Digital marketing is a vital aspect of any successful business in 2020 — but it’s also a concept that’s evolving constantly. Marketing practices that may have worked or even been recommended just a few years ago may not be as successful or efficient today. And new technologies (or at least newly accessible ones) are always shaping the latest digital marketing efforts.

Because there is so much change in this area, and because it’s all so important for modern business, we decided to take a look at some of the emerging digital marketing trends we’re seeing in 2020.

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1. Machine Learning for BI

When we looked at ‘10 Leading Trends in Business Intelligence in the Year 2020’ in January, we discussed the importance of machine learning for multiple modern business functions. Among the talking points, however, was machine learning in marketing.

As that article suggested, both chatbots and data-driven personalized services can help to apply machine learning and artificial intelligence to marketing efforts. And to some extent, this can work in two directions. On the one hand, businesses can use automated digital services (like chatbots) to gather and log information about customers, or even site visitors who don’t end up making purchases. This information (concerning demographics, inquiries, complaints, etc.) can then help a company to tailor more effective marketing strategies. On the other hand, though chatbots and other personalized digital service mechanisms can also be used to deploy more evolved marketing practices — interacting with customers in ways that data analysis has suggested will be more productive.

2. Social Purchasing

We’ve known for years now that brands need very active social channels in order to properly reach modern consumers. B2C dove into social commerce in 2018 and found a number of compelling statistics on the matter. For instance, the article claimed that 4 in 10 consumers follow their favorite brands on social media (a number which has likely increased even more in the two years since). It also found that 47% of Gen Z will turn to social media specifically to research brands, and 49% of millennials will “seek expert opinion” (which they often do on social media) before making a purchase).

These numbers have led a growing number of businesses to turn to social purchasing options — which is to say they’re making it easier for people to buy their products directly through social media posts. Specific methods of embracing social purchasing (often called social commerce) vary depending on the platform, as well as the nature of the product. But networks like Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Facebook in particular have all developed fairly easy ways for brands to sell products directly.

This essentially means that brands can now combine marketing and sales efforts, meeting large portions of consumers where they already are and making products readily available.

3. In-Store Data Discovery

Companies’ primary data discovery efforts take place online. For the ones that maintain a physical, retail presence though, there is a slowly growing trend toward small electronic sensors that can accomplish some of the same goals.

These sensors have taken a while to emerge, in part because they demand high levels of performance in discreet packages. Most of us tend to think of modern tech devices only in terms of their ultimate functions, but an explanation of circuit transmission lines by Altium conveys just how tricky it can be to make a minuscule device highly capable. Circuit board transmission essentially conveys the electrical signals that facilitate an ultimate function, and only with fairly modern circuit design has it become easier to build these systems more effectively into tiny, portable sensors.

Now that we’ve reached that point though, stores are deploying these sensors for two purposes. First, as was detailed by Practical Ecommerce some time ago, the sensors can improve the in-store experience. Second, however, is that they can help gather data. Store visitors can allow their mobile phones to interact with these sensors, which in turn can relay information to them (concerning where a product might be, what discounts may be in effect, etc.). In return, the sensors can feed information to a company about customers’ habits, preferences, and purchase history. All of this can then be used to personalize marketing approaches.

4. Personalized Emails

If you spend much time online or do much shopping online, chances are you’re very much accustomed to getting emails from various stores, brands, and even restaurants. And it’s a good bet that you ignore a lot of that content because it comes across as impersonal and spam-like.

To some extent that might always be the case because a lot of consumers are already in the habit of ignoring or deleting company emails. However, some of the data-gathering methods we’ve already discussed, as well as automated emailing services, are changing the nature of email marketing. Companies are now able to personalize the experience by automatically sending emails to online consumers who show interest in the brand or product at hand, and by making the emails themselves less generic.

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5. Sentiment Analysis

“Sentiment analysis” sounds like a lofty term, and even some of its definitions give the impression that it’s a fairly complicated concept. For instance, Towards Data Science defines sentiment analysis as “contextual mining of text which identifies and extracts subjective information in the source material.” This is an accurate definition. But a simpler way to put it is that sentiment analysis is the process of social listening.

What that means is that companies mine information from available social channels, so as to gain insight into what people care about regarding the company’s brand, and what people’s feelings are about given products, services, or initiatives. A crude version of sentiment analysis can be done manually, with marketing team members combing the internet and social media sites to compile information. Today, however, companies are taking advantage of AI tools that can rapidly conduct in-depth research to produce significant results. This can all help a company to cater to its branding, product design, and marketing approach to the majority opinions of consumers.

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Authored by: Jess Baltimore