Over the last decade, technology has caused a seismic shift in the way consumers search for, find and engage with content.
That evolution is going to continue through the next decade. Building upon that evolution will be one of the most pressing challenges for marketers. They will have to continue to evolve the ways they communicate with people to keep up with the constant state of transition in content marketing, says Robert Rose, chief strategy officer at The Content Advisory.
These are some key content trends that will impact the way marketers build new marketing strategies to engage with consumers.
1. The Continuing Evolution of Conversational AI
Conversational AI — especially chatbots — has become relatively familiar to most people.
For customers, the growth and popularity of chatbots is due to how they facilitate 24-7 conversation with a business. For the companies and marketers, conversational AI tools have become an important source for customer data, which can later be used to retarget that customer with sales and marketing messages.
While these tools are helping companies to maximize customer experiences, they are far from perfect. One of the key limitations is their inability to have complex, back-and-forth conversations, which can be frustrating for customers and bad for business.
The missing element is context in those conversations.
“A lot of how you understand what I’m saying depends on what I said maybe five sentences ago, or fifteen sentences ago. You’re building up a state of the conversation,” explains Satinder Singh, director of the Artificial Intelligence Lab at the University of Michigan.
Computers don’t yet have this ability, and “providing computers with context is not a simple exercise—it’s a complex problem for which computer scientists are experimenting with many different potential solutions,” Singh notes.
The goal, says Josefine Fouarge, senior principal solution marketing manager at Nuance Communications, is getting conversational AI tools to hold exchanges that require external data or background information (context) to drive the chat. This ability would provide marketers previously unfathomable opportunities to connect their content with consumers.
2. The Growing Use of Voice Searches Through Smart Devices
Voice search has changed the way people seek information and shop for products.
This trend is going to continue as these devices become more sophisticated. Already, a quarter of American adults have a smart speaker, such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home, in their homes, Brooke Auxier at Pew Research reports.
This presents a particular challenge to marketers who now have to rethink their search engine optimization (SEO) strategies. The Digital Marketing Institute explains that voice is changing SEO in three key ways:
- Voice queries are usually longer than text queries.
- Voice queries tend to be complete questions asked in a more conversational manner.
- Users receive the top result of each search as the answer to their query instead of a whole page of results from which to choose.
Old SEO methods will be less and less effective as more people perform voice searches. Companies will have to adjust their SEO strategies to keep up with these changes. Instead of focusing on keywords or short keyword phrases, marketers must think about how people actually talk and build longer keyword phrases or sentences that more directly address customer questions.
And that’s what users are looking for: a specific answer to a specific question that they asked without having to browse a full page of search results. They are coming to expect their digital devices will deliver the answer directly to them.
3. Immersive Experiences Become More Mainstream
Technology is driving a shift from customers simply interacting with brands to customers enjoying full brand experiences. These immersive brand experiences are going to become more mainstream as more people adopt augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology.
VR and AR will continue to go more mainstream as more mobile devices become capable of providing these experiences.
AR has already seamlessly worked its way into consumers’ everyday lives via apps and games on their mobile devices. Consumers can virtually try on shoes or arrange furniture in their homes without ever having to leave the house thanks to AR. And the application of this technology is only going to grow as more potential use cases are discovered. “I believe that over time, AR will be bigger than smartphones,” says Adam Sheppard, CEO of AR studio 8ninths.
The same is true for VR technology, which has become more user-friendly and less bulky. For one thing, VR devices no longer need to be tethered to a second device, explains tech journalist Becca Caddy. They now work on mobile devices or are self-contained. This makes them more accessible to more people.
Successfully tapping into this trend will require marketers to create content that integrates digital experiences into a user’s physical environment. Done well, that content will be far more engaging than what’s available in present formats.
4. Live Videos Continue to Grow in Popularity with Consumers
Video, especially live video, has been the preferred content format for many consumers for a long time. Eighty percent of respondents to a survey by Livestream and New York Magazine say they would rather watch live video from a brand than read a blog, and 82 percent prefer live video to social posts.
This presents marketers with an opportunity to engage in two-way communication with their audiences by hosting question/answer sessions, doing product demonstrations or interviewing people. That two-way relationship allows users to actually influence the content, not just consume it.
And consumers are itching to interact via live video. Twitch, the popular live-streaming platform for video games, has seen the most growth on its Just Chatting stream, signaling the demand people have for live streaming platforms. Twitch is capitalizing on this trend by recruiting non-gamers to its community through Twitch Studio, an app that helps new streamers get set up.
This is an indicator to marketers of the growing importance of live streaming and the pivotal role it will continue to play in consumers’ consumption of content.
It’s an Opportunity for Companies to Create Stronger Content Experiences
These content trends are going to provide marketers with exciting opportunities for media creation. Companies will need to think of ways to create content that is more than simply informational; it must also be entertaining and consumable through these technologies.
To successfully engage people, companies will have to create content experiences that connect with users and differentiate themselves from other brands. But rather than seeing these shifts as burdens, companies should embrace them for the potential they create for stronger consumer engagement.
Images by: h heyerlein, dolgachov/©123RF.com, dolgachov/©123RF.com
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