This week we’re trying out a new style of content. In the past, we’d often share articles relevant to the industry amongst ourselves. This week, we decided to respond to such an article and share our thoughts with our readers. Our first article is titled “Digital Marketing Trends That Are Changing The Way We Market To Consumers” and breaks down 4 upcoming trends that are shaping the way we do business as marketers. It was originally posted on Forbes, and you can read it here.

1. Interactive Chatbots

Jessica:
I think we’re still a long way from Chatbots replacing customer service representatives, but they do provide an opportunity to augment your customer service team. Chatbots that are efficiently set up can take care of standard requests and frequently asked questions, freeing up your customer service team for more in-depth issues.

Melissa:
I don’t like chatbots personally, but I do understand they have their place. They’re helpful for basic, common questions, but I think some brands rely on them a bit too much. As the article mentions, businesses need to thoroughly think about how best to use them before implementing.

Jared:
The data suggests chatbots are only going to get more prevalent, and with the low negative reactions, it seems like they could be a good way to automate customer service processes and ensure that someone is there to draw folks into the funnel. My only real interaction with a chatbot has been with the Facebook Messenger chatbot that tells you about what’s going on with your pages and ads. I haven’t relied on it much (it mostly just sits unread in my inbox), but I can see how it could act as a virtual FAQ for people on their websites and social pages. Like Jessica and Melissa, I’d almost always rather chat with a representative when possible, so long as it doesn’t take a bunch of extra time (which is one area where chatbots have humans beat).

Matt:
Chatbots are a great way to free up resources while providing a certain level of customer support. One nice thing about chatbots is that they are always on, and can help your customers even after normal business hours. Whether you like it or not chatbots are here to stay.

2. Voice Search

Jessica:
Yes! When can we switch everything to voice search? Most companies likely have a long road ahead of them before they are 100 percent compatible for voice search, but it’s a direction companies need to take. Make sure your website and all content are functionally able to support voice search and written in a manner that is conversational and answers questions directly. As of the first quarter of 2018, 27 percent of U.S. broadband households own a smart speaker such as an Amazon Echo.

Melissa:
Optimizing your website for voice search is incredibly important as more and more homes adopt virtual assistants. Thinking about local search specifically, smaller local businesses that can get in on this as early as possible will build a competitive advantage. Even simple changes now can help. For instance, consider writing content in FAQ format so that you provide answers to customers’ common questions, and instead of listing hours or locations, write that information into full sentences. For example, “We are located at 123 Park Avenue at the corner of Park Avenue and 21st Street” and “Our hours are 10-7 Monday through Friday, and 10-5 Saturday and Sunday.”

Jared:
I honestly hate using voice commands for anything. Maybe I need to work on enunciation and stop mumbling so much, but it seems like it never works right for me. However, since it seems to be in demand, I think of this as basically a continuation of how content marketers and copywriters should have been writing for digital for the past several years: using simple, direct, conversational language. People often google things in the form of a natural, conversational question — if you want your answers to be served up to them, it only makes sense that you respond in kind.

Matt:
This may be one of the biggest changes to SEO and SEM we have seen in a long time. Essentially you are cutting out 99% of search results with voice search, so that #1 spot will be even more important.

3. Integrating AI And Blockchain Technologies

Jared:
This one seemed to have all of us stumped, and while I saw this as an opportunity to learn something from the article, it didn’t really provide any rhyme or reason for why blockchain is beneficial to marketers beyond transparency, and even then it didn’t provide how it does that. I’d like to know how to implement, and the article notes that there are a few “game-changing services that can help marketers effectively track marketing efforts through blockchain, making sure that every penny is being put where it’s supposed to go,” but didn’t list or link to any of them. I guess I’m a critic now. Off to Google we go…

4. Influencer Marketing

Jessica:
Increasingly, we here at InQuest are receiving requests about influencer marketing. Our clients often compare it to endorsement deals. While there are similarities, it’s important to us to make sure our clients understand the difference. An endorsement deal (strictly speaking) would be the athlete that is featured in an Under-Armor commercial, but shares nothing about the brand on his/her personal social channels. An influencer campaign takes the idea of an endorsement, but utilizes the power of the celebrity or influencer’s personal audience. The campaign primarily lives within the influencer’s social media world. This makes negotiating influencer/endorsement contracts up front extremely important. What’s more important? An athlete making an appearance in your TV spot? Or that same athlete sharing your product to his/her millions of engaged followers on Instagram?

Melissa:
I’ve been influenced to purchase or further research items by others I follow on Instagram, so I know influencer marketing works. I agree with the article that it can be costly, but when done right the ROI can be huge. I don’t mind when I know content is sponsored as long as it’s relevant to me, so matching up the right influencer with the brand/product is key.

Jared:
People trust real people — simple as that. I’ve turned into a bit of an influencer marketing evangelist at the office, and I’ll continue to shout it from the rooftops because I think this is one of the best ways people can reach hyper-qualified audiences. I can think of several channels and influencers that I, myself, follow, and I’ve even picked up products based on their recommendations (and discount codes!). Do not ignore this one!

Matt:
Influencer marketing is nothing new. Instead of paying high profile actors and athletes, brands will turn more towards lifestyle bloggers and YouTube “celebrities”. Lifestyle bloggers lend an air of authenticity to a product so it only makes sense that digital marketing moves more towards influencers.

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