Fresh phones, home gadgets, and entertainment devices all fly off digital shelves from Black Friday through New Year's. For digital marketers looking forward to 2019, there are a few new marketing technology trends that will have to be reckoned with in the new year.
The digital marketing trends of 2019 bring with them a share of opportunity and challenge. Half the battle is knowing what tech deserves your brand's immediate attention. To help you out, we've pulled together three up-and-coming technology developments and looked at what they might mean for your brand.
Trend One: Tech on a First-Name Basis
For decades, sci-fi nerds have watched their favorite space explorers talk to their spaceships and robot assistants. Today, the technology we thought existed only among the stars has reached millions of our homes.
Smart home assistants have experienced a small sales explosion since Alexa's entrance into the market in 2014. This is partly due to the technology's maturation into a state of consumer-friendly usefulness, but is also a result of off-brand competition finally hitting the market. In 2016, Amazon's Alexa products dominated the comparatively small market of around 5.5 million smart home devices. In 2017, Google introduced the Google Home line, stealing a substantial slice of Amazon's position as the market swelled to 35 million devices.
Now, as we near the end of 2018, the market for these devices continues to diversify. A wider array of available smart speakers (including Facebook's Portal product) allows users to choose which digital assistant they prefer, and the smart home devices space has grown to around 55 million devices. This acceleration seems likely to hold strong as more budget-grade devices jockey for position alongside their pricey brand-name counterparts.
For marketers, this means that 2019 may be the first year a sizable, multi-demographic population is interacting with the web without interacting with screens. The challenge this presents is clear: for brands that have perfected their image on desktops, laptops, and mobile devices over the past couple of decades, what does it mean to have a screenless brand experience? Hooking a relatively consistent at-home audience segment with an auditory experience will be an opportunity that marketers will have to be creative to capture in 2019.
Image attribution: Kevin Bhagat
Trend Two: Accelerating AI Rollout
Competition in a voice-activated search space is also spurring on related technology. From auto-filled search suggestions to targeted product recommendations in sidebars, web users have become largely familiar with many forms of AI or machine-learning-assisted marketing over the past few years. Marketers have also leaned into this tech more than many industries have, rolling AI assistance for everything from audience research to programmatic ad-buying to recommendation engines for content hubs.
The digital marketing trends of 2019 to look out for exist largely in the area of search. Voice-activated search continues to become a more active and sophisticated space as it grows hand and hand with smart home technology. While the most common voice searches so far have been simple commands like "call mom" or "navigate home," this past year has seen a rise in the number and diversity of voice searches. Advances in voice-supporting AI and differences between the algorithms of various tech-giant providers are sure to lead to more distinction between brand offerings over 2019.
The screenless space won't be the only area affected, however. Image-based search has arrived, and may begin shifting users away from their keywords and toward their smartphone cameras. Even traditional search term competition is poised to morph as AI-assisted keyword research and SEO planning services become more prevalent tools in the marketing arsenal.
The lesson for marketers is clear. If your brand isn't investing in and mastering AI-assisted marketing tactics, you're leaving yourself in a precarious position. At the same time, brands that lean too heavily into this tech at this early stage without human oversight may find themselves spending too much on useless patterns or spurious data. The way forward for 2019 is a balanced mix of human foresight and AI assistance.
Trend Three: Growth of AR and VR Spaces
Before we dive into the thousandth discussion you've read about AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) for marketing, a word of encouragement: It doesn't look like 2019 is going to be the year of wide-market adoption of VR. First-generation tech is still the only option available for users since second-generation tech is likely to require investment and hardware that most consumers don't have. This means that VR appears to have a two- to four-year hike to wide market adoption. This excludes simpler VR experiences that employ tools like a cellphone and cardboard headset, which remain the most viable VR marketing outlets to date.
AR tech, on the other hand, has been taking the marketing world by storm.
Pokémon GO and Snapchat might be the most familiar examples of AR tech, but a number of brands have begun leaning into this technology for explicitly marketing purposes. Amazon, for instance, has been pushing its AR view service in Black Friday sweepstakes advertising since last year. Home Depot's app has supported a similar home AR service since 2017 that's geared towards home improvement projects. Clothing brands like Timberland and New Look have employed AR for "virtual fitting rooms."
A major advantage of these AR experiences is how they can help brands with storefronts compete digitally against the convenience of online-exclusive brands. Expect to see wider adoption of AR apps and other marketing approaches in 2019.
Image attribution: Michael Henry
New Year, New Tech
We can't be timid with our time, effort, or budgets when it comes to adopting the newest digital marketing trends of 2019. Seek out spaces that align most closely with your audiences, and commit to testing out new brand experiences or stories through a different medium. In the worst case scenario, your team learns some valuable lessons for the next time you adopt something new. It's more likely that you'll discover fresh and exciting ways to capture both your team's creativity and your audience's' imagination.
What's your brand doing to embrace marketing technology trends in the coming year? Share your thoughts with us below or @Skyword on Twitter.
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Featured image attribution: Banter Snaps