Marketing & Growth

8 Marketing Trends to Know in the New Year

By Rieva Lesonsky

For business owners in the retail industry, 2018 was a year of challenges and changes. Despite some shakeouts, retail is still thriving, and some strong marketing trends stand out.

How can your retail or wholesale business stay ahead of the game in 2019? Here are 8 trends you should know about.

8 Marketing Trends to Inform Your Year

1. Discounts

The economy may be thriving, but consumers are still digging for deals like it’s 2009. In a 2018 National Retail Federation survey, six in 10 shoppers (including high-income consumers) say they buy more items on sale than they did five years ago. 85% of respondents have left a product on the shelf because it wasn’t on sale, even though they really wanted it.

On the flip side, more than 40% of respondents admit that if something is on sale, they can’t resist buying it. Small retailers don’t have to offer constant discounts like big-box stores do to take advantage of this passion for deals.

Instead, use flash sales and “lightning” deals to attract shoppers with marketing messages tailored to their browsing and buying history. Appeal to their FOMO (fear of missing out) by notifying them when inventory on a product they’re eyeing runs low.

2. Social media marketing

Social selling (buying directly through a social media site) is still in the nascent stage. Largely due to security concerns, just 18% of shoppers have ever made a retail purchase directly through a social media platform, a Sumo study reports.

In 2019, retailers who can ease shoppers’ worries about the security of social shopping stand to win big. But social media sites continue to promote the concept of social selling: In 2018, Facebook rolled out Facebook Marketplace and Instagram added Shoppable Posts. Will 2019 be the year social selling takes off?

Regardless, retailers can’t lose by focusing more efforts on organic and paid social media marketing in 2019. In 2018, consumers ranked social media as their number one source of inspiration for purchases, according to PWC.

Keep building relationships with your social media followers, and when they do make the leap to direct social shopping, they’ll be more likely to buy from you.

Social media shopping

3. Voice search

More than half (58%) of consumers used voice search to find local businesses in 2018, BrightLocal reports. Of those, 46% use voice search to seek local businesses on a daily basis.

Few users shop for retail products via voice—you can’t see or compare products through a smart speaker. But voice search will become an important way for prospective customers to locate your store or find out what deals and products you offer.

To stand out in voice search, which is more conversational than traditional search, here are some tips for optimizing your website for voice.

4. Marketing automation

Marketing automation software can help retailers reach specific customers with targeted offers and help wholesalers nurture prospective customers through the buying journey. You can find marketing automation tools to handle specific tasks (such as responding to leads forms) as well as all-in-one apps that manage a wide range of marketing activities.

Look for software that integrates with your existing apps (this feature list could help). Capterra, Software Advice and G2 Crowd offer ratings, reviews and software comparison tools to help you make the right choice.

5. Artificial intelligence (AI)

“The retail industry will see massive adoption of AI in 2019 and onward,” Helpshift’s founder and Chief Strategy Officer Abinash Tripathy said in a press release. By making personalized and predictive recommendations, AI will improve customer experience and reduce cart abandonment, Tripathy predicts.  “Today most post-sales interactions are handled manually, but in 2019 AI-powered bots will help customers self-serve and get their problems resolved faster. For example, bots can help with rescheduling deliveries and processing returns.”

In an interview with CP Strategy, Director of Growth at Drip, Jenn Berg, predicts 2019 will be the year when AI drives the entire online retail customer experience.

Ecommerce websites can be “hyper-personalized in the way Facebook is, serving up a unique experience for each and every user,” said Berg, “[showing me only] products specific to the many data points collected to my profile.” To succeed at this level, she adds, retailers will need to unify all their available customer data to gain a true 360-degree view of the customer.

6. Personalization

Consumers are inundated with marketing messages. If you want yours to get noticed in 2019, you’ll need to personalize them. Three-fourths of customers say they like to receive personalized offers from businesses, according to a Publicis Groupe study, and 68% say retailers are getting better at personalization.

How can you use this marketing trend to your advantage? You can gain an edge in personalization by sending shoppers personalized mobile offers. Using mobile devices in-store to research products or compare prices is common consumer behavior, but most retailers still fall short when it comes to communicating with customers on mobile.

Knowing what shoppers want and sending offers at the right time can make all the difference in making the sale. The same study reports that personalization increases per-visit spend fivefold.

To convince prospects to share their personal data, explain how they’ll benefit—and how you’ll ensure the information’s security.

7. Loyalty

Are you focused on getting new customers at the expense of existing ones? Big mistake. Consumers are less loyal to brands than ever, so if you can earn their loyalty, you’ll have a competitive edge.

Two-thirds of consumers say they are more likely to shop with retailers that offer loyalty programs. Closely tied to personalization, loyalty programs can help you simplify the process of targeting and earning new customers because of all the data the programs allow you to collect. By using a loyalty account program to track your customers’ behavior and purchases, you can then create marketing campaigns tailored just for them and generate personalized offers.

Getting your loyalty program “just right” can be challenging. It should be easy to use, offer worthwhile rewards, and create ongoing engagement. But with more retailers committing dollars to loyalty programs, this is a marketing trend you should think about this year. Last year alone, major retailers including Nordstrom, Kohl’s, Macy’s and Target all revamped their loyalty programs. Some experts also predict that for 2019, more retailers will add “premium” loyalty programs. Like Amazon Prime, these programs charge a fee in return for desirable perks.

8. Email

Calling email marketing a “marketing trend” might sound like old news, but according to Campaign Monitor, email marketing has generated higher ROI than any other marketing tactic for 10 years in a row. 77% of consumers surveyed say they prefer to get promotional messages from businesses by email than by any other method. Email may not be new, but it’s still a strong marketing channel that you shouldn’t ignore.

To get your emails noticed in 2019, focus on personalizing everything from subject lines to offers. Smart retailers will also use email marketing to build loyalty by encouraging shoppers to “check in” on their retail offerings regularly to see what’s new.

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