The dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing indus­try shows few signs of slow­ing down as brands con­tin­ue to adjust to the pace of change in data, tech­nol­o­gy and mea­sure­ment. As mar­ket­ing shifts away from the clas­sic mod­el of mind­less spend­ing, there are new oppor­tu­ni­ties and emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies that can bet­ter trace the cor­re­la­tion between spend­ing and engage­ment with prospec­tive cus­tomers.

From fake news to Face­book algo­rithms to Google and oth­er tech giants chang­ing the game, the indus­try land­scape con­tin­ues to force brands to adapt to new con­sumer behav­iors and inno­vate to get the win. Based on my expe­ri­ence as the CEO of a dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing agency, here are four real­i­ties that I see shift­ing the world of mar­ket­ing this year.

Every aspect of mar­ket­ing is in the midst of an automa­tion trans­for­ma­tion.

Tech­nol­o­gy has intro­duced new kinds of mar­ket­ing tools that take the guess­work out of adver­tis­ing. For some firms, this has been a game chang­er, and for oth­ers, it has been a death sen­tence. Dri­ven by emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies, ana­lyt­ics and bet­ter data, mar­ket­ing plans are shift­ing every day to match media con­sump­tion changes and plat­form updates. Yet, one of the biggest oppor­tu­ni­ties out of the dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion in mar­ket­ing is reimag­in­ing the strat­e­gy in itself.

Brands need to evolve their think­ing to a process that observes the behav­ior of con­sumers through unique cus­tomer jour­neys and opti­mize efforts accord­ing­ly. Gone are the days when mar­keters can look at the last click in the fun­nel and make cam­paign-based deci­sions.

Dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion is not as straight­for­ward as a one-touch fix. To deliv­er con­sumers a per­son­al­ized mar­ket­ing expe­ri­ence, brands need bet­ter con­trol over their chan­nels and per­for­mance. The rise of machine learn­ing and automa­tion has giv­en way to incred­i­ble plat­forms for attri­bu­tion mod­el­ing and opti­miza­tion. By using these tech­nolo­gies, mar­keters can now track and mea­sure their inter­ac­tion with cus­tomers across all medi­ums to see where their ad spend is most effec­tive and how cus­tomers are receiv­ing and inter­act­ing with their mar­ket­ing mes­sage.

Mar­keters must mine the end­less mounds of data.

Across the board, com­pa­nies increas­ing­ly under­stand that a “one-size-fits-all” approach to mar­ket­ing can’t win any­more. Brands will be con­nect­ing with con­sumers in a more inno­v­a­tive, data-dri­ven envi­ron­ment — espe­cial­ly in retail — by tap­ping into mar­ket­ing tech­nol­o­gy plat­forms for bet­ter insights into con­sumer buy­ing habits. Those brands with cam­paigns that are data-dri­ven with loca­tion intel­li­gence and ana­lyt­ics are more apt for stronger data and greater per­son­al­iza­tion. In this strate­gi­cal­ly intri­cate dance, con­sumers will be con­tin­u­ous­ly touched by brand mes­sag­ing, expe­ri­ences and influ­encers that, when opti­mal­ly lay­ered togeth­er, dri­ve bet­ter results.

Besides eas­ing oper­a­tional process­es and increas­ing effi­cien­cy, mar­keters must lever­age the poten­tial of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence-dri­ven tools to pow­er through data and effec­tive­ly engage with their cus­tomers — and with bet­ter suc­cess after every instance. AI can also help iden­ti­fy the best engage­ment points in the buy­ing jour­ney. Inno­va­tions in AI like chat­bots and augmented/virtual real­i­ty are chang­ing the way brands plan cam­paigns, envi­sion touch­points and enhance cus­tomer expe­ri­ences, all while gen­er­at­ing action­able data insights through­out the process.

The pow­er of search has voice.

Last year marked a huge shift in the pow­er of voice in search mar­ket­ing. If con­sumer brands haven’t got­ten on board with SEO strate­gies catered to voice search, they need to get in the game before it’s too late. Google insights reveal that, on a dai­ly basis, more than half of Amer­i­can teenagers and 41% of adults are talk­ing to their phones via voice search. Ama­zon is said to have sold more than 20 mil­lion Echo units to date, with Google Home gain­ing ground and tak­ing up to 24% of mar­ket share since it entered the game in 2015.

By 2020, Com­Score pre­dicts voice search could account for up to half of all queries. This trend has been hap­pen­ing in the SEO world for some time, and with the grow­ing appetite for search bots (i.e., Alexa, Cor­tana), the tran­si­tion to a voice-search world is pro­gress­ing every day.

SEO mar­keters should make note of this, giv­en that opti­miz­ing for voice search requires dif­fer­ent tac­tics com­pared to the tra­di­tion­al method and hav­ing insight into this new nor­mal could help brands pro­vide bet­ter cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. Opti­miz­ing for voice search tech­nol­o­gy allows for mar­keters to cre­ate more con­ver­sa­tion­al cam­paigns and pro­vides a nat­ur­al way for peo­ple to inter­act with brands.

Voice search will con­tin­ue to explode as more pre­dic­tive machine learn­ing tech­nolo­gies advance this par­tic­u­lar AI evo­lu­tion. Look­ing for­ward, the voice search mar­ket is wide open and it’s pos­si­ble that the strongest user group hasn’t even been born.

By 2021, an eMar­keter report (reg­is­tra­tion required) pre­dicts there will be more than 2.7 bil­lion peo­ple around the world using mobile phones, with more than 87% of those using smart­phones for inter­net access. The report also described the dom­i­nance of tech titans Google and Face­book in the U.S. dig­i­tal ad mar­ket and dig­i­tal ad rev­enue world­wide.

In this atten­tion-dri­ven duop­oly, with ever-chang­ing algo­rithms and updates, busi­ness­es are com­pet­ing against friends and fam­i­ly for atten­tion. The demand for mobile-ready, share­able con­tent has nev­er been more relent­less. Every aspect of con­tent mar­ket­ing will become more user-cen­tric and per­son­al­ized, and brands must be will­ing to adapt.

In order to scale authen­tic­i­ty in this crowd­ed envi­ron­ment, some brands are heav­i­ly invest­ing in video to con­nect with cus­tomers to help share ideas, prod­ucts, pur­pose and per­son­al­i­ty. Like­wise, influ­encers will con­tin­ue to play a role in con­tent but with a new require­ment of stronger return on invest­ment. No mat­ter the indus­try, your brand must steer away from vague, over­ly expen­sive pro­grams and part­ner­ships and opt for rel­e­vant, data-dri­ven influ­encer strate­gies.

The chal­lenge in dig­i­tal con­tent for today’s mar­keter is to remain authen­tic while achiev­ing cam­paign goals. Brands that cre­ate expe­ri­ences that inspire, edu­cate or enter­tain through con­tent and mes­sag­ing efforts will con­tin­ue to win in 2018.