Get ready for the new decade with our 2020 vision.

Looking ahead to the new year and the new decade, I've put together my 20/20 vision for the future. It's my take on what everyone is saying is going to be the next new, better, updated, tool, system, theory for 2020. I hope you enjoy.

  1. LinkedIn
    Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the past two years you'll know that LinkedIn is now more than just a CV depository. It's now the biggest business social media platform in the world and fast becoming one of the biggest content providers. Gone are the days of recruitment companies hounding you with job offers (it still happens, but you can turn them off). Today, we are seeing companies and their employees building brands, telling stories, delivering authentic insight and value through articles, posts, video and documents. This networking platform is fast becoming the go to place for businesses to make new long-term connections, build trust and generate business. A word of warning though... treat your activity on LinkedIn much like your would dating. You wouldn't go on your first date and get down on one knee and propose to the blind date, so don't go looking for the hard sell once you connected with someone. Maybe go on a couple of dates, find out what wine they like or what movies they prefer. Play the long game and be real.
  2. Authenticity
    I am delighted that everyone is talking more and more about this subject. We've hurtled super fast from a world where only the few had the tools and skills to publish content, to a world where even your three year old niece has her own YouTube channel. Now, this is amazing for bringing a world closer together and experiencing new and different cultures, but it also means there are loads of bland, tasteless, vanilla and on the other side rude, disgusting and disturbing content and users. Authenticity to me means being yourself and it's great to see this uniqueness pushing through harder in 2020. We are all real, unique and authentic individuals, so being this in marketing and especially social channels allows us to continue our fascination with people, experiencing cultures and opinions. Let's not end up bland and robotic all looking the same.
  3. Tik Tok
    Sssshhh... I need to speak in a low voice in case my kids hear that I am now on this platform and decide never to talk to me again. Yes, Tik Tok is the next big social channel, if you're over 21 then you're not included apparently. This short-form video content platform (15 second long clips play on repeat) has been the launch pad for some of the next musicians, actors, entertainers, alongside sub 20-year-olds documenting their dinners, parents being OGs and their life in film.
  4. Insourcing
    We've seen this cycle before and it has almost always come full circle. The current environment for remote working, flexible working and WFH has perhaps covered up some of the issues with insourcing talent, but we're seeing more and more challenges in this area. In our sector of marketing and creativity, designers and developers were being poached to join client-side teams. However, the infrastructure and management of these niche individuals is alien to the client's daily role. Designers get creatively frustrated working on PowerPoint for the MD or working with the same brand day-in-day-out. Even outwith this area we've witnessed the nomadic nature of the next generation workforce, almost believing 18 months is too long in one role. It's an interesting future for both client and agencies.
  5. Cut down on marketing or tech stack
    Here is a critical tactic to start now or the first week you return from Christmas (do it personally alongside your business). Go check your credit cards, bank accounts and see what apps, software and memberships you are paying for each month. Remember that time you set up the Search Ranking tool and you're still paying without using it for 8 months? What about that software you signed-up for monthly but never use. This is all fine when it's $9 a month out of your personal account, but you might multiply this by 20 or 100 when it comes to your business. Are you, or individuals in your team, building a tech stack which is unique and no-one else in the organisation uses or has access to? This challenge continually grows and expands, building silos and disjointing your team.

  6. Voice
    For me this is one of the biggest areas of growth and worry. I am a total voice nerd. I love setting triggers and skills for my home Alexa; 'trigger lights on', 'trigger it's Christmas', 'trigger world domination'. But with all this automation and listening technology, where does that leave search and brands jostling for position in a crowded marketplace? 'Alexa, find me the best home insurance price'. 'Alexa, find me the best hotel in York'. Fantastic results and we have an assistant to do all the hard work for us. Downside for companies and brands is that Alexa can only suggest one result! So, is it going to be your brand that sits at the top of Alexa's choices? Okay, I am pushing the issue here but (see point 20 on branding) to make this work for your company, surely the ultimate goal is for a user to ask for your company or product name and bypass the automated search results. Things will evolve and data sitting behind your device will verify and authenticate, showing best placed results for your location, age, needs, styles, wants, purchases etc. So 'listen' to this space!

  7. The move away from themed website
    Hallelujah! On this subject matter I am totally in agreement. Again, this comes back to being authentic as in point one. I totally understand that you can spin up a WordPress or SquareSpace website in about 10 minutes, but so can and so has everyone else. As a frustrated ex-designer, I have a love/hate relationship with these types of websites. You can create a site for you mum's best friend who wants to showcase her knitting in a day, but each and every theme is now becoming the norm. They are becoming vanilla and bland. This slowly starts to become the default and each site, each product, each service begins to become boring and the audience log-on then immediately switch-off. We have more tools, skills and variables now to build unique, engaging and personal websites. 

  8. Reduction of garbage content
    This has to be a slight double-edged sword. The platforms and search engines are pushing us for quality content that is informative to the user, resonates with large audiences and is evergreen. But until you've done some super deep-digging and education on how and why 'Content is King' (see point 11) then you do have to produce some rather average work. However, I believe that we have seen an overload of garbage content including underhand tricks to gain search positioning or drive social content. Think click-bait or dodgy review sites, where the content is clearly being generated to catch your initial attention and drive you to a secondary action (purchase, offer, advertising). So, think about your audience, adding value, interest and as ever be authentic. By all means generate content by the bucket-load, but make it the best you can be by thinking of your audience first.

  9. Email is still amazing
    Email is dead. Email is on the decline. Email is for old folk! However, email done right is still the biggest and best ROI in your marketing arsenal. It can be easy to do, give you loads of choice, options, flexibility, automation, segmentation and stacks of results. But, as with everything, it needs to be done really well. We've gone from mass email spamming your inbox, to the fears of virus filled clicks, to perhaps now a place where subtlety, timing, quality data and personalisation are tools we need to adopt more of. Think more of the individual and less of the quantity. Just because the recipient didn't open, click and purchase from that single email, does it mean they're not interested? Maybe they just weren't interested today or in that message. 

  10. End to end personalisation
    We're talking more than adding {insert firstname, surname} to emails and mass mailing. With the advancement of technology and the huge amounts of data gathered through all mediums personalisation means more than just a token name. Users are looking for and are expecting a full end-to-end personalisation process. Their user journeys are tailored to their needs, not generic random, mass thoughts. Marketeers and the systems they use are becoming far more sophisticated and the users are expecting far more accurate tailored actions, journeys and content that fits with their data history. Think past actions, purchases, interests and searches. 

  11. Content is King
    Content has always been King. Content, content, content. Today the highest quality content rises to the top of search engines and social platforms and is shared and digested by the masses. Whilst there is an art to understanding what to write, how to write, keywords to include, length of content, where to publish, when to update... you should always start with the basics. Write passionately, openly, honestly and knowledgeably about your topic. Give away all your secrets, tips, tools, expertise (see point 15 Transparency), refer to other locations/publications/authors. Write something deep and of quality that you would always refer back to or share with your colleagues, friends and family.

  12. Learning Management Systems (LMS)
    I really thought that 2018/19 was going to be the year of the LMS, with huge moves forward in some amazing online platforms. The gateway to online education, teaching and learning was open for action. Maybe we were just ahead of the curve on this one, but I still predict this to be massive. The uptake has been for many online businesses to set-out their stall as a price-focused, membership system that is a pay-to-play model. My vision was that I needed to educate my colleagues on the current LEWIS job process (a twelve step process from on-boarding to on-going relationship management). I couldn't take everyone into a room and waste two hours going through each point. So, I would build an online training course with twelve easy steps (text, video, pdfs, quizes, completion certificates, chat-groups). Stop thinking Open University and start thinking continuous learning in small easily manageable chunks. 

  13. Security and online protection
    Gulp. Don't assume this will never happen to you. It's not a matter of 'if' it is a matter of 'when'. We all know how much hassle this is, email bounces from client's firewalls, constant password changes for systems and tools, cloaked email addresses from your colleagues. It is the price we have to pay to be digital and have everything at our fingertips.

  14. The continued rise of video
    Gone are the days of TV studios and huge effort to make video content. We are seeing massive increases in the engagement with video prior to purchase. Content on social channels is now the norm and gains far greater engagement than static posts or text posts. Selling your services or product via video is far easier and effective than text and image content. With options for short edits, cut-down clips, longer content, is easy to make one video into multiple effective shorter pieces that resonate with different audiences. Social channels are now all accepting and encouraging of video content.

  15. Transparency giving away value
    This is very much my kind of vision for 20/20. All the points we cover in this article are all based around being authentic, real people, who have real thoughts, feelings, ideas, thoughts and visions. Holding all this internally or not giving away your value means that nobody actually sees your true worth. Giving value is the new currency in business. Education of our clients means we can gain more trusting relationships, that last longer and are mutually beneficial. Transparency and giving away value may seem like you're opening the doors to the businesses crown jewels, but you really are just presenting yourself and your business as a trustworthy, open and honest business. 

  16. Employee advocacy
    We've talked a huge amount about your target audience and the needs and wants for your brand. However, I truly agree that this point on Employee Advocacy is a essential part of any business plan for 2020. We've been constantly told about the benefits of building an astounding company culture, to retain staff, increase productivity, and turn them into brand advocates. Ensuring your team can share their experiences and benefits of your brand in channels is a critical factor in building a better brand. With staff endorsing their companies, pushing content out can build a far rounder picture than looking at a every formal and business focused website. 

  17. Interactive content
    How many websites are you driven to then asked to do all the hard work to purchase? It's finding the right page/content/style, working out their shopping cart, where's the size chart? How do I calculate X or Y? Interactive content has always been the poor cousin of social and video, but it plays a huge part in engagement and ultimately purchase. Interactive content can be anything from an online calculator, sliders, quizzes, polls or augmented reality ads and 360 degree video. These tools can help cut down decision making time, drive clarity and make the user experience better for your audience.

  18. Progressive Web Apps (PWA)
    If you are anything like me you hate the constant pop-up of 'download the app' every time you search for a new product and hit a brand's website. Once your hooked in, there's the constant updates, user name and passwords needing re-inserted. Progressive Web Apps are basically websites that work like apps. Technology and tools in building PWA is now just as good as building native apps. They work on multiple devices and platforms without having to publish via Andriod or iOS stores. 

  19. Podcasts
    If you're not already an advocate, go download a podcast and listen to it on the bus, train or whilst out walking. The format exploded over the past two years and is currently one of the biggest platforms out there. Yes, you have the celebrities, but there's a new breed of podcasters who are smashing through 100 million downloads. It's super easy to execute from recording in voice-notes on your phone to full studio set-up. Podcasts allow users to be listen from anywhere, there's no need for a screen, it can be on your desktop, mobile, home device. Be careful however, they are very addictive.

  20. Branding
    This one will never go away. It is at the heart of every one of the 19 trends above. Without a brand you have nothing. A well-presented, supported, transparent, content rich, knowledge sharing, expert, trustworthy brand has to be worked on everyday, in every channel and with consistency. Even more than the above, search engines are now so advanced that they are looking to rank your brand; check out Google E.A.T (Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness ranking factor!).