Trend 1 – The Rise of Social Commerce

With consumers demanding a more seamless and cohesive buying journey, brands are integrating new commerce options into their marketing mix. As a result, social media is shifting from merely being an inspiration or education channel to a full storefront experience.

Creative content will take a front seat as social commerce features become increasingly popular. It is more important than ever to add value and put customer experience first through content which leads to purchase in a natural, non-invasive way.

Social channels are helping power full omni-channel experiences as companies are finding ways to link up every stage of the customer journey meaning how people interact on social can now play a role in the in-store experience as well.

Brands now blurring real world and virtual spaces through technologies like augmented reality meaning consumers can get full brand experiences wherever they are in the world

What’s going to happen next?

    • The platform’s walled ecosystems will get even higher as social content becomes shoppable microsites. This could lead to the proliferation of ‘dark websites’ (similar to ‘dark restaurants’) that are just a warehouse of items available for purchase through APIs.
    • There will be a boom in influencer affiliate marketing through social as their sales figures become more trackable and transparent.
  • Fueled by improvements in augmented reality and camera detection technologies the distance between inspiration and purchase will continue to shorten upending the path to purchase funnel. Everything we see will be instantly shoppable both on and offline wherever we are in the world.
  • Personalized marketing will get more personal as social media platforms track previous purchases and begin to recommend the perfect accompaniments.
  • Social platform’s digital wallets will open the internet up to the ‘unbanked’.

Trend 2 – Grown-up Influence 

Users have had enough of staged morning routines and transactional endorsements. Influencer culture isn’t ‘niche’ anymore and the authenticity of ‘influencers’ is being called into question. In 2019, we saw the rise of ‘shitposting’, a documentary about the Fyre Festival, the rise of ‘vlogpologies’, as well as audiences starting to fight back by calling out faked and photoshopped content. If we analyse influencer marketing through the lens of the Gartner Hype Cycle, it appears that influencer marketing has reached the Trough of Disillusionment. To help get to the Plateau of Productivity brands need to work with influencers to ensure there’s a clear value exchange for both the influencers and their followers.

Influencers, like brands are starting to become more purpose driven. This has led to the rise of a new niche of influencer called ‘Good Influencers’ who are looking to help their followers be better or do good. In fact, one in five UK teenagers are now using “Study Tubers” to help them revise for their GCSEs.

Brands are starting to experiment with virtual influencers (influencers who are not actually human), as a new way to reach specific audiences. This is part of the wider trend of people finding new ways to express their true selves online. The trend works particularly well for brands because the influencers are lower risk than human influencers and can work round the clock.

What’s going to happen next?

    • Advancements in CGI and AI technology will allow brands to embrace the weird and wonderful world of virtual influencers through branded storytelling.
    • Influence will become more closely associated with purpose through the rise of ‘good influencers’
  • Whilst Instagram will remain the preferred platform for influencer marketing, platforms like TikTok will go mainstream with more brands using the platform and its influencers.
  • Brands will realise that they have influencers within their walls that they have yet to discover leading to new influencer employee advocacy programs.
  • Whilst video in all its forms (Live, IGTV, YouTube, etc) will continue to grow, audio enabled influencer content like podcasts will become the powerful medium in a marketer’s toolkit.

Trend 3 – Regaining Control

Data privacy concerns, combating disinformation and a rising awareness of mental health has led to users to take more control of their social media usage. Consumers are starting to lock down their accounts and explore new closed communities. The knock-on effect for brands has been equally as stark as they respond to new regulations like GDPR and are required to re-examine their paid media strategies due to reduced retargeting capabilities.

As a result, people have started exploring alternative social networks like Minds, MeWe, Telegram and WT: Social. All of these social networks have been built of the back of current users concerns so prioritise user privacy, anonymity, or public contribution to the code base. Traditional social networks have started to up their game in response.

The number of fact-checking outlets around the world has grown to 188 in more than 60 countries amid concerns about the spread of misinformation. While politics has been a major driver, many outlets are also concentrating on viral hoaxes or other forms of misinformation such as fake health claims. Interestingly, the fact-checkers are starting to deploy more in-depth social media strategies to ensure their content gets shared more widely rather than just referenced.

What’s going to happen next?

    • Engagement rates will continue fall as more conversations and sharing shifts to private social networks. As a result the measures for what success looks likes will need to change.
    • Amidst privacy concerns (and potentially new regulations) social media targeting will become less personalised and CPMs will increase as there more competition for inventory.
  • There will be a rebirth of human curated, fact checked, slow content.
  • New privacy first social networks will start to gain traction, but most if not all will fail as the major networks copy their key USPs.
  • Consumers will start demanding direct control of their data, becoming gatekeepers of their own digital lives, so they can start to design and control their own digital ecosystem to servers up content based on how they’ve set their personal algorithms.

Trend 4 – The Democratisation of  

‘How to best utilise AI?’ is quickly becoming a key question for business so it’s of little surprise that it could have a huge impact on the marketing department as well as agencies. One of the most exciting areas of AI is how it can be used to bolster humanity creativity. AI is already being used to power customer experience through chat bots, but it’s quickly expanding into other areas such as video and copy creation.

While AI has the potential to make a huge positive impact, there are also real concerns around its misuse. Brands and agencies will need to tread very carefully when using AI to avoid creating even more distrust and disillusionment amongst consumers.

One of the biggest areas of contention at the moment is ‘deepfakes’. Deepfakes are where a person in a video is replaced with someone else’s likeness using AI neural networks. The potential negative connotations are clear, as it will become even more difficult to assess if a video is real or not, but the technology isn’t inherently bad. Agencies and companies are also using similar technology to translate speak more naturally to a different language than it was originally captured in. This could create massive efficiencies for brands and agencies looking to create global assets from the same master file. What remains to be seen is how accepting consumers will be of clearly altered videos.

AI copywriting is still in its infancy be there’s help scope for development for brands and agencies. The biggest benefit will likely come the ability to input one or two source lines of copy which will allow the AI to create the variations needed to create more personalised experiences for consumers. It will also help challenge the accidental preconceived notations we have about our target audiences the usage of big data will be able to determine what consumers are actually interested in.

What’s going to happen next?

    • Organizations will need new, systematic approaches for unlocking the full potential of human collaboration with AI. People will soon need to learn how to work with the machines and how to better communicate with them.
    • Big data will unlock previously incomprehensible insights for brands meaning they can narrow the gap between what brands think consumers want and what they actually want.
  • First touch customers service will become increasingly automated and most consumers won’t be able to tell the difference. Humans will only become involved in outlier cases.
  • AI will become a go-to resource for iterative creative executions especially if multiple languages are involved. Programmatic media buying solutions will port into social content as turnkey SAAS solutions for personalised messaging campaigns.
  • People will begin to demand proof of digital provenance in the content they’re consuming.

Trend 5 – The Evolution of Content

People are consuming more content than ever before. In fact, we spend more than 142 minutes just on social media a day. As people’s content consumption continues to rise, they are finding new ways to engage with content throughout their lives. Last year saw the explosion of new content types such as podcast and longer form video content. Most importantly, total brand immersion through experiences and technology are becoming mainstream.

Brands are taking adventure of new technologies to create longer, more interactive story telling experiences. Currently these experiences are coming to life as ‘choose your own adventures’ with a set amount of outcomes but that will likely continue to evolve to full-fledged experiences that are unique to every individual.

While overall attention spans appear to be getting shorter, people are showing that they are willing view longer content if it captures there attention. This change isn’t just being seen in video content as audio, in particular podcast listening has exploded. The rise in podcasts offers an exciting new space for marketers to explore. According to Ofcom, 7.1 million people in the UK listen to podcasts each week and this is predicted to increase by 20% each year.

What’s going to happen next?

  • Audio and voice will becoming an increasingly important part of the marketing mix as brands explore audio driven content narratives.
  • Interactive storytelling will unlock more personalized content experiences based on user choices. The opt-in nature of the experience will lead a greater acceptance of future personalized content from the brand.
  • Immersive content will blur the lines between offline and online allowing brands to increase engagement and build affinity through interactive experiences.
  • Event driven cultural moments will become integrated viewing experiences that see audience participation on a level playing field with the content itself.