Is Your Business Ready For What’s Coming?

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    Is Your Business Ready For What’s Coming?
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Ryan Stewart

Marketing expert

I have an unhealthy obsession with being considered the world's BEST internet marketer. I'm highly active on social media and love a good debate.

PREFACE: A few months ago I wrote a post for Moz that generated a lot of attention in our community. This post is the follow up.

The fact that our community went crazy about “Mobilegeddon is kind of a joke.

Have you looked around lately? People of all ages live in their phones.

In all honesty, the “mobile friendly” update is nothing compared to what’s coming next.

Emerging tech (VR, AI, 3d printing) is going to impact human behavior in a way we’ve never seen before.

I’m going to analyze 7 industry shifts and the marketing adjustments you should be thinking about now, before it’s too late.

Fast Websites Are Critical

What’s the longest you’ll wait for a page to load?

We’re seeing platforms react to this with Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and Facebook Instant Articles (IA). These markups allow your content to load instantly within Facebook, Twitter or Google (both iPhone and Android).

Google AMP:

Google AMP Update What it Looks Like

Facebook IA:

FB Instant Articles Example

This poses a challenge to marketers because traffic does not pass through to the site, it stays within a frame of the network. While the website will get credit for a visit in analytics, the engagement metrics will plummet (bounce rate, TOS, PPV).

This makes it difficult to gauge the impact of our content and justify spending the time / money to create it.

Takeaways from this section

The truth is, these markups are a huge improvement for users and soon they will cannibalize all clicks.   Soon, people won’t want to visit websites at all because it will be a waste of their time. Websites not participating in these changes are going to lose massive visibility online.

  1. Embrace these changes. Make sure your website is marked up properly to qualify instant articles and all things similar in the future.
  2. Shift your KPIs from “traffic” to “consumption”. The truth is, it doesn’t matter where people consume your content, it matters if they do.

Don’t get caught pissing and moaning with other marketers about the “unfair” changes. Platforms are responding with changes because this is what users want.   Embracing this mindset will allow you to be agile – reaching customers in the right place, at the right time, with the right messaging.

Lazy Online Consumers

As previously established, people don’t want to visit websites – they want information with as little effort as possible. Google has already begun cashing in on this trend with knowledge graphs, instant answers and Google Flights.

Google Flights

If you’ve traveled anywhere in the last 6 months, you’ve probably used it.

That’s not by accident – a Google study found 61% of people use search engines to plan travel. Instead of funneling that traffic to Orbitz and Kayak, Google got smart and created their own platform.

This keeps the traffic in Google and plays to lazy users who prefer to search flights without clicking to a new site.

Flights is only the beginning – they’re also rolling out a mobile interface to drive people into the travel funnel (called Destinations).

Google Travel Planning

From a consumer point of view, this is pretty awesome. There’s no longer a need to search through slow websites – you can plan your entire vacation on your phone.

From a marketers point of view, this poses a challenge. Google is taking over taking over the entire customer journey, stealing search traffic at all points in the funnel.

New Purchasing Funnel

Google has positioned themselves to take over the travel industry.

Takeaways from this section

A similar trend is happening with local queries and I expect this to expand to others.   To combat this as marketers, we have 3 options:

  1. Learn to work within the framework of the platform. As of right now, Google Destinations is not creating content, they’re aggregating it from other websites. That means there will be a way to rank content within Destinations.
  2. Test the paid platform. Google makes money from advertising – they’re creating these shifts to build an enticing paid platform (display is dead). If your industry is effected by these changes, buy ad space early before CPCs go up.
  3. Start pushing marketing dollars into other channels. Sometimes you just have to take the loss. The good news is, there’s dozens of places to market your business online – shift your focus there.

At the end of the day, Google is just building a better product for customers. As they shift, we do too.

Rise of Voice Search

A study showed 55% of teens and 41% of adults using voice search. Other studies show voice search increasing almost 50% more than the previous year, for 3 years in a row.

voice search
Image credit: Global Web Index

Voice platforms are currently pulling results from the same place as desktop/mobile search engines (i.e from the web and apps). However, voice search queries are distinctly different than typed ones:

  1. We use natural language when using voice search
  2. Results are spoken back to us, we can’t see them (for now…)

As voice search grows, we will be building content to better match voice based queries. To put that in marketing terms, there’s an opportunity for increased visibility targeting voice search.

Instead of building web content, I see companies building / collecting unique data and pushing it out via API to different apps like Cortana, Echo and Siri.

Takeaways from this section

Mark my words – the time is coming when you won’t need a website at all because people will have no reason to visit it.

Spoken queries will bypass traditional web content and tap into database of proprietary data, built by companies.

We can already see this happening with Kayak.

Kayak saw the changes Google was making for travel queries and fought back. They partnered with Amazon and their in home device, Alexa, to provide their travel information to voice searchers.

If your industry is being overrun by Google, start looking for opportunities to optimize against voice search instead. It’s a whole new frontier that’s up for grabs.

Chatbots Role in Marketing

There’s 2 main types of artificial intelligence in the market right now:

a. Machines:

  1. Tesla’s Model 3, which runs on full auto pilot, recently sold 325,000 units in pre sale
  2. Robots like Baxter, that can ‘learn’ tasks by watching you perform them

b. Software:

  1. Chatbots, remember Smarter Child?
  2. Deep learning (RankBrain)

Facebook is investing a lot of resources into a chatbot because they believe it’s the future of search, content discovery and commerce.

The gif below perfectly demonstrates how a simple messaging platform can help manage your life:

pingup-mobile-messaging-bot-ANIMATED@2x

As previously mentioned, the consumer is lazy. No one wants to go to the app store, download your app, wait for it to load, sign up, etc.

Takeaways from this section

Chatbots are going to help you run your business more effectively. Order fulfillment, customer service, managing emails and even content writing will be handled by a low cost bot.

Aside from the repercussions on the job market, bots are a good thing (i.e. they will help you sell more shit). However, they will also have an impact on how customers find you. For example:

  1. Instead of searching Google for “best happy hour near me”, people can ask their chatbot
  2. Instead of searching Amazon for “cheap TVs”, people can ask their chatbot
  3. Instead of using OpenTable to find restaurants and make reservations, people can ask their chatbot

In other words, chatbots will take a major bite out of search marketing. They provide an easy, personalized search experience that also handles booking and purchasing.

While Google is working on their own bots, Facebook is winning the race. They own WhatsApp and FB Messenger, touting a combined 2 billion global active users.

As a consumer, bots are awesome. We’re going to have a free personal assistant that will allow us to be more productive.

As marketers, we have to do what we always do…adapt. Just like SEO and App Store Optimization (ASO) there’s systems we can follow to improve visibility for our businesses. When this tech takes over, there will be new opportunities here as well.

Virtual Reality Impact Marketing

Forecasts predict over 200 million VR headsets will be sold by 2020, taking it from novelty to mass consumer good. VR isn’t just for gamers – it could have a larger impact on commerce:

  1. Shoppers can “try on” items without leaving the comfort of home
  2. Potential home buyers can take property tours from across the world
  3. Fans can watch their favorite concert, sports team or award show from the front row

This presents a challenge to marketers as it throws an entirely new form of content into the already crowded mix.

Takeaways from this section

VR is still 5+ years (more?) away from mass adoption and to be honest, the market has yet to decide whether it will be accepted (ahem, see Google Glass).   However, there are other themes we can learn from the initial hype:

  1. We need to make our content work harder. Publishing blog posts or videos simply won’t be enough in the internet of the future. Start thinking about ways to create malleable content that our audience can consume on their phones, messenger platforms, VR headsets or flying to Mars
  2. We can’t be romantic with marketing channels. Snapchat has more attention and less competition than any platform on the web. Right now there’s a huge opportunity. I don’t care if you don’t like Snapchat – the market doesn’t either. Start figuring out ways to build a following and engaging them before it’s too crowded

Essentially, we’re facing the same challenges now: how can we create cross platform content at scale? VR is simply another medium that will need to fit into your ecosystem of the future.

This begins and ends with a deep understanding of your who your customer is and how they spend their time online. From there, it’s just a matter of creating content on the right medium for them to engage.

Internet of Things Marketing Impact

Research shows over 80% of consumers are interested in having fully connected homes. An overhaul of this magnitude will take time, but the roots are already taking place.

For example, Amazon Dash buttons allow you to reorder household commodities with the click of an external button.

We’re not far off from living a life where all these tasks are automated by ‘smart’ tech:

  • Your self driving car will auto select the best route home based on traffic patterns
  • Paper towels will auto re-order themselves without the trip to the store
  • Your clogged toilet will auto dial a plumber / technician to come and fix it
  • Your closet will pick out the best outfit based on weather forecasts

From a consumer point of view, this is incredible. The monotonous parts of our lives will be automated and we’ll be able to focus more time on things that matter to us.

From a marketers point of view, we’re presented with another challenge. “Smart” homes will manage the day to day search and purchase of items. You will no longer need to visit stores in person OR search Google / Amazon for because your connected life will do it for you.

Takeaways from this section

A large majority of commerce in the future will be handled by machines / software (especially everyday commodities).

Machines will purchase based on algorithmic patterns from your history or preferences you set ahead of time. Machines will purchase from companies they’ve learned to trust.

In marketing terms, your success will hinge on the quality and perception of your brand.

This is good news! Even in a future dominated by machine algorithms, the force behind purchasing will remain human.

The most important thing you can do right now is focus on making your customers happy:

  • Building stellar reviews and online reputation
  • Minimizing customer returns and complains
  • Focusing on relationships with key individuals (yes, real people)
  • Creating value for them on a regular basis (content, social, conversations)

You’ll notice these are the same things you should be doing right now. Focus on your customer’s happiness and you will have a lasting impact in the future.

3D Printing Marketing Impact

I stumbled on an article outlining a crazy future scenario.

  • If you own a home with a yard, you probably own a lawnmower
  • That lawnmower might get used for half an hour a month
  • At most, you’re using your lawnmower 0.149% of the time

This is a model of inefficiency that tech could eradicate in the future.

  • A neighborhood would set up a sharing program, where each yard gets the needed access to the lawnmower as needed
  • The mower would be created from the 3D printer of one of the households
  • The lawnmower would be intelligent and automated, taking itself from yard to yard on a learned schedule

This is the model of efficiency and although it’s 20+ years in the future, it would erode the capitalist system we live in today.

Takeaways from this section

As consumers, we’re overloaded with crap we don’t need. In the process, we’ve destroyed our planet, our bodies and mental health.

As marketers, we’re responsible for this. We justify what we do as “helping businesses grow” but ultimately it’s our job to sell more crap at any cost.

I love being a marketer and I’m not condemning our practice, but it’s time we face facts. The younger generation is waking up to the harsh realities of the world we live in and are beginning to act on them.

There will be a return to quality. People will care how things are made and the value it can provide the world.

In a society that can print / crowd source everything, mass marketing will be dead.

We need to start focusing our businesses on having a positive impact on the world, not just sales. 

Major takeaways: what does this all mean?

Hopefully you stuck around to this point so I can wrap a bow on this for you. We can see a few underlying themes develop throughout each of these shifts:

1. The future looks good for the customer.

All of these changes are going to make commerce more enjoyable for end users. For that reason alone, we need to embrace these changes.

The businesses succeeding in the future will be the ones bending over backwards to cater to their customers. 

2. We need to make our content work harder.

Valuable content should be a cornerstone of your marketing strategy. However, creating and promoting content doesn’t work like it used to.

The web is incredibly saturated and people are increasingly segmented in where they hang out online.

This makes it a challenge to reach people with traditional methods and it’s only going to get harder as more mediums arise.

The businesses succeeding in the future will be the ones creating cross channel content that captures customers in multiple dimensions.

3. There will be a return to quality.

As marketers, our job is to create demand for a product or service. What we’ve created is a society that believes we “need” stuff to be happy (cars, boats, clothes, 2 car garage, etc).

Things will be different in the future, as you’ll be able to 3D print the latest Ferrari.

What’s left in a society like that?

Quality.

We’ll live in a time where the only “marketing” will be your brand’s story and the value you bring to the market.

Start building your story now, before it’s too late.

About Ryan Stewart

I have an unhealthy obsession with being considered the world's BEST internet marketer. I'm highly active on social media and love a good debate.

20 Comments

  1. That lawnmower section was really interesting. I think a lot of this makes total sense. I have long said that we need to balance our desire to market things in way we are familiar vs adapting when we know that the channel is best for the consumer. It has usually been my reaction when Google has big shifts; I can get mad as a marketer but I usually appreciate them as a search user. Flights, for example, I see how that disrupts an industry but I personally love that service.

    Evolution is def key. Nice work as usual

  2. Awesome, Ryan. Reading your articles is like having my own time machine. I’m living in Eastern Europe where everything lags behind the US. Even AMP and Instant Articles are still very rare here. Thanks for writing this. Liked & tweeted 😉

  3. Great article! I really liked the point on the VR stuff and the possibility of seeing the inside of a home or being in the front row of a game. I didn’t even think of the fact
    that with AMP pages, since they are a cached version of a site inside of a frame, the engagement metrics would be affected. Just wondering, how do you know it will be in a frame? From what I understand, they are cached versions of pages on your site but they are on your server so technically the visitor is on your site and GA should pickup the engagement metrics. Am I wrong?

    1. hey dennis – you’re correct. they will pick up all of the same engagement metrics, none of that will change.

      what i meant was behavior will change – AMP articles are designed to allow users to scroll to the next result, while on your site (if you look at the screenshot you can see this). this is essentially encouraging people to check our your article and scroll to the next one.

      so yes, analytics will still pick up all engagement metrics, but expect them to plummet because of the nature of AMP.

  4. This is so interesting. Thanks for the heads up. I’m going to look into Snapchat. The future is now.

  5. Awesome article. I am one of those people who complain about how SnapChat is irrelevant to me and my clients. You have convinced me that I need an attitude adjustment! :-) …and not just about SnapChap. The world is changing and as an adviser to others, I need to keep people thinking about the hear and now as well as the future.

  6. Great article Ryan!

    I think your predictions are spot on. I too have felt that websites are going to gradually disappear in favour of another new norm.

    That might be something like a website, but much more intelligent in the way information is provided and curated to each unique visitor.

    It doesn’t take much to see how new advertising mediums, social networks like SnapChat and more engaging ways of accepting user data (TypeForm, etc) can be combined into incredibly flexible solutions without the need for a single web page.

  7. Awesome article.

    I just came across your blog and your articles are not only easy to read and comprehend but they also add a ton of value and insight.

  8. Very insightful article.

    I don’t agree with this though – “Mark my words – the time is coming when you won’t need a website at all because people will have no reason to visit it. Spoken queries will bypass traditional web content and tap into database of proprietary data, built by companies.”

    I can understand this being relevant if someone’s asking a question – How long is the great wall of China? Or how many meters in a mile? But what about searches for things that live on the web – Browser game websites, game reviews, movie reviews, travel guides, trip advisor, how-to guides, ANY forums etc.

    Surely that’s the kind of detail, insight and personalization that can’t be pulled out of database of proprietary data, built by companies?

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