The digital marketing field is undergoing drastic changes. Many of them are, of course, due to the recent health crisis and its fallout in the business world. Even more are the result of the relentless processes of technological innovation and social change that have defined the past decade. As businesses recover and new ideas shake up industries, digital marketing is adapting in some fascinating ways. Here are just five ways in which digital marketing firms are changing with the times.
1. Sustainability Is Becoming a Priority
Going green certainly isn’t unique to the field of digital marketing. Marketing firms are, however, poised to take advantage of this trend to a greater degree than many other vocations because technology is a major industry driver. Energy-intensive computers are running constantly, even in home offices, devouring energy (and money). Thankfully, alternative power sources like solar panels are becoming more robust and inexpensive than ever. Solar power in particular is becoming a good choice, with commercial-scale production costs falling to $0.11 per kilowatt-hour as of 2017.
An unspoken truth is that marketing outfits need to market themselves as much as they do their clients. Public perception of businesses these days is built around whether or not they seem to feel a sense of responsibility to the rest of the world. This isn’t just true of potential customers and clients; a Fast Company survey recently showed that 70% of millennials prefer to work for a company with a strong sustainability ethic. In other words, if you’re an entrepreneur, it might be time to start looking for photovoltaic panels and a solar battery and take advantage of this powerful new trend.
If the last year has taught business owners anything, it’s that flexible work systems such as remote work are not only possible but profitable. Digital marketers have been on the cutting edge of this work ethic for years now, with digital content creation being, in a very real sense, a cottage industry. Now they can really feel vindicated. A groundbreaking Stanford University study in 2020 found that people who work from home are up to 13% more efficient than their office-bound counterparts.
There’s a lot to be said for sales professionals synergizing as a physical team, but the research and skills needed to market can be done at a remove. Digital happy hours and meetups can still bring a globally dispersed team together in an organic way. Automated customer relationship management (CRM) software and predictive lead scoring can streamline a sales team’s efforts even further. The work of marketing is typically more outcome-driven than process-oriented, so flextime is a great option. If any industry on the planet can and should take advantage of decentralization as a business model, it’s digital marketing.
3. SEO Strategies Are Evolving
Search engine optimization (SEO) tactics have changed massively over the past decade and will continue to do so in the future. The first major shift has been the movement of SEO to voice search. In fact, it’s been estimated that half of all searches are now by voice. Those searches aren’t just through typical computers; they’re increasingly being done through devices like Alexa. Maximizing voice search traffic is a whole new skill set for many SEO marketers, but it will have to be learned.
The second big change is the fact that Gen-Z is very much the mobile generation. As a sign of the times, in 2018, Google started using mobile-first indexing. That means they treat the mobile version of a site as the main version of that site. Now, Google ranks websites that are specifically designed to deliver a balanced user experience on mobile devices. Digital marketers will have to adapt to this adjustment in how we interact with the websites that we all use.
4. Multiple Marketing Channels Are Needed
It’s almost impossible to build a business by leveraging only one marketing channel. Getting the message out through several vectors at once helps to bypass the growing saturation of traditional marketing platforms like blogs as well as reaching the many new micro-niche markets popping up online. Short-form video platforms are hugely popular, with TikTok and Instagram Stories coming into their own over the past two years, though evidence suggests that long-form video content will be king in the coming years. Influencer marketing across all channels is enormously effective, with the industry anticipated to be worth $13.8 billion in 2021.
Podcasts are yet another lucrative outlet, with research showing that podcast listeners tend to cross multiple age groups and are both more affluent and educated than the average consumer. Digital marketing companies will have to learn exactly what channel their target audience prefers and then adjust outreach to align with the expectations of that particular subculture. Keeping pace with changes in the general public’s preferred methods of communication will also be critical for all marketing firms in the coming years.
Media and marketing fatigue among consumers has brought with it one very positive effect: a product-centered desire for authenticity. This is both a challenge for marketers as well as a fantastic opportunity for those who get it right. ROI is increasingly becoming driven by brand loyalty, which in turn is a function of trust and the locus of that is perceived value. Studies now show that competing with other companies on quality is an even better driver of ROI than competing on price, so the marketers of the future will focus on one question: How can this product or service tangibly improve the quality of life of the consumer? Since online marketing is such a visual enterprise, this question will often be answered in personalized, product-focused videos and testimonials. In fact, turning from the hard sell to word-of-mouth marketing is another trend whose time has come.
Not all change is expected or even welcome, but it’s certainly been a constant throughout history. It’s taking an agile new breed of marketing professionals to make the most of these developments and chart a profitable course for the future.