Anyone who has spent time in the corporate world has probably heard that inspirational quote from hockey legend Wayne Gretzky: “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” Wayne actually got that saying from his dad, Walter and ever since that timeless paternal wisdom became public knowledge, it’s been quoted by everyone from Steve Jobs to Warren Buffett.
There’s no secret why it’s such a popular saying. It rings true because we understand that business success depends largely on the ability to anticipate trends. So, how can the rest of us think like “The Great One” to figure out where that fast-moving “puck” is going?
This is especially important in the marketing profession, where seemingly effective tactics can hit their expiration date very quickly. Fortunately, it’s not impossible to take an educated guess about the near future of marketing. So let’s pull out the old crystal ball and make a few 2019 marketing predictions:
1. Search Engine Optimization
Several years have passed since Google revealed that mobile search activity was beginning to outpace laptop-based searches. (One study claims that Google searching is now 57% mobile.) The implementation of Google’s mobile-first index means that special weight is given to traffic generated by handheld devices. This explains why websites are so often urged to become as mobile-friendly as possible. And that advice will become increasingly pertinent over the next few years.
How will websites meet the mobile challenge in 2019? I predict that the most successful mobile apps will create a linear, step-by-step pathway for customers. Each screen should contain only a few choices for the user. For example, if you run a pizza shop, your mobile app might devote one screen each for every stage of the ordering process — you select your crust on one screen, sauce on the next and toppings on a third. This approach keeps you from cluttering up the screen with too many options.
We should also see an increased emphasis on distributing relevant content through multiple channels. As a content creator, consider using guest blogs on sites like Medium to enlarge and reach new audiences.
2. Video Content
I believe the phenomenon of vertical video will make further inroads in 2019. That trend is closely linked to the use of mobile devices, as most people tend to view content on their phones while holding it in the upright position. Therefore, people who dislike portrait mode may be in for a rude awakening.
This preference for video content also has a lot to do with its usefulness as an SEO tool. Internet surfers tend to spend more time on web pages that have a video they can watch, which leads to higher conversion rates and improved search rankings.
And here’s a tip for content creators who want to cash in on the video marketing revolution: Keep them short. Video on social platforms work best when they run between 30 seconds and two minutes and can be viewed without sound. It seems that most people aren’t interested in listening to this type of content — on Facebook, 85% of videos are watched with the sound off. So give video a try with these three things on mind: short, vertical and silent.
3. AI And Machine Learning
Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) have evolved to the point where our digital assistants are getting pretty good at interacting with human beings. The capabilities of virtual assistants like Alexa will expand as voice-recognition technology makes further strides. One study claims that half of all internet search volume will be voice-based by the year 2020. That’s why it’s important for marketers to figure out how to optimize for voice search with long-tail keywords, contextually based queries and similar tactics.
I think chatbots, which have already proven to be successful in automating a large part of the customer service experience, will also assume a more central role in the world of marketing over the next year, as will SMS text and on-site messengers. All of these tools are valuable allies in the marketer’s ongoing efforts to improve conversion rates.
4. AR And VR
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are innovations that are commonly celebrated more for their future potential than for their present-day abilities. That’s beginning to change, however. Today, we’re seeing more wearables and mobile device-based technology that can give the everyday consumer a set of visual tools that was impossible just a few short years ago.
What if you could use an app that let you visualize how a new appliance would look in your kitchen? Or see how a certain brand of lipstick would look on your face? These things are happening right now, with companies like IKEA, Sephora and Audi. The contemporary marketer needs to be acquainted with developments in AR and VR technology — it’s no longer an option but a must.
5. Social Media
Despite Facebook’s recent setbacks, social media isn’t going away in 2019. I still believe that live video will probably see an uptick in activity over the next year. A lot of people associate live streaming with online gaming content, but it can be invaluable for influencers and social media marketing professionals. Live video on social can also be a very low-cost, effective way to drive traffic to your website.
I also believe pay to play is another trend that, like it or not, will assume an even larger role in 2019. The simple fact is that your options are limited these days when it comes to paid media advertising on the internet. Organic reach on your Facebook business page content is not going to magically expand. Paying to push your message out to a target audience is going to be your fastest path to getting seen.
So, as 2018 draws to a close, remember this: The puck is traveling very fast, but with a little foresight I believe we can predict its destination — or at least the direction in which it’s headed.