Recent Trends and Developments in Digital


Take a strategic look at some of the recent trends and changes in the digital space over the last few months with our roundup of recent trends and developments. How should you adapt to the rise of voice search, what are the social media giants up to, and how many people are online today? Find out the answers to these questions and more in our bi-annual digital trends and developments update.

Mary Meeker: over half the world is now online – and Amazon is first port of call for 49% of product searches

Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends reports are a must-read for digital professionals (or just about anyone with an interest in the topic).

This year’s report, published at the end of May, proved no exception.

Perhaps the most interesting of this year’s findings was that over half the world’s population are now internet users. According to the report, around 3.6bn people are now online, up from 3bn in 2016.

Meeker comments: “Reality is the dynamics of global innovation & competition are driving product improvements, which, in turn, are driving usage & monetization.”

Another particularly interesting point from the report is that Amazon is now the first port of call for 49% of product searches, while traditional web search accounts for just 36%.

You can read more on the Mary Meeker Internet Trends 2018 report at ZDNet.

Action it!

If you deal in ecommerce as a vendor or a marketer, perhaps the key lesson from Mary Meeker’s report is that Amazon is becoming an ever-more-important sales channel – and competitor. Factor this into your planning and competitor analysis going forward.

Instagram launches IGTV video app supporting hour-long videos

From LinkedIn’s autoplay video ads to Facebook’s move into sports broadcasting, social media platforms are clearly trying to work out how to get users more engaged with video content.

At the end of June, Instagram announced its own latest move in the social video space: IGTV. IGTV is a standalone vertical video application for Smartphones.

Used as a standalone app, or via a button in the Instagram app, IGTV allows users to upload videos up to 10 minutes in length or up to 60 minutes if you are verified or popular. Despite it being a standalone app, basic functionality is also available within the Instagram app and website

IGTV videos are full-screen vertical videos, and start playing as soon as the user opens the app. We suspect these design choices are intended to maximise user engagement, by funnelling users into a distraction-free viewing process from the earliest possible moment.

Action it!

At the time of writing, the only thing marketers can do with regards to IGTV is monitor the situation. Instagram have not yet announced any plans to work with advertisers on the app, and at this stage we have no indication as to when or whether they will do so in future.

That being said, IGTV does look ripe for advertising, so with an eye on the future, familiarising yourself with the platform could prove a smart bet. It’s a free download for iOS and Android.

You can find some Twitter users’ reactions to the IGTV launch here.


AdWords becomes Google Ads as part of major brand simplification

Three of Google’s flagship advertising products are getting rebranded and updated to better reflect their future trajectories.

Google AdWords is to be rebranded as Google Ads, marking the end of the “AdWords” brand’s 18-year history. Could the removal of “Words” from the brand name signal Google’s intent to phase keywords out of its ad serving system?

DoubleClick ad services and the Google Analytics 360 Suite will now come bundled together as Google Marketing Platform, which will become the first Google product to have the word “marketing” in its brand name. The retired DoubleClick brand name bids farewell after an even longer stint than AdWords – it launched in ’96, the same year a certain Gareth Southgate’s penalty miss sent England crashing out of the European Championship.

DoubleClick for Publishers and DoubleClick Ad Exchange are to be combined into a single platform, called Google Ad Manager.

According to Google’s SVP of ads, Sridhar Ramaswamy, the changes are “indicative of where we have been directing products over the last few years.”

Action it!

If we’re correct in our supposition, Google AdWords’ rebrand to Google Ads could signal a move away from keyword-based ads, and towards other formats such as dynamic ads.

PPC account managers should consider meeting this change with a concurrent shift – to some extent at least – in the types of ads they prioritise.

Spotify Ad Studio is live in the UK

Have you taken a moment to check out Spotify’s self-serve ad platform yet? Spotify Ad Studio is an established success in the United States, with a user base of 1,025 advertisers in the six months leading up to March 2018. It enables advertisers to deliver in-app ads to users, based on their music taste, location, gender, age, activity and device type.

Ad Studio launched in beta in the UK and Canada this March, and is currently open to applications from ad agencies, brand advertisers, music labels, concert promoters and artists/managers. Advertisers can either submit their ready-made ad, or prepare an ad script for the Ad Studio team to turn into an advert complete with custom backing track.

Action it!

Spotify Ad Studio provides a fascinating opportunity to market towards users based on their music taste and listening habits. This presents a clear opportunity for musicians and event promoters to sell their wares, and could also prove a useful way for lifestyle brands to capture just the right audience.

If this has piqued your interest, we recommend reading up on Spotify For Brands’ insight into how three key user groups – millennials, mums and tech early adopters – use the platform.

Digital Marketing Skills Benchmark report reveals an industry-wide skills gap

This month will mark the release of Target Internet’s first bi-annual Digital Marketing Skills Benchmark report, which uses data from our Benchmark tool to reveal the state of skills within our industry.

In Benchmark, individuals or teams answer multiple-choice questions on twelve key digital marketing skill areas to find out where their strengths and knowledge gaps lie.

We anonymised the data from thousands of Benchmark tests to create a report on the state of digital marketing skills, which breaks down twelve key skill areas – including SEO, email and core marketing skills – by sector and seniority level.

A few highlights from the report include:

  • Email marketing is the average digital marketer’s strongest suit. Respondents scored an average of 52% on this area. General Marketing came 2nd on 46%, while Ecommerce was a distant third on 37%.
  • Sports and leisure professionals are whizzes with data. They scored an average of 43% on the data/analytics section of Benchmark – which put them well ahead of the likes of Media & Publishing (20%), Retail (27%) and Consumer Goods (31%).
  • Heads of dep’t generally know best. In terms of digital marketing knowledge, Heads of Department appear to be outperforming their bosses, with an average test score of 41%, compared to an average of 36% for Directors. Both groups can breathe a sigh of relief, as interns and junior staff generally scored considerably lower!

You can read the full, 27-page report here.

Action it!

The best way to derive useful findings from the Digital Marketing Skills Benchmark report is to use it as a benchmark to measure your own skills against.

Whether as an individual or a team, you can use our Benchmark test tool free-of-charge to assess your skill levels.

Once you’ve completed the quiz, you’ll receive a digital report that breaks down your proficiency by skill area. Use it to identify where progress needs to be made, and compare it with the findings from our report to measure yourself against the industry average.

SEO experts are still sussing out voice search

According to comScore, a remarkable 50% of searches will be done via voice search by 2020. This projection and others like it have concentrated search experts’ minds on figuring out how the rise of voice search will affect search visibility – and as a result, we’ve seen some fascinating findings and theories aired in recent months.

  • A study by Backlinko shows the average page in voice search results loads in 4.6 seconds – 52% faster than the average webpage. As such, PageSpeed seems to have elevated importance as a ranking factor.
  • Search Engine Land’s Greg Stirling identifies HTTPS, domain authority, and use of featured snippets as key to voice search success.
  • Search Laboratory advises that marketers should target voice search traffic by using a more conversational tone, as “people are not robots” and will likely pose nuanced questions in naturalistic language.

Action it!

We advocate the same approach to voice search optimisation as we’d prescribe for SEO in general: hypothesise, iterate, evaluate and repeat.

Start by identifying the expert opinions you believe to be most credible; apply that theory by making changes to some of your content; then measure the effect on traffic from voice search. If the experiment proves successful, you should consider gradually extending the process to the rest of your content.

GDPR causing a headache for web giants and publishers

May 25th has come and gone, but the digital world is still feeling the repercussions of GDPR.

As CSO Online reports, web giants including Facebook and Google have been subject to complaints over GDPR compliance, while newspapers outside of Europe including the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune have suspended access for European readers in a bid to avoid the risk of sanctions.

Further, we’ve already seen the first rulings based on the new regulation – notably including the case of the US domain name database ICANN, which had its data collection activities blocked by regulators in Germany.

Action it!

If your website is not yet GDPR compliant, you may well still be amongst the majority. However, in light of cases like those described above, we would urge you to act fast to meet the new rules.

To that end, you may find some useful insight via our Digital Marketing Podcast episode: The GDPR Interview with Michael Morrissey, who works as Founder, Chief Commercial Officer and Certified Data Protection Practitioner at Sytorus.

Facebook tests option to view a page’s ads

Facebook has been trialling a feature this summer which allows users to see every ad a page has posted on the social network – including those aimed at different audiences. The feature is currently available to Irish and Canadian users only.

This feature is described as aligning with Facebook’s election integrity work in Canada, which is already underway. The move plays into Facebook’s post-Cambridge-Analytica-scandal strategy of making ads and pages more transparent.

Action it!

If Facebook rolls out this feature out worldwide, the significance will be twofold.

First, brands and organisations will face added pressure to remain consistent in the claims and messaging their advertising uses. The Trump presidential campaign’s segment-specific messaging springs to mind.

Second, there’s an opportunity here (we might even describe it as a vulnerability) for an unprecedented ease of competitor analysis into rival brands’ advertising on Facebook.

Of course, if you’re Canadian or Irish, you could try this out straight away. We know we would.

Digital waits for no marketer

That’s all we have time for in this bi-annual digital trends roundup – and we’ve only just scratched the surface of what’s going on in the world of digital.

New trends and developments are emerging all the time, and as ever, we’re working hard to keep you up to speed on what matters most.

For all the latest insight, commentary and guidance, stay tuned in to the Target Internet blog and Digital Marketing Podcast.

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