Digital Directions 2019

Advertising, eCommerce, SEO & SEA, Social Media, Website & UX

By Sharanya Venkatesh on 08/26/2019

Are you familiar with the 2019 Digital Directions?

2018 brought many changes to Digital Marketing…Therefore, we thought a summary of the overarching developments could be helpful as an orientation to plan 2019.
We have synthesized 30 of the most notable updates of 2018 and our expertise into 15 recommendations to help you profit from these developments in 2019.

Our 6 Digital Directions in 2019:

Digital Directions, Social

2018 brought three major changes that will impact how we use Social Media and other digital directions in 2019:

GENERAL TREND: Advertising and commercial revolution of Social

Not only did all leading platforms offer new advertising possibilities (Whatsapp firstly announced advertising possibilities | Facebook & Twitter enabled Video Ads).  More than that, Instagram, Snapchat & Pinterest introduced Shoppable Posts, which forward users directly from a post to purchase. Additionally, Whatsapp and Facebook introduced new CRM tools to help brands foster Customer Engagement.

Our recommendationUtilize e-Com functions. By adding e-Commerce functions, Social channels can now (finally) cover the entire Consumer Journey. We therefore recommend integrating these shopping functions into your Social Media strategy to truly harness your Social accounts in 2019.

STORY VIDEOS: The new standard for posting and advertising

Story Videos were invented by Snapchat and differ from usual videos by being available for a limited time (mostly 24h). In 2018, this has been adopted by Facebook, Instagram & Whatsapp and is now widely accepted, even for advertising. Also, Google has recently introduced a story function, which underlines the importance of this type of ephemeral content.

Our assessment: Integrate story videos. Story Videos are likely to play a major role in 2019 since users crave for new video content and social platforms give priority to these timely limited videos. We therefore recommend integrating story videos into your content plan for 2019 both as organic posts and ads.

INFLUENCER: Brand fit beats follower size

While influencers are becoming increasingly popular with Marketers, a 2018 study by InfluencerDB showed that smaller brands often beat well-known brands in Influencer Marketing. The main reason for this is that they collaborate with the “right influencers”, rather than the biggest ones. Especially smaller influencers (Micro Influencers) showed to generate higher engagement rates by being more relevant for their niche target audience.

Our assessment: Evaluate the brand-fit of influencers. Precisely because the prices of influencers are based on their potential reach (fanbase size), we recommend thoroughly investigating if there is a natural fit between the influencer and your brand. Hence, the influencer’s interests, former brand cooperation, audience and their reactions to brand cooperations are essential.


Digital Directions, Search

In 2018, Google’s algorithm updates followed the already known pattern of favouring security (SSL Certificates (https://), quality of content and links as well as local content (for physical businesses). Moreover, Google has started giving more priority to Search (another key component of digital directions) that will matter in 2019:

MOBILE SEARCH: SEO goes mobile first

Google has continued increasing the weight of mobile ranking factors and has communicated to continue this in the future. Since 2018, Google’s mobile and desktop rankings are separated, but mobile pages now impact the ranking of their desktop counterparts.

Our recommendationInvest in the optimization of your mobile website. The mobile compatibility of your website has never been so important for SEO. Hence, optimizing your mobile site in terms of technical performance, content and UX is crucial. When (re)launching a page, a mobile first architecture is the way to go in 2019.

VOICE SEARCH: Popular among consumers but no e-Commerce relevance

Although only few users shop via the devices, voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant or Apple’s Siri have continued their steep growth. It is estimated that about 56 million smart speakers exited in 2018, 60% more than 2017.

Our advise: Tweak website content for voice compatibility. As voice search results are presented without displays, the content must be delivered in a more concise manner. Since competition on voice search is still low, 2019 offers time to adapt your content towards voice, to gain ranking for voice search.


Digital Directions, Online Advertising

One of the most important digital directions in 2019 is online advertising. The development path will likely continue in the same manner as last year and will be guided by the following four major topics:

VIDEO ADS: Moving image as main content type

All platforms are moving towards video content: While Facebook & Instagram have been known for a long time to favor video content, they have now stepped up their game by launching the video portal “Watch” and introducing “Ad Breaks” in videos. Even Pinterest has launched promoted videos as an advertising format. YouTube has meanwhile increased its user base to almost 2 billion viewers.

Our assessmentConsider video ads for awareness campaignsA recent study revealed that video content triggered 21% more interactions than images (Instagram). A cheaper alternative are so-called “GIFs” – animated image sequences.

PROGRAMMATIC ADS: The new norm of online advertising?

Programmatic advertising defines the process of buying ad placements through real-time optimizing algorithms, rather than traditionally negotiated fixed deals. Zenith expects this form of buying to account for 65% of total worldwide digital ad spend by 2019.

Our recommendation: Build up programmatic advertising infrastructures. Seeing that programmatic is already established in most countries and rapidly growing in many other countries, we recommend setting up and getting accustomed to programmatic advertising now.

PERSONALIZATION: A nearing reality…and necessity

The ongoing fragmentation of influencer and website landscape into ever more niche specialists, suggests that users are craving for specialized rather than generic content. Simultaneously, more efficient search and curation algorithms, such as Google, Amazon, Instagram, Pinterest etc. show the user that his wish can be fulfilled. Facing this, advertising will need to evolve to stay relevant.

Our recommendation: Test (partly-) personalized marketing. As real-time personalization will soon be possible on all devices, 2019 is a good time to start testing personalized advertising and content strategies. E.g. learning which content performs for which audience and knowing the production challenges will prove invaluable once personalized advertising becomes a standard.

CONTENT MARKETING: Pull Marketing in the digital age

Despite being a heavily overused buzzword, the importance of Content Marketing cannot be overstated. The term defines building awareness by producing helpful content that will be searched for or shared by users, while only mentioning the brand or product peripherally. This Pull Marketing strategy works on almost all channels and has been proved to be seen as less intrusive and more credible by users.

Our recommendation: Evaluate which form of content marketing suits your brand. For example, text-based tools like blogs may work for complex, knowledge-intense topics, whereas social media postings may be attractive for visually appealing brands. In any case, Content Marketing is a long-term strategy that requires time and consistency before taking effect.


Digital Directions, E-Commerce

In 2018, global e-Commerce retail sales grew by 500 billion USD (+23%) showing that the rise of e-Commerce continues. According to the digital directions, the following two players are most relevant to the growing of e-Commerce:

Amazon: e-Com giant attacks online industry and stationary retail

Jeff Bezoz’ company is using its core business to attack adjacent categories:
Besides penetrating the voice assistant market (see below), Amazon also opened 8 of its physical stores (“Amazon Go”) in the US…and Amazon plans to grow to 3,000 stores by 2021! eCommerce-wise, the website added “Storefronts” for smaller businesses and its ad business skyrocketed toward the #3 position of digital ad sellers in the US (behind Facebook and Google). Overall Amazon’s revenues increased by 29% (Q3) strongly driven by its web-service platform AWS (+46%).

Our recommendation: Invest and observe. Amazon’s growth in ad placements and its cooperation with other Social Media platforms makes it increasingly relevant as an advertising partner. The development of “Amazon Go” should be observed and assessed for your brand and market.

Alibaba: A second heavyweight enters the ring in Europe

The Chinese e-Commerce giant has entered the European market by setting up logistics centers in Germany and the Czech Republic. Though known mainly for B2B, the Alibaba Group also owns the B2C e-Retailer Taobao and the B2C Marketplace AliExpress. This might impact B2B as well as B2C retail in Europe.

Our assessment: Highly recommended to observe. Judging by its size and financial power, Alibaba is likely to soon become crucially relevant for European retail. Its B2C arms may still be considerably small in Europe, but should not be underestimated, as AliExpress already dominates the Russian market for years. So far though, most sellers on the platform are Chinese.

Digital Directions, Technology & UX

Technology and the user experience are two of the most important game changers in digital directions. In times of AI, Big Data and Blockchain the whole concept of User Experience (UX) has to be bowled over…and can be brought to a new level, with the following:

Chatbots: A new (and profitable) standard for websites

They key for providing good UX in 2018 were Chatbots. The AI which interacts with customers increases the likelihood of them staying on a website by 63%. The technology may increase sales through increasing conversion and driving cross-sales by recommending suitable products.

Our recommendation: Integrate chatbots on your website. The wide usage of chatbots in many industries will likely make them a standard customer expectation soon. Especially for products and services which require explanation, they can resolve the problem of overly text-intensive pages and discretely drive cross-sales. Here are some best-practices examplesLINK.

Data Privacy: Higher standards of data privacy

In 2018, the European “General Data Protection Regulation” (GDPR) made the collection of consumer data (and hence targeted advertising) more difficult. Almost simultaneously, Facebook came under intense scrutiny following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which made users around the world more aware of online data security.

Our assessment: Establish a safe environment for consumers. Consumers are likely to become increasingly sensitive about their data online and are likely to be more critical of what they see on the web. Therefore, creating a reassuring experience through credible content, clear website design and objective ratings and reviews will be decisive in 2019.

Digital Directions, Mobile

The usage of smartphones is growing rapidly. In 2018 mobile accounted for over 50% of web traffic as well as e-Commerce transactions. Also, platforms offer more and more mobile-specific tools. These 3 biggest trends showing that online goes vertical: 

Vertical Ads: A game changer for video production

YouTube launched vertical ads this year and the Story Video format (read above) gained traction in Social Media. Hence, it becomes apparent that video is starting to move from horizontal to vertical format.

Our recommendation: Test vertical videos. As most of the world’s internet traffic is mobile and since most mobile applications are vertically oriented, we expect vertical content to soon be the norm. We therefore recommend to gather experience with this new format now, while competition is still low.

A quantum leap for mobile marketing – 5G

5G, the next generation of mobile internet (1,000x faster than 4G) will be rolled out in the USA, China and South Korea this year (Germany in 2021). 5G enables mobile 4K high-resolution videos and will be essential for mobile VR & AR applications. Moreover it will allow real-time personalization of ads for mobile users.

Our recommendation: Learn from pioneer countries. Keep your eyes open and observe the first steps of 5G advertising to start off properly once the new mobile generation of connectivity starts in your country.

We hope some of our Digital Directions for 2019 proved useful to you and your team and wish you a great year 2019!

In the coming weeks, we will follow up with our hand-picked selection of the most impactful Digital Marketing updates. So just subscribe to our newsletter below if you want to stay up to date.

We wish you a successful start into 2019!

See you next time

Best digital regards,