Digital Marketing Trends 2018

Digitalization is now at the center of our society. In 2017, the number of articles in the NZZ on “digitalization” exploded; six bands at Zurich Openair built their fame entirely through YouTube; Twint, the Swiss mobile payment solution, processed almost 10,000 transactions a day… We present five major trends that will keep marketers busy in 2018.

Digital Marketing Trends 2018

Next year will be an exciting one for marketers. To stay ahead of the curve, marketers need to understand in which direction the market is developing and how their target audiences consume media, interact with brands and buy products. Here are five major trends that deserve your attention in 2018.

Trend 1: All eyes on visual search

The visual search engine Google Lens is Google’s future. It changes the way that users search for information and marks a big step for Google, as they shift from reading websites to reading reality. For example, with Google Lens users will be able to view contextual information about a restaurant, such as reviews, opening hours or menus, by simply pointing their smartphone at it. From a marketer’s perspective, visual search offers numerous opportunities to provide target audiences with relevant information in the real world. We expect industries such as retail, entertainment and tourism to pick up on this trend first; others will follow.

So what? Build a visual search task force

We recommend forming an in-house task force that monitors the further development of Google Lens closely to leverage this potential. It’s the task of this team to actively use the technology and test all possible aspects for your own business, for example if Lens recognizes your products.


Trend 2: Machine learning

Machine learning (ML) will be of great interest to marketers in 2018. Not only has it proven to significantly improve online translation services such as DeepL, it also holds great potential to increase efficiency for marketers by automating repetitive tasks. An interesting industry case is reported by technology corporation NVIDIA: its marketing department leverages ML to scout for social media posts that refer to its brand. The algorithm automatically analyzes the user-generated content and, based on given rules, sets the next marketing step, such as reposting, in action. The process is automated and requires no human intervention.

So what? Create an ML playground

First of all, we recommend to maintain a healthy scepticism when it comes to ML. The topic is a popular buzzword and as such often used in sales pitches for window dressing. However, when others are hyperventilating about the term, you can gain some actual experience: Create an internal ML playground and make it a 10% for a small group of people. The good thing is, you don’t need to build your own supercomputer. You can access existing tools for machine learning (e.g. TensorFlow from Google) and experiment with it.


Trend 3: Connected customer data

Marketers collect all kinds of customer data. In 2018, your focus should shift from data collection to data consolidation. By connecting data silos through improved data analysis, you will be able to better understand customer journeys and thus optimize targeting methods, personalize marketing initiatives and make the customer experience more meaningful and convenient. In other words, proven account-based marketing methods from B2B marketing become applicable to large-scale B2C campaigns – instead of spending a large budget on reaching everyone, only the most valuable target audiences are individually marketed.

So what? Use customer data to optimize the CX

Analyze existing datasets and find out how to combine and consolidate data in order to make life easier for your customers. For instance, use your CRM data to make the call center experience more convenient. If you have phone numbers and language-related information on your clients in your CRM, use this information to direct customers to an agent that speaks their language – instead of asking the client to choose the language with the dial pad. Simple things like this will give you an advantage in highly competitive markets.


Trend 4: Regulation is coming

Legislators and regulators are entering the stage. With the enforcement of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on May 25, 2018, marketers need to be well prepared for questions related to data privacy and data ownership. GDPR will affect marketing initiatives aimed at EU citizens; however, it not is the Armageddon of the marketing industry, but neither can it be ignored. It is rather a step in the right direction, forcing companies to take their responsibilities related to consumer data more seriously.

So who will be impacted? Publishers will be most heavily impacted by the new law. They need to change how they track data. Similarly, data management platforms that collect, repackage and sell data in the programmatic ecosystem will have to adapt their practices and business models, becoming more transparent and accountable. Regular advertisers will be less heavily impacted by the regulation; nonetheless, they are well advised to follow the concept of “privacy by design.” Data should be tracked and stored only if it is relevant and complies with the law. Instead of tackling this issue alone, advertisers must collaborate with industry bodies in 2018. Associations such as IAB Switzerland will take a leading role in defining standards and best practice in Switzerland.

So what? Get involved in the GDPR project

Do not delegate GDPR-related projects to the IT department or the legal division. You should become involved and ensure that as one of the key stakeholders your voice is heard. That means you need to know exactly what data you collect and why you collect it. Also, keep an eye on industry bodies and collaborate with them.


Trend 5: AdChain

Here’s our take on one of the most prominent buzzwords of 2017: blockchain. When you mention that word, most people think of bitcoin. Although it is true that bitcoin is based on blockchain technology, always keep in mind that blockchain is about much more than cryptocurrencies. (If you like geeky definitions, blockchains are cryptographically secured distributed ledgers of economic transactions.)

Some very interesting applications of this technology already exist on the market. One example is insurance company Axa, which has developed an insurance for flight delays based on blockchain technology. Here’s how it works: Axa accesses flight information through a blockchain. As soon as an insuree experiences a flight delay, the blockchain receives the relevant information and automatically pays out the compensation amount to the traveler. As no additional fact checking is required, the technology improves efficiency significantly.

We are convinced that blockchain will change the way advertising is conducted in future. Here are a few ideas and examples that will or are already changing marketing methods.

  • Brand safety registry: Based on blockchain technology, publishers could develop a globally shared and distributed whitelist that ensures safe advertising environments.
  • Certified reach CPM: Accessing a third party reach certification such as netmetrix through the blockchain, allowing to set CPM prices in real time based on actual publisher performance.
  • Influencer performance management: Blockchain could automatically trigger remuneration of influencers if their social media posts reach an agreed audience. This is the business model of Mavin, a Zurich-based start-up that has created a reward-based influencer marketing ecosystem on blockchain.

The application adChain, which was launched by US adtech company MetaX at the start of 2017, already capitalizes on the new technology. It is an open protocol that uses blockchain to solve digital advertising’s issues of brand safety and fraudulent traffic.

So what? Keep yourself informed and educated

Don’t just drop the b-word casually into the conversation to impress your peers in 2018. You need to understand exactly how blockchain works, and what it can and can’t do for you and your business – you don’t want to buy snake oil, do you?


Looking forward

In 2018, innovative technological trends will converge and shape the way we perceive and conduct marketing. With digital at the very core of our society and economy, it continues to deeply impact the marketing industry. This hyper-converged marketing landscape gives rise to new opportunities, be it the combination of image recognition and structured data, the creation of synergies through use of ML to analyze social media patterns, or the adoption of blockchain technology to marketing. And there will be new and powerful players in the digital realm: legislators and regulators. Be prepared to push your marketing to the next level in this exciting, ever-changing environment – especially as we will see more and more boundaries disappear between previously well defined disciplines and industries.

This presentation summarizes all five trends:

Tobias Zehnder, co-founder and partner, presented these trends at our Thought Leaders @ Webrepublic client event.