lose funding; the deadwood will burn. But the community is thriving as ever. Keep your ear to the ground for projects looking to go to market and take advantage of the opportunity to get into this industry on the ground-level by keeping your prices low and goals reasonable.
GRADE: B+. The massive buzz surrounding blockchain died down early in the year and shifted to issues around security and fraud, which slowed the growth curve. While we were largely correct, adoption remains steady and will only increase in years to come.
Video Trends Will Increase in Marketing, Messaging and Media
Live video content (streaming) encourages high-engagement and will be an even more valuable tool for brands in 2019. This type of video content will be more search friendly with more prevalent use of closed captioning and the power of artificial intelligence. AI can transcribe audio to make video more searchable. Video previews (silent) will auto-play on most platforms. With the ease of video production essentially being in everyone’s phone, video will also take on more of a 1:1 approach. Personalized video messages will start replacing chat, email, and phone calls as ways brands communicate with customers. Videos will be created to thank a customer, delivers support, or follow-up on customer questions.
GRADE: C. While we all agree video creation and consumption is rampant on the web, live streaming has not taken off as expected, but there may be a resurgence in 2020.
VR Will Finally Go Mainstream
2019 will see Virtual Reality move from a niche-gaming system or novelty experience to a much more accessible platform with higher use than we’ve ever seen before. While it won’t even come close to the usership of mobile, computers or television, the technology, cost and ease of use has taken many giant steps over the past year – which see a payoff this year. Look no further than the new Oculus Go. No longer is a high-powered computer needed to run VR. The Oculus Go is making VR more accessible due to its simple setup and relatively low cost. Facebook, the owner of Oculus is already betting heavily on the success of the Oculus Go by launching an entire multi-platform campaign that spans from social to television. Online radio advertising will see increased impressions and decreased performance as Virtual Reality hangouts become more popularized. The Oculus Go also allows users to play online radio stations while in hangout rooms and will increase the available ad space for online radio such as Pandora and Spotify. However, as these placements aren’t clickable, advertisers attempting to drive site traffic will see decreased performance.
GRADE: C. Wishful thinking from select members of our team. I’m not a personal fan of VR but I am a huge fan of AR and feel augmented reality will eclipse VR in 2020 as the most useful application for brands and agencies to engage consumers via phones and other devices.
Local SEO Will Get Sexier
Yes, voice search is trendy, but should optimization focus on voice search alone? No: rather voice search should be an integrated part of a larger focus. According to a 2018 BrightLocal study, smart speaker owners usually use their devices to perform local business-related search on a weekly basis. Over half of smart speaker owners perform this type of voice query every day! Voice search optimization shouldn’t live in a vacuum. It should be part of a holistic on-Page or on-SERP optimization plan or Local Search strategy. With an increasing amount of no-click searches and Google owned content eating up more space (and often all above-the-fold real estate) for local SEO SERPs, on-SERP and voice search optimization is and will continue to become more paramount to Local SEO in 2019.
GRADE: C-. More delusions of grandeur from our optimistic team. Unfortunately, local SEO just isn’t sexy and may not be for the foreseeable future. If AR and VR adoption picks up, however, this may be closer to an A in the next year or two.
GenZ Will Call For Increased Brand Transparency & Purpose
Brand transparency and purpose will go beyond affecting ad targeting and be a critical component to developing successful marketing strategies & campaigns. As Generation Z ages and their buying power grows, it will be important for brands to think about their story and how to connect with this new consumer group. To effectively connect with GenZ, brands will not only have to authentically convey their values & purpose but actively live it and prove their commitment.
GRADE: A. Nailed it. Our work with youth-oriented brands and volunteer activities with young entrepreneurs has provided us insight into a trend that may be clear as day for “woke” marketers, but not to many brands, influencers and agencies.
Amazon Creates Own SEO Position 0
As Amazon gains a larger share of not only online shopping but consumer purchases in general, it will become more and more like its own search engine. We expect increased importance on SEO for product pages, and possibly even position 0 and “featured snippets” in the form of a promoted product that matches one’s search query.
GRADE: D. Oops. Like voice-related advertising products, Amazon also failed to build an organic product offering around position 0 to rival Google. This is not likely to happen anytime soon either.
We hope to get better grades when we review our 2020 digital marketing predictions at the end of next year. Let us know what you think of our 2019 assessment and check out our 2020 digital marketing predictions on the SEMpdx blog.