What were the Top Digital Marketing Trends of 2019? [Survey Results].

We asked, you answered. Let's take a look at the top digital marketing trends of 2019, and how they actually stacked up to marketers' real experiences.
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Nathalie Söber
November 27, 2019 - 8 min. read

The digital marketing landscape has been through a lot of disruption in recent years, and 2019 was no exception.

As the year draws to a close, what could be a better way to celebrate than to round up the top digital marketing trends for 2019?

In January 2019, we looked into our crystal ball and published a Digital Marketing Trends in 2019 report with our top predictions for the year.

Were we right? How did our predictions for 2019 stack up with your real experiences? We have the answers.

To find out, we surveyed over 100 digital marketers across industries on what trends actually defined their marketing efforts in 2019.

*drumroll*

Without further ado, here are biggest digital marketing trends that defined 2019.

1. Social ecommerce

Source: Engadget

2018 saw the rise of social selling capabilities on platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest, and marketers were understandably excited.

According to Global Web Index, 1 in 4 people have purchased a product on social media. In 2019 alone, sales from ecommerce grew from 2.84 trillion to 3.453 trillion worldwide.

Social ecommerce gives brands the opportunity to reach people on the channels where they are already spending time. A survey by YouGov Australia revealed that 34% of shoppers think they’re more likely to impulse buy a product after seeing it on social media.

Needless to say, marketers should take advantage of the spontaneity-inducing quality of social media and capture a larger percentage of their sales via social networks.

But has the trend really taken off? What do real marketers say?

According to our survey,

  • 40% of marketers had launched more social ecommerce features in 2019
  • 8% were using social selling about the same amount as last year
  • 32% had not tried social selling yet
  • 18% thought the question was ‘not applicable’

2. Private messaging apps

Private messaging apps have been gaining traction as a marketing channel for some time now.

Many brands are already on board. Take Adidas for example—the company has begun using WhatsApp to build hyper-local communities in cities across the world and adopting a one-to-one messaging strategy rather than one-to-many.

The interest in using private messaging apps for marketing comes from that there is arguably a shift happening in the way users communicate online. One study found that people are spending over twice as much time on WhatsApp than on Facebook (at least during the three-month study period).

Messaging apps are also great for customer experience, as they allow you to provide customers with the 1:1 personalized service they expect. Apps like WhatsApp also ensure privacy via their encryption capabilities, so what’s not to like?

Back in January, we predicted private messaging apps would be one of the biggest digital marketing trends in 2019. But did the prediction hold up?

…sort of.

The majority of marketers stated that they’re not using private messaging apps, but the ones who did came as a close second:

  • Only 10% stated that they started using messaging apps in 2019
  • 36% said they had already used them for over a year
  • 53% said they’re not using messaging apps at all


3. Social TV

igtv marketing

Source: Instagram

We’ve all heard it: video works.

It also comes as no surprise that video content is all over social media. YouTube recently announced that it’s nearing 2 billion active monthly users, and Facebook users are reportedly watching over 100 million hours worth of content on the platform every day.

What’s quite new, however, is the rise of social TV platforms like Instagram’s IGTV, Youtube Originals and Facebook Watch.

In our Digital Marketing Trends 2019 report, we predicted that more and more brands would jump on the bandwagon to create content for social TV.

Did that happen?

A clear majority of our respondents have at least dabbled with social TV:

  • 29% stated that they had created exclusive content for a social TV platform
  • 26% said they had used the platforms, but did not have exclusive content
  • 44% said they had not used social TV

4. Vertical video

Most of the world’s population can now access the internet, and they do so with mobile devices. This also means most online video views take place on mobile.

Not surprisingly, video content is becoming more and more optimized for smartphones.

One part of the transformation of mobile becoming the new normal is the rising adoption of vertical video. The format is intuitive and easy, as smartphone users hold their phones vertically 94% of the time.

Most social platforms are on board: Facebook’s Watch and Instagram’s Stories and IGTV are all developed for vertical (although IGTV did recently introduce horizontal video, too).

At the beginning of the year, we predicted that vertical video would be one of the top trends in digital marketing in 2019.

What did our survey reveal?

  • As expected, most marketers (57%) said that they had started creating vertical video in 2019
  • A surprisingly big number, 34%, revealed that they only share horizontal or square videos
  • And finally, 8% were not engaged in video content at all

5. Podcasts

 

podcast marketing

The popularity of podcasts hasn’t gone unnoticed by the meme community. Source: Twitter/severalcrows

In case you haven’t noticed, podcasts are all the rage these days.

One in three Americans now listen to at least one podcast monthly, and 44% of Americans have listened to at least one podcast overall.

What’s more—the average podcast fan listens to over 6.5 hours of podcasts per week. Talk about engagement!

The explosion in the number of podcasts also ensures there’s something out there for every kind of niche interest.

Given their popularity, it might seem like everyone and their brother has one. And brands have jumped on the trend, too: yearly ad revenue from podcasts is expected to double to 659 million by 2020.

But what did our marketers think? Did the popularity of podcasts translate into their real-world strategies, too?

Well, not quite:

  • The vast majority of marketers (77%) said they haven’t used podcasts at all
  • Only a small minority, (9%) had created their own podcast
  • 7% had advertised on a podcast
  • 7% had contributed content to a podcast

6. Chatbots

If you’ve ever visited a brand website, chances are you’ve already come across at least one chatbot. Often called the next big thing in marketing automation and customer service, chatbots are on the rise.

Gartner predicts that 85% of customer interactions will be managed by chatbots by 2020. Perhaps an ambitious statistic, but chatbots do hit the sweet spot when it comes to consumer needs: most consumers demand fast, 24-hour communication and personalised service from companies. Chatbots are a way to provide this at scale.

This is what our marketers had to say:

  • The majority, 67%, were not yet using chatbots
  • 25% said they started using chatbots this year
  • 7% they had greatly increased their use of chatbots this year

7. Niche networks

Source: NYT

Niche networks like TikTok, Vero, Twitch and Quora are on the rise.

Believe it or not, Quora has 300 million monthly active users (making it a great place for advertisers!), and TikTok just surpassed 1.5 billion downloads. Recently, the app has also been experimenting with social ecommerce features.

With organic reach declining across the board on traditional channels, marketers have to find novel ways to reach their target audiences.

But have real-world marketers taken up these new networks yet?

  • A massive majority (89%) said they had not started using niche networks yet
  • 5% said they had just started using some more specialized networks
  • 5% stated they had a lot of experience in niche networks

8. Optimizing social advertising

Source: GIPHY

As organic reach has continued to decline on most mainstream networks, advertising on social has gone up. In fact, advertisers are projected to spend a jaw-dropping 185 billion on social ads by 2022.

As it is more and more difficult to reach people organically, marketers have to turn to advertising to reach targeted, more precise audiences effectively.

Brian Boland, a former Vice President of advertising products at Facebook, explained it himself: “Paid media on Facebook allows businesses to reach broader audiences more predictably, and with much greater accuracy than organic content.”

At the beginning of the year, we predicted that targeting options would become more specific across platforms and that marketers would be served a platter of new ad formats and features throughout the year. We also highlighted that there’s a need for marketers to focus more on social ads.

While it might sound like the brands with the biggest budgets would come out on top, it isn’t necessarily so: brands who create compelling ads, target relevant audiences and optimize their campaigns will come out ahead.

So, how did the year actually pan out? Do the marketers we surveyed agree?

When asked if they had expanded their use of social media formats in 2019, our marketers responded:

  • 50% had experimented (at least a bit) with new ad formats
  • 36% considered themselves all-in on the latest ad formats
  • 12% were still using the standard formats

9. Purpose-driven marketing

 

There’s a shift happening in the way that consumers feel about corporate social responsibility. 

If you were around during the 80s and 90s, you might remember that it was a time when nobody cared about anything, really. It was cool to actively not care.

Today, it’s cool to care—especially according to Gen Z and Millennials

In fact, 78% of customers say they’re more loyal to purpose-driven brands than traditional brands. Studies also show that “meaningful brands” have outperformed traditional ones on the stock market on average by 206% in the last decade.

Here’s what our marketers had to say:

  • 45% said they’re doing more purposeful marketing
  • 35% stated that they’ve always done it, so it’s nothing new
  • 19% were not a mission-driven organization

10. Emerging digital marketing trends [bonus question]

And finally, when asked about what the next big trend in digital marketing in 2020 will be, these three trends emerged at the top:

  • Privacy/private messaging
  • Voice search, voice commerce
  • Bigger use of Stories and interactive content

The bottom line

To sum up, 2019 was a pretty eventful year for marketers.

We saw Facebook stepping up in the battle against biased content, Instagram opening up AR filter creation to everyone, and TikTok becoming more mainstream. We tested new ad formats, spoke to our customers with private messaging apps, and perhaps we even added micro-influencers to our marketing arsenal.

And who knows what’s in store in 2020? 

We’ve put our marketing knowledge and experience to use and prepared a full report on the top 15 digital marketing trends shaping the digital and social media landscape in 2020. Download the free handbook here 👇