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Future of Marketing & AI

The Future of Marketing: 5 Predictions for 2020

| 7 Minutes to Read
Summary: One of the annual traditions we have is our yearly predictions for what’s to come on the marketing front. This dates back to 2014 and it’s a chance for us to analyze past trends, anticipate the future of our crazy industry and - if we’re on point - prepare accordingly.

December is always so bittersweet, what with the holidays and the realization that another year has come and gone. This year, we’re all forging ahead into the next decade (sounds weird to call it the ‘20s!) and I for one, am excited for what is around the corner. I hope you and yours have a wonderful start to 2020. 

One of the annual traditions we have around here is our yearly predictions for what’s to come on the marketing front. This tradition dates back to 2014 (see past predictions for 20152016, 20172018, and 2019) and it’s a chance for us to analyze past trends, anticipate the future of our crazy industry and - if we’re on point - prepare accordingly. Sometimes we’re way off and other times, we hit the nail right on the head.   

Here’s the grading scheme we created for the original post in 2014:

  • Oracle (+2) – when we’re so right it’s like we channeled that nice lady from The Matrix
  • Oracle In-Training (+1) – we didn’t quite see the whole picture, but hey, we still saw the future
  • Clear As Mud (0) – we weren’t right, but we weren’t wrong, either
  • Just A Bit Outside (-1) – we tried to paint the corner of the plate, but the ump didn’t give us the call
  • Swing And A Miss (-2) – like a batter who expects fastball and gets a curve, we weren’t close

Before we jump into the predictions for 2020, let’s take a look at how we did in 2019: 

#1: Google Searches Resulting in "Zero Clicks" Will Increase (Again)

Grade: +2

We start off with an easy win. There is no doubt the number of “Zero Click” searches will rise again in 2020, just as it has in each of the last three years. In case you need a refresher, a “Zero Click” search is one that results in zero websites receiving a visit via a clickthrough on the SERP.

Rand wrote a great data-backed post over on his SparkToro blog, but here’s all you need to know:


Make no mistake, this is not fun news for digital marketers. What it means is that companies and marketers need to address what’s clearly happening - Google becoming more of a competitor to all of us - rather than hoping it goes away. As you’ll see later in the post, the idea of “Zero Click” searches will once again be a theme in 2020.

#2: On-SERP SEO Becomes a Term and a Tactic

Grade: +1

It’s a bit of a challenge to find clear data on this one, but there is enough circumstantial evidence to suggest we were on the right track with the prediction and deserve partial marks. After all, one of the ways to combat the issue of Google actively lowering the number of referrals the SERPs send is to do better on-SERP SEO.

Also consider these findings from a 2019 Google ranking factors report, also conducted by Rand and the SparkToro team:

The #1 and #3 trends are an even stronger indication that brands and marketers maybe should have been worrying about on-SERP SEO in 2019.

#3: Game-Changing Influencer Marketing Tools Make a Big Splash

Grade: 0

This one is murky enough for us to take a 0, but we weren’t wrong. Post like this one and this second post do suggest the appetite for influencer marketing tools is growing. The main issue with our prediction is we were eagerly anticipating SparkToro’s launch in 2019 and that didn’t happen. Here’s to the big launch happening in 2020!

#4: Marketers Realize the Importance of Optimizing Content for Voice Search

Grade: +1

In 2019, we wrote a post about how voice search will change the digital marketing landscape. Is that enough evidence for us to take a win? Given that one of Google’s major algorithm updates in 2019 - BERT, which we also wrote about - was mainly focused on NLP and voice search, we think so.

#5: Video Content Grows in Popularity (Again)

Grade: +2

We certainly had conviction in last year’s predictions, because we also blogged about video marketing in 2019. If that isn’t enough, consider these two stats:

  • According to HubSpot, 81% of businesses used video as a marketing tool in 2019, which was up from 63% over the last year
  • A Cisco study found that by 2022, online videos will make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic - 15 times higher than it was in 2017

Seems like enough for the full two points!

Final Score: +6

You know what this means! While we fell one point short of 2018’s record-setting batch of predictions, we achieved enough success in 2019 to keep this rolling for another year.

Forward and onward. Now, let’s take a look at this year’s predictions for what’s to come in 2020: 

#1: Zero-Click Searches Are Going to Continue to Take Over

If you saw this repeat prediction coming, you’ve been paying attention. Unfortunately for marketers, ad and organic clicks are steadily on the decline and we’re going to keep a close eye on this one over the course of the next year. Over the next 12 months, we’re expecting marketers to focus on optimizing their web content on Google’s own properties (YouTube, Maps, Images, Knowledge Panels, etc) in an attempt to offset any negative impact to their traffic.

#2: It’s Time to Consider Other Communication Channels (Besides Email) As Key Conversion Points

We’re not saying email is going extinct though! So don’t take this prediction to mean that you can stop cleaning and optimizing your lists. Rather, the communication avenues have become so much more diverse in recent years that marketers and companies will need to leverage alternative channels in order to keep a competitive edge. We’re expecting to see a lot more brands connect and engage with customers through solutions like chatbots, Whatsapp, and Instagram. Let’s see how this helps companies make meaningful relationships and drive engagement with their audiences. 

#3: Software Vendors Will Focus on Customer Data Compliance 

With the increasing international demand for stronger personal data protection and well-known regulations like GDPR and CCPA, marketing software vendors will focus on compliance as a primary service. Marketing teams, IT departments, as well as customers, will rely heavily on their tech vendors to adapt to the changing regulatory landscape. Subsequently, those vendors who don’t tout compliance as a prime service, will no doubt lose market share. 

#4: Influencer Marketing Will Continue to Soar

But we’re not talking about the “celebrity” influencers who have millions of followers! This year, watch to see brands turn to people with a smaller social media following as influencers who other people trust. Considering that over 90% trust other consumer recommendations along with this prediction that influencer marketing spend could reach $10 billion this year, we think we’ll be scoring ourselves pretty high for this one next year. 

#5: Alternate Search Engines (NOT Bing or Yahoo) Will Come Out of the Woodwork

We’re not going as far as saying that alternate search engines will start competing with Google; Google will still continue to be the juggernaut it is. However, given the impact of zero-click effects (see #1 above) and the increasing concern over data privacy, privacy-focused search engines might have room to carve out a niche in 2020. DuckDuckGo is one example of this and they’ve catered to privacy-minded searchers with their tagline “the search engine that doesn’t track you” because “search engines don’t need to track users to make money.” It will be interesting to see how this one pans out among marketers and consumers in the New Year. 

And that concludes the predictions for 2020! All of us at WSI are looking forward to what the New Year brings and we definitely plan on keeping a close eye on our predictions as well as the game-changing innovations that lay ahead. 

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