"2019 Digital Predictions"

What is instore in digital advertising across social, search, mobile and e-retail in 2019? Take a look at our 2019 digital industry predictions.

Social

Reddit is the platform to watch

2019 will be Reddit’s year. With ad revenue predicted to be at its highest ever, Reddit is expected to deliver over $500MM in billings this year (or 400% growth for those playing along at home). To date, the platform has been cagey about sharing revenue from advertising, but those with knowledge of its finances have placed them at ~$100MM for 2018. This figure seems trivial considering their massive user base of over 330 monthly actives and revenues generated by their competitive set. For comparison Twitter, which most closely matches Reddit’s volume of monthly actives, is projected to deliver over $2.5B in ad revenue for 2018. Reddit should be able to deliver this as they have continued to bolster their sales organization in order to support increasing demand from advertisers. Their biggest hurdle will be ensuring they can provide premium inventory that brands deem to be brand-safe; a facet that has led to much hesitation to brands jumping onto the platform in years’ past.

A mixed year for Facebook

After a rocky 2018, Facebook will have a mixed year in 2019. Stories placements will continue to prosper and take the lion’s share of time spent with the platform away from newsfeeds. Watch will also continue to scale and Facebook will expand its in-stream advertiser offering beyond mid-roll, adding pre-roll units into the mix. Additionally, the platform will double down on premium content creation as part of Watch. However, Facebook will continue to combat mounting scrutiny around safety and security, and will need to find ways of bolstering its user base, whose growth has tapered off in markets like the US. Facebook will also struggle to find footing with some of its latest bets, including Lasso and IGTV. We predict that IGTV will become monetized, but only as part of a mixed placement buy. Lasso, Facebook’s TikTok competitor, will fail and be sunset before the year is out.

TikTok to go the way of Vine or Instagram

TikTok (a reskinned Musical.ly) is a China-based video sharing and lip-syncing app that has been regarded in the press as the fastest growing social media app globally for much of 2018. In the US alone, TikTok recorded 80 million downloads for the month of October. These figures are no doubt impressive, and quickly open up opportunities for monetization and advertiser participation. However, the app will struggle to maintain these strong growth numbers. The platform definitely has a host of custom capabilities and provides a unique forum for creators, but maintaining share of attention in such a cluttered space will be its largest obstacle to overcome, particularly in western markets. TikTok’s strong foothold in China may complicate and discourage US-based companies from having acquisition conversations, but the purchase of the app by either Snap or Facebook could be likely. These players would potentially fold TikTok’s functionality into pre-existing apps, like Instagram or Snapchat.

Search

Search advertising will shift away from keywords

Google continues to veer further and further away from keyword based campaign management with every new product they implement. By the end of 2019, expect a large shift in how paid search strategies are formed. Audiences have already become a major focal point, and significant audience reach no longer requires third party data (in-market and affinity). In many cases audience and demographics drive strategy, so the new focus will be on intent, which is based on what knowledge we have of a user rather than what keyword they type in. Google’s move to intent based matching of queries to keywords will mean complex campaign strategies based on match type with campaigns duplicated and sometimes triplicated based on differentiation of match types may no longer be necessary.

Mobile page speed will be the admission ticket to page one

Since “Mobilegeddon” in April 2015, Google has emphasized the importance of mobile experience within organic search results. In 2018, Google began rolling out its mobile-first index, prioritizing websites’ mobile experience over desktop in search results across devices for the first time since its launch 20 years prior. Meanwhile, mobile page speed officially became an organic search ranking factor in July 2018. Web developers have been adopting technologies such as accelerated mobile pages (AMP) and progressive web apps (PWA) to reduce load times on mobile. As websites continue to invest in page speed optimizations and users demand faster, more seamless access to content with the roll out of 5G networks, sites that aren’t fast and mobile-friendly will get leap-frogged in organic search results and have to spend more to make up the difference in paid search.

Voice and visual search will continue to grow

If 2018 was the year of voice search, expect to see it go one step further in 2019 with different ways of consumer search, including voice and visual, becoming predominant. There will be more visual ad capabilities on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) as either image or video, at least for certain verticals and industries. See the auto industry as an example of an area where this exists currently. And expect to see sponsored ads find their way into smart home devices as voice search use grows.

Mobile

5G will take off, but not yet enter mass market

The race for 5G continues, but the roll out will look more like a marathon over the next few years than a sprint in 2019. Despite carriers and device manufacturers making headlines, the network infrastructure, device technology and adoption will take time. The promises of 5G are powerful - incredible speed, lower latency and greater bandwidth, offering the ability to connect many more devices, faster. While we wait with great anticipation for a 5G future, we aren’t holding our breath for widespread availability this year, instead looking ahead to a gradual expansion over the course of the next few.

Actionable data from wearables and in home devices will become more accessible

Wearables are becoming increasingly mainstream for consumers of all ages, across a plethora of needs. Everything from monitoring your blood pressure to alerting you when your baby’s diaper needs to be changed. Smart device usage is also on the rise, with more investment in smart home security, home robots and Alexa-style voice assistants. All these devices mean massive amounts of data being generated. We anticipate marketers taking advantage of this rich data in new, anonymized ways.

Content makes more moves to mobile video

As consumer behavior and preferences shift to watching video, advertisers find value in those exposures through brand storytelling while publishers find greater monetization. This win-win-win format will continue to cause content to shift and budget to flow to mobile video.

E-Commerce / E-Retail

Amazon’s net will continue to widen

Amazon’s dominance shows no sign of slowing in 2019, with the company turning its focus to local deal, travel and other verticals like pharmaceutical / healthcare. You may remember the launch of Amazon Local (flash deals similar to Groupon / Living Social) and Amazon Destinations (offering users hotel bookings nearby for local getaways) in 2015, both of which were discontinued the same year due to slow growth. Amazon is known to disrupt the status quo of industry though. They already have learnings on travel and will look to enhance their offerings with learnings from the last three years. The ability to curate specific product offerings depending on destination will allow brands to play into this space to ensure consumers are well equipped when on vacation. Further cementing its travel ambitions was last year’s launch Alexa for Hospitality. Current brands on board including Marriott, Westin, St Regis, Aloft and Autograph Collection Hotels, with the device used for data gathering purposes to enrich consumer engagement and understand needs.

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