Over the last few years, consumer behaviour and technology - and therefore the world of digital marketing - has evolved significantly. Going into 2019, we’re taking a look at what themes could continue to be at the top of marketers priorities, and what trends could grow in importance.

We asked a few of Epiphany’s experts for their predictions…

A year of growth for CRO investment

I think that 2019 will be the year of increased investment in CRO. With Brexit around the corner, consumer confidence (and hence, spending) is decreasing and as such, businesses have to work harder than ever to convert their customers.

As a result, improving UX and optimising websites with user’s genuine concerns and motivations in mind will be more powerful than ever.

Consumers are not the only ones with a reduced propensity to part with their money, brands are also likely to be looking for ways to make their current investments go further and work harder, which means that investment in or shifting budget from acquisition channels to CRO is likely to be on the up.

- Emma Travis, Head of UX & CRO

Evidence-based design comes to the fore

With a specialist UX team here within our studio, we placed a lot of focus on user insight as part of our web design approach to projects in 2018, and it’s paid real dividends.

This allows us produce evidence-based design - an approach that continues to be prioritised by online brands; allowing them to make design decisions from a ‘user-first’ perspective.

A major challenge moving into 2019 is balancing UX with brand design, to ensure that online experiences are intuitive but also unique and appealing to consumers.

- Joel Turner, Studio Strategy Director

User experience will prevail

As we move into 2019, I expect to see a continued emphasis across all channels on user experience – it’s users who return to websites and users who convert, so it’s users that Google (and all of us!) want to keep happy.

This means more emphasis around usability factors onsite and speed (of course), drawing the relationship between SEO and CRO ever closer.

We will also see a continuation of constant testing on the part of Google. We’ve seen lots of algorithm fluctuations this year as well as reversals of them.. We’ve also seen a significant rise in search features such as“People Also Ask” which don’t always provide great user experiences and which provides an indication that Google is still finding its way around these elements of the search engine results page.

In addition, building brand equity will remain a key focus, as users often choose brands and all the signals that go along with that are a sign of improved performance in search – going with a single channel in silo really doesn’t work very well and, if you have multiple agencies, you should get them talking to each other with one running the sessions.

More generally, I think (hope) this might be the year that brands turn back to agencies. We’ve seen in-house marketing arms grow in the last couple of years and become much more tactical and measured with the budgets they have for agencies. Depending on the outcome of Brexit, at least in part, this could swing either way.

- Meghan Burton, Director of SEO

Audience, automation & Amazon

I expect to see an increase in the expansion of Google’s audience product suite. Over the past 12 months, Google has been rolling out many more third-party data audience targeting options, including the introduction of In-Market Audiences and Affinity Audiences for search.

This will allow advertisers to create a much more sophisticated audience strategy in 2019. We expect more of these traditionally display-oriented focused products to be rolled out to search campaigns this year, which will enable a comprehensive audience strategy throughout different stages of the funnel.

Automation in ad text

The recent introduction of Google’s ‘Responsive Search Ads’ beta demonstrates its intent to provide advertisers with the toolkit to move away from a traditional A/B style ad text testing strategy, to one which harvests the power of machine learning to test which elements of the advert work best in conjunction to drive the strongest performance.

This will help advertisers compete in an increasingly challenging economic environment. Furthermore, Google’s recent ‘ad suggestions’ tool is a further step towards automated ad text creation; this year, we expect the further development of these products with advertisers choosing to adopt a more automated approach to their ad text testing strategy.

Increased adoption of smart bidding

Whilst Google’s automated bidding product suite is not a new thing, adoption is still relatively low among agencies due to a mixed set of results during testing periods.

However, as Google increases the power and accuracy of its machine learning and bidding algorithms, we expect to see Google’s smart bidding strategies to be the de facto standard for an increased proportion of advertisers.

The rise of Amazon search

Amazon is now the fastest and the third largest advertiser, following only Google and Facebook. Therefore Amazon’s’ ‘Sponsored Product Ads’ are a very attractive proposition for retailers to advertise on a platform where there is a clear intent to purchase.

With the evolution of Amazon’s targeting options for sponsored ads, we expect a large increase in adoption across this platform in 2019.

- Russell Anson, Head of PPC

More demand for multi-channel strategies

Coming into the year, there is an air of caution due to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and its impact on the economy. What this means for our industry, is that there’s an awful lot of caution when it comes to planning and setting budgets for the new financial year.

As such, there is more and more focus on tracking and measurement of performance. So, as marketers, we need to ensure we’re using the budget in the most effective way possible to drive performance and value.

We expect there to be more demand for multi-channel strategies from brands, allowing for more flexible budgets across multiple channels and services spent as we see fit based on agreed objectives and KPIs. So I expect to see a shift away from traditional contracts for specific channels/services to partnerships based on working towards a common goal/objective with no restriction on the channels/services we use to deliver performance for our clients.

- Heena Mistry, Client Partner

Greater PR agility and dynamic reporting

“The world of PR has gone through some pretty big changes in recent years; particularly as the benefits of a cross-channel content and outreach strategy (especially one that supports not only PR brand building but also SEO objectives) becomes more apparent.

In 2019, we expect to see greater agility in the way that PR activity is delivered and, aligned with this is more dynamic reporting.

Rather than just delivering the same activity stream orservice on a long-term basis, we’re already seeing more and more brands eager for their PR activity to be consistently adapted to meet their ongoing business needs, and complement the other services they’re investing in - from driving digital brand mentions and positive engagement via influencer outreach, to driving in-store footfall via a consumer event, and everything in between.

Dynamic reporting and consolidated cross-channel reporting that effectively attributes the right value back to each element of a campaign, is something that I predict will continue to be a leading aspiration for many agencies in 2019.

- Cheryl Cox, PR & Earned Media Group Account Director

Own 2019

Preparing your marketing plans for the year ahead can be daunting when you factor in so many new trends and updates, but we can give you a helping hand to support your 2019 strategy. We’ve developed a marketing strategy wall planner to help you plan your activity so you can be in the moments that matter to your audience.

We’ve added some key dates to help you prepare to target your audience throughout the year, some dates that will be useful for planning content, and a few marketing events for when you need to take a step back.

We’ve got planners tailored for the retail, travel and automotive sectors, as well as a more general one, simply request your planner free here, and we’ll send you the relevant one as soon as we can.