Major Digital Trends for 2018

It’s time to breathe a sigh of relief – we’ve almost made it through 2017.  In addition to the general craziness of this year, we’ve seen a number of digital trends take shape.  Now that we’ve got our eyes on the prize, it’s time to take a look at what digital trends are to come in 2018.


1)    Voice assistants gain traction

Consumer adoption of voice assistants for necessary purchases like paper towels and diapers is up vs. Q2 of this year, but does this translate to the purchase of more frivolous items?  Not quite yet.  Many are concerned that their voice assistants simply don’t know them well enough to make holiday gift recommendations, for example, and others dislike voice assistant shopping because they can’t view the products. 


However, as voice assistant technology gets smarter, expect to see these attitudes shift.  Marketers will find ways to alleviate these customer concerns, both through more sophisticated AI usage (more to come on that later) and further exploration of skills to make smart tech shopping seamless.  More products that include screens will likely integrate voice assistant technology (think Amazon’s Echo Show but on a more widespread scale), which helps bring the visual nature of online shopping into play as well.


2)    VR and AR get more sophisticated

Perhaps the hottest news surrounding the latest round of iPhones was not improved battery life or bigger screens, but the ability to create animojis.  While these animated animals might not seem very groundbreaking, they represent a more mainstream version of AR technology, and one that other tech companies will swiftly follow in order to keep pace with Apple. 


Indeed, Amazon recently released their browser tool Sumerian in an effort to make AR and VR more accessible to developers.  The application allows users to choose from a library of 3D objects that can be inserted into VR and AR worlds, and supports the upload of owned assets as well.  Not to be outdone, Google is also getting in the VR game with their Poly API, which provides a similar 3D image library.


It’ll be a race to provide the latest and greatest VR and AR resources for developers from here on out, and with that, new and inventive uses of the tech will begin to appear.  One of our favorites from this year?  The VR promotion for the It movie, which shows how well the tech can work when paired with the right product (in this case, giving yourself a virtual scare before you buy your movie tickets and hit the theater).


3)    Net neutrality discussions continue

As of publication, the vote has not yet taken place that determines the fate of the Internet.  But at this point, unless a major miracle occurs and Ajit Pai has a change of heart, the decision to disband net neutrality will likely go into effect in 2018.  Expect to see a completely different Internet than the one we’ve come to know and love as a result.  This has huge potential to impact marketers and their ability to reach consumers easily online.  If ISPs charge a premium for access to certain sites, it follows that they’ll charge marketers that same premium.  It could be much more difficult for smaller businesses to have any success with digital marketing. 


It would also not be surprising to see underground social networks or homegrown Internet providers arise that aim to establish their own service governed by net neutrality.  The beginnings of such models are sprouting in communities across America, as citizens recognize that Internet access is a utility and necessity for modern life.


4)    Marketers get creative (again) with social media

Organic reach on Facebook has plummeted over the past year, leaving many marketers to explain to clients why their content isn’t getting as much traction as it once did.  This isn’t exactly unexpected – as soon as social media platforms discovered they could monetize content, they began to push marketers to pay to play.  But something even more frustrating is on the horizon – Facebook has begun testing an entirely separate newsfeed for branded pages, which has pretty severe implications on reaching your loyal Facebook fans, much less anyone at all on the platform. 


It’s time for marketers to don their thinking caps and get creative again.  A paid promotion strategy will become increasingly important in 2018, as it’s one of the few ways you can ensure your social content will get in front of (at least some) eyeballs.  Beyond that, expect more ads that don’t look like ads to take over your social feeds.  Native advertising has seen an expansion over the past few years, with brands from Netflix to Adobe learning that the way to get a consumer’s attention is to offer compelling content that doesn’t feel like an ad.  As social networks become more and more difficult for brands to navigate, this tactic will gain in popularity.


5)    Bots, automation, and the great AI race

Are you tired of hearing about chatbots yet?  Well buckle up, because 2018 is the year they’ll really take off.  They’re a great way for businesses to automate some of their customer interaction without sacrificing customer support.  But AI is not just for bots – companies are also using the tech to analyze data to make more informed marketing decisions.  AI also lends itself to creating new customer interactions, whether it’s used to build something more personalized or take a VR/AR experience to new heights.  We’ve only scratched the AI surface and will no doubt see much more to come in 2018.


Is your brand ready for what digital trends the future holds?  Keep these things in mind as you make your marketing plan for the coming year.