Technology is evolving, customer/brand relationships are changing, and the battle to stand out in a hyper-connected world continues. So, what does 2019 have in store for brands, marketers, and consumers?
The death of clickbait
“YOU HAVE TO READ THIS!” The big, bold messages on the frontpage of newspapers have one main goal that has been the same for decades: to make us read the scandalous, sensational or in another way emotionally appealing article they are referring to. Online the same thing happens with clickbaiting. These days, journalists have targets on how many views their article should generate. By using headlines with provocative words or placing a ‘mind-blowing’ picture with an article, media are encouraging us to click on the link. And just that click in itself seems to be fine because – hurray! – a new page view has been generated and the creator has ‘engaged’ with the audience!
Many businesses have a similar strategy: draw the potential buyer to the website with an emotional headline that promises the new product or service will “CHANGE YOUR LIFE!”. And if the content can convince the reader the product really does, that’s great. But the problem is that the content that follows after the click doesn’t always meet the expectation of the reader. And that is when ‘clickbait marketing’ will do a brand more harm than good.
Although clicks have become an important measurement for content performance, they give a misleading metric. If nothing happens after the click – the reader does not stay on the page to actually read it, share your content, fill in the form or become a returning visitor – your content strategy is of no value for building your brand and creating a loyal and engaging audience. More marketers are understanding that content is at least equally – if not more – important as the click itself. Therefore, it is our belief that 2019 will see the death of the ‘traditional’ clickbait but will see the rise of a more content-led clickbait marketing strategy.
UX reaches new heights thanks to 5G
Way back in 2015, Google announced that mobile searches had overtaken desktop for the first time, and since then improvements in technology have opened up a whole range of new opportunities for designers. User experience has always been at the heart of mobile design, but in 2019 we expect to see UX reach new heights as the possibilities for daring design and exciting features grow.
As 5G begins to roll out, users will be treated to speeds they’ve never known before. In fact, the average real-world download speed for 4G is 20Mbps, whilst 5G flies ahead with over 10Gbps. For designers, this means that elements such as animation and video can be used to create a dynamic and interesting UX.
Previously, simplicity was key. Slow speeds meant that designers had to keep things basic in order to fulfil the expectations of the user. In 2019, however, this will change. Expect to see an increase in engaging content such as video, as well as the incorporation of features such as voice assistants, chatbots, augmented reality, and personalisation.
So start counting down to the release of the first 5G devices, and get ready for an exciting year in UX and design.
Voice search will be bigger and better
According to Google, 20 to 25% of current searches are done through voice search. It’s a safe bet that this proportion will increase with the rising use of new virtual assistants, even faster and better than Siri or Alexa.
Today, 40% of adults perform at least one voice search per day, and it is estimated that nearly 50% of searches will be performed vocally by 2020. This trend involves a new vision of ‘search’; whilst written searches use simple keywords, voice searches are mostly formulated as specific questions (where, how, why, when …). The interesting thing about this long-tail keyword research is that it allows you to better understand the user’s intentions and therefore optimise your content according to their specific expectations.
Meanwhile, Pandora’s box has been opened, the likes of Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft are evolving to meet the growing demand for voice-enabled devices. And every holiday season, more and more households become voice search enabled.
Content will get personal
The last eight or so years have seen the birth and explosion of a responsive web where content adapts visually to fit different devices, and we expect that throughout 2019 this concept will expand as content begins to adapt to individuals’ behaviours and demographics.
We’ve already seen this with the likes of Netflix and Spotify catering their output specifically for individuals using complex algorithms, as well as targeted marketing from the likes of Facebook and targeted eCommerce suggestions from Amazon. So, where next for web personalisation?
Advancements in AI, anticipatory UX and big data will see organisations filtering not just the content you see, but also the way you see it. Your web experience will be filtered to match, for example, your age, location, gender and buying/browsing habits. You will then be offered precise suggestions and content.
Not only can consumers expect to spend less time trawling through irrelevant content, but businesses can expect increased revenues (eCommerce stores using personalisation are already reporting a 94% increase in conversions).
Of course, with all of the above, there are massive questions surrounding privacy. Will consumers be prepared to give up more of their data for a more streamlined experience? Current trends suggest they will.
Micro influencers will be an appealing alternative
2018 has seen the rise and fall and rise of influencers across social media. This year we have seen huge strides towards eradicating fake followers with various new initiatives by the leading social platforms. All aimed at ensuring authenticity and honesty in the value an influencer can provide a business. People are now less interested in huge celebrity influencers that offer exposure but not engagement.
As the cost of working with macro influencers (50,000 followers and above) continues to rise, more and more businesses are looking at alternatives, which is why 2018 has been a turning point in terms of reflecting the value of an influencer. This is where micro influencers step in.
We have seen a shift away from vanity metrics like followers and reach, and a move towards quantifiable metrics such as engagement and sales. The level of engagement and value a micro influencer offers is such that we don’t see this trend going away any time soon. Micro influencers (for the most part) remain true to the key pillars: impartiality, authenticity and relevance.
User-generated content will increase and evolve
Studies shows that consumers trust user-generated content 50% more than content pushed by brands. Alongside this, technologies such as augmented reality (AR), mixed or virtual reality and artificial intelligence (AI) are changing the way consumers interact and engage with brands.
In an era of prosumers, we expect brands to develop new ways of involving their communities to meet their expectations. Whilst previously constrained to social media, user generated content is expected to populate more and more dimensions of the communication tools spectrum.
By 2022, according to Gartner, 70% of enterprises will be experimenting with immersive technologies for consumer and enterprise use, and 25% will have deployed them to production. The French start-up Elise Technologies is good example of implementation of those technologies in physical displays. This AI powered advertisement signage allows users to publish instantaneously their comments to a specific advertising campaign by using the recommended hashtags or keywords. Throughout 2019, we expect to see more brands take advantage of emerging technology to take UGC to the next level.
Video will take on a strategic role
In a world where 80% of all internet traffic is expected to come from video in 2019, it’s hard to press pause on the importance of video content. From news reports to product reviews, DIY instructions to viral clips, videos are becoming increasingly important in our everyday lives.
The ability to watch is now expected. In fact 54% of consumers want to see more video content from brands and businesses. So, what does this mean for brands in 2019? Well, before the director’s chair gets dusted off, it’s important to ensure that video is used strategically and not just a stand-alone tactic. A one off video which is scattered across social platforms occasionally just isn’t enough for today’s consumer.
Those who are already producing the right content will increasingly recognise video as an integral part of the customer journey, and those who aren’t using videos will need to get the camera out or be left behind.
We also expect to see brands paying closer attention to the analytics behind the scenes as measurability improves. Whilst there’s still some confusion around how views are measured on platforms such as Facebook and YouTube, demand for precision will drive forward improvements and encourage marketers to improve their video analytics skills. Ultimately, this will help brands make the most of the demand for video content.
Podcast popularity will increase podcasts 2019 trend
A medium that has been relatively untouched in the UK, podcasts continue to go from strength to strength in the US, with recent figures from Nielsen finding that one in five US adults listen to podcasts every week. Here in the UK, Ofcom reported earlier this year that almost 6 million adults in the UK are listening to a podcast at least once a week, double the number of listeners five years ago.
To add to this, nearly half (45%) of all smart speaker owners in the US listen to podcasts and audio books regularly. Although this number isn’t as high in the UK, with more than one in 10 homes containing smart speakers, as this market grows we expect podcast listening figures to do the same.
With the increasing number of podcast listeners in the UK, one area that isn’t as well served as in other markets is business podcasts. Adding podcasting to your strategy, be it appearing on podcasts or running your own, not only means more content and a new medium to engage with, it has the potential to add a further strength and relevance to your search engine optimisation (SEO) efforts.
Brand polarisation will dominate
When Nike decided to make Colin Kaepernick the front for their campaign, there was the expected uproar on social media, including videos of people burning their favourite swoosh-laden products. But, with a 31% YOY sales increase after the ad launched, this intentionally polarised campaign worked in their favour.
This campaign moved beyond “brand with purpose” and into a far more aggressive space that challenges people to make a choice: are you with us or against us?
With wider and broader discussion about socio-political issues it makes sense for some brands to enter these discussions to build awareness and relevance. It’s not a new phenomenon, but it’s a trend that’s set to continue. There’s almost an expectation from the wider public for organisations to partake.
However, taking advantage of this trend can be difficult – especially for B2B brands that, more often than not, can be seen as too concerned with playing it safe.
Ultimately, it isn’t enough to jump on a cultural bandwagon, blindly participating in the big conversations or trying to make social commentary a key feature of your campaign. Success comes when it is done with boldness of conviction, a clear point of view, and relevance to your business and your customers. Otherwise, it’s better just to say nothing.
Bespoke illustrations will be brought to life
After years of stale stock-imagery, the influx of bespoke illustration is revitalising how the web looks. From minimal and hand-drawn to photo-collage and 3D isometric, we’re seeing a world of marvellously creative and diverse work.
Absorbing current trends from branding and UI design such as minimalism, complex gradients, bright colours and abstraction, illustrations are more easily tailored to a website’s brand-tone and UI than the more traditional photographic approach. This results in not only a more personal and streamlined brand experience, but also one that is more playful and interesting.
As well as being memorable and bespoke, illustrations are also great at communicating messages in a concise way that doesn’t feel forced (say goodbye to cheesy stock images of people smiling at screens).
As more large names push the envelope with this approach (see Slack, Dropbox etc.), expect to see more traditionally conservative organisations embracing illustrations as a way to broaden their appeal.
On top of this, technological advances in the coming year will see more of these illustrations coming to life through advanced animations and interactions. Already, we are seeing the boundaries of what’s possible on the web being continually pushed.