Digital Marketing: Where do we go from here?

Stuart Elmes

In an age of non-stop technological innovation, which has upended traditional business models, massive new industries are seemingly created every year, while older, established and ubiquitous ones are rendered obsolete. 

No matter what industry you work in, you need to keep an eye on the future and prepare yourself for the new challenges and opportunities ahead. With that in mind, today we’ll be looking at key trends that will impact the world of marketing in the months (and years) to come.

The Technology to Watch

As we have noted before, a recent report by RBC predicted that by 2020 Amazon will have 500 million active global customers, and that “there will be 60 million Alexa devices sold in 2020, bringing the total install base to around 128 million.” The convenience and novelty of these devices has captivated consumers, and more and more people are becoming familiar with them. A September 2016 survey by Amazon found that 33% of consumers were aware of these devices. By March 2017, that figure had jumped to 77%. Meanwhile, ownership rates had more than quadrupled. As RBC concluded: “Our take is that Amazon has a potential mega-hit on its hands with Alexa – a product/service that has the potential to materially increase the frequency and intensity of Amazon’s relationship with its customers.”

What does the rise of Alexa mean for marketing? For one, advertisers will need to work on building their brands with sounds as well as images. Creating distinctive audio signatures for products will be necessary to build brand identities. Finding ways to seamlessly integrate voice searches with the screens consumers use will also allow brands to make their products seem attractive and distinct. Another key to marketing through digital assistants will be a company’s ability to create voice apps that users find helpful and convenient (for instance providing recipes or travel plans) while steering them toward a particular product.


The Social Trend to Watch

Unilever is a massive international corporation which had been known for its voracious growth strategy and not its social conscience. However, the company recently made headlines for its recent announcement that it would pull its ads from Google and Facebook if they didn’t address the growing problem of “fake news.” Keith Weed, the multinational’s director of marketing announced in February that as “one of the largest advertisers in the world, we cannot have an environment where our consumers don’t trust what they see online. We cannot continue to prop up a digital supply chain – one that delivers over a quarter of our advertising to our consumers – which at times is little better than a swamp in terms of its transparency. It is in the digital media industry’s interest to listen and act on this. Before viewers stop viewing, advertisers stop advertising and publishers stop publishing.”

Paul Frampton, former head of marketing giant Havas’ UK division, has likened Unilever’s decision to the #metoo movement and feels that we are at a tipping point of rising discomfort with digital marketing’s inability to separate a brand’s message from problematic content. Frampton had previously pulled all of Havas’ UK digital ad-spend from Google and Youtube after discovering that ads for his clients were being “run around inappropriate content such as videos of American white nationalists, a hate preacher banned in the UK and a controversial Islamist.” Clearly, the giants of Silicon Valley will need to ensure that their platforms are not being used to spread hatred, division and bigotry if they wish to continue their profitable association with image-conscious corporations.  


The Company to Watch:

Google, Facebook and Amazon have all been extremely successful over the past twenty years, to the point where it’s now hard to imagine a world without them. But where are they heading in the coming decade? Facebook and Google had a very difficult 2017, being accused of spreading fake news, endangering democracy, and using their algorithms to create profit at the cost of reliability and social responsibility. They’ve been taken to task from both sides of the political spectrum, coming under fire from such unlikely allies as George Soros and Rupert Murdoch. Together, Facebook and Google control nearly half of all global online advertising revenue, and between them they account for 85% of revenue growth in the industry. While their business is not showing signs of slowing, both appear to be worried about anti-trust legislation curtailing their business, and both have been penalized recently in Europe (the EU fined Google $2.7 billion for favouring its own results in searches, while Facebook has been fined by privacy regulators for breaking data protection rules). Both have faced pressure from governments as well as advertisers for allowing hate speech, extremism, and political manipulation, which culminated in Mark Zuckerberg’s recent mea culpa and pledge to do better.

As dominant as Facebook and Google have been in terms of generating ad revenue, Amazon seems positioned for the most spectacular growth. With its acquisition of Whole Foods it seems poised to take over a huge chunk of the FMCG market, as mentioned above Alexa seems to be on the verge of ubiquity, and as of September 2017, it had 90 million American Prime subscribers, up from 65 million the year before. The company’s ad revenue is expected to grow to $4.5 billion in 2018, up 61% from the previous year. While this is still well below the revenue of Google and Facebook ($61 and $27 billion dollars respectively), Amazon is the fastest growing of the big three, it has avoided the controversies plaguing its competitors, and it has the advantage of being able to offer advertisers customers who are already primed (excuse the pun) to purchase. Amazon has positioned itself as a one-stop shop for all of a consumer’s lifestyle needs, and it appears ready to gain a stranglehold on eCommerce.


The Word to Watch:

In order to compete with Amazon, retailers will need to create an experience as fast and convenient as ordering from Prime. More and more brands will move towards shoppability, allowing consumers to breezily scroll through the products on offer, select whatever is desired, make purchases with a single click, and have the product appear on their doorsteps faster than seems humanly possible. In marketing, shoppability is the future, and Adimo is here to help!