As is the case in nearly everything related to business these days, the only thing that's consistent in the world of marketing is change.
Not only do the tools and technology change on a seemingly hourly basis, but the best practices go in and out of vogue just as fast.
Sometimes it feels like a full time job just to stay on top of what's working now, not to mention figuring out what's on the horizon!
Of course, you're not going to turn a profit by hiding your head in the sand. If you want to stay in business – and, better yet, thrive – you're going to need to stay on top of the rapid changes in marketing and learn to pivot quickly to take full advantage of what's working today to spread the word about your business.
To that end, here's a list of 8 up-and-coming marketing trends that are coming down the pipe. These aren't way-out-there, maybe-by-2030 ideas. They're concepts that may have been around for a while but are actually moving into the realm of plausible, profitable use just recently or in the very near future.
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Live Video Streaming
These two mobile video streaming apps became available within weeks of each other and have been battling for the crown ever since. Currently, with its monster parent company, Twitter, in its corner, Periscope is the champion, but Meerkat still has a significant audience and a loyal following.
Essentially, the video-streaming phenomenon relies on the incredible intimacy and immediacy created by tapping a link and finding yourself instantly and fully immersed in another person's world. Broadcasters take their audiences along for whatever ride they have in store, interacting in real time as viewers ask questions or “heart” the streaming video.
Brands have already jumped on board in numerous industries, but the competition for attention is still fairly low compared to other saturated networks, so this could be a prime opportunity for businesses with highly visual stories to tell to jump on the lead car in a very long train that's picking up speed.
Designing Messaging for Wearable Tech
The Apple Watch, Fitbit, and a host of other related “wearable technology” brands have burst on the scene in fits and starts over the last few years. Buggy issues and less-than-stellar styling kept the trend on the down low for a while, but today, smartwatches and fitness trackers (along with other wearables that may or may not continue to catch on – I'm looking at you, Google Glass!) are a huge and ever expanding industry.
The same major players are currently dominating the smartwatch realm as have already dominated the smartphone arena: Apple and Google (Android), with some smaller players jockeying for a distant third place. What all these manufacturers have in common at this point is a huge need for content, advertising, and useful apps designed from the ground up with sophisticated tiny screens in mind.
If your brand targets Millennials (and why wouldn't you, for God's sake?) and/or hinges on a health- and fitness-conscious audience, this field is wide open.
The concept of virtual reality has been around since the 1980's, and for a long time it was more the stuff of science fiction than reality. But today, with Oculus Rift and many similar platforms popping up, fiction has become reality.
Although the barriers to entry are coming down quickly, VR remains complex and out of the budgetary restrictions of most smaller companies. Those with the deep pockets to explore all that VR has to offer, however, are doing absolutely incredible things with it, much of which serves to either directly or subtly market their wares to a completely fascinated audience.
Location-based Marketing and Reverse Marketing
Thorny privacy issues aside for the moment, the continuing widespread adoption of the smartphone in many lands has created a brand new marketing opportunity that copywriters back in the early 20th century would have killed for:
Now we know exactly where a particular consumer is at any given moment, and we can send them marketing messages that take their surroundings into consideration. That's both thrilling and frightening in equal measures.
Large department stores have already been testing push notification offers based on where in the store a shopper is currently browsing. Just imagine walking slowly in front of a long shelf full of various brands of toasters. You stop for a moment to read the details on Brand X's box, then move on and – a few seconds later while you're stopped in front of Brand X's less expensive competitor, you get a notification on your phone offering an instant $10 coupon good toward Brand X for the next 15 minutes.
That's incredibly powerful.
Coffee shops are digitally hooking people as they walk by outside the store by sending out automated instant offers with a very short time window, bringing the carnival hawker into the 21st century. Reverse marketing – the act of targeting customers who are currently at your competitor's store is an even more devious form of this wicked tactic.
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The Death of Branding and the Growth of Relationship Marketing
Whereas a huge portion of the multi-billion dollar advertising budgets of such monolithic corporations as General Electric, Coca-Cola, and General Motors used to go down this beautiful black hole called “branding,” today's savvy consumer is no longer predictably controlled by simply being bombarded with a particular logo, slogan, or color scheme over and over.
In fact, Netflix, DVR, satellite radio, browser ad blockers, and countless other technological changes have put the consumer completely in the driver's seat of what marketing messages they're exposed to and marketers have had to adjust their mindset completely to stay relevant.
These days, relationship marketing – a marketing strategy based on nurturing customer loyalty through deep, long-term relationships with highly segmented audiences – has proved far more practical and effective than anything resembling the spray-and-pray branding efforts of old.
How well do you know your customers? How well do they know you?
Payment Buttons on Facebook and Twitter
While this isn't some huge technological sea change that no one saw coming, it's an inevitable event that's right on the cusp of hitting the mainstream. While overt advertising on social media has been a notoriously unpredictable investment for most companies in the past, there's no denying that a billion Facebook users suddenly having the option to impulse purchase a product their friends are talking about is a monumental shift in how business is done online.
Will you be part of the roll out? Will your closest competition?
Growth of Mobile Wallets
While mobile wallets – apps designed to allow for payment for real-world goods at physical stores using strictly electronic transfers and/or digital currency – have been in various stages of existence for a few years, and although they, in themselves, are not technically a marketing trend, the opportunity here exists in being one of the early adopters in your local area to provide shoppers with the necessary infrastructure to conduct all their business at your store using these new, convenient payment methods.
Once the mobile wallet scanner pads become as ubiquitous as the current credit card swipe/keypad combos are now, it'll just be another day at the office. But until then, this could be an impressive means of differentiating your store from the local competition.
Related Article: How To Make Content Marketing Work in a Boring Industry
The Fact That All of This Could Be Wrong
And this is the real kicker.
As I stated at the beginning, the world of marketing technology, processes, and tactics is changing so fast many pros just can't keep up. Part of the fallout is that articles like this become embarrassingly out of date so fast, now that you're at the end, you almost have to start doubting what I wrote in the first paragraph!
So, take everything here – and everything you read, for that matter – about “top marketing trends” with a huge grain of salt, because the fact is the future is already here.