5 Trends That Will Propel Brands Forward in 2018 and Beyond

The dawn of a new golden age for marketers?

Looking back on it now, it’s clear that 2017 was a momentous year for marketing. Artificial intelligence moved from hype to driving unprecedented personalization. Companies began breaking down silos, recognizing that delivering a connected consumer experience requires teams working together. The past year was also paramount for data management, with companies tapping insights to better understand consumer behavior.

Advertising evolved too as marketers leveraged data to inform consumer engagement across all channels. And while email marketing has been around for a while, marketers continued to realize strong ROI by adding new capabilities such as dynamic page layouts and AI-informed journey creation. These trends will continue to accelerate in 2018. Here are five marketing trends for the year ahead:

Illustration: Alex Fine




Marketers go full throttle on AI

AI is already transforming the industry. FareCompare, an online travel planning company, has turned to our AI technology, Salesforce Einstein, to personalize engagement with consumers. FareCompare has determined which consumers are likely to open, act on or unsubscribe from emails, revealing when, how and with what content it should communicate with consumers. As a result, FareCompare increased revenue by 13 percent and boosted its email click-through rate by 11 percent.

In 2018, we’ll see broader adoption of AI among teams—especially within consumer insights and business analytics. Rapid innovation has expanded accessibility as marketers are learning they need AI to meet consumer demands for personalized, real-time experiences. We’ll see brands increasingly turn to AI to understand consumer behavior and predict consumer engagement—not only on email and mobile, but across all touch points, including digital advertising, web content and more. Marketers will also use AI to discover new audiences, uncovering who best to communicate with and with what information.

Companies will take breaking down silos seriously

No longer is it the marketer’s responsibility alone to deliver exceptional consumer experiences. The interactions people have with brands today span marketing communications, customer service, sales and more. Recognizing that, in 2017, brands began to unify teams that previously had little interaction. Moving forward, companies will begin to experiment with organizational structures that facilitate cross-functional collaboration and co-innovation. At the same time, new performance plans that reward brand success over campaign or channel specific metrics will be implemented. As companies reorganize and evolve their metrics, they will look to technology to help deliver contextually relevant marketing experiences to consumers.

Brands will lean on real-time interaction management technology that can listen to and respond to consumers in their moments of need. Brands that embrace a new outlook toward team structures, KPIs and technology will have a competitive advantage in the year ahead.

Integrated data platforms will fuel consumer engagement

In the past year, capturing data and harnessing the insights to better engage with consumers has been transformative for marketers. Now, it’s time to put that data to work in new ways. In 2018, marketers will boost investment in data management platforms (DMPs) that allow them to store, manage and analyze consumer data from multiple sources and connect with audiences through tailored marketing campaigns.

While DMPs had a breakthrough year in 2017, the technology (as well as marketers’ application of it) will mature in the year ahead. Marketers will invest more in DMPs that span the marketing universe, rather than those that fuel single-channel engagement such as digital advertising. Integrated DMPs are the only way for companies to make sense of the data deluge to understand consumers and turn that knowledge into sophisticated marketing campaigns.

Advertising will get smarter

In 2017, three themes shaped advertising. First, marketers had access to more data, enabling them to deliver ads of unparalleled relevance. Second, the industry saw the continued convergence of advertising and marketing technology, as disparate data sources merged onto unified platforms and advertising continued to play an important role in consumer engagement.

Lastly, trust became central to CMOs, as they recognized the need for ad transparency, as well as for secure marketing technology platforms. These trends will gain momentum in 2018 alongside new ones we’ll see rise. Brands will look for direct access to trusted, quality data from publishers to replace less reliable, commoditized third-party data.

Thinking about mobile first

With mobile devices representing nearly 30 percent of consumers’ time devoted to media consumption, marketers have already been designing for mobile first. In 2018, we’ll see further emphasis on mobile with dynamic email content custom-fit for mobile devices. Both on desktop and mobile, email marketers will shift from quantity of messages sent to targeting individuals with curated content.

Companies will take advantage of creating interactive, web-like experiences in the body of an email, such as introducing a carousel of images or clicking on tabs without being taken to a new web page. Additionally, cross-pollination among channels will allow marketers to flow seamlessly between email, social media and mobile ads to reach consumers.

It was a challenging, but good year to be a marketer in 2017. But with more opportunities available for companies to better engage with consumers, 2018 is poised to usher in a new golden age for marketers.

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This story first appeared in the Jan. 29, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.