Three trends that will change digital marketing in 2020

Marketing has traditionally involved four “Ps”: product, price, place and promotion. Creating a strategy around the four Ps used to be fairly straightforward when marketing was confined to print ads and TV commercials, but digital media is now changing the game and the skills needed to succeed.

Marketers now need to know how to develop creative that works across digital media, how to connect with digital natives and, most importantly, how to measure the effectiveness of digital marketing — and continuously refine tactics — using analytics.

All of this has led to the rise of a fifth “P” for marketers: “professional development.”

This isn’t something aspiring or experienced marketers can leave to their employers. According to Brainstation’s recently released 2020 Digital Skills survey, for example, more than a quarter of firms, or 26 percent, said they have yet to implement digital skills training for their staff.

This is despite the fact that marketing was second only to web development in the areas where employers expected to do the most hiring over the next year. The good news is that the vast majority of marketers are well aware of the need to embrace lifelong learning. In fact, 89 percent said digital skills training would make them more successful in their role.

The challenging part is what comes next: choosing which digital skills to prioritize, and mapping out how they might apply in the day-to-day responsibilities of those with a digital marketing role. Here are some things to consider:

Brand, Storytelling and Technology Will Require a More Unified Strategy

Over the past number of years brands across all sectors have recognized that traditional advertising may not always be the best way to reach their target audience. This has led to the increasing importance of content marketing — where brands tell stories that are more focused on their audiences’ interests and needs than their own products and services.

While content marketing has unleashed a lot of creativity in the development of eBooks, newsletters, branded video and more, those studying it in 2020 will be expected to prove its value and align it with what a company is doing in areas like sales.

According to the Content Marketing Institute’s most recent research, for example, more than half, or 51 per cent of those surveyed, said that a successful content marketing strategy plays a key role in optimizing the customer experience across the entire engagement journey.

This means learning how to optimize web pages for conversions, A/B testing e-mail campaigns and developing assets to support lead generation will ensure marketing departments are seen as less of a cost centre and more of a profit centre.

Content marketers will need to work more collaboratively across departments. This was the top challenge in the Content Marketing Institute’s research, cited by 62 per cent of the survey sample. Even if they don’t go so far as to learn to code, beefing up their digital skills will mean they can speak as comfortably with developers and user experience (UX) designers as they do with PR professionals and brand strategists.

A digital skill set allows marketers to not only publish content across platforms but identify ways to connect content and consumers in meaningful ways — much like Airbnb famously sent automated emails to people who placed rental listings on Craigslist to kick-start its growth, or the way Spotify showed Facebook users what their friends were listening to in real time. These “full stack” marketers will incorporate brand strategy as part of content marketing for optimal results.

There Are No Words for How Using Search Will Change

For most of the past 10 years, studying search engine optimization (SEO) has meant understanding how to conduct keyword research, creating content that answers an audience’s questions and attracting links from other web sites. Search engine marketing (SEM) has been about mastering pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns to get the best return on ad spend possible.

What both SEO and SEM have in common is a focus on text — what we type into a search engine like Google, for example. However recent research from Microsoft suggests the rise of video, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will transform these disciplines to incorporate what it calls “visual discovery.”

“How easy would it be if you take a picture of something you want rather than trying to search for it using words?” the report’s authors asked. “What if the image — not the text — drove the discovery process and enabled a new gateway to understanding the world around us?”

Similarly, more than half of consumers in an independent SEO researcher’s study have used voice search to find local business information. The continuing emergence of smart speakers and other digitally-connected devices means there will be ever-increasing places to interact with brands by talking out loud.

Visual discovery and voice search will probably only serve as a complement to text and links, but it will no doubt influence the way digital marketers will refine the way they practice SEO and SEM.

The Art of Analytics Will Require Greater Partnerships With IT

Many of the people who choose to study digital marketing won’t necessarily have a background in information technology (IT), and while they may be more comfortable learning advanced tools, they need to realize they won’t be left entirely on their own.

Just look at the debate captured in data from Domo (which makes business intelligence tools), in which about a third (34 per cent) of marketers said they should own the process of managing data and analytics across the business. About another third, (30 per cent), said it should belong to the IT department or the chief technology officer (CTO). Others (20 per cent) said it’s really the CEO’s job.

When you factor in the 83 per cent of respondents who said they are struggling to adapt to the volume of data, it becomes clear that data and analytics can’t operate in a silo. Success in digital marketing will be all about partnering and weaving together the best skill sets across multiple disciplines.

As they explore the educational opportunities available to them, marketers may find themselves surprised by their abilities to marry data and creativity in surprising ways. Learning programming languages like Python and SQL are no longer confined to professional developers, and even basic HTML and JavaScript can add extra dimensions to what marketers can do with landing pages and other digital assets.

The bottom line for digital marketers is that professional development will increasingly emphasize a holistic perspective that keeps bottom-line metrics top of mind, while making sure the organization as a whole acts more cohesively to build a brand. That’s the only way to achieve a sixth word that begins with “P”: progress.

Take the next step by exploring top-rated digital marketing courses, including one recently launched by Brainstation, as well as courses in data analytics and more.