All year, this industry has felt like a roller coaster clicking to the top of very high hill, about to plunge down into unknown loops and curves at freefall speed. I see technology cycles turning, and with them change is going to come to the channels marketers rely on the most. It’s just a matter of what changes and when. Here are three marketing predictions for the channels I think will change the most in 2018.
1. Email Starts to Slip
Email is one of the most important marketing channels. Just about all Target Marketing readers rely on it for their marketing, and most said they were increasing spending on it in 2017. It’s the cornerstone of marketing automation, lead nurturing, and pretty much all loyalty marketing.
What would marketers do if a significant number of consumers stopped checking their email?
It’s a scary thought … But look at your own email habits and tell me you’re not at least a little bit worried about it.
I get more email than ever before, and honestly read less. I bet you feel the same. Talking to marketers, I’ve heard a few times now that email, although still totally viable for marketing, is starting to get a little bit weaker. I’ve heard marketers say open rates are slipping, along with clickthroughs and conversions.
I think this is the year we’ll begin to see significant weakness in email as a marketing channel, and marketers will get serious about looking at other options that might replace it. (for example, messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatApp.)
2. Non-text Search Becomes a Force
The only marketing channel that challenges the ubiquity of email is search. SEO and paid search ads are both absolutely essential to online marketing today … and they are both completely based in the current world of text search as we know it.
Amazon’s three best sellers in electronics this holiday season are the Echo smart speaker based on the Alexa voice assistant, the Echo Dot based on that same Alexa voice assistant, and the Fire TV Stick with Alexa voice remote. And there are a bunch of other smart speakers and voice assistants waiting to be unwrapped Christmas morning.
These devices are used extensively for search, interpreting the user’s speech with AI to go find the right answer. Those answers are far more limited than a page full of search results, though. Generally you just hear AI’s pick for your top result.
As this kind of voice-based interaction becomes more mainstream, it is going to have a huge impact on the search ecosystem.Image-based search is also coming online, and could have an even bigger impact.
I don’t know exactly what those changes will look like, but it’s certainly going to constrict search results, and perhaps dramatically alter how paid search ads are delivered. And the AI behind those results could be even more important than we’re expecting.
3. We’ll Begin Writing to Convince AI Gatekeepers
We keep thinking of artificial intelligence as something marketers are going to use to optimize marketing. But, when you look at applications like voice assistants, it becomes clear that AI is going to play a huge role in “optimizing” the information audiences consume.
This role may not be too different to the role Google plays today, but there’s an entire SEO industry dedicated to convincing Google that your content belongs fairly high up the search engine results page. The fight to “convince” this kind of gate keeper is only going to get more intense when the algorithm is a natural-language learning machine that’s only going to output the one result it thinks works best.
Right now, many writers feel challenged to write for their readers and optimize for search at the same time. We may soon find ourselves optimizing language to make that text AI friendly as well.