Top 10 Trends in Digital Advertising in 2020

November 26, 2019

As we approach the “visionary” year of 2020, we took a look at what the New Year has in store for the digital advertising industry. Here are key things to watch out for as you plan ahead and finalize your marketing budgets.

1. Amazon Hits Its Stride

2019 was a phenomenal year for Amazon, supported by a record-breaking Prime Day and a highly successful back-to-school season. Brands have begun to understand the power of advertising on Amazon and the unique opportunity it offers to capture people at the beginning of their purchasing journey.

The Opportunity: Brands have flocked to Amazon for its revenue-generating ad capabilities. We expect this trend to continue in 2020 as Amazon refines its offering and advertiser use becomes more sophisticated. Experiment with sending more of your paid search traffic directly to Amazon as the offerings improve, like Amazon Attribution. Amazon is simply too good of an opportunity to miss.

2. Search Remains Strong and Flexes Its Gen Z Muscle

Paid search remains the dominant digital ad channel and as we look into next year we see no indication of this changing. Google retains the upper hand through constant innovation and releasing a number of sophisticated tools that help marketers target their customers more effectively.

The Opportunity: As we move into 2020, a key challenge for search advertisers is how to reach the Gen Z audience. It’s no surprise that mobile, specifically smartphones, will be a core part of this strategy.

Smartphone search usage continues to increase—more local search queries are now done on smartphones. Marin research shows that university students are truly the smartphone generation; with this in mind, advertisers that adopt a mobile-first approach to search can expect to reap rewards next year.

3. Despite Social Controversy, Instagram Remains Facebook’s Secret Weapon

In spite of an ongoing public image crisis, Facebook has continually published positive results throughout 2019, demonstrating that media backlash doesn’t necessarily equate to poor business performance. This growth is likely to continue into 2020 due to the roll-out of a number of new features such as Facebook Watch and Automatic Placements.

However, the real story is still the rise of Facebook’s secret weapon, Instagram. With more than 500 million people using Instagram Stories every day, there’s plenty of opportunity for advertisers to experiment with engaging creative.

The Opportunity: Instagram Explore Feed is expected to launch in the New Year. It’s a fairly new concept for advertisers, bringing more interest-based targeting to the platform. Explore Feed represents a great chance for advertisers to be part of what’s culturally relevant and trending while reaching new audiences looking to discover something new. Exciting times ahead!

4. The Meteoric Rise in eCommerce Advertising

One of the biggest stories of the year is the rapid growth in eCommerce advertising. According to Statista, it’s expected there’ll be more than 300 million U.S. online shoppers by 2023. Brands should identify ways of finding and engaging with the right shoppers—for example, understanding ad formats on different channels and the role they play in the customer journey.

The Opportunity: There are so many formats emerging—from Stories to shoppable posts—and each one is designed to reach audiences at specific points in the journey. Google Shopping Ads, for example, are designed to move buyers from the consideration phase to conversion.

Understanding these nuances, as well as how these various ad formats can work together in a cross-platform approach, can help marketers avoid a siloed strategy in 2020 and will propel the business in a competitive market.

5. Will 2020 See Visual/Voice Search Take Off?

Google, Facebook, and Amazon are the key players in the voice search game. According to Google, 20% of all searches are voice and 55% of households are expected to own smart speaker devices by 2022. We’ve seen a big push this year with voice technology developing at a rapid rate.

Visual search is also starting to take shape. On the one-year anniversary of Lens, Pinterest revealed that Pinterest users were carrying out more than 600 million visual searches every month with Lens, a 140% increase year-over-year. Google’s own visual search tool, Google Lens, has seen similar growth with images now returned for 19% of search queries on Google.

The Opportunity: As speech-recognition accuracy goes from 95% to 99%, we expect voice search especially to continue to see rapid growth in 2020. As Google’s SERP continues to evolve for a mobile world, 2020 will likely see more ad formats that incorporate a more robust visual offering than years past.

This visual component has already seen an impact in Shopping campaigns since Google expanded to Showcase Ads this year. And, with 62% of millennials wanting visual search over any other new technology, it seems natural that using an image to start a search will become the norm in the next 12 months. Take note!

6. Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and
Digital Advertising

The rise of ML/AI in advertising has had a profound impact on the industry over the last 12 months, opening up new doors and allowing marketers to deliver relevant and engaging ads to their customers. To optimize campaigns and truly drive performance, brands have a huge opportunity to leverage automated, AI-driven technologies that allow for more testing and ultimately smarter strategies.

The Opportunity: Data is what fuels AI/ML if you want to stay ahead of the competition it’s important for brands to realize the value of their own data—whether it’s from a CRM, product sales, or inventory. Marketers can be much more effective with their ad campaigns when they leverage both first- and third-party data. Using both categories of data allows them to be aggressive when they expect good returns, and to pull back when performance is dipping.

With the rise of responsive search ads, Google has empowered advertisers to test the capabilities of machine learning in their campaigns, reducing the need for traditional A/B testing. In order to deliver relevant and engaging ads to their customers, marketers will need to focus their time implementing machine learning and AI continue to transform advertising options.

But marketers should also be wary of this new technology and ensure that implementing it into campaigns is in the best interest of your audience. Many of these emerging technologies do not take into account your unique audience and the proprietary data you have in-house. Marketers can become frustrated with one-size-fits-all solutions, when their business would benefit from customized solutions, tailored to their specific needs. For instance, Smart Bidding offers limited visibility and control over the data being used, leading to a missed opportunity to maximize performance.

We expect AI and ML to continue to drive innovation forward in 2020, transforming search and social advertising by letting you tailor ads to individuals, with the goal of fully personalized ads just around the corner.

7. Digital Video Will Hit Fast Motion in 2020

Digital video ad spend continues to climb, according to the IAB's 2019 Video Advertising Spend Report. Marketers report digital budgets have increased 25% year over year, with a whopping 75% in the Media and Entertainment category.

The Opportunity: Consumer viewing habits explain this spike in ad spend, and it’s clear that advertisers should go where their customers are. AI developments for content will allow for more personalization in digital video, meaning brands will be able to tailor video ads. Brands have more incentive than ever to reach users with immersive, personalized content.

8. CPC/CTR Keeps Evolving

According to Marin research, overall search click volume has grown 14% YoY with a big jump in ad clicks for healthcare (85%). The technology industry came in second, with a 25% increase. The most notable decrease in CPCs was for healthcare, which dropped 47% YoY and now sit at $0.61 for Q3 2019. Consumers are heading to the internet for their healthcare education, and marketers in the industry see this as an opportunity to further engage with patients.

The Opportunity: The update from Google AdWords to Google Ads brings many new features, including more automated and smart options, like Smart Campaigns, with new and updated tools integrated directly into the Google Marketing platform. These updates have great potential with the new features opening up possibilities for search advertisers.

9. CMOs Tackle Ad Fraud and “Fake Views”

According to a recent report, global ad fraud is predicted to cost an unprecedented $23bn this year. In May 2019, the ANA released a study reporting that advertisers are starting to break down the pervasive fraud that riddles the digital ad world. However, with losses still projected to total $5.8B due to bot fraud this year (only an 11% decline from 2017), advertisers have a long way to go before they’ll win this battle. This growth shows no sign of slowing down as we move into 2020—the amount of fraud will only increase.

The Opportunity: Unfortunately it’s not easy to win the battle against ad fraud. CMOs must keep abreast of the latest developments. Being up to date means you can be quick to react so they can choose the right strategies for tackling each issue. For instance, just as AI powered tools like contextual image recognition and text analysis are used to combat brand safety threats, using techniques like supply path optimization and relying less on open exchanges need to become a force of habit when tackling ad fraud.

10. Mobile Keeps the Digital Advertising Trophy

People are spending less time watching broadcast TV on an actual set and reading print newspapers, and digital media consumption is picking up the slack. Mobile is the main driver of this growth. Within mobile itself, daily time spent with media on smartphones will be the only category in our forecast to see persistent growth.

The Opportunity: Google recently introduced the launch of several new ad types that will be showing up on mobile devices. Google searches on mobile devices will include gallery ads that allow advertisers to display multiple images for users to swipe through.

Users will also begin to see ads in Google’s discover feed—the feed of news stories that are built into many Android home screens, inside the Google app, and on Google’s mobile homepage—though they’ll only appear in select locations for now. Brands that maximize these mobile tools will be the ones that succeed in 2020.

Wesley MacLaggan

Marin Software
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