Top-rated digital marketing trends in 2019

I find it really interesting to follow the trends in new marketing techniques enabled by new innovations in technology and how they’re managed. To gain an idea of the most important trends to businesses, each year we ask our members to rate THE most important digital marketing technique.

In our latest research, we asked which tactics marketers think are most important with the question:

“Please give the digital marketing technique which you hope will give the biggest commercial uplift in 2019.”

These are the top rated trends from the report.

There are four clear leading techniques, here’s my view on why these tactics form the top five techniques.

  • #1 Content marketing – this has featured consistently in the top 3 for several years. I think it’s number 1 since content marketing can be applied by all types of business regardless of their sector or size and if the right strategy is followed can make an impact that supports communications across all touchpoint of the customer lifecycle. It fuels all digital channels from search, email and social media marketing. This makes having a defined content marketing strategy essential to competing in many sectors.
  • #2 Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning – This is an exciting ‘new entry’ into the top 5 and suggests that marketers now believe they will see a return from deploying the latest AI tools supporting the many marketing applications for AI we review in this infographic. Within AI, I believe the most popular marketing applications will enhance personalization and marketing automation which brings us to…
  • #3 Marketing automation and email marketing – This is also a perennial feature in our top five and it’s no surprise since, like content marketing, it’s effective for both B2C and B2B marketing. While some more mature organizations will make improvements through use of AI, other less mature businesses will benefit from improving the relevance and timing of their emails through using rules-based automation and personalisation.
  • #4 Big Data (including market and customer insight and predictive analytics) – It’s good to see big data in the top five since we believe in the power of data-driven marketing. Big data analysis such as predictive analytics typically requires larger budgets, so will be restricted mainly for larger organisations, but the use of market and customer insight using the tools shown in our Martech tools wheel is open to all businesses and I think is why this is a relatively popular choice.
  • #5 CRO and improving website experiences – This is the first time that CRO has featured in the top 5, which is again a sign of increased adoption of data-driven marketing as processes improve in organizations who can now run ‘always-on’ improvements using structured AB testing programmes. There is also the option of new lower-cost tools including Google Optimize which is freely available.

On my full blog-post on Smart Insights I give more examples and details on 8 digital marketing trends for 2019.

Latest marketing trends and statistics research summary

We’ve been updating this infographic for a few years now and sharing on the Smart Insights blog. It seems to go down well, so here I’m sharing it on my personal blog for visitors who come directly here. The insights featured are structured around managing digital marketing using our RACE planning framework.

Looking ahead to the future, I have just created a detailed article giving my predictions on the latest 2018 marketing trends, considering 10 trends focusing on digital marketing.


We keep a constant eye on the latest statistics which inform the trends. If you’re looking for the latest stats for a report or assignment, see our article on the top sources for digital marketing growth statistics.

Infographic – 15 Marketing applications of Artificial Intelligence

AI technology is a red hot topic in marketing at the moment, yet AI is a broad term covering a wide range of different technologies which are promised to transform marketing and many areas of business. My recommendation is ‘don’t believe the hype!’ since many are irrelevant to most businesses at the moment.

Yet some applications of AI are relevant to most businesses and offer a good opportunity to increase the relevance and response from your communications, so I still believe it’s useful to break down your options by looking at different categories within AI. In this article we’ll share 15 options in a visual showing how you can apply AI across the customer lifecycle.

First let’s go back to basics. Artificial intelligence means any technology that seeks to mimic human intelligence, which covers a huge range of capabilities such as voice and image recognition, machine learning techniques and semantic search. Journalists and bloggers like to wax lyrical about the latest exciting AI technologies like image recognition, speech recognition, preventing data leaks, or even targeting drones at remote communities. All well and good, but what can marketers apply right now to make their communications work harder?

At Smart Insights we’ve identified fifteen artificial intelligence techniques that businesses of all sizes can implement, rather than techniques which only major tech giants can devote resources to.

We’ve plotted the techniques across the customer techniques across the customer lifecycle so you can see how each AI tactic can help take your customers down the marketing funnel.

All the techniques are ‘AI’ in the sense that they involve computer intelligence, but we’ve broken them down into 3 different types of AI technology – Machine Learning Techniques, Applied Propensity Models, and AI Applications. Each different application has major implications for marketers, but the applications have different roles to play across the customer journey. Learn about the full list of techniques described by Rob Allen on the Smart Insights blog.

Machine learning techniques involve using algorithms to ‘learn’ from historical data sets, which can then create propensity models. Applied propensity models are when these propensity models are put to work predicting given events- such as scoring leads based on their likelihood to convert. AI applications are other forms of AI, which do tasks one would usually associate with a human operator such as answering customer questions or writing new content. Chatbots are the most relevant example – like this example of a marketing chatbot which is already being used for taking restaurant bookings.

For further reading, our ‘AI and Machine Learning Guide’ gives a deep dive into more how businesses can embrace Machine Learning and how to effectively manage machine learning projects. We see Machine Learning as the AI technique that will be most relevant to most marketers in the future, so it pays to learn the concept and applications.

2017 Trends in Digital Marketing

Each year, to get an idea of the trends that will have the most impact in the year ahead, we ask Smart Insights readers to select the ONE marketing activity that they think will give their business the biggest incremental uplift in leads and sales in 2017 (or their clients if they work for an agency or as a consultant).

Here are the results for 2017 which make for interest reading since there are two clear winners.


So, what do the responses show? Well, there are two clear winners in popularity: Content marketing trends and Big Data. Content marketing has been in the top 3 for the last 3 years we have run this poll, so it shows the aspiration for content marketing to commercial success. A focus on content marketing makes perfect sense for modern marketing since it supports a more integrated approach to digital marketing where content is used as the fuel to increase engagement across different inbound channels including organic and paid search, social media and email marketing and also out outbound. Content marketing can support a strategic approach based on engaging different customer personas across the customer lifecycle, rather than treating different channels in isolation.

It is more surprising that Big Data is in the second position since it not a specific term and you may think that is limited to use in big businesses with big budgets. Its popularity is explained since, in the poll, we caveated it to include market and customer insight and predictive analytics. With IBM reporting that the volume of marketing data has doubled in the last eighteen month, it’s understandable that marketers want to mine and apply this as insight to boost response and conversion. Applying Machine Learning, a technique that was much hyped in 2016 supports this well.

You can read more details on the other channels in my Smart Insights article on 2017 Digital Marketing trends and a free download on 9 higher level megatrends that impact businesses of all sizes.

What are the top digital marketing Skills?

It’s clear that digital marketing is growing in importance, but which are the most ‘in-demand’ digital marketing skills that are worthwhile developing so that they will appeal to employers? We set out to answer this question in our new Digital Marketing Skills research report which is a free download summarising the 700 responses we received from marketers.

This ‘State of Digital Marketing skills‘ infographic summarises some of the main findings.


You can also read the full report if you are interested to discover which are the top in-demand skills.

Our guide to the latest Digital Marketing Tools

As marketers today, we’re fortunate to have a huge number of free and low-cost online services to give us insight about our customers, competitors and market. They also help fuel our marketing by delivering automated relevant, real-time communications integrated across desktop and mobile and digital plus traditional marketing channels.

Our free digital marketing tools guide includes 30 categories of tools

To help shed light on the awesome range of online services available to support ‘hands-on’ marketers, working with the team at Smart Insights, I’ve created this new infographic that summarises what we see as the 5 tools in each of 30 categories. We have more detail on how we selected the top tools in this free digital marketing tools guide containing reviews of 150 different tools:

Essential Digital Marketing Tools 2016

You can see we have tried to keep it practical by highlighting management tools for the main inbound marketing tools like SEO, AdWords, Conversion Rate Optimisation and Email marketing. But have also included some enterprise marketing management services suitable for larger organisations like Marketing Cloud and Marketing Automation services.

We were inspired by Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology landscape which does an excellent job of defining ‘enterprise’ tools for managing digital marketing, but can be difficult to read because of the sheer number of tools.

We also wanted to include more low-cost and free ‘hands-on’ insight tools which are important for managing activities like Search, Social media and conversion rate optimisation. These don’t tend to be included on Scott’s landscape. We also wanted to highlight the most popular, well-regarded services, particularly those which can be used across all sizes of businesses rather than being affordable only by the biggest brands.

If you want more details on why we chose the tools and some of their benefits, you can download our free guide here.

What happens in one minute online?

We have a new infographic for the new year looking at the incredible volume of all the search and social media sharing activities that happen each and every minute across all the main digital marketing platforms.

Managing Content Shock Infographic600pxBLOG

The full post is on Smart Insights: What Happens in 60 Seconds Online.

It discusses the challenge for online marketers to counter “content shock” and in keeping up-to-date with the most significant developments.

7 steps to a Content Marketing strategy

Our research has shown that many marketers are now advocates of Content Marketing, but don’t have a Content Marketing strategy. I believe that since content marketing should be at the heart of digital marketing, a content strategy is essential, since specific tactics for other digital channels should flow from here. Content marketing can fuel SEO, Social media marketing, email marketing and conversion strategies too, meaning that they can managed together. From a customer point-of-view, a content marketing strategy supports customer engagement across the customer lifecycle.

So, what’s involved with developing and implementing a content marketing strategy? We cover this in our Smart Insights Content Strategy guide and I have also summarised it in this infographic which we have illustrated with our Content Marketing 2015 research report (free download) published with HubSpot.


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