Not a day goes by without many tiny changes in Google’s algorithms, Facebook’s advertising platform, or trending memes. Consumer’s interests are always fluctuating and with each passing year older technology gets replaced by something newer, faster, and more interesting. This year, we as digital marketers are seeing trends in artificial intelligence, a new generation of consumers, and more. Here are a few significant marketing trends you can’t afford to miss:

Virtual Assistants

Let’s take a closer look at a few statistics. Towards the end of last year, it is estimated that 35.6 million homes in the United States used smart speakers or virtual assistants, up 129% from 2016. Over 70% of smart speaker owners have an Amazon Echo, with Google Home catching up quickly.

Marketing Trends for 2018: Voice Search and Home Assistants Will Be the Next Big Thing for Ecommerce

Marketing Trends for 2018: Voice Search and Home Assistants Will Be the Next Big Thing for Ecommerce

For digital marketers in the realm of eCommerce, the buying power of digital assistants should no longer be an untapped market. Amazon’s prominent use of (and former monopoly over) one-click purchasing for spur of the moment shopping has already dominated the eCommerce industry. Marketers should be aware of the impact VAs will have on the buyer’s journey and craft copy to reflect the rapid growth of voice search.

Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality has been a hot-button issue as of late, and it’s about to get hotter. Recently, the FCC voted to repeal net-neutrality which now must be brought to Congress for a vote. Luckily, ISPs such as AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast have thrown a lot of money at lobbyists to sway the administration to vote to keep Net Neutrality going. However, as we have seen this past year, the current administration has been quite unpredictable.

What does this mean for marketers? Unless you work for a multi-million dollar business who can afford to pay higher fees for faster service, the audience you reach and the affordability of keeping your website running will shrink, and with it, your profits. Small businesses will struggle to compete with large ones, giving the already advantaged businesses even more influence over customers.

When it comes to organic and paid search, Google prefers quick-loading pages, as do potential customers, so if your business’s website speeds fall short due to the inability to pay higher premiums for faster service, you may be at risk for losing valuable business despite quality products and services or engaging content. As of now, we can voice our support for Net Neutrality and equal internet access for all.

Augmented Commerce

Virtual and augmented reality are on the rise with games such as Pokemon Go and Ingress, and now brands such as Amazon, Ikea, and Target have jumped on the bandwagon. With features such as Amazon View, users can use their smartphone cameras to visualize furniture, toys, games, and art in their existing living space. With the iOS 11 upgrade, Apple has made adding AR functionality to apps much easier. By the end of the year, over 600 million devices will have AR functionality. Google has also released their own version of the software on upwards of 100,000 devices.

Marketing Trends for 2018: Augmented Reality can change the way consumers shop.

Marketing Trends for 2018: Augmented Reality can change the way consumers shop.

While major brands experiment with augmented commerce, Facebook’s Camera effects and Snapchat’s 3D World Lens have taken control of AR brand advertising. Snapchat allows brands to create 3D emojis and objects that they insert into images and target based on certain demographics such as age and gender. But they’re not the only companies taking interest in AR. Last year, Patron released an app where users could “transport’ themselves to Jalisco and find themselves in a tequila distillery, complete with a bartender and views of an agave field. Within a day of the app’s release, searches of “tequila” and “Patron” increased by 100%. As gimmicky as it sounds, consumers are measurably taking interest, with numbers that are nothing to scoff at.

Social Influencer Marketing

In the world of social media, users look to peers for recommendations for media such as music, movies, and television, as well as restaurants and products. And as social media advertising continues to expand and traditional TV viewership declines, social influencers will continue to have a huge impact on their followers, and marketers are taking heed of this trend.

According to Forbes, 73% of marketers have worked influencers into their budget, and an ION poll found that 71% of consumers have made purchases based on a reference from their social feeds. But technically we know the impact of social influencers, so what’s new for 2018? Forget celebrity endorsements and macro-influencers.

Micro-influencers, or users with 1,000-100,000 followers, have an engagement rate of 9.7%, compared to the 1.2% of macro-influencers. Even better for small businesses with limited budgets, micro-influencers only cost around $250-$500 per post.

Generation Z

Generation Z is about to inherit the Earth and marketers should be ready to channel their buying power. Generation Z is the generational group that was born between 1996 and 2010. By 2020, they will make up 40% of consumers and currently influence family spending by $600 million per year. Having grown up with the internet, they are inherently more comfortable with online shopping and outpace Millennials as a buying group by $3 million per year.

Gen Zers also have different online habits. 60% say they won’t use slow websites or apps, so if your marketing plan still does not include optimizing site speeds for mobile, you better get a move on. They also look for more engaging relationships with brands, and prefer Collaborative Engagement. By maintaining a dialogue and engaging with potential customers, brands have a higher likelihood of building a relationship with their customer base and increasing adoption of their service.

By keeping up with current technological trends, marketers are more likely to catch the attention of this all-powerful buying group.