Digital Marketing Trends To Watch

Being aware of the latest digital marketing trends is fundamental to the success of your business's marketing strategy. Don’t get left behind and learn about the latest trends from our experts here.

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Robyn Summers-Emler Grow Online Editor

To outline briefly, the top 10 digital marketing trends for 2024 and beyond are:

  1. Using short-form, vertical videos
  2. Cookie-less marketing and working with first party data
  3. AI content-writing tools
  4. Ethical marketing
  5. Marketing in the metaverse
  6. Micro and nano influencers
  7. Customer-centric, E-A-T focused marketing
  8. TikTok marketing
  9. DALL.E 2 — creating graphics using AI
  10.  Making vs taking marketing

Let’s cut to it: UK businesses today are braving it through tough economic times in 2024, and at Startups, it’s our mission to offer them all the advice they need to not just survive but continue to grow. One of our top tips? Stay on top of digital marketing trends as a form of investment in your own marketing strategy.

It is viable to action each of these trends in-house, but do you know what is far easier if you’re a small business owner with limited time? Receiving support from dedicated experts who will be aware of these trends as they arise and help put them into action. This kind of service isn’t as expensive as you might think, however with over 7,000 agencies in the UK, choosing the right one for you might take you a while.

To save you time you can use our digital marketing service comparison tool to compare quotes and prices for the top digital marketing agencies in the UK. Simply spend a minute filling out a few basic details, and we will put you in touch with providers that match what you’re looking for.

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1. Using short form, vertical videos

Meta announced during its Q3 2022 earnings call that Reels now make up over 20% of the time users spend on Instagram. And according to statistics from Thunderclap, the user engagement rate of Reels compared to regular video content is 22% higher.

These figures demonstrate the continuing upward trend of video marketing and ask any credible marketer operating in the space today you’ll be greeted with the same response. Video marketing is no longer a bonus, but an expectation.

But why short form?

As Tom Bourlet, marketing manager at Fizzbox notes, short form video marketing is a significant trend because it is incredibly easy and affordable to capitalise on. He says: “You don’t need a high quality production team if working on a tight budget. Most modern phones are capable of decent quality video and sound, while you may just need to spend a little on a stand and you’re good to go. It is that simple!”

Along with it being an affordable and accessible way to market, it also has the highest ROI of any social media marketing strategy by 30%. It is also far more likely to yield a higher ROAS than other marketing channels, with an average CPC of £0.64 compared to Facebook and Instagram’s CPC average of £1.

Considering short form video social platforms like TikTok have over 1 billion monthly active users for you to market your product or service too, and it costs you next to nothing, vertical video is a must for digital marketing in 2024.

Dom Hearn, a senior paid social executive at lead gen company MVF, agrees that vertical videos are the key to achieving success. He says:

“Short form [videos] are definitely better for marketing purposes due to the nature of media on social platforms nowadays. The average watch time for our MVF TikTok users is around 5-7 seconds. We need to relay all of the key information early, and there is no better way to do this than through vertical videos.”

Jared Ruddy, head of marketing at Forward Partners, on digital marketing trends, says:

“Startups are under more pressure than ever before. Marketers are facing the so-called ‘cookie-pocolypse’ and privacy concerns are hitting an all-time high.

“If the pandemic didn’t force marketers to think differently, the startup funding squeeze certainly will. Many businesses have banked too much on paid advertising and now things need to change. Trends this year should focus on what your business can do to build affordable, sustainable growth channels that can be relied on in the long term.”

2. Cookie-less marketing and working with first party data

gingerbread cookie with a sad face drawn in icing

Perhaps the most significant and widely publicised trend on our list is how marketers are going to operate once Google removes third-party cookies.

For decades, cookies have been at the forefront of advertising technology, yet as Dora Moldovan, managing director of Braidr notes, the ‘cookie-pocolypse’ is a revolution in space that will bring about real marketing challenges, she says:

“We’re facing sparser web analytics data, technology debt accumulated through the need of shifting to server-side tracking for advertising, and costs of reaching customers increasing, simply because ad platforms are finding it harder to target them and the nets need to be cast wider.”

Without third party cookies, advertisement becomes far less targeted and personalised. The onus falls on two things, great marketing that offers proper value to your audience, and first party data.

Why first party data?

First-party data is the information your company collects directly from its customers. It is owned by you, and is a treasure trove of data that, used correctly, can help you continue to deliver personalised and targeted marketing.

What’s more is there are zero costs involved in obtaining the data as you already own it, but the main challenge is working out how to collate, segment and activate it in a centralised way, as it will typically be held in different areas of your business.

Moldovan believes that businesses taking this trend by the horns and creating a smart data activation strategy will not only survive, but thrive. She says:

“The best way to capitalise on working with first-party data is by utilising Customer Data Platform (CDP) software. CDP is a new type of software that combines data streams from multiple sources (analytics, product, customer, finance, etc.) to create a single centralised customer database.

“Doing this as a startup will accelerate your growth and enable you to stand out through relevance — not just noise.”

You’re hearing from many digital marketing experts in this article, but how would you like support from them?

By filling out our simple and free cost comparison tool, you can receive quotes from top digital marketing agencies across the UK that can help you ensure your marketing strategy is up to speed.

3. Using AI content-writing tools

Examples of an AI tool writing a blog intro

Copy AI’s content writing tool

Other writers may call me a ‘traitor’ for including this trend in our list, but it’s here for good reason…

Content marketing plays a huge part in the success of any business’ advertising strategy, and on average content marketers spend around 33 hours (82% of their working week) on content creation.

Imagine freeing up their time to focus on other aspects of marketing that will increase ROI? Or saving on the cost of hiring a team of copywriters?

Well, by using AI content-writing tools, you can. Not only does using machine-learning technology save you tons of time by creating marketing content in just thirty seconds. It will also greatly increase output, as it can churn out copy twice as fast as its human counterparts.

You need someone to double-check the AI’s work (even machines aren’t perfect right?) but after that, your content is good to go.

What does an AI content writing tool ‘think’ about AI content writing?

We asked CopyAI’s machine technology to write an intro about AI content writing tools and this is what the programme came up with…

“If you’re a marketer, you’re probably familiar with the maxim that content is king.

“With so much content out there, however, it can be hard to keep up—even if you have a team of writers working for you.

“If your goal is to produce content that attracts and retains customers, it may be time to consider AI-powered writing services.”

Impressive, right?

The rise of AI content writing

More and more marketing departments are using AI writing tools to save themselves time when it comes to content marketing, particularly when other areas, such as the challenge of processing first-party data, need more immediate attention.

A firm believer in this trend is Naeem Alvi-Assinder, an award-winning brand strategist and founder of branding and ad agency Notepad, he says:

“In an era defined by the content brands write, AI technology is being leveraged to create, optimise and personalise content from scratch, in a matter of minutes.

“Content can now be written faster and at a larger scale than before, with AI being able to produce original content from a series of simple prompts and directions. Not only can content cover more search-related fields, but it can also be more relevant to those search queries, with AI content writing tools enabling that to happen.

“While content will always benefit from the human touch and our ability to weave emotion into writing should never be underestimated, the ability of AI content writing tools to produce content faster than we could ever dream of is of equal remark.”

While content will always benefit from the human touch and our ability to weave emotion into writing should never be underestimated, the ability of AI content writing tools to produce content faster than we could ever dream of is of equal remark.

4. Ethical marketing

The technological advances in the marketing industry are staggering, from AI tools to ad tech, marketers are streamlining processes and increasing efficiency more and more each day.

But at what cost?

For brands to get their message heard, the burden is on ad tech to reach audiences quickly and easily. But this increased reliance on ad-tech algorithms and models to boost performance has begun to raise ethical concerns within the marketing community.

Rhys Cater, managing director at Precis Digital, believes complying with current advertising regulatory standards is not enough. He says:

“As algorithms in ad platforms become more powerful, and our reliance on them increases, our ability to understand and control how ads are served is diminished.

“As advertisers, we must challenge the results that algorithms and platforms present to us with both consumer welfare and performance in mind.”

The main concern behind ad tech is the ‘black box’ models that marketers use to advertise to consumers. The exact workings of these models aren’t transparent and can create biased algorithms that can actually harm your paid advertising campaigns, rather than help.

This bias can include a lack of diversity in advertising campaigns, and considering that 70% of Gen Z consumers trust brands with diversity in their ads, a lack of diversity in your ads is the last thing a business wants.

Challenging these algorithms and advertising more ethically is a high priority for marketing departments, with more than two-thirds (67%) of respondents in a recent survey conducted by Precis Digital and Forrester Consulting stating that “marketing ethics helps to achieve the dual objective of building customers’ trust and driving long-term performance.”

“Marketing ethics helps to achieve the dual objective of building customers’ trust and driving long-term performance.”

How to market ethically?

There are a number of ways you can challenge the biased ad tech algorithm, including:

  • Ensure black box models are inclusive and avoid discrimination
  • Ensure model decisions are transparent and explainable
  • Establish explainable AI (with controls and governance) for lookalike targeting processes (to avoid unwanted, unfair, or spooky connections)
  • Put in place frequency capping for marketing communications to improve the consumer experience

5. Marketing in the metaverse

Building-sized Absolute Vodka bottle shown in metaverse landscape with a band waving in the foreground

The world of the metaverse is still relatively new to all of us, marketers included. However many marketing specialists are beginning to recognise the benefits and potential returns of marketing in this virtual world.

Jemima Myers, marketing consultant and founder of Social Chameleon, likens it to getting on board with Instagram back in the early 2010s, she says:

Strike now whilst competition is low, interest is high and the opportunity to mark your brand as an innovative enterprise is still hot!

And many marketers are doing just that, with figures from Sprout Social’s UK & Ireland Index 2022 report revealing that 85% of social media marketers anticipate incorporating new technologies like virtual reality and the metaverse into their social media strategy within the next year.

Furthermore, two in five brands are planning to invest up to half of their budget into a metaverse social strategy over the next two years.

A realm of endless possibilities

Companies both big and small are exploring the virtual world and the marketing opportunities are endless. From creating your own metaverse world for your customers to enjoy (like Absolut and their virtual Coachella world) to virtual ad placements and virtual event sponsorship opportunities.

Anya McKenna, managing director at Marketing Agency Hexe Digital, believes the metaverse is a marketing trend that presents real opportunities for small brands and startups. She says:

“With this new world [metaverse] we play in, comes a plethora of digital marketing due diligence. There are so many unknowns in the metaverse and the opportunities to get noticed from a PR point of view are huge. It’s certainly worth exploring how you can get your brand involved.”

“If you’re a small brand or startup, aligning with a bigger brand may be the way forward to gain that traction!”

Want to dip your toes into the virtual world ocean? Read our guide on how small businesses should prepare for the metaverse.

6. Micro and nano influencers

Influencers are one of the hottest trends in the marketing world and their popularity isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

Any marketer will say that we are living in a world of influencer marketing. You only need to look at your social media feed to see that, or read our interview with UniTaskr, the brand behind one of the biggest nano-influencer networks.

But influencers aren’t cheap, and for a mid-tier influencer (50,000–500,000 followers) you could be paying anywhere between £100 to £1,000 per post on socials.

The rising cost and fall in consumer popularity of mid and macro influencers over the past year has seen more businesses allocating bigger budgets towards nano and micro influencer marketing.

And it is clearly working, with nearly two-thirds (68%) of businesses that budget for influencer marketing increasing spend over the next twelve months, according to Influencer Marketing Hub data.

Why nano and micro influencers?

There are a number of benefits to working with these types of influencers, which Lily Germain, senior campaign executive at Bottle PR has summarised. She says:

“Consumers are becoming switched off to big influencers and are finding nano and micro influencers to be much more relatable.

“Nano influencers also make your budget stretch further, rather than always forking out on the big-money campaigns. Having a pot of nano influencers working with your business will ensure your brand is consistently being marketed to your relevant audience, creating a better consumer relationship over time.”

Did you know the majority of digital marketing agencies offer influencer marketing?

To find out more about the other great services they offer, visit our dedicated review of the top digital marketing agencies in the UK.

7. Customer-centric, E-A-T-focused marketing

Letters spelling out SEO in Google's colors

To say Google is fundamental in reaching audiences organically is an understatement, considering it owns a 92% share in the search engine market.

Back in 2021 the platform announced core updates that included a major overhaul in the way content ranks on its search engines. Since then one of its big ranking criteria has been E-A-T — a specific page’s expertise, authority, and trust on a subject matter.

This change has been significant to SEO marketers who’ve spent time strategising and planning how to implement changes and ensure their brands are still competing at the top of search results.

For Amanda Walls, director at Cedarwood Digital, it’s crucial that marketers capitalise on the topic of trust and expertise. She says:

“Having good E-A-T is not only important for search engines, but also for users. By showcasing these key characteristics, you are helping to improve user conversion by giving them a more trusted, expertise-driven experience which could assist them to convert and will also reassure them of the expertise and trustworthiness of your brand.”

How to improve E-A-T?

This is what marketing specialists have been deliberating since Google’s major overhaul, and there are a number of suggestions that can help you improve your website’s E-A-T, including:

Creating answer based content

According to Nat Sharp, founder of Sharp Thinking Marketing, this is a solid solution. She says:

“It is no longer sufficient to have some basic frequently asked questions (FAQs) on your website. It is now common to create FAQs for each different area of your business, which can be highly cost-effective. This content will not only help with your search rankings, but it will also aid the customer experience.”

Author profiles

Ensure these are regularly updated, clearly visible and as informative as possible. Specify your expertise, especially if it’s in a category you cover frequently.

Using experts to provide insight and guest post

Amanda Walls argues that a lot more companies will be pushing expertise through their website. She says:

“This is great for the overall landscape as it will help to improve the quality of content being put out, and will also help users to make more considered purchases when they are looking at both products and services — it’s a win-win situation for everyone.”

8. TikTok Marketing

No marketing trend 2024 list would be complete without including TikTok. And for good reason, considering recent data from iwoca has revealed that one in ten business owners under the age of 44 use the platform to market their business.

And why wouldn’t they? Its growth over the last few years has been phenomenal, as is the estimated $4.6 billion dollars of revenue it generated in 2021, a 142% increase year-on-year according to the latest Business of Apps statistics.

Despite its growth, why else is it so popular amongst marketers? Well for starters, it’s cheaper to advertise on TikTok than Facebook and Instagram, if only slightly.

But the real win on TikTok is with its impressive margins. Becky Bottle, head of emerging paid media at MVF, believes this is why so many brands are starting to advertise on the platform. She says:

“The real reason TikTok ads give us incredible margins is because conversion rates and action rates are so much higher than on platforms like Facebook (up to 2x higher in some cases).

“This is because the ads appear so much more native to the TikTok platform compared to other socials. People tend to shut down when they feel like they are being sold to but on TikTok, successful ads blend in with native content.”

Top tips for maximising TikTok for your business

Based on TikTok’s dedicated guide for small businesses, these are five tips to get you started:

  • Showcase your bestsellers
  • Talk to happy customers and use their testimonials
  • Create ‘behind the scenes’ videos
  • Create a ‘day in the life’ videos
  • Create lists — Tiktokkers love lists!

9. DALL.E 2 — creating graphics using AI

Much like how AI can create written content in just 30 seconds, so can it create incredibly detailed graphics from just a few words of text.

DALL.E, created by OpenAI, is a machine-learning programme that creates images from textual descriptions, and it is nothing short of revolutionary.

The ability for brands and marketers to request any image, no matter how incredibly niche, opens up huge opportunities in the digital marketing, advertising and content creation space.

You’ll have to get in line for access to the programme however, joining the likes of Luke Watkin on the waiting list. MVF’s Head of Native is a huge fan of DALL.E, and can’t wait to get his hands on the product and utilise its full potential. He says:

“DALL.E 2 is the type of generational product that has the potential to fundamentally change how marketers approach content creation. If early signs are true and the technology can not only mimic, but actually supersede, a marketer’s creative potential, it could be the single biggest shift ever seen in digital creative production.

“It is perfectly plausible to imagine a future where the majority of the imagery, advertising and even art we see will have been AI-generated. And that future could be a lot closer than we realise.”

Different examples of an avocado chair designed by Dall.E

10. Making vs taking marketing

The trend of making vs taking marketing is significant to startups more than any other type of business, which is why we’ve included it on our list.

It centres round your target audience, and the consideration of whether your startup is a unique, new brand or is challenging in an already competitive space.

The answer will determine how you market to your audience, which will be crucial to your success.

Charlie Terry, founder of digital marketing consultancy CEEK, has a brilliant perspective on this trend. He says:

“Before you even start thinking about your marketing strategy, you need to ask whether you will be a market maker or a market taker, and plan accordingly.

“A market taker will be going up against any number of competitors in their sector and hoping to steal share of search, getting in on existing conversations to rise up the consideration rankings.

“A market maker, however, will be a completely new product that’s unlike anything else on the market. Their focus should be on stimulating conversation, creating interest around a brand and tapping into the power of word-of-mouth and viral marketing.

“Establishing precisely where in the startup environment you fit will be crucial to success in 2024’s highly competitive space.”

Establishing precisely where in the startup environment you fit will be crucial to success in 2024’s highly competitive space.

Digital marketing trends to look out for in 2024 and beyond

2024 will bring about a lot of changes in the marketing sector, including the complete removal of third-party cookies by Google. We’ve summarised (very briefly) the top ten trends that will come to define digital marketing in 2024 according to marketing experts around the UK.

  1. The rise of text-to-image and text-to-video AI tools – according to MVF Global’s Creative Specialist Tom Rees, more AI tools similar to DALL-E 2 will become readily available, including Meta’s Make-a-video
  2. Social selling – selling on socials will become even more prevalent in 2024 according to Heena Vera, Growth Manager at BigCommerce
  3. Content as the backbone of any SEO strategy – nothing new or surprising here: long gone are the days of overloading articles with keywords to move up the SERPs. But it’s worth reiterating that publishing genuinely insightful, accurate, and reliable content is more important than ever following the Product Review and Helpful Content core Google algorithm updates in 2022, the ripples of which will continue into 2024 and beyond.
  4. Faster, more efficient AI marketing – with the release of software like Moveable Ink’s Da Vinci AI, more businesses will rely on artificial intelligence and automation to make more purposeful marketing decisions
  5. More reliance on sales enablement – according to Nikki Dawson, Head of EMEA Marketing at Highspot, more marketers will want to work with sales enablement, as these tools will save marketing teams lots of time and drive better results
  6. Employee brand advocacy – you can expect in 2024 to see more employees marketing the brands they work for on socials, particularly LinkedIn, according to Petra Smith MD of SquirrelsandBears marketing agency
  7. AI content writing tools continue to grow in popularity – particularly when it comes to PR client crisis communications, these tools will be imperative to quickly writing up copy
  8. AR marketing and the metaverse – brands will continue to experiment in these areas, and marketing campaigns will get bolder and become more successful as more customers access AR

Final thoughts: the top 10 digital marketing trends of 2024

Through the guidance of our conversations with countless marketers and advertising specialists, we’ve come up with a conclusive list of the top digital marketing trends for small businesses. To summarise, they are:

  1. Using short-form, vertical videos
  2. Cookie-less marketing and working with first party data
  3. AI content-writing tools
  4. Ethical marketing
  5. Marketing in the metaverse
  6. Micro and nano influencers
  7. Customer-centric, E-A-T-focused marketing
  8. TikTok marketing
  9. DALL.E — creating graphics using AI
  10. Making vs taking marketing

Implementing these trends into your marketing strategy is guaranteed to yield results. And it’s clear you understand this as you’re putting in the time to research and inform yourself about the ever-changing digital marketing landscape.

Without keeping up-to-date on the latest trends it would be impossible to compete.

But for help applying the advice contained in this article, it can be useful to talk to marketing specialists who are up-to-date on the latest trends. This can give your business the edge compared to your competitors, whilst helping you scale and grow your brand more quickly and effectively.

By using our easy-to-use, free cost comparison tool we can help you receive support from some of the best digital marketing agencies in the UK without hassle.

Spend a minute or two filling out a few basic details, and we will put you in touch with providers. It really is that simple!

Written by:
Ross has been writing for Startups since 2021, specialising in telephone systems, digital marketing, payroll, and sustainable business. He also runs the successful entrepreneur section of the website. Having graduated with a Masters in Journalism, Ross went on to write for Condé Nast Traveller and the NME, before moving in to the world of business journalism. Ross has been involved in startups from a young age, and has a keen eye for exciting, innovative new businesses. Follow him on his Twitter - @startupsross for helpful business tips.

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