November 27, 2018 | Evan MacLeod

Why We Aren’t Hiring Robots… Yet: Digital Marketing Trends for 2019

By Evan Macleod

With 2019 fast approaching, and planning for the coming year in full swing for most of our clients, I’ve been thinking about which trends our digital and creative teams are paying close attention to.

There are countless innovations and disruptions to choose from, but I’ve narrowed it down to the five trends that I believe will be the most important as we continue to barrel forward into our digital futures.

You won’t lose your job to a robot — yet

Fears that artificial intelligence (AI) will replace the need for workers are a thing of the past or at least a thing we don’t have to worry about as much. AI is increasingly being applied as a way to make our jobs easier, not to take them away. With endless data at our fingertips, AI is a faster, smarter way of applying data to the customer’s journey at points where a human being used to be a necessity.

Consider something as simple as your grocery loyalty program. The weekly incentives and coupons offered in your app are a direct result of algorithms which use not only the data you generate with each shopping trip but the data of thousands of other shoppers who have similar buying habits. That’s why your app “knows” that if you like a certain brand of cream cheese, you probably also prefer to buy your bagels fresh from the in-store bakery.

We’ve perfected ad placements using…robots

Flowing directly from AI is programmatic advertising. Gone are the days where the audience was captive, seated in front of their TVs during primetime for three hours every night. Consumers are constantly on the move, physically and digitally: streaming television on their TV while checking social media on their phone, listening to a podcast during a commute that takes them past a dozen outdoor billboards, and so on. Ensuring you reach them at critical touchpoints used to require a media buyer who understood or could predict each of those points, and then take that knowledge and apply it to manually buying ad placements.

Programmatic advertising solves the problem that most media buyers aren’t mindreaders. It automates the process of buying and selling ad placements, allowing brands to create hyper-targeted, multi-channel strategies that are impossible for their audience to ignore.

Alexa, play my “Ball Droppin’ New Year” playlist

Another trend, another AI. Voice interfaces are on the rise and will continue to change the way we move through the buyer journey. The AI that we’re talking to will influence the products we purchase. How will Alexa decide which brand we want her to order for us? Based on previous purchases, the best prices, the highest ratings? Or the brand that has spent the most to make sure their product is at the front of the line?

Another factor in voice-controlled interfaces is the interconnectivity of the devices we already use. Being able to control the volume on your Spotify playlist using only a vocal command is just the beginning.

A new kind of blockbuster video

It’s no surprise, but video continues to dominate the digital landscape, especially on social platforms. From IGTV to Stories to Facebook Watch, platforms continue to optimize video for both the creator and the viewer. But the rise of video’s popularity has also meant a saturation in the amount of video trying to gain the attention of the audience, which means brands need a solid, carefully considered video strategy in place before they delve into the relatively expensive medium. Video content online cannot resemble the commercials of old in any way. The audience is demanding video content that enriches, entertains and adds value to their experience online.

Yes, but how did it make you feel?

The most compelling digital trend is also the one that is the most human. We’re building sites and digital platforms with much more weight given to the user’s experience. UX teams are tasked create digital products that reflect a deep understanding of the end user.

At the core of this process is the design-thinking concept of user empathy. User empathy encourages us to consider the buyer’s feelings about the product during their journey — what are they thinking, feeling, doing and saying? And why does it matter? User empathy helps us build stronger customer personas, create more compelling content and craft digital experiences that lead to truly meaningful relationships between brands and their audiences.

As always, a big part of our jobs as marketers is to make the process of implementation of these new technologies smart and seamless for our clients. Pioneering ground-breaking technology platforms is a business approach, not a tool, and it demands the involvement of everyone in the agency, from strategy to execution.

What new technologies will you be implementing in 2019? Is your marketing agency ready?

Evan MacLeod

Evan Macleod is the Associate Creative Director at WS. Split hairs over the difference between interactivity and functionality with him by connecting on LinkedIn.