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The pace of change in marketing trends can be head-spinning. From creating virtual reality experiences to trying to find influencers before they get outdated to everybody shifting their marketing focus to Gen Z after you’ve just spent the past three years reading dozens of articles about getting your message right for Millennials, the world of marketing trends is constantly growing and adapting as organizations seek to find an edge over the competition.

To help you keep track of what the future holds for marketing and what new technologies are an absolute must to get on board with, we’ve put together this article on the most important marketing trends for 2018 and beyond.

  1. Virtual Reality

Having long been talked about by sci-fi writers and amateur future predictors, advances in virtual reality are finally catching up with the expectations people have had of the technology. With Facebook’s purchase of Oculus Rift, Google’s Daydream View and Samsung’s Gear VR, some of the biggest players in global technology are investing heavily in making virtual reality an actual reality.

For marketers, the potential is huge. Being able to guide your audience through an interactive virtual world and tell your story with their undivided attention is the kind of opportunity brands would pay hugely for. While still a new and relatively niche technology, virtual reality has the potential to become a massive area of marketing expenditure. 2018 should be the year that you start making the connections and discovering how you can get VR working for you.

  1. Voice Search

With Siri being the major progenitor of the genre, Alexa (Amazon’s Echo Dot) and Google Home Mini are taking the story of home assistants to new heights. Voice search is notable for delivering precise search information, making the coveted top spot on search engine results pages even more valuable as it’s either first or nothing.

Voice search does also provide opportunities however, as previously unsearched long-tail keywords are more common in speech. For example, while typing you might stick to a simple “vegetarian burgers Williamsburg” and sort through your options for dinner. However, with voice search a far more precise phrase like “what place has the best range of vegetarian burgers in Williamsburg” rolls off the tongue a lot easier. By searching for and cultivating those longer keywords, you can grab a lot more of that voice search traffic.

  1. User-generated Content

Customers trust other customers, and they want to know what their experience was like. In fact, 86% of customers believe that authenticity is vital in their purchasing decision and 60% felt that user-generated content, i.e. customer feedback and reviews was the most authentic form of content.

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To take advantage of the trust that new leads have for your current customers, be careful of how you phrase questions when asking for feedback. Use phrases like “We’d love to hear what you think about our product” to start with a positive slant or “If you have a minute we’d be happy to hear what you like most about our service” to try and engineer the responses you want.

  1. Chatbots with Integrated AI

Having an always-on customer service agent gives visitors to your site the impression that you are always ready to listen to them. By incorporating the processing abilities of artificial intelligence, your chatbots can also learn to respond ever more accurately to customer queries.

This gives your organization a significant boost in knowing that no matter what the time of day or global location, your visitors will always be able to get the answers they need or at least not leave without some kind of information.

  1. Instagram Stories

The huge growth of Instagram Stories, now with more than 300 million daily users, has made it a huge factor in any organizations’ social media strategy. In case you haven’t jumped on this marketing trend yet, Instagram Stories allows users to post photos and short videos from throughout your day, together in one clip. It only lasts for 24 hours, but this up-to-the-minute informal insight has resonated greatly with Instagram users and is definitely one of the biggest marketing trends of the past couple of years.