As a digital marketing consultant and instructor of digital and social marketing at Northwestern, I try to maintain a large network of marketing, business and technology experts.  Each year, I ask them to identify key trends you need to focus on.  Here is there 2019 set of predictions and trends to watch:

  1. AI / Chat Bots / Machine Learning Systems – No area has exploded in the global marketplace as much as AI-based systems.  Today, they are being used for customer service systems and other consumer-facing situations.  For processes which require an exchange of information to find the ideal solution, they are perfect and, because they are 24×7 systems, they are ready when your consumer needs assistance.   A Garter study found that 89% of competition will revolve around the customer experience.  As we move into 2019, these types of learning systems are proving more cost effective and more capable of providing a consistent, deep customer experience.  They are quickly maturing so you need to keep up with these technologies.  Here is an interesting blog post from Laduram Vishnoi – CEO of – on 6 use cases for AI in business today.
  2. Increased Focus on Privacy and Privacy Legislation – The EU passed strong privacy legislation called the GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation].  This legislation created strong privacy rights for individuals.  In 2018, this legislation is beginning to be tested in courts by France.  Their regulators have filed lawsuits in their country regarding individual privacy rights versus ad server systems.  Currently, they are taking on a small ad server business in France but, if successful, it will threaten the ad revenue business models for companies like Facebook.   A November 2018 article from Tech Crunch shows the potential impact of the French Privacy Ruling.   Privacy is definitely a topic marketers and business entrepreneurs should monitor in 2019.
  3. Customer Reviews are Critical to Your Prosperity – In a study published in March of 2018, Business Wire – a Berkshire Hathaway company – found 97% of all consumers use peer reviews and recommendations to make their purchase decisions.  This is supported by a large number of research studies.  Today, companies need to do 3 things.  First, they need to offer reviews and rating systems for their customers to use.  Second, you need to note the reviews and fix any problems they are discussing.  It shows you are responsive.  Third, you need to build “Help” systems designed to answer the most frequently asked questions your new customers have.  This is a key topic in my new book – Prosper – which will be published soon.  People want you to help them in their purchase journey and not sell them.  As this September, 2018 study from Forbes shows, your new customers need support to get the most out of your products and services, your prospects need help to determine the best way to address their problems and issues, and you need to have your customers help you prove the value of your company with reviews and ratings.
  4. Redefining the Consumer Journey – In the past, sales and marketing controlled the consumer journey.  We decided the what, why, when and where of the marketing process for our consumers and prospects.  In the world prior to the web, our marketing world consisted of owned media – content we created – and paid media – places where we could advertise our company.  With online, we now have earned media – followers, influencers, and other media we generate from social sites.  As a result, the consumer journey is radically changing.  A Northwestern University Spiegel Research Initiative study found the consumer journey has changed with the addition of earned media.  McKinsey Consultants redesigned the consumer journey to reflect how people are making product purchase decisions differently.  In 2019, you need to think about the different ways consumers and prospects are finding your company and the different types of media they are using to define their purchase decisions.  It is changing quickly and you need to keep up.
  5. Being Truly Multimedia – My most recent addition to my course on Digital Marketing was the introduction of podcasting and video blogging [vlogging].  Traditionally, companies and colleges have treated marketing content as strictly text and graphics based.  While we “talked” multimedia, we taught people how to write and then publish their written material.  In its 2018 review of video, HubSpot found that 81% of businesses use video and the number is rising and in a November 2018 survey, a Brightcove study found that 76% of consumers and 85% of Millennials used videos to make purchase decisions.  From “unboxing” videos to vlogs to help videos, we need to think multimedia – for real – in 2019.  Same for podcasting.  They all have a role in your media mix.
  6. Building an Integrated Marketing Program – For the last 2 years, I have been investigating digital strategies which integrate traditional marketing and the new digital touchpoints into a single, holistic marketing plan.  In my new book – Prosper – I have found Google’s YouTube strategy called “Hero Hub and Help” to be the core which unites all sales and marketing program into a single, cohesive strategy.  Here is a Snippet video overview of the strategy and here is a video on how I use “Hero Hub and Help” content with a couple other strategies to develop integrated marketing programs for my clients.  Today, you need to think OmniChannel and present an integrated, coordinated set of consumer touchpoints to move people from prospects to customers to satisfied customers…and this trend will continue to strengthen in 2019.
  7. New Digital Content Model balances curated & created content – Content curation is one of the most misunderstood terms in marketing.  It isn’t just creating content but is focused on searching and sifting through content and finding the best content for your high value markets.  It is curation not creation or – better yet – a combination of both that attracts followers to your sites.  They want to follow influencers who are dedicated to helping them address their needs and aspirations.  In 2019, you need to focus on building your influencer network and find great written, audio, and video content and then amplify it to your follower base.  Each time you do it, you will grow your following and attract the audience which will eventually purchase your products and services.  Here is a short video on the new digital content model.
  8. Helping is the New Selling – For fun, go to YouTube and search for unboxing videos.  You will find thousands.  In fact, 1 in 5 consumers has watched an unboxing video.  This trend isn’t about unboxing but the fact your consumers want to build a relationship with your company and that is far beyond sales copy.  They now want to build relationships with companies who can help them achieve their goals.  In 2019, more and more resources will focus on creating an ongoing dialog with consumers [called Hub content].  This is creating blogs, vlogs, eBooks, podcasts, and other content on the topics of interest to your target market.  Not just what you sell but what they want and need.  In addition, it is the creation of help materials to assure they get the most out of their purchases.  Today, success involves learning the mission your consumers are on and what they seek to help them achieve their goals.  It is learning the influencers they seek and the topics they “consume” and using those insights to build your marketing strategies.
  9. Build your Influencer Base – In 2016, Thomas Friedman gave a World of Watson talk about the 3 accelerations which are impacting business today.  His theme was that technology was moving so quickly that it is now impossible for us to keep up with every trend.  What this means is that you need a source of expertise, on the trends you think will impact your business, to keep you on track.  It means you need to develop your influencer base to find out the trends which will benefit you in 2019.  For next year, I would advise you to write down the topics that will impact your business and then use these tools to find the top influencers – both companies and individuals – and follow them.  They will keep you current on any technology, business or marketing topics you find important.  You can find the tools in this video.
  10. Get Ready for the Gen Z markets – Gen Z will become a larger market in 2019 surpassing the Millennials.  Not only are they bigger but they engage with online and social technologies in a very different way.  To succeed in 2019, you need to better understand Gen Z and the impacts they will have on the way you need to position your brand and your social and web assets.  To learn more, here is a good study from Edleman Digital.  It is their free 2019 report on digital trends with the first trend being the Gen Z market.  Click on download to get the free report.

Those are my top 10 trends for 2019.  Let me know what you think and let me know if I missed any.  Enjoy!