TOP-RATED DIGITAL MARKETING TRENDS IN 2019.

Updated: Sep 3, 2019

Credit by: Dave Chaffey.

Our review showing examples of the latest innovations in digital media, technology, and data to support digital transformation


We love reviewing innovation in marketing. It’s interesting to see ‘what’s hot’ and ‘what’s cool’, but to keep it practical and actionable as we like, we’re equally interested in which communications and transformation techniques will make the biggest commercial improvement for businesses.

A good example of the commercial impact digital technology and media can have is Dominos. I recently heard about the impact of digitization of Dominos from Dave Wild, their UK CEO at Technology for Marketing / E-commerce Expo. Dominos UK only took its first mobile phone order in 2010 when online sales accounted for less than 30% of revenue. Eight years on, Dominos have a market share of more than 50% with digital transactions accounts for more than 80% of sales and the UK smartphone app accounting for more than two-thirds of those sales.


Which marketing techniques will be most important to marketers in the year ahead?


Here's my view on why these tactics form the top five techniques.

#1 Content marketing - this has featured consistently in the top 3 for several years. I think it's number 1 since content marketing can be applied by all types of business regardless of their sector or size and if the right strategy is followed can make an impact that supports communications across all touchpoint of the customer lifecycle. It fuels all digital channels from search, email and social media marketing. This makes having a defined content marketing strategy essential to competing in many sectors.

#2 Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning - This is an exciting 'new entry' into the top 5 and suggests that marketers now believe they will see a return from deploying the latest AI tools supporting the many marketing applications for AI we review in this infographic. Within AI, I believe the most popular marketing applications will enhance personalization and marketing automation which brings us to...

#3 Marketing automation and email marketing - This is also a perennial feature in our top five and it's no surprise since, like content marketing, it's effective for both B2C and B2B marketing. While some more mature organizations will make improvements through use of AI, other less mature businesses will benefit from improving the relevance and timing of their emails through using rules-based automation and personalisation.

#4 Big Data (including market and customer insight and predictive analytics) - It's good to see big data in the top five since we believe in the power of data-driven marketing. Big data analysis such as predictive analytics typically requires larger budgets, so will be restricted mainly for larger organisations, but the use of market and customer insight using the tools shown in our Martech tools wheel is open to all businesses and I think is why this is a relatively popular choice.

#5 CRO and improving website experiences - This is the first time that CRO has featured in the top 5, which is again a sign of increased adoption of data-driven marketing as processes improve in organizations who can now run 'always-on' improvements using structured AB testing programmes. There is also the option of new lower-cost tools including Google Optimize which is freely available.

1. Digital marketing strategy and planning trends

A key trend in overall digital strategy development is the ongoing popularity of digital transformation programmes. A recent poll on a members' webinar in digital transformation showed that a third of businesses are planning transformation within the next 12 months with a quarter already having embarked on them. This is similar to what we’ve seen in our more general surveys.


Within digital marketing strategy, there is continued interest in developing integrated digital marketing strategies across multiple channels. Digital transformation programmes are a response to the challenges of digital silos in some companies where there has been a failure to integrate digital across a company. Instead, we recommend using a customer-centered approach to audit your approach for different personas across the lifecycle as shown below.

In today’s omnichannel marketing world there are many marketing techniques across paid, owned and earned media that we advise reviewing across the customer lifecycle.


From digital marketing to multichannel to omnichannel marketing


This visual highlights a broader trend in marketing, which is the wider use of ‘omnichannel communications’ centered around the customer to describe marketing strategies outside the retail and travel sector where the omnichannel term originated.

If you're wondering 'why omnichannel', Omni, based on the Latin Omnis meaning ‘all, every, the whole, of every kind’ emphasizes the importance of seeking to reach and interact with customers across touchpoints in all channels. It shows a more forensic approach to reaching target audiences, but should recognize that budget needs to be prioritized for the most effective channels.

This quote from John Bowden, Senior VP of Customer Care at Time Warner Cable explains how omnichannel strategies are more customer-centric.

“Multichannel is an operational view – how you allow the customer to complete transactions in each channel.  Omnichannel, however, is viewing the experience through the eyes of your customer, orchestrating the customer experience across all channels so that it is seamless, integrated, and consistent.  Omnichannel anticipates that customers may start in one channel and move to another as they progress to a resolution.  Making these complex ‘hand-offs’ between channels must be fluid for the customer.  Simply put, omni-channel is multi-channel done right!”

2. Marketing strategy and planning

Ultimately, it is the business, marketing, and brand development strategies which drive the growth of a business, so it is important to have a sound marketing strategy and branding in place before working on the digital tactics. Otherwise, it’s likely your hard work on the digital tactics will be wasted if they are directed at the wrong audience and your value proposition isn’t strong enough.

The key trend here is the way digital technologies and media offer the opportunities for digital disruption. Yet digital marketing is not always used as a disruptor. As I discuss in my Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice book, digital marketing is more often used for market penetration than new product or market development (these are the classic Ansoff growth strategies). To give you a benchmark, this new CMO Survey research from Duke University Fuqua Business School, Deloitte and the American Marketing Association based on the views of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) in large US organizations is useful. It’s interesting since it translates the theory of Ansoff into practice, showing how businesses are mainly investing, but other strategies are significant.


Digital experiences


Creating mobile responsive website designs for the dominant use of smartphones is now old news. We see future innovation in digital experience in the areas of speed and personalization and conversational user interfaces based on improved insight. I’ll illustrate this with a couple of examples.

Google has long proclaimed the importance of download speed and despite the widespread use of RWD, performance Google’s benchmarks shows that many businesses are falling short of the required speeds.

Using technologies like Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) and Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) which we introduced in last years webinar on trends have seen many successful examples implemented this year.

3. Search marketing trends

Since Google dominates the results that businesses get from search engine marketing our summary of the search trends here focuses on Google. Carolanne Mangles reported for us back in August on some of the biggest changes Google made in 2018, many of which will be deployed and evolve in 2019. The most obvious change is the launch of the Google Marketing Platform which saw AdWords renamed to Ads and the Doubleclick ad platform and analysis tools like Google Analytics, Data Studio, and AB testing through data studio more tightly integrated.



4. Social media trends

The government-commissioned annual Communications Market Review is one of the best sources for compiling data on Internet and Social Media usage.

The latest report, published last month has a good visualization summarising the most recent changes in age-related usage of social networks use of the main social networks between 2016 to 2018:


The visualization gives a great summary of the changes in three of the main consumer network:

Facebook - Static or declining in most age groups except the older (55+ age group) which is now the biggest group of users

Instagram - Increase in usage across all age groups with the largest, the 25 to 34 age group followed by 18 to 24

Snapchat - The largest increase and biggest user group is again the 25 to 34 age group showing that Snapchat isn’t just for teens. Indeed, there are also increases in users in older age groups which are not far behind the younger age groups in adoption levels. However, the frequency of use isn’t considered in this compilation.

What about B2B social media?


LinkedIn and Twitter are not shown in the OfCom compilation data. For B2B marketers, LinkedIn is likely to grow in importance, although the 2016 acquisition by Microsoft makes it harder to determine how platform revenue is split up between advertising and recruitment. The most recent Q2 2018 trading report suggest the growing importance of the platform with LinkedIn revenue increasing 37% (up 34% in constant currency) with LinkedIn sessions growth of 41% and users of 562 million users in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide.

Although Twitter’s future is often painted negatively, it will still be a significant for engaging across relevant B2B and B2C audiences. The latest Q2 2018 reports show daily active user growth of 11% and a revenue increase of 24% YoY.

5. Email marketing and marketing automation


Of all the channels we cover in this article, finding new innovation in email marketing techniques is the most challenging. Most email marketing techniques are well established and most recent trends related to improving relevance and interactivity on smartphone. This recent report benchmarking email experiences of retail and travel brands gives a good summary of the state of the art.

In terms of techniques, Striata has a great summary of Email trends, which is how I see innovation in email marketing - it’s all about integrating email with content marketing at the right time in customer journey across omnichannel touchpoints



6. Analytics and reporting


Systems such as Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics are relatively static in terms of reports and functionality. For me, the main trend here is using softer measures to get customer feedback. For example, I’ve been taking a look at some really interesting case studies from Vision Critical (Disclosure: A Content Marketing Partner of Smart Insights) which show how savvy brands are using customer communities to feed back.

Another trend here is the adoption of dashboard reporting and analysis systems. At Smart Insights, we have adopted Google’s Data Studio (since it came out of Beta) for our monthly and weekly trading reports alongside the Google Sheets Add-In for the Google Analytics API, which we use for pulling the data through for our RACE digital marketing dashboard.

7. Content marketing


The Content Marketing Institute does a great job of showing trends within content marketing via its research and case studies. This case study covering How Cisco Merges Martech With Creative Content, summarizes their process for creating content to integrate with activities.


The research section on CMI shows similar patterns within content marketing compared to previous years. Taking technology content marketing as an example, this chart shows that key trends are:

A more strategic approach to content marketing with many businesses now having a holistic content marketing strategy to support audience engagement and commercial goals of leads and salesFocus on content quality based around deeper understanding of personasNew roles and structure to support content marketing activities as investment increasesImproved measurement of content marketing effectiveness


8. Paid and earned media

To complete the picture of digital channels, we need to review advertising and PR. We finish here, since although digital media are hugely important to demand generation and branding, discerning trends on cross-industry data is difficult in this sector where there is a reporting lag, which means that reports for ad types aren’t published until the next quarter. The most recent at the time of writing is this breakdown from the IAB.


The big winners are native advertising and video advertising which we can expect to continue to be important into 2019 after video advertising overtook display for the first time.

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