Does anyone know what a Sears Roebuck & Co. catalogue is anymore?

If you do, it’s because you heard about it from your grandmother. Or got exposure to the concept by watching Mad Men.

(Or you circled what you wanted for Christmas when it came in the mail mid-November. But let’s not go there!)

Remember MySpace?

That wasn’t so long ago. But there’s a new generation of “mobile-firster” who shake their heads when you mention it. And continue updating their Actionmoji on Snap Map.

How long before we ask “Do you remember Twitter?”

It seems that digital marketing trends are changing at the speed of a Googlebot.

Why the Evolution of Digital Marketing Trends Matters

The challenge for organizations today is to remain relevant. The million-dollar question: How?

Companies who figure this out accomplish two main objectives. First, continue to connect with current clients and customers. Second, have an advantage over the competition when it comes to reaching new customers.

Although no one can predict the future, savvy businesses monitor trends. They stay in touch with advances and changes in the online marketing world. (That’s why you’re reading this post.)

To truly grasp the nature of digital marketing trends we must understand their evolution. What they used to be, how they’re being used now, where they might be headed next.

Armed with that information, it just might be possible to make some educated predictions. Resulting in that extra marketing edge you need.

Let’s look at the evolutionary journey of 4 of the top digital marketing trends of late.

(Note: For brevity’s sake — this post is a long read — some evolutions are condensed to a Reader’s Digest version.)

Data-Driven Marketing

What’s one catch-phrase screaming across the internet recently?

If the words Big Data come to mind, you’ve been listening.

Big Data refers to the massive amounts of information gathered from user interactions. It’s composed of digital, social, and traditional data. With proper analysis, it is an excellent source for quality buyer-specific marketing.

What It Was

When the first messages were sent from one computer to another, Big Data was born. The onset of email would quickly change the advertising landscape forever.

Businesses soon realized the power of email. They began to gather names, gender, age, geographical location.

Enter email lists.

Marketers brainstormed about what to do with this valuable information. How could they use this to reach more potential customers?

Enter email blasts.

Email blasts led to spam. Spam led to public annoyance (and eventually, spam filters). Marketers grew savvy and began sending opt-in type emails. And Big Data expanded.

The data became a gauge for success. The number of monthly visitors, the number of page views, and the especially powerful traffic spikes served as confirmation – the internet is effective. The early stages of digital marketing trends.

What It Is

For many companies, this obscene amount of data is an unwieldy beast. Stashed away for years it quietly waits to spring from the closet. It’s getting too big to ignore.

For those willing to embrace digital marketing trends, this information is a goldmine. A marketing tool to reach customers in more buyer-specific ways.

Enter data-driven marketing.

Developing a marketing strategy that revolves around customer data is essential. To stay in the game marketers need to get more comfortable with data analysis.

Through these efforts, companies are creating targeted offers and personalized messages. Content is moving toward a customer-centric model.

And customers are clicking on it. 70% of shoppers have come to expect personalization in advertising.

As we adopt new technology, the analysis of Big Data is becoming more of a priority globally.

Effective data analysis helps a company to develop better insights into customer behavior. The prepared marketing department uses that to increase engagement and improve experiences.

Data-driven marketing is not only for large enterprises anymore. Many SMBs are now getting creative in the ways they are using data (without spending a lot of money).

Where It’s Going

How much does your company really know about its customers?

Marketing departments slapped high-fives around the conference table when social media took off. Now they’re wondering what to do with all the irrelevant information.

It’s not going to slow down anytime soon. We can expect data availability and volume to grow exponentially. Many companies are finding themselves so overloaded by data, they don’t know what to do with it all.

But, wait. There’s more.

Another source contributing to the massive information migration is an old friend.

Re-enter offline data. Now it’s on steroids.

How much business are companies losing due to poor data quality? It’s getting to be such a problem that marketers don’t trust the quality of their data. This discourages many marketing divisions from taking risks.

The future of Big Data calls for a cleansing. Not by fire, please.

Enter the data-quality plan. Finally, the nerds will make it to the C-Suite. CDS (Chief Data Scientist), anyone?

The ability to combine online data with offline customer behavior is likened to a crystal ball. Creating buyer personas on an individual level is a marketers dream come true.

The task is daunting. Software can only get us so far.

What can be done? We’ll discuss that soon.

(Hint: it’s one of the newest digital marketing trends making waves everywhere.)

Content Marketing

Using content as subtle advertising has been around since the invention of the Gutenberg Press; since companies had products to sell.

The term is defined differently depending on who’s doing the defining. But it boils down to one purpose: creating brand awareness.

This LinkedIn post distils the idea. “Content is anything an individual or brand creates for consumption. Blog posts, photographs, videos, infographics, tweets, and SlideShares are all examples of content. Content marketing is what makes all those consumable pieces of information work for you or your brand in a cohesive way.”

What It Was

In its infancy, having a presence on the World Wide Web was enough. Websites were text and links. And they soon became the hub of an organization’s marketing campaign. Other ad formats (TV, print, direct mail) still played a role in overall strategy, but the internet reversed the hierarchy.

“Does that business card have our web address?”

Enter email newsletters. Not far behind, enter the blog.

Blogs began to lead the way in this era of consumer-driven content. Meaning, content changed from directly selling products and services to informing and engaging the reader.

Thus, the creative side of digital marketing trends was born.

What It Is

Let’s all say it together . . . content is KING.

All companies have a role in the kingdom. Whether it be an heir to the throne or the court jester depends on how quickly they align with the new monarchy.

Some felt the necessity to add a member to the C-Suite.

Enter the Chief Content Officer.

Now that the first place consumers go to get brand information is online, we are fully immersed in the age of content gone wild. Anyone with an internet connection and a word processor can be a blogger. This has spawned some digital marketing trends many of us would rather do without.

Likes, shares, tweets, clickthrus, CTAs, responsive sites, click-bait, inbound linking, evergreen . . . to the point where consumers are so inundated, the content is becoming noise.

Where It’s Going

In an effort to silence the noise users are already shifting toward the next phase.

The partnering of social media with content marketing is not just one of these digital marketing trends; it’s a lifestyle. And it’s going organic.

Enter consumer-generated, or crowd-sourced, content.

And get ready for it to explode.

As Randall Beard, president of Nielsen Expanded Verticals explains: “As consumers are in control of how they consume content and interact with brands more than ever, understanding ad resonance across screens is the only way to successfully drive memorability and brand lift today.”

Content may be king, but it looks like user-created content is poised to take over the throne.

Is your company ready to hand over the reins?

SEO

We probably wouldn’t be discussing digital marketing trends if it weren’t for that ubiquitous marketing discipline know as Search Engine Optimization.

SEO is truly a marketing strategy unto its own. It requires site developers and administrators to collaborate. The technical and creative sides must work together, combining their efforts to create a better customer experience.

We all understand SEO became more relevant the moment Google decided to prioritize page quality and ensure user needs are met. As long as Google is around (any concern it won’t be?), SEO will remain a hot topic for digital marketers.

What It Was

Early web search engines defined relevance as a page with the “right” words. Results had limited value.

Remember the good ‘ole days? Keyword stuffing, link farms, cloaking, content loading with blogs farmed out to non-native English speakers, backlinks of the spam flavor.

And don’t forget, your children doing a search for Bambi and … ahem … some unexpected adult content popping up.

Enter Google.

(The door didn’t merely open with this one. It smashed into thousands of tiny splinters; or spiders. Take your pick.)

What It Is

Panda. Penguin. Hummingbird. Pigeon.

Whether you believe Google is on a quest for world domination or not, they do serve a valuable purpose. By monitoring the integrity of information published on the web, they ensure quality for search results.

Algorithms create the framework for how website content ranks in a search. Forward-thinking businesses prepare for algorithm updates, even if they don’t know when they’re rolling out.

All advertising is a competition for attention and visibility. Search engines are no different. Companies willing to learn and improve their website SEO will benefit the most.

Google takes quality seriously. Organizations wanting to incorporate the more important digital marketing trends into their strategy should too.

Where It’s Going

SEO won’t stop at the desk top. It’s going mobile, it’s going local, and it’s going global.

Have you heard of Mobilegeddon? That’s what webmasters and SEOs call Google’s mobile-friendly ranking algorithm.

Google is already on to the next.

Soon, taking center stage: mobile-first indexing.

An infographic from Kissmetrics is very telling. 49% of mobile web users surveyed said they will abandon a page that takes longer than 10 seconds to load.

Are you prepared?

What about geofencing? Rich cards? Progressive web apps?

Digital marketing trends that are constantly adapting to the user are the ones to really pay attention to.

Next up: virtual reality SEO.

Artificial Intelligence

It doesn’t merely exist in some science fiction writer’s dreamscape. It’s here. It’s real. And it’s time to shake its hand.

What It Was

Ask anyone their take on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and – some joking, some serious – Stanley Kubrick’s HAL 9000 is bound to pop up. Putting aside the robots-take-over-the-world doomsday scenarios, AI has been around for over 60 years.

Many attribute the term “artificial intelligence” to a British WWII codebreaker, Alan Turing. He believed machines would eventually be able to “think” like humans.

No doubt, people who scoffed at the idea back then are readjusting their opinions.

Had he been alive, Turing’s crowning moment might have come in 1997 when world renowned chess champion, Garry Kasparov, suffered defeat at the hands (actually, brain) of IBMs Deep Blue.

And the machines marched on.

What It Is

Many people don’t realize the subtle infiltration of AI into our everyday lives.

Do you have a virtual assistant on your smartphone? How about an Amazon Echo? Alexa? Anything with voice recognition has a component of artificial intelligence.

Meteorologists and Google rely heavily on data extrapolation for weather forecast and algorithms. Both mathematically based predictions generated by machines.

Have you heard about smart cars? They’re already being tested.

AI will continue to develop as technology advances. Of all the digital marketing trends flourishing today, Artificial Intelligence promises to lead the evolution.

Where It’s Going

Remember our discussion earlier about Big Data? About the daunting task of making sense of those billions of pieces of information?

Enter HAL, or Deep Blue, or Ava (of Ex Machina fame).

Growth in the number of new digital channels customers use is rapid. Many don’t integrate with current analytical software. Add the difficulty of incorporating offline data . . . you get the idea. We probably need a machine.

AI is the future of advanced marketing automation.

The ability to collect and analyze data mechanically will eliminate human error. Automating the complex management and measurement of all this information will soon offer precise insights and customer analysis at the click of a button.

Exit guesswork.

Not convinced? Perhaps this Hong-Kong based venture capital firm will change your mind. They recently elected an AI to its board of directors for “its ability to pick up on market trends that are ‘not immediately obvious to humans’.”

Become a believer. It’s “Vital” you do.

Some Trends Don’t Evolve, They Just Fade Away

Some trends to dump now:

  • Big banner ads
  • Stock images
  • Fake user reviews
  • Pop-Up Ads
  • Branded content
  • Flash
  • Using the same content on all social media channels

The evolution of digital marketing trends can be a demanding journey to follow. In essence, it simply means using insights from past, present, and the future to improve the bottom line.

A winning strategy is all about survival of the fittest.

Enter TopSpot SEM.

We’re ready for the next evolution.

Contact us today.