7 Digital trends that will change how you market in 2018

by DRUM Media, 17 Jan 2018


2018 is already rushing out of the gate—and, at DRUM, we have our fingers on the pulse of what’s coming. Read on to discover our predicted marketing trends for 2018.


1. AI + SEM- Katherine Jianas, VP, Director of Paid Search

Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), programmatic…all of these have been recent buzzwords. And while AI has been commonly known as a tool used in display and video media buying, it has now entered the world of search.

Google has, not surprisingly, been at the forefront of SEM innovation. In last year’s emerging trends post, we reported on enhanced Google audience targeting capabilities; moving forward, these will be taken to a new level vis-à-vis machine learning. Google recently launched In-Market Audiences for Search, allowing SEM experts to target users based on purchase intent signals—essentially allowing us to bid for better qualified traffic.

Recent studies show average conversion rates for In-Market Audiences are 10% higher than average. In addition, by having at least three ads in an ad group, each with differing messages, Google’s algorithm can now serve the most appropriate message for the right searcher at the right time. And, by layering Data Driven Attribution into bidding strategies, we now have a better understanding of what keywords, ad groups and campaigns have the greatest impact on results and can better optimize for them. Finally, Google also offers Smart Bidding capabilities such as Target CPA, Target ROAS, Maximize Conversions and Enhanced CPCs, where, in real time, the algorithm can bid appropriately based on ML in addition to contextual signals, such as device, location, time of day, demographics and more.

Google isn’t the only one using ML to power bidding strategies; several providers offer additional audience and intent targeting solutions. For example, we can use zip code level audience data, such as demographic, financial, behavioral, attitudinal, psychographic, purchase and firmographic, and layer in zip code level bid adjustments on top of any manual or automated bid adjustments we are already using. Essentially, we would be bidding on potential customers before they even get to our site. And then there are automated business intelligence providers that monitor your business data and notify you when unexpected changes occur, allowing you to act swiftly. We can only expect these capabilities to grow in the coming year, and we’ll be following along!


2. AI and IoT + SEO- Greg Lee, Director of SEO

SEO is not the ever-changing black box people claim it is. Yes, Moz tracks 500-600 algorithm changes each year. Yes, there are new IoT consumer products with built-in search like vehicles, appliances and assistants. And, yes, Google has a black box AI called RankBrain, among other technologies discussed above, that decipher search intent and the meaning of queries.

But when you look at the big picture, it’s really a slow-moving end goal. Remember the old Gretzky quote, “Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it has been.” Because the end goal moves very slowly, the best SEO strategies almost never change and the best SEO tactics slowly evolve.

Just look at SEO portions for our last five yearly digital trends:

SEO for 2018 is a culmination of the past. Plug holes in past tactics, which are your must-have foundation for SEO. These must be buttoned up just to be in the running for a top ranker. Next, optimize for RankBrain AI and IoT voice search by filling your content gaps. Be sure to research competitors who rank highly, so you know which SEO signals RankBrain is weighting for your target users’ search intent. Create content that covers a concept, not just a keyword. RankBrain ML looks at click-through rate and dwell time on that page (similar to how Adwords Quality Score works) to understand how well a page satisfies the user intent. If you did it right, you will see a halo effect in queries that drove traffic and a steady build of organic entrances, like this client page below.

Blog post we created for a client. We reverse engineered SERP competitor top rankings to capture a concept—and comprehensively satisfy user intent. It gradually took over top rankings for more and more searches related to the concept, becoming the highest organic traffic driving page below the homepage. 


3. The Rise of Amazon- Vladimir Bradic, Associate Media Director

It’s hard to ignore the massive growth of Amazon this year, with articles discussing its ascent almost daily. Both from a search and a display perspective, Amazon’s size in the advertising industry is starting to rival that of Google and Facebook.


There are three strategic factors to keep in mind when considering Amazon as a channel in 2018:


  • Consumer’s intent to purchase
  • Amazon’s growth
  • Programmatic demand side platform

According to a 2017 UPS survey, when a consumer searches for a product, Amazon is their prime online destination and, subsequently, Amazon’s ads have the highest likelihood of converting consumers into customers when comparing to Google or Facebook. On the other hand, while it’s true we can’t compare search volume on Amazon’s single-digit billion-dollar revenue platform to the two giant search platforms, according to eMarketer, by 2019 Amazon will hold 3% of all digital ad spend while sustaining double-digit growth.


AAP, Amazon’s programmatic demand side platform, is quickly becoming a familiar partner in major media brands’ digital plans. According to Digiday, during Amazon’s third-quarter earnings call, they announced its advertising business grew 58%year over year to $1.12 billion. With its immense data collection of customers and what they’re in the market for, Amazon can deliver a relevant brand to a potential customer currently in the funnel, creating a successful prospecting campaign for retailers.


4. The Impact of Hackers and Data Breaches- Debra Wang, Associate Media Director

With each announcement of yet another data breach, it’s hard not to think this is the new normal. While financial institutions and healthcare providers bore the brunt of the first wave of attacks, it’s been increasingly hard to predict the next target. Most notably, in June 2017, WPP, a British multinational advertising and PR company, found themselves victims (along with unrelated companies like FedEx, pharmaceutical company Merck and others) of the same malware attack that locked users’ computers and demanded payment in Bitcoins.


Money isn’t the only motivator. Advertising agencies can be attractive targets because of the source of their latest targeting advancements: the collection of millions of bits of data for audience profiling (Source). While most DSP data collection anonymizes the data and/or uses third parties that create an added barrier of protection from any real identity association, agencies can’t assume this information will exploited in isolation. Layered upon databanks of other stolen information, it could be a piece of a larger puzzle for a hacker’s ultimate prize.


So, in the face of this new normal, advertisers and marketers need to address this growing trend by being proactive, investing in cyber security services like Secureworks, and maybe even creating a ‘digital extortion decision tree’ as suggested by Jeff Pollard, principal analyst at Forrester (Source). Protecting business will always be costly, but as cyber-crime continues to become more sophisticated, it will be everyone’s responsibility to stay one step ahead.


5. The Rise of Image Search- DRUM Media

According to eMarketer, 75% of U.S. internet users search for visuals before making a purchase. So it’s no surprise that Pinterest is jumping in on the search game, offering advertisers the ability to create visual search ads, with many of the same targeting capabilities Google and Bing offer. You can bid at a keyword level, only paying when a pinner actually clicks. Exact, Phrase and Broad match types are also available, alongside negative matches. These targeting options can be combined with placement targeting that allows you to have more control over where your ads serve on Pinterest. Just keep in mind that people search differently on Pinterest, as their queries typically include terms tied around ideas.


In addition to search ads, you can also use your shopping feed to test into Pinterest, without having to create ads. Pinterest pulls from your feed to dynamically update ads based on inventory, and their system will create a Product Board and generate Promoted Pins for each item in your feed. Considering 72% of pinners say Pinterest introduced them to new brands or services, the platform should be a viable option for uncovering new customers.


6. Social Video Will Explode- DRUM Media

Mobile video will continue to be a big focus in 2018. With Mark Zuckerberg’s prediction that Facebook will be mostly video by 2020, and Cisco estimating that video will account for 69% of all internet traffic by this year alone, marketers are beginning to notice and invest accordingly. In fact, 70% of media companies said they would increase video spending in 2018. No longer just an awareness play, social video has been shown to influence purchase decisions, and even drive last-click sales.


But with this growth comes challenges. Marketers will need to strategize around video length, placements and in which social platforms to invest their social ad dollars. Below are some top trends to watch for:


  • Shorter video lengths: As attention spans continue to decline and competition increases in newsfeed, shorter ads will gain more currency. Google challenged advertisers to tell their story within 6 seconds with bumper ads on YouTube, and Facebook recommends frontloading the most important video takeaways within the first 5-10 seconds.
  • Facebook Live and midroll ads: Facebook has been pushing live video, prioritizing live content in feeds and incentivizing publishers and celebrities to post live video. Now, with the rollout of midroll ads within publisher content, advertisers will have the opportunity to run within live videos as well. This presents a great opportunity to reach users who are already heavily engaged with the content.
  • Vertical Video: Snapchat and Instagram stories will see significant growth in 2018. And, with even Facebook mobile video being best optimized for a slightly vertical (9:16) orientation, marketers should plan ahead to develop vertical formats when developing new assets.


7. The Rise of Connected Devices (Internet of Things)- Jerelle Gainey, Chief Technology Officer

We're on the cusp of a tectonic shift in digital marketing. The boom in IoT technology will soon allow us to analyze, predict and respond to consumer behavior in almost every market possible. IoT devices generate unprecedented amounts of data, so every customer interaction allows marketers to capture consumer intent, behavior, needs and desires. This makes it possible to serve contextually relevant messages at the most optimal place and time.


As more devices are added to the IOT ecosystem and the adoption of these technologies continues to spread, the role and skill set of marketers and agencies will evolve. New avenues to reach our consumers are being introduced every day—from internet-enabled refrigerators to connected vehicles built from the ground up—with new data sources to evaluate. According to the Ericsson Mobility Report, IoT devices and sensors will exceed mobile phones as the largest category of connected devices in 2018. This evolution in cross-device media planning/execution presents new challenges around how we continue to connect our offline/online worlds, and still maintain the privacy/security expected in the digital media universe. Remember when we were just worried about connecting print and digital?


While the rise in potential brand to consumer touch points may seem slightly scary, it only means more efficient and relevant messaging for consumers. General Motors is taking a major step with their introduction of “Marketplace,” an in-vehicle app that will allow drivers to pay for goods, such as gasoline or coffee, and schedule service through their infotainment systems. Through partnerships with major retailers such as Dunkin’ Donuts, Shell, IHOP and ExxonMobil among others, GM will be on the forefront of connecting consumers with brands through the IoT. Imagine driving down the road and realizing your car needs an oil change, only to be served an ad from a nearby service center for 15% off your next oil change. Talk about right message, right person, right time!


All of these 2018 marketing trends are a lot to consider—but you don’t have to go it alone. 

Want to get ahead of the curve and start putting the newest strategies to work for you?

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