Thinking forward — marketing trends for 2020

Thinking forward — marketing trends for 2020

December 2019

It’s been another whirlwind year in the digital marketing industry. New technology, new ideas and new platforms have been keeping us all on our toes. We’ve looked back at what’s been happening and gazed into our tea leaves to bring you what we think will be the buzzwords in 2020.

Voice marketing is loud, clear and definitely here

“Alexa, how many Americans own a smart speaker?”

“66.4 million, or over 25% of adults.”

Yes, you read (or should we say ‘heard’) that correctly. More than a quarter of adults in the USA own a smart speaker such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home. Not only that, but 31% of smartphone users worldwide use voice-activated search such as Siri at least once a week.

Voice search will be a huge marketing trend in 2020. In fact, an estimated 50% of all searches will be made by voice – and that means digital marketers will no longer be able to ignore it.

A more natural way to search

Voice search has much to offer as a marketing tool. When we search using our voice, we use natural, conversational language that provides the kind of insight into our emotions and intentions that a text search never could. As voice search technology gets smarter at capturing and analysing these insights, marketers will become better at meeting customers’ needs.

For example, when searching by text you might type ‘‘Children’s holidays”. But you’d ask Alexa or Siri, “Where can I take my five-year-old on holiday this summer?” This provides much more context and information about what you’re looking for and how ready you are to make a purchase.

How do brands make the most of voice search? Start with using long-tail keywords (e.g. “how to make vegan bolognese” instead of “vegan bolognese”), and develop content that is written in a natural, conversational way. Adapting to voice search really is about listening to how people speak.

Email marketing: this time it’s personalised

Personalisation generally has been one of the biggest digital marketing trends in recent years and, in 2020, we predict it will be the biggest thing in email marketing.

Personalised email marketing uses advanced technology to learn how people engage with your website or app. With this information, you can send email messages tailored not only to each customer but to each moment. It turns every action a user makes into an opportunity for your brand.

Behavioural data, the science of making customers happy

Behavioural data is what drives personalised email marketing. Knowing which products a user searches for, which products they buy and how many times they view a product page makes it easier for you to communicate with them in a relevant way.

If someone signs up, for example, they receive an automated welcome message or a discount. If they buy something, they get a recommendation for another related product. And if a visitor browses but leaves without buying, a personalised email, sent at just the right time, can bring them back – this time to go all the way to the checkout.

The secret to a long relationship

Reaching users at key moments means you can build trust with them from the start. Whether it’s helping them log in or stay engaged with your site, you’re providing real value for your customers.

And if they haven’t visited your site for a while, then a friendly, personalised and relevant email offering new features or product updates could reignite that initial spark.

We need to talk about conversational marketing

Forget about landing pages and news feeds in 2020. Conversational marketing is the new way to go.

That may sound extreme, but the figures speak for themselves. A campaign using a mobile chatbot can perform up to 80 times better than email or news feeds. With a messenger blast, you can see between 70% and 80% open rates within the first 60 minutes.

Why it’s good to chat

The reason conversational marketing is so successful is simple: you create a more human buying experience. Instead of having to fill in forms and wait for a reply before you can talk to anyone, a real-time chat with an intelligent ‘bot’ feels much more personal. And you can start chatting if and when it suits you, any time of the night or day.

In return, brands receive powerful information about their customers. Conversations can be very revealing about why they visited your site, what their pain points are and what they’re looking for in a product or service.

More leads, better leads and quicker sales

Leads that come from conversations close much faster than those that come from traditional marketing methods. You can respond to an initial contact instantly, dramatically improving your chances of qualifying the lead and closing the sale.

Analytics: All about the customer, not the cookies

Google Analytics is a great tool for measuring channel performance, user experience and content engagement on your website. However, the way people interact with a brand online can be complex. A customer may start the journey with a desktop browser, then move to mobile, then finally download the app. Tracking this multi-device journey can be challenging. Instead of cookie tracking, we need to start ‘people tracking’.

Cross-device reporting

Last year Google introduced cross-device tracking in Google Analytics. Just as GA tracks the user journey across different channels (search, social, referral, affiliate etc), this feature uses an attribution model to track it across different devices, so it’s a more comprehensive understanding of the customer journey.

Web and app together

Until now, brands have had to use two different tools:  GA to measure web engagement and Google Analytics for Firebase for apps. But in 2019 Google released a new feature for Analytics called Apps + Web, which, as the name suggests, provides website and app data in a single report and in a consistent format. This gives marketers a better, more user-centric view of how customers interact with a business.

Still not perfect, but getting close

Physical stores play an important role in the user experience, not only as a shopping destination but also, increasingly, as a media space. So the fact that we still can’t fully track these physical engagements and conversions means we don’t have the full picture. However, you can integrate in-store data onto Google Analytics for reports such as traffic, conversions and revenue. If you can associate sales to specific online campaigns (e.g. tracking code), that's even better.

Even without the physical store in our customer journey, we’re getting very close to understanding how a user interacts with our omni-channel businesses. It can only get better!

Influencer marketing steps up a gear

Influencers are still big news and they’re not going anywhere in 2020. But we predict there will be a revolution in how marketers manage their influencer campaigns.

Small is the new big

Last year, we foresaw the rise of micro and nano influencers (with 500 to 10,000 followers), and this will continue in 2020. More brands are catching on to the benefits of these influencers, who have smaller but more engaged audiences than their bigger, more famous counterparts.

We’ll see brands building wider networks of micro and nano influencers and more companies being set up specifically to manage them.

Influencers for content, not just promotion

So far, businesses have been using influencers mainly to promote their brand, but they’re beginning to see how useful they are for creating content. More brands will begin to tap into this – saving themselves money in the process. On average, brands save at least 24% by using influencer content instead of professional photo shoots, for example.

Even if they have in-house teams to handle content, brands can still save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year by using influencers to create branded content.

E-commerce: the unstoppable shoppable Instagram

Every marketer is well aware of the power of social media. What might be surprising is the extent to which people are using social media for shopping – and the potential it has for online retailers. In a survey of Instagram users 60% said they discover new products on the platform, and a whopping 70% of Pinterest users say Pinterest helps them find new products.

This hasn’t escaped the attention of Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, who have been busy making it easier for merchants to sell via their platforms. Shoppable posts, featuring tagged products that users can buy just by clicking them, are a great way for retailers to drive traffic to product pages and reach new customers.

While shoppable posts have been on the rise for the past few years, expect them to become the norm in 2020.

Time to stop worrying and learn to love AI

The march of artificial intelligence (AI) gathers pace, and we expect 2020 to see more brands embracing it as a central part of their digital strategy.

AI is already everywhere. Everything from Google search results to Amazon product recommendations and the order in which Facebook posts appear in our feed are the result of algorithms that ‘listen’ and learn about our likes, dislikes and online behaviour. And, as AI technology becomes more sophisticated, so will it become more ubiquitous.

Thinking visually

Looking ahead, as the world becomes more video- and image-driven thanks to the popularity of apps such as Instagram and TikTok, visual analytics will become widespread. Used within social listening, it reveals not just how your customers talk about your brand but how they actually use it.

Then there’s the creative potential of AI. A brilliant example is Ogilvy’s recent social media ad campaign for Deutsche Bahn, which aimed to encourage people in Germany to holiday in their home country rather than abroad. Using AI, Ogilvy put images of Germany next to almost-identical images of landmarks around the world. It wouldn’t have been possible without AI, and it drove a 6.61% conversion rate and a 24% increase in revenue.

TikTok: the time is now

If you’re not already using TikTok in your marketing mix, you will be soon. Gen Z’s favourite video app is one of the fastest-growing social media platforms, and it’s growing every day.

TikTok is a free app that lets users create, share and watch videos, right from their mobile phone. At the time of writing it had 500 million active users (compared with 225 million on Snapchat and 335 million on Twitter) and 1.5 billion downloads.

As it doesn’t yet have an advertising revenue model, the best way for brands to get on board the TikTok train is through influencer marketing and product placement. The Influencer Marketing Factory found that brands typically spend $10,000 on campaigns and generate upwards of 20 million impressions. If you want your videos to go viral to millions, TikTok’s the way to do it.

Bigger audience, smaller spend

Right now, not many influencer marketers use TikTok to promote brands, which suggests you have a higher chance than your competitor of getting your brand known to millions of people. In other words, it’s great value for money.

Unlike other social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube, TikTok has a very specific audience demographic. If you want to target a Gen Z crowd, TikTok is the go-to platform.

And, although it might look similar to other platforms, the way TikTok operates is quite different. It has recently introduced several tools designed to give users (or their parents) more control over their privacy and keep them safe from prying eyes.

Customer experience: say hello to holistic marketing

We have witnessed a massive shift from offline to online retail in the past few years, thanks to changes in consumer behaviour and advances in technology.

However, there’s one area where technology hasn’t, until now, kept up, and that’s tracking and measuring the entire customer journey, especially offline. This has led to a skewed focus towards online media and an increase of over 30% in digital marketing spending and cost per click in 2018.

But we’re now going through another big change in consumer behaviour. A recent study found that companies that lead in customer experience outperform those that lag. The experience could soon be more important to consumers than the products themselves.

Companies can think of their physical presence as the body language of their brands and a vital part of a greater customer experience. But, while 80% of companies believe they deliver “super experiences”, only 8% of customers agree.

Everything is connected

Luckily, technology is ever-evolving. Google Analytics 360, for instance, can now track how each customer behaves on multiple devices, and it can even merge data from offline and online sources.

Using this technology along with new AI and machine learning, brands will be able to figure out where exactly in the journey they’re letting their customers down and where exactly they’re doing things right – and hone their marketing strategies accordingly.

We predict that 2020 will be the year that companies start to invest heavily in holistic tracking capabilities and focus on the whole consumer experience, from high-street shop to online checkout and beyond.

The rise and spread of social commerce

The way we shop online is going to change dramatically over the coming years. Social media and e-commerce are merging into so-called social commerce: you can set up your store on Facebook or Snapchat thanks to integrations with Shopify. In 2018 Instagram released Shoppable Posts offering a seamless buying experience, which will soon go from discovery through to purchase when it rolls out the capability to pay directly from the platform instead of going to each vendor’s site.

Social Shopping hasn’t yet become mainstream, but with 80% of Instagram’s 800 million users already following active shopping business accounts, it’s only a matter of time — and not much of it — until we’re all shopping directly on our favourite social channels.

WeChat offers a glimpse of the future of e-commerce

Meanwhile in the Far East, WeChat, the ubiquitous Chinese messaging app launched in 2011, has evolved into a super-app that now integrates a huge social network hosting 34% of China’s data transfer traffic, a standardised payments system and an infrastructure for businesses to build their online stores via “miniprograms”, which are an alternative to standalone iOS or Android apps.

In other words, everybody in China is on WeChat all the time (it was essentially built for mobile), so, as a marketer, you can access and engage with them and directly offer them your products via your own branded miniprogram running on WeChat. You can even cross data signals from their offline behaviour and retarget them for conversion.

We won’t deny we find this level of amalgamation slightly freaky, but that's a different story.

Anyway, stay tuned for movements on this front. Will your shopping habits be soon changing?


Shoppables - IG


Personalised emails


Influencer marketing



Customer Experience

Conversational marketing