The life of a business owner is tough. Not only do you need to be an expert in your own field (i.e. the product or service you’re selling), but you also need a firm grasp on so many other areas of business–sales, management, finance, and marketing, to name a few.

Today, to be on top of best marketing practices, you need to have a grasp on digital marketing. With all the other hats you wear, it’s a challenge to keep up with the fast-paced technological changes in the digital world.

That makes marketing on a digital platform doubly difficult. Not only do you have to keep up with all the technological developments, but you also have to stay on top of the latest digital marketing trends and best practices, lest you lose out to your competitors—even if you do have a better product or service.

Here are some tips on 2018’s emerging digital marketing trends you need to know about to keep you at the top of your game.

1. Chatbots, conversational user interfaces, and voice searches

The more a business can integrate these helpful tools into its digital marketing strategy, the better it can automate routine marketing tasks, freeing up your key marketing staff members for more difficult assignments

  • Chatbots and conversational user interfaces: According to Forbes Agency Council, chatbots and other conversational user interfaces will rise in popularity during the coming year. As technology improves, these interactions, be they by verbal conversation or written chat messages, will become more natural. This, in turn, will help your brand interact with potential customers to provide information and to assist with purchasing.
  • Voice searches: These tools—particularly the conversational interfaces—can help you capture customers as they search online. Since 20 percent of mobile Google searches are done through voice searches with Siri, Alexa, or devices on the Internet of Things, savvy business owners need to create the kinds of content that will respond to voice searches. You can also capture this market by creating ads in what Forbes calls “non-traditional places,” such as becoming a sponsor of smart home device recommendations.

2. Artificial intelligence (AI)

Taking conversational interfaces to a whole new level, artificial intelligence can go way beyond Siri and her sister personas to provide customers with a customised experience through intelligent targeted marketing and predictive analytics, according to the Digital Marketing Institute.

When potential customers search, buy, and indicate interests online, artificial intelligence can create customised content for each customer. For example, a copywriter for a digital marketing agency took her daughter to visit Cornell University. During her trip, she looked for a hotel in Ithaca—where the university is located–and rated an Ithaca Uber driver. After she returned, she worked on an article to promote the digital agency. Lo and behold—an ad for Cornell’s remote digital marketing program popped up in her search! She clicked on the link, despite the fact she knew it was chosen for her by AI.

She was, after all, an ideal customer for the program. Aligning the content she saw with her desired career trajectory was a stroke of genius.

So it will be with your customers when you utilise the power of AI for your marketing. Through identifying needs and desires through behaviour, online presence, and likes, a company can predict future actions.

Find the customers you may not even know need your product, deliver an ad that reaches all their “I wants,” and you’ll have more customers through your virtual doors than you know what to do with.

3. Keep up with Facebook algorithm changes

In January, Facebook announced yet another algorithm change. Because this change will limit posts by brands, media, and other businesses, you need to learn how to turn this seemingly negative development into marketing gold, say the digital marketing experts at Hootsuite.

The key is Zuckerberg’s insistence that his social media platform needs to prioritise “meaningful interactions between people.” Find a way to encourage these kinds of interactions, and you’ll have better luck on the social media giant. Here’s how:

  • Post high-quality content that engages customers to post comments.
  • Prompt conversations among friends with your content by writing about current events or asking questions.
  • Don’t post spammy questions—the algorithm can catch those in a heartbeat.
  • Encourage your customers to follow your company’s Facebook page.
  • Use data to target qualified customers when you post ads.
  • Post Facebook Live videos, since these attract discussion, and thus will be prioritised under the new algorithm.
  • Become active in Facebook groups in your niche, since these engage audiences looking for the kinds of products and services you provide.

4. Leverage augmented reality for a bigger brand impact

Augmented reality (AR) overlays information on a user’s existing environment to help him or her interact with the new information. Take, for example, the “yellow line” that marks the first down on televised American football games. The “line” provides extra information to the fans, who can then see if their team has gotten the first down.

For consumers, it allows brands to give their customers an opportunity to better engage with the product, says Forbes Agency Council. Apps that can detect a consumer’s location can provide locally sponsored AR content to allow the person to “see” products in 3D before they make their purchasing decision. This near hands-on experience makes customers feel as if they are using the product even before they buy it.

5. Marketing channel integration is key to success

Because customers use a multitude of channels to make a purchasing decision, your brand needs to have a strong presence on all of them: social, mobile, email, websites, blogs, and even offline marketing such as direct marketing via snail mail and brochures, according to Forbes Agency Council writer Lisa Allocca.

Doing so allows your company to have a unified presence all through a buyer’s journey. These days, that’s important since there is so much “noise” out there. When you insist on a strong brand identity, yours will be the one consistent brand that shines through all the clutter.

It’s not just business-to-customer (B2C) companies that need this kind of solid brand presence across all their marketing channels, says Allocca. Business-to-business (B2B) companies, too, she says, do research on many channels before they buy.

As you can see, as a business owner you need a good grasp of all these new digital marketing developments to keep ahead of your competition, and even just to understand reports and ask the right questions of your marketing team or agency. It’s a good idea to complete an overview course – something like a Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing – to help you understand each discipline of digital marketing and understand how they work together, to better equip you to manage your digital marketing staff or agencies.