At DMA Solutions, we consider ourselves to be lifelong learners and part of that craft includes reading and absorbing everything we can about business, leadership and the marketing landscape. Based on the marketing trends that we follow, it’s safe to say that 2018 has got to be one of the most exciting times to be a marketer. Technology continues to completely transform how we live and the Internet of Things provides more and more insights for marketers to become smarter, faster and better at connecting to their customer’s daily lives.
If you consider yourself to be a lifelong learner like us, you’ve probably caught wind of transformational trends like AI and VR taking over the pages of Forbes and Harvard Business Review. But that’s not the only major marketing disruptor that’s looming; here are our bold marketing predictions for 2018 that fresh produce marketers need to have on their radar:
Augmented and Virtual Reality will become commonplace
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. It’s no secret that AR and VR are hot trends in the tech and now marketing worlds. We experienced VR for ourselves at PMA Fresh Summit in New Orleans and as early as 2016 in Orlando. What started as an idea for video games has transformed into the future of how we will consumer all of our information. AR and VR provide marketers with the opportunity to create immersive storytelling and content that is unmatched by anything a brand can share up until now. PJ Morreale, senior director of YouVisit Studios is quoted as stating “We’ve likely not seen a technology so well positioned to make a dramatic impact on the way people communicate since Marconi’s invention of the radio.” That’s huge. We predict that AR and VR will become commonplace at events in 2018. You won’t attend a sporting event, tradeshow, concert, etc. without seeing a VR experience.
Takeaway for Produce Marketers: While you probably won’t be able to jump head-first into the VR and AR trend, if anything this should signal for you that it’s time to start making some significant investments in video. Frankly, it’s a nonnegotiable in 2018.
Consumers will demand 24/7 access to customer service
The digital age has offered us instantaneous access to communicate with anyone in the word. As a result, consumers are beginning to expect the same sort of access from the brands and companies they do business with, which means customer service has to be a 24/7 thing. How is that a possibility? Chat bots! If you’ve ever been on a website and seen a pop up for customer service assistance, you’ve probably experienced a chat bot. Hubspot recently acquired MotionAI, and now Chat Bots are a reality that any marketer and any company can add to their own marketing tool box. According to Hubspot, a bot is a program that automates certain tasks, typically by chatting with a user through a conversational interface. With advancements in artificial intelligence, bots can understand complex requests, personalize responses, and improve interactions over time. Can you imagine the opportunity for your own website and not only your sales team, but connections with consumers as well?
Takeaway for Produce Marketers: If you’re already invested in a robust content marketing strategy supported by software like Hubspot, we recommend you start looking into how chat bots could work for your brand before 2018 is over. If you’re still working your way up to this type of marketing, don’t disregard this all together! You can start thinking about the 24/7 customer service angle when it comes to social media. While we aren’t suggesting you have to keep your phone on extra loud all night and answer any consumer inquiry instantaneously, you should be working towards having a Facebook message response rate of “typically replies within 1 hour!” Start where you can; you can only go up from there.
Advances in technology will change the way we do packaging
During the recent United Fresh Brandstorm Conference, we learned how the intersection of biotechnology, materials technology and information technology are shaping the way brands interact with consumers through packaging. Tracking technology will allow thin chips to attach to a package beneath a label completely unseen, and these trackers will have the power to send data in real-time not only to the supplier, but to the receiving retailer as well. This is a game-changer not only for your sales team, but these chips also have the ability to communicate to the consumers who purchase the product about optimal ripeness and when and where the product was harvested. Our prediction is that in 2018, the smartest brands will start thinking about packaging as a form of media that delivers not only their products, but an entire experience associated with the brand.
Takeaway for Produce Marketers: It’s time to start getting comfortable with rethinking your entire packaging approach and design. Speaker Brian Wagner of PTIS, LLC stated during Brandstorm that “47% of CEOs say they are challenged by their BOD to apply innovative technologies to packaging.” It is our hope that forward-thinking fresh produce marketers who aren’t afraid to take risks will be the ones to change this thinking for our industry in 2018.
Influencer marketing will become a necessity to succeed amongst consumers
As the sea of chatter grows louder and louder in 2018, influencer marketing will become more and more essential for marketers to break through the noise with a brand endorsement from someone who can get your audience to stop and listen. Think about it: it’s much more cost effective for your brand to budget $30k - $40k a year to gain reach into a major influencer’s audience than spending that amount on a spray and pray approach of advertising. We know more CPG companies will be adopting strategic influencer plans in 2018, and often times the influencers they work with would rather be working with fresh food anyway!
Takeaway for Produce Marketers: Fresh produce marketers can expand their reach by partnering with like-minded brands and influencers. You can team up with other brands (even CPG partners) and split costs on a project with one influencer to cut down on expenses. Any fresh produce brand can afford to work influencers into their content plan in 2018 if they are willing to be flexible and creative with their thinking. Remember: partner with influencers who truly buy into your brand and products and aren’t just looking for a check. These folks believe in fresh and will more than likely provide priceless evangelizing on behalf of your brand.
With the direction technology and consumer preferences are moving, these predictions really aren’t bold at all. These ideas may still seem in a galaxy far, far away, but we’re here to tell you not to discount this for your marketing in 2018. If there’s even a small opportunity for you to start researching or dabbling in one or ALL of these areas, make it a priority!