Understanding Today’s Top Digital Marketing Trends: Facts and Stats
September 17, 2018
Todd Henderson

Understanding Today’s Top Digital Marketing Trends: Facts and Stats

The world is more digital than ever before.

Nowhere is that more obvious than in the world of marketing, where social media and content generation count among the biggest increasing trends in the previous few years. According to MarketingCharts, digital marketers saw an increase in their budgets of 50% over the year before—and the trend doesn’t appear to be changing for 2018 and beyond.

In fact, digital marketing has long been its own “industry,” full of its own facts, trends, and tidal shifts. The effective digital marketer can keep up with these trends and watch where both marketers and consumers are changing their behavior. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of facts, statistics, and overarching trends to keep an eye on today’s top digital marketing strategies. Here’s where the wind is blowing:

Trends and Improvements in Digital Marketing Strategy

It starts with a birds-eye view of the digital marketing world: where are today’s trends moving?

The statistics might surprise you:

  • Lack of clear-cut strategies: although it’s hard to argue against the importance of digital marketing in 2018, there are still too many digital marketers without clear-cut strategies. Some 49% of organizations are without a clear digital marketing strategy, according to Smart Insights.
  • Lack of results: The numbers aren’t too different for the ability of these digital marketers to achieve their marketing goals. According to CoSchedule’s State of Marketing, only 58% of marketers rate themselves as successful.
  • Lack of reporting: According to HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2017, 40% of marketers have trouble proving the return-on-investment of their marketing efforts, rating proving this ROI as their top challenge.

Digital marketing is anything but un-trackable. Digital analytics ranging from Google Analytics to robust reports on social media marketing platforms from Twitter to Facebook make it possible for just about any digital marketer to track their results—and whether they’re seeing conversions for their efforts. For digital marketers who feel out of the loop in 2018, the mere act of measuring results and setting definable, clear-cut strategies might be enough to separate them from the herd.

Perhaps that’s why 37% of organizations have no plans at all to undergo a “digital transformation,” according to the Smart Insights Managing Digital Marketing research report.

But digital marketers don’t have to look far if they want to justify their budget—especially in 2018.

Businesses—even those businesses not especially efficient at digital marketing—average about $2 in revenue for every dollar spent on AdWords, as per the Google Economic Impact Report (via SmartInsights). This broad-spectrum, across-the-board statistic is a key indicator that digital marketers can use to justify larger budgets and transformative new strategies in online advertising.

Trends in Local Search

Google has made strong efforts in recent years to get businesses to embrace its local listings. But are local businesses taking the baton and running with it?

The evidence for the effectiveness of local search is there. Of those users who performed a local search in 2016, 72% of consumers would then visit a store within five miles, according to Wordstream. And of 18% of local searches done on mobile devices, these searches became a sale within a day. That suggests what many local digital media marketers already know: that local searches tend to convert extremely well—in some cases, as high as 20%.

Local is also closely tied to success in mobile marketing. According to Omnicore, 40% of mobile users go to their phone to search for a local business—or at least a local interest of some kind. That suggests a synergy between the two trends that digital marketers can’t afford to ignore:

Mobile Marketing: The Trend Guiding All Other Digital Marketing Trends?

Perhaps the most impactful trend in all of digital marketing continues to be the rapid growth and expansion of mobile browsing, searching, and shopping.

Simply put, consumers really like using their phones.

  • eMarketer believes that mobile marketing will account for some 72% of digital ad spending by the year 2019, pointing to a strong trend towards mobile advertising dollars.
  • A majority of digital advertising budget money was spent on mobile advertising as far back as 2016, according to IAB/PricewaterhouseCoopers.
  • The overall mobile usage trends also support increased spending on mobile: eMarketer estimates for 2018 suggest that the average American will spend as much as three and a half hours on mobile, every single day.
  • Users on mobile tend to convert well, performing especially well at the “bottom” of the sales funnel, according to the Global Mobile Report in 2017.

Despite the success and growth of mobile, however, not every digital advertiser is taking full advantage of the platform. There’s even a discrepancy between perceived success: 85% of mobile advertisers think they’re doing well, while only 47% of consumers agree.

Further blurring the line between disparate digital marketing trends, mobile marketing has continued its strong ties to search traffic. For example, Google drives 96% of mobile search traffic—which means that most mobile searches are essentially Google searches. Additionally, 48% of users start their mobile research by querying a search engine, according to Smart Insights in 2016.

eCommerce: Continued Growth for a Digital World

If there’s any area in which digital marketers can place their full confidence, it’s in the growth of online retail. Shopify Plus reports that globally, by 2021, eCommerce sales could reach $4.5 trillion.

But from the digital marketer’s perspective, the sheer gross tonnage of eCommerce doesn’t provide much insight. Just where are these sales being made—and where can they find the customers? According to MarketingSherpa, email marketing and SEO are two of the most popular sources of eCommerce traffic.

And these consumers work fast—71% of them make a purchase within a week of first coming across a product, according to a global survey by KPMG.

Despite the ample evidence of the growing importance of eCommerce, not every business is embracing the trends. While eCommerce has grown 23% year-over-year, according to BigCommerce, almost half of American small businesses still find themselves without a basic web presence such as a website. That means that while the trends of local search, mobile marketing, and eCommerce growth continue, it’s still possible to best competition with a bare-bones web presence.

Some small businesses might find themselves intimidated to fight with the so-called “big companies.” Sites like Amazon, Etsy, and eBay make it possible for sellers both large and small to utilize a digital platform and begin selling. In fact, 22% of omni-channel sellers do engage marketplaces like Amazon, according to BigCommerce.

Where Email Marketing Fits in Today’s Top Digital Marketing Trends

The average experience of today’s eCommerce user often circles around their morning inbox check. In other words: email marketing remains as important as ever.

Just how effective can email marketing be? According to Experian, email marketing remains one way to increase conversions, as eCommerce customers receiving multiple “abandoned cart” emails are over twice as likely to complete the purchase—even over those who received just one of those emails.

Email is not immune from the other trends on this list, either. SmartInsights pointed to the use of segmentation as a top strategy, but noted its slow growth in recent years. But optimizing emails for mobile has seen strong growth in recent years, which is congruent with the numbers we’ve seen from mobile marketing trends.

Where Today’s Digital Marketing Trends Point

Digital marketing remains a strategy on the upswing thanks to the ever-increasing popularity of smartphones, social media, and search engine usage. That’s not in dispute. But within digital marketing, it’s worth following the individual sea-currents of new streams of potential. Here are some trends digital marketers need to be aware of:

  • Email marketing: Email marketing is nothing new to today’s digital marketers. But optimizing emails for the mobile experience is more important than ever—and remains one of the top-growing strategies for digital marketers today.
  • Social marketing: There’s an interesting trend in digital social marketing—the use of bots. Not only are chatbots common around the Internet as a way for small-scale businesses to utilize large-scale strategies, but some estimates suggest that AI will have an increased role in the future of digital marketing. In one survey, 60% of respondents said they’ve used a mechanism like a chatbot to interact with a business. That’s a self-reporting statistic—the actual number may be much larger.
  • User engagement: The better the technology gets, the more users expect a personal touch. They want to experience the same level of “in-person” trust online that they do in the retail world. Customer loyalty and retention are always important for any business—but SmartInsights named user engagement as one of the top mega-trends for the year.
  • User behavior: One fascinating trend occurred in the UK in the recent past when a heat wave hit the country and digital retailers noticed a 17% increase in online purchases. Even as digital marketing trends make inroads against the traditional brick-and-mortar business, the platforms currently in place for online shopping have made it possible for users to happily move indoors when there are unusual circumstances getting in their way. This points to even more potential for eCommerce down the road—which translates for more demand for effective digital marketing.

Today’s digital marketing world has increased in popularity and results, especially as individual trends like email marketing and mobile promote the growth of eCommerce. In the recent statistics, there are no signs of slowing down in the digital marketing space. There are signs, however, that the digital marketing world has yet to keep pace with the possibilities of today’s digital platforms.

Those digital marketers who are paying attention may find even more potential for expansion and growth in 2019 and beyond.