The omnipresence and evolution of digital marketing over the years has provided many tools for business success and 2018 will most certainly bring a lot of new challenges and opportunities.
In this blog I have covered a range of growing and new trends, some factual, some my biased opinion… It’s worth bookmarking this page so you can keep them in mind for your 2018 digital marketing strategy:

– Mobile Video Will Grow in 2018   
In 2018, people on average will spend 36 minutes watching online video on their phones and tablets compared with 18.5 minutes on non-mobile devices. Mobile online video consumption first passed non-mobile last year and the gulf is going to widen significantly in the coming years.

– Affiliate Marketing
Research indicates that over 80% of brands interact with Affiliate Marketing in some form. Figures from 2016 show that money invested in affiliate marketing returned more than £12 for every £1 spent. The space will certainly evolve and grow in 2018, it will have to with the introduction of the GDPR and Google showing codes in its Search Engine Results Page. A big positive is the  network developments and tech applications that are opening up data for brands and partners, which will continue to show incremental growth and the true sales value that the channel brings. This transparency makes affiliate a valuable arm to a brands online sales and more and more will tap into this.

–  HTTPS or else!
To put it simply: you’re losing valuable traffic and reputation if your site isn’t HTTPS. Google is essentially punishing those without it. The time is now for an SSL Certificate and if you’re still not convinced, read about why you should get one.
Dr. Peter J. Meyers wrote at Moz: “…the data suggests that HTTPS could hit about 65% of page-1 results by the end of 2017.”
In other words, even great content that by all other variables should rank on Page 1 will increasingly be pushed to Page 2 if it’s not HTTPS.

– The increasing difficulty of organic social media reach
Top 50 Content Marketing Influencer Cameron Conaway of the Huffpost recently interviewed keynote speaker Jeremy Goldman for a piece at the Content Marketing Institute about social media KPIs. The most pertinent point being:  “Good luck running any meaningful strategy purely around organic reach.”
All social media platforms that have fulfilled their mandate of developing a massive audience will eventually feel the pressure to monetise. The easiest and most obvious way is to decrease organic reach so that even reaching your own “subscribers” becomes impossible unless you pay for the privilege. Facebook set the precedent, and others will follow the lead in 2018. (Huffpost)

-Increase in push notifications
This is a bit of crystal ball gazing, but I suspect with the increased noise in the digital world more marketers will turn to the use of push notifications on their mobile apps. My advice is to use with moderation or be prepared to dilute the success of this useful channel.

– Micro-moments.
Google defines micro-moments as any moment that drives a customer to use their mobile device on the fly, whether they want to learn something, go somewhere, do something, or buy something. Micro-moments are on the rise and marketers need to be aware of these while planning strategies.
To capitalise on this brands need to invest in trying to learn and understand a customer’s in-situ thought process as well as how to best serve them.

– Big, big data and truly understanding the customer journey
Data-driven marketing is a powerful tool for understanding the customer journey. This coupled with recently improved attribution models will lead to a lot more targeted advertising this year.

With the GDPR deadline looming many marketers will be scrambling to make sure their data is compliant. I predict that many business will struggle to maintain this size of their databases, so expect to see an increase in data capture initiatives later this year in response to the new regulations. The main benefit marketers will see is an increase in engagement from a database made up of quality not quantity.

– A welcomed resurgence of print
The increased noise on digital channels means there’s a rising interest in receiving print publications. I personally look forward to receiving high quality printed material that are timely and well constructed. If I’m sent 5 promotional emails and 5 promotional pieces through the post I know which one will grab my attention more (most likely because it’s not stuck in a spam filter!).
Digital-first and digitally-native content consumers seem to be enjoying more than ever the tactile experience of shutting down and turning pages.
The real opportunity with print is to integrate it with digital technology. We use a really clever piece of call tracking technology that allows us to work out a direct ROI on all of our printed campaigns.
In 2018, we’ll likely see more brands thinking seriously about creating high-quality print magazines as a marketing collateral.

– Voice Marketing will rise
Google says that 20% of its mobile queries are voice searches, and that number is only going to increase. According to Response Tap “Artificial Intelligence (Al) Voice search is predicted to account for 50% of all search by 2020”, this will have a profound effect on how local companies will be found.
Marketers need to prepare by creating content that captures these types of searches, and advertising in non-traditional places (like sponsoring smart-fridge recommendations). (Forbes)

-Artificial Intelligence (AI) will surge
Being a bit of a tech geek I struggle to call the current marketing chatbots ‘True AI’ but the marketing community seem to have adopted this term so I’ll use it for simplicity. There will be many variations of AI used in marketing this year and it is imperative to ensure they’re not overused to the point of lacking a personal, human touch.

Predictive Algorithms
Linked to the above, predictive algorithm application programming interfaces are opening for machine-learning algorithms, natural language processing and artificial intelligence. This is enabling any size business to better predict its marketing spend to optimise its overall budget. This is a huge advancement, given that marketers are often biased in their methodologies. (Forbes)

-Watch out for Generation Z (aka the iGeneration)
This generation has been blessed with growing up in a time where there’s always been high-speed internet and connectivity (Imagine not knowing what dial-up or a fax machine is?!). Although this demographic is young they hold a relative amount of power when it comes to helping the older generation with web searches for products and services (I’ve watched this happen first-hand and there are some interesting issues it can throw up for marketers). The iGeneration have a fast-paced, highly selective and decisive filter — something that marketers have never encountered before.
As you can see the main themes running through these trends are: the customer journey, mobile, data and AI. 2018 will no doubt be an interesting year for brands and there will certainly be some unpredictable developments throughout.  
One thing is clear though, the rise of digital marketing will “undoubtedly” continue as organisations and their agencies invest for growth for 2018.