The traditional marketing funnel has changed.
No longer are businesses focused solely on moving a customer through the funnel. Now, they are creating experiences that promote brand affinity — and even advocacy.
The funnel is becoming more of an ongoing cycle that prioritizes continuous engagement over transactional relationships. This increased focus on nurturing, especially post-sale, makes customers more likely to stay with you or buy again — and more likely to give recommendations to friends and colleagues.
In 2019, say goodbye to the traditional marketing funnel, and welcome this year’s focus on the nurturing the customer relationship. These six marketing trends are set to take off this year:
The acceleration of social e-commerce
Quite simply, social e-commerce is the ability to purchase a product within a third party social media experience: think “Shop the Look” pins from Pinterest to newer features such as shoppable Instagram Stories.
Look to the successful rise of Glossier for proof of the rising importance of social e-commerce. Glossier has disrupted the beauty industry by fostering a community where shoppers like to congregate: Instagram.
Traditionally, beauty brands opened up shop on the bottom floor of department stores. Customers would waft through the perfume to discover new products within the mainstays of beauty, in this try-before-you-buy model.
Powered by the influencer and social proof native to the platform, Glossier has pioneered a new buy-before-you-try purchasing model in the beauty industry by “outsourcing” engagement to third-party platforms.
With Instagram shopping, you can turn your feed into a visual storefront, allowing your followers to make direct purchases without having to leave Instagram.
Visual platforms like Pinterest, Snapchat and Instagram make the discovery of new products easier.
Instead of hyping up customers to go through to your website funnel, brands are focused on developing an engaged community on these platforms.
Social media excels as a place for product discovery, especially as new features advance social media’s ability to offer an immersive experience for potential consumers.
Video is a particularly effective format that can be integrated into different stages of the buyer journey, while the data collected by the social networks enables brands to create personalized experiences through paid social.
And rumor has it that the platform is working on its own stand-alone e-commerce app.
Takeaway: In 2019, experiment with what platforms and media work best for your brand, your product offering and your community of customers.
Searching in our visual culture
By now people have the muscle memory for taking pictures of all sorts of things — not just sunsets and selfies but the parking lot where you parked, business cards, books to read. That’s a massive behavior shift.
It’s shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that on the flip side of the social e-commerce trend is the proliferation of visual search.
When you submit an image as the search criteria, AI technology analyzes its content and context to determine related search results.
For example, Wayfair, a furniture and housewares company, implemented visual search into its e-commerce site. A shopper can take a picture of a chair they see out-and-about and upload it to gain similar items.
Takeaway: According to Gartner, brands that adopt visual and voice search in these early days can see their digital commerce revenue grow by 30% by 2021.
But the rise of visual search is part of a larger trend of “sensory search”. Voice search is still important in 2019.
The rise of UX Writing
UX writing is not a trend but a complete methodology that is on the rise. Businesses need experienced creators that can tell the story of their digital products while creating meaningful conversations with their users.
UX writing can be distinguished from copywriting by its lack of focus on selling; instead, the UX writer seeks to guide a user through a website, app or product in a clear and delightful way.
Instead of saying “Loading…” the writer wrote this playful microcopy for an app that creates personalized meal plans.
A digital product must sound and feel like there is a human behind that digital screen.
Buttons, menu labels, error messages, and other microcopy turn a design into customer experience.
The largest companies in the world such as Google, Amazon, and Dropbox use a UX writer to craft that kind of experiences that make user fall in love with their products and services which automatically increase the sales conversion and retention rate for the company.
In fact, UX writing can often solve design problems through the ability to clearly identify and motivate the user to complete particular actions in the experience.
Takeaway: In 2019, expect to craft messages that do more than sell; write to guide, write to motivate, write to delight.
UX writing will become common parlance in the marketing world, with innovators maximizing the experience beyond just the jobs to be done.
Credible content marketing after #FakeNews
According to 69% of respondents to Edelman’s 2018 Trust Barometer Global Report, the number one job of CEOs is to build trust in the company.
Building trust is also crucial for content marketers.
Credibility in the era of #FakeNews means that more content marketers will be taking a journalistic approach.
At the very least, marketers will be citing academic research and other thought leaders.
At most, content marketers will be spearheading original research themselves.
A good article cites original research. A great article IS original research.
Takeaway: It’s so much harder, that most marketers don’t do it. It takes time to create a credible study. It requires data gathering, outreach, analysis, and visuals. It’s inevitably long-form content. But the correlation between long-form content and success is undeniable.
Brand activism in a polarized world
Nike took a stand with a Colin Kaepernick ad.
Tech Giants like Apple, Google and IBM rallied against Trump’s immigration policy. And Dick’s Sporting Goods banned assault weapons after the Parkland school shooting.
In 2019, more brands will be getting off the fence when it comes to controversy.
According to Edelman’s Earned Brand study, nearly two-thirds of the survey respondents choose, switch to or boycott a brand based on its stand on social issues.
But taking a stand on social issues needs to come off as authentic — not solely a marketing ploy.
Takeaway: Marketers and business leaders should look to their organizational values to dictate which social issues mean the most to the brand — and their consumers.
De-siloing the customer experience
Think of a website that personalizes recommendations based on your past purchases and sizing. Or, an app that allows you to envision what new furniture looks like in your apartment.
It doesn’t matter if it’s AR or AI-driven, these trends and technologies are secondary to the customer experience.
But to achieve this level of delight, marketers need to work cross-functionally with other teams.
Marketers need to work with product managers, technologists, data analysts, and developers. They need to work with customer service specialists and the sales team.
Together, they create the experience of the customer journey.
Corporate silos are customer experience killers because customers don’t care about how your company is organized. They simply see one fluid experience — their own.
At the very least, marketers need to consider what the customer was doing before the experience in focus and what they would be doing immediately after.
Takeaway: In 2019, Marketers need to work beyond their team or department; they need to de-silo the customer experience to see success.
Experimentation is at the heart of every marketing strategy.
Being on the cusp of new trends is exciting, but it doesn’t necessarily result in a winning marketing strategy.
It can be hard to know when the timing is right for your business.
You need to know what your customers will respond to at what touchpoint or trigger action. You need to understand the customer’s perspective of your experience to know what they need and desire.
That’s why even the most experienced marketers now test and learn their way to see which new trends and technologies will work.
With the trends above, you have enough to choose from to see what works for you.
In 2019, be an early adopter, an innovator — experiment.
PS. Out of all of the above, the easiest to implement, and probably also the most fun, is the UX writing. I use it all the time with my clients, with great results. Show some personality, be a human, and on your website talk like you talk one-on-one to a person. Don’t be afraid of sounding too casual. Even if you have an enterprise product. (Yes, it works!)