Marketing is a living industry, quickly adapting to changes in the business world and the ways that we communicate. The best marketers stay on top of the various marketing trends that emerge each year, learning from the best and finding better alternatives to the rest. Being able to tell the difference between positive trends and soon-to-pass fads is one of the top skills that a marketer can have.

At the start of a new year, it’s important to look back on the trends of 2018 to see which ones were truly the best of the best. At the same time, it’s also a good opportunity to look at the year to come and see what might be headed our way. With that in mind, here were some of our favorite marketing trends of 2018 and a few things we think will be big in the coming year.

Influencer Marketing

Influencers and brand ambassadors have been big in marketing for a while, but they really reached new heights in 2018. Companies large and small started to realize just how much of an impact good influencers could really have, and started putting more money into so-called “micro influencers.” These are the people who aren’t celebrities but who have a small-to-moderate following (generally 1,000 to 4,000 followers).

Even big brands like Macy’s are embracing brand ambassadors with smaller audiences. In 2018 Macy’s rolled out a successful influencer program that harnessed the brand power of their employee base. Through the Macy’s Style Crew, micro influencers among their employees get rewarded for driving sales through their social media profiles. Macy’s plans on expanding this program in 2019.

However, you don’t have to be a global brand like Macy’s to capitalize on micro influencers. Smaller businesses and B2Bs are seeing the benefit of driving sales through these types of influencers – paying commission rather than shelling out big bucks for a post from a more established influencer.

Most consumers see these micro influencers as being more relatable than big names with millions of followers. Marketing done through them often appears more natural than big-name influencers, resulting in a higher probability of conversions due to it being less obvious that the influencer was making a marketing push. Perhaps the best thing about them is how accessible they are to businesses of all sizes; you no longer have to have a corporate-sized marketing budget to reap the benefits of influencers.

Content Marketing

Web content fell out of favor several years ago when Google made major changes to its algorithms, followed soon after by the rise of social media as a major marketing powerhouse. Many of the large content producers either went under or suffered serious setbacks, and content production shifted to have a greater focus on short-form social content instead of the web content of yesteryear.

In the last few years, though, businesses have started to realize that there’s still a place for well-written content in their marketing plans. This became really evident in 2018 with a number of companies using social media to direct visitors to content on their websites instead of using the web as a way to attract followers to Facebook pages.

With social media powerhouses like Facebook facing more uncertainty and obstacles in 2018, it feels good to invest in owned media. Good content will stand the test of time, and it’s encouraging to see that trends are shifting back toward high-quality content again.

Big Data

It seems like big data just keeps getting bigger. These days it seems like everyone has a customer loyalty program collecting data on shopping trends, and marketing efforts just keep getting more personal as businesses have more data to feed into them. This is a trend with no definite end in sight, so the sooner you embrace data, the more time you’ll have to ride the big data wave up to the top.

The difference in 2019 is that consumers are hyper-aware of how their data is being collected and used. In 2018 we saw the launch of GDPR – an effort to increase transparency into data collection and provide more protection over data privacy. This means brands will have to continue to build trust and stay increasingly relevant to their base to continue to eek out those valuable data insights.

With consumers demanding data privacy and data security, making sure that your data is secure is paramount in 2019. Even if you think that there’s no one out there who would want the data you collect, take the time to secure it nonetheless. Few things will hurt your business faster than a data breach.

The Rise of AI Marketing

This is another trend that’s been around for a few years but that really saw a major uptick in 2018. AI-powered marketing gives businesses new ways to use customer data, especially when it uses that data to train machine learning algorithms that can make predictions based on historical shopping patterns. There are so many ways that AI can improve your marketing efforts that we can’t even list them here, and the power of AI in the marketing world is just going to grow.

Live Streaming

One big thing that social media brought to marketers is the ability to go live with video from the scene of an event. It’s one thing to post descriptions and pictures, but it’s quite another to really show viewers what they’re missing. We saw some amazing uses of live streaming video in 2018, and it’s all but assured that it’s going to be even bigger in the new year.

Even the always-amazing Arby’s marketing team embraced live streaming, holding a few special events such as recreating pictures sent in by visitors out of meats and sandwich toppings. The sky is very much the limit here.

Trends to Watch in 2019

Obviously, several of these trends are going to continue right into the new year (and possibly into 2020 and beyond.) There are a few other trends that weren’t quite ready for prime time in 2018 that might make a big splash this year, however. Here are the ones that we’re most excited about:

  • Micro-Moments: In-store and mobile marketing targeted specifically at those little moments that influence decision making. These are the “I want to know” moments, “I want to go”, “I want to buy” and other “I want” moments that present opportunities to nudge decisions in the right direction for your business.
  • Augmented Reality: Using smartphones and other devices, you can overlay important marketing information on top of real-world camera views or provide points of interaction (such as special discounts) that are only available from your company’s app when you’re in the right location.
  • Voice Search: Not only are Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant common in in-home hardware devices like the Echo, but more people than ever are using them on their phones and tablets as well. Ignoring voice search as a marketing target will go about as well as those early-90s marketers who dismissed the Internet as just being a fad.
  • Authority Content: In a world of fake news and alternative facts, visitors want content they know they can trust. Being seen as an authority is going to be huge in the coming years.

Again, this is only the tip of the iceberg. As technology and the internet continue to evolve, new marketing opportunities may emerge that we can’t even picture this early in the year. We can say one thing for certain, though: as new trends emerge, we’ll be right here to give you the information you need to keep your company on top of the marketing wave.