No matter what stage your business is in, you know you cannot grow without a solid marketing plan. After all, marketing is the lifeblood of every small business. Before you dismiss this post with an “of course I have a marketing plan,” hold on. With so many marketing innovations in just the last few years, there’s a good chance your marketing plan needs updating.

What worked for you in the past, won’t necessarily work for you now. The key to marketing in the 2020s is going digital. Hopefully, you’ve already integrated digital strategies into your overall marketing program.

Here are four important digital marketing trends small businesses should know about.

1. Chatbots

 The more time consumers spend on websites, the higher their expectations. Big businesses can afford to hire people to monitor and communicate with website visitors. That’s likely not in your budget—but that’s where chatbots come in.

Chatbots, explains Cardinal Digital Marketing, are software programs that interact with your website visitors—in real-time. Using either verbal interactions or chat windows, chatbots help guide consumers around your website by answering questions. Think of them as interactive FAQs.

Chatbots provide quick answers helping customers make decisions faster, says Cardinal Digital Marketing. Chatbots are 24/7, making it possible to cater to customers at any time.

2. AI

Chatbots are part of the broader AI or Artificial Intelligence universe. AI utilizes robots, but these actually have the ability to “work like humans.” You’ve likely already interacted with AI—if you’ve ever talked to Siri or asked Alexa a question. AI-powered bots have the ability to “learn” (machine learning). Cardinal Digital Marketing says AI devices “gather facts about a situation and can also collect/store the search data to improve the user’s future experiences.”

3. Personalization

Businesses must personalize their marketing messages because consumers expect no less. One very popular aspect of personalized marketing is when customers are presented with options of products to buy based on their past buying behaviors. If you’ve ever shopped on Amazon, you know exactly what I mean. The recommendation engine boosts sales by showing customers more products they’re more likely to buy since they’ve already shown an interest in similar items.

Cardinal Digital Marketing says, “Personalization is truly the future of digital marketing. And these days, it’s what consumers expect…one study even shows 79% of consumers feel frustrated if the content their viewing isn’t tailored to them.”

TheeDigital, a digital services company, agrees saying “personalized marketing is where it’s at.” They explain that consumers don’t want to see and are not engaged by “generic ads” that have nothing to do with them.

Gartner predicts nearly all businesses that advertise online “will start using marketing personalization in some shape or form” in the 2020s. And they believe there’ll be a move toward fully personalized websites.

TheeDigital believes personalized marketing is “ultimately the best tool for increasing conversions. One study shows personalized email campaigns receive 29% higher email open rates and 41% higher click-through rates than traditional emails with no form of personalization.

4. Social Messaging Apps

Social media apps, such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp have moved beyond the friends’ realm and are squarely planted in the business world, as more and more businesses use them to communicate with customers.

Messaging apps, says TheeDigital, are increasingly more effective for businesses because they provide an easy, convenient way for customers to have direct contact with businesses. Plus, using social messaging apps “allows for extremely personalized marketing.”

Are businesses really using these apps successfully? Yes, says TheeDigital, and offers some suggestions:

  • Establish contact and build relationships
  • Educate customers about their business/products
  • Boost sales
  • Invite people to events
  • Regain potential customers
  • Provide customer support

These four trends are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to digital marketing innovations. The good news is many digital strategies are affordable and accessible to small businesses. Does it sound a little complex? Find a SCORE mentor to help you go digital today.

About the Author(s)

 Rieva  Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is president and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog

CEO, GrowBiz Media
Man holding phone. AI Chatbot on screen asks, "how can I help you?"