Trends in Social Media, E-Commerce and E-mail Marketing

To no surprise, social media was a significant marketing force in 2018. People continue to spend more and more time on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. When creating your social media marketing strategy, however, it's important to understand which strategies are trending now.
E-commerce businesses have also sprung up at an unprecedented rate, closing brick-and-mortar stores and paving the way for these savvy vendors to spring up in their place. Building an e-commerce business in today's competitive retail landscape is tough. E-commerce business owners who understand the retail trends of today are better positioned to take advantage of the shifting sands in the retail landscape.
Reaching customers has never been more possible than it is today. Because consumers are constantly using multiple media sources - whether Facebook, a TV show, or even traditional print media - there's always an intelligent way to market. But even with this abundance of marketing options, email marketing is still one of the most effective. As a small business owner, you’ll want to be familiar with this guide and the many free ways you can become a marketing pro in 2019 and increase the cash flow to your business.

Social Media

1. Continued Growth of Video

In many ways, video is the ideal medium for social media. It’s a brilliant marketing strategy because it’s free and can reach your customers instantly. With videos, you can engage with your audience on multiple levels. There are many ways to incorporate video into your social media strategy:
● Video ads are powerful for capturing people's attention.
● Explainer videos are often more helpful than text for teaching people how to use products.
● There are also some smaller trends, such as short-lived videos, live streaming, and 360-degree videos.
Until relatively recently, videos were designed to stay in circulation for a long time. While there's still value in creating videos on YouTube and elsewhere, don't overlook the growth of short-lived videos on Snapchat and Instagram. Both of these sites have a “Stories” feature that lets you post videos that only stay up for 24 hours. These are powerful for generating publicity for upcoming events and creating a sense of urgency.

Live streaming on sites such as Facebook Live and Instagram Live gives you the chance to engage with your audience in real time. You can make people feel like they're a part of the action as you broadcast from home, in your store or office, or at an industry event. With live streaming, you can answer questions, showcase new products, and give viewers an inside look at your business. Facebook Live now has over 300 million users, and other sites are attracting many viewers as well.
Another top social media trend has taken video in a whole new direction. Both 360 degree and augmented reality (AR) videos are quickly becoming popular on Facebook and other sites. 360-degree videos are especially suitable for businesses that need to showcase scenic areas, such as properties and hotels. AR videos take it a step further and give viewers the experience of stepping into an on-screen environment, which presents many opportunities for advertisers as well as anyone creating content for their business.

2. More Personalized Engagement

To succeed in today's competitive marketplace, you need to know your audience, which often means segmenting your customers and targeting particular buyer personas. That lets you create content that addresses people's specific interests and problems. One way you can accomplish this on Facebook and Instagram is to run retargeted ad campaigns that provide information about products people have already viewed. Targeted marketing finds people likely to buy the advertised product or service and then pushes out ads with these products or services to this audience. This is highly effective because you are appealing to a particular group of people and getting a response from these groups. So, by using more personalized engagement with your customers you are more likely to grab their attention with your advertisements as you are showing them products and services that appeal to them personally.

3. Use of Social Media on Mobile Devices

More and more social media users are accessing these sites like Twitter and Facebook via smartphones and tablets. This is having a profound effect on social media marketing as businesses must cater to the needs of mobile users. It's now safe to assume that the majority of your social media followers are using smartphones or tablets to access your content. Mobile devices are changing the entire landscape of content marketing.
Mobile devices cater to the type of content people that's easy to view and share, such as short-form posts, images, and videos. Businesses can also benefit by engaging with customers on social media apps used on smartphones, such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Chrome, and others.

4. Influence of Generation Z

While millennials are still getting most of the attention, the upcoming generation of people born from the mid-1990s to the early-2000s is starting to grow up and exert their influence. Generation Z, or, Gen Z is just beginning to attend college and will soon be entering the job market in full force. Members of Gen Z have never known a world without the internet, smartphones, and social media, making them extraordinarily comfortable with the latest technology. Many of the other trends discussed here involving video and mobile will be driven mostly by Gen Z. The degree to which you aim your marketing at Gen Z depends on your products and the kind of business you have. It's safe to say, however, that all companies must recognize the rapidly growing influence of this tech-savvy generation. It would be a missed opportunity to not recognize this highly influential group.

5. Social Listening and Big Data

For businesses to better serve their customers, they need to track the latest information. Social listening, which incorporates vast amounts of data from many sources, helps you target your audience more precisely. Social listening means paying attention to what your customers and prospective customers are saying on topics relevant to your business. That includes not only comments about your business but posts and questions about your industry, competitors, and related products. By monitoring discussions across social media, companies can better anticipate their customers' needs.
There are a variety of tools you can use to enhance your social listening abilities. One of the simplest ways to track conversations on a particular topic is to set a Google Alert based on specific keywords. Services such as HootSuite, BuzzSumo, and TweetReach, have free as well as paid memberships. IFTT, which stands for “If This, Then That”, is a useful app that lets you receive notifications on any topic. You can also gain a lot by monitoring social media informally, which includes browsing groups, blogs, and social media pages of people in your industry.

6. Greater Accountability

Facebook has recently come under increased scrutiny for the way it handles data as well as its monitoring of so-called “fake news”. However, social media sites are not the only ones that need to be more accountable. All businesses must be cautious about the image they project online, especially on social media. Companies of all sizes are under increasing pressure to create social media policies that are consistent with their brand images. A tweet, meme, or Facebook post that offends your customers can have a devastating effect on your business.

These are some of the most prominent social media trends that can help your business reach a wider audience and help you better engage with your existing customers. With social media, it's also important to remember the fundamentals such as posting consistently and responding to your followers' questions and comments. If you keep these basic principles in mind and also take advantage of the latest tools and technology, you have a recipe for success.


7. Subscriptions are Hot!

With increasing competition from retailers like Walmart and Amazon, today's savvy e-commerce business owner must provide a compelling subscription to survive. Whether you run a subscription-only business is up to you, but offering at least one auto-renewal subscription option is crucial for financial success. If you don't provide a product/service by subscription, you can be darned sure one of your competitors will. #BeWarned

8. Customization is Key

If you want to encourage brand loyalty, offering customization options is key. With a growing number of print-on-demand services available to consumers, online business owners who don't provide at least some form of product customization will be overtaken by stronger competitors who understand that personalization and customization is the future of retail.

9. Chatbots for the Win

Integrating a chatbot into your e-commerce business is nothing new anymore. You can't be online 24/7 to help your customers, so why not have an e-robot do it for you. Offering customer assistance via a chatbot lets you discover important details about your customers and help you better manage your business. You can improve your website by providing answers to commonly asked questions your chatbot receives and you can even show a bit of personality in the way your chatbot responds to queries. Chatbots were one of 2018's hottest retail trends. Be there or be square.

10. SEO, SEO, SEO!

With Facebook's recent adjustment to their news feed, retailers realize they can't depend on a social media platform to bring money into their business. Organic reach on Facebook has diminished dramatically. Snapchat is experiencing declining user activity for a myriad of reasons, including backlash from power users and influencers. Smart retailers who use the declining return on investment of social media to fuel their content marketing and search engine optimization efforts (SEO) will be the big winners in long-term customer acquisition. If you haven't developed a detailed content marketing strategy, now is the time.

11. Don't Do It Without Data

You should back each of your marketing decisions with data. Thanks to the plethora of data analytics tools available (free and paid), today's retailers have more access to data than ever before. Smart retailers in 2018 were increasingly using data to determine the trajectory of their business development efforts. From your SEO strategy to the frequency of your posts on social media, you should base each element of your outreach efforts on data analysis for optimal performance.

Understanding these crucial 2018 retail trends is imperative if you want your e-commerce business to survive and thrive. With the retail landscape changing at a rapid pace (think augmented reality, voice-enabled shopping, etc.), e-commerce business owners need to understand what is happening in their sector if they want to prepare for the future of retail. Incorporate these retail trends into your brand development strategy, and there is a good chance you will be on steady ground as the retail landscape continues to shift.

Email Marketing

12. Customized Call to Action

The attention span of someone receiving an email is extremely short. This means that you need to come up with a convincing reason to keep reading your pitch in the first few sentences. Why exactly should a potential customer care about what you're offering?
It's relatively easy to develop a general call to action for your business or product. But this call to action might not be the best way to communicate to all of your potential customers, as each person comes from a different background and has different experience in the field you're selling in.
That's why a customized call to action comes in. By sub-categorizing potential customers into unique groups, you can create special calls to action for each of those groups. This makes your marketing emails far more personal and gripping than a generic version, likely engaging more customers.

13. Personalized Stories

Perhaps instead of selling a product to your email list right away, you could create interest in another way. One way to do this is to find unique stories from prior customers and seamlessly integrate the products they used in that story. If you can find customer stories that resonate with people, then they're likely to read the entire email or click to your website - a way to gain new leads or drive traffic to areas of the website that may get little attention otherwise.
While this may take more effort to craft, this type of marketing can reap plentiful rewards. By comparison, engaging consumers in products used by others in breathtaking ways, you can create buy-in that can't be matched any other way. This format can also waterfall: one story may lead to multiple item purchases, which in turn could lead to even more unique stories.

14. Co-marketing

Does your product pair extremely well with another product or service? If so, then you might be able to co-market with a company offering that product. While this strategy has some risks - namely, you may see some decreased enthusiasm because the price of the two products is far greater than one - there are massive benefits for you as a company.
By co-marketing with another company, you may be able to gain access to that company's email list. This can then be added and cross-referenced with yours, adding room for potential growth. It also associates your brand with the other company's brand. This means that there are more chances for potential customers to recognize your brand, which in turn drives more sales. Finally, it builds great business rapport with companies inhabiting similar spaces to yours, increasing your company's professional network.
Though email marketing is nearly as old as the internet, it still proves extremely useful for the majority of companies. If you want to be successful through email marketing, then you must constantly try new techniques. While these techniques are not the newest advances in the email marketing scene, automation and customization make them far easier and available than ever before. If done correctly, any one of these three could help you see some amazing return rates from email marketing alone.

These 14 simple steps can help put your business on track for success this year. Set goals to start using these trends throughout the year. All you need to do is pay attention to social media and video trends, see what Gen Z is up to, and follow along with the latest news. Follow this advice and even if you don’t make huge changes right away, small steps along the way will help your business grow in time for the trends of the future.

Like what you read? Find more helpful articles from Wide Merchant Group here. To learn more about us, and how our merchant financing programs help small business owners like you, contact us today.