The year 2019 will herald the dominance of Generation Z, the expansion of visual search, and new business applications for artificial intelligence. Here are five essential strategies to incorporate into your marketing this year.

1. Visual Search

Visual search is a quickly growing trend that will reach new heights in 2019.

Consumers now expect to be able to find anything--or information on anything--that they see in the real world online with minimal effort. Here's one example of how this is manifesting: in February, Pinterest launched its Lens feature, which allows people to point a camera in their Pinterest app at anything around them, take a picture, and then discover ideas related to that image on Pinterest. (Google has a similar feature, also called Lens.) Since launch, Lens has seen more than 600 million combined monthly searches.

How can you harness this trend in your own marketing? Some brands, such as ASOS, are incorporating visual search capability into their own apps. If you're a retailer, making image search a part of your online inventory could be key.

If you don't have the bandwidth for these approaches, make sure that your brand presence on Pinterest is strong. And make sure SEO for images isn't an afterthought. Be rigorous in including metadata and incorporating visual content information into your site map.

2. Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Interfaces

Whether it's tracking real-time customer behavior or making customized Netflix recommendations, artificial intelligence will make it easier than ever to document and organize essential customer data in 2019. But big data causes its own problems. Making meaning out of huge spreadsheets isn't easy.

This is where interactive interfaces and data visualization come in. Graphs, charts, and tables that update in real time to reflect the latest data collected can be a huge help as you analyze your marketing strategy and seek more effective ways to reach your target audience.

Start your new year with a plan for finding or building the right interactive interface for your needs so you can better harness the power of your AI and big data.

3. Marketing to Generation Z

Bloomberg projects that, in 2019, Generation Z will surpass millennials as the most populous generation. That means that, for most companies, marketing to Generation Z will no longer be a choice this year.

But how do you reach them? I wrote a six-point guide for marketing to Generation Z a few months ago, but I'll share some high-level tips here.

First, focus on video. Generation Z watches an average of 68 videos a day.

You'll also want to cater to Generation Z's extra-short attention span by creating content that is visually striking and engaging from the very first second.

Meanwhile, all of the content you create should be optimized for its platform. Don't try to post horizontal videos in your Snapchat story. And make sure to optimize all content for whatever tends to get the most engagement on the platform where it will live.

4. Personalized Messaging

"The future of e-mail is real-time, behavior-based personalization," says EmailMonks head of marketing Kevin George. "A study by Marketo shows that personalized, triggered e-mails based on behavior are 3x better than batch-and-blast e-mails."

But email is far from the only content you'll need to personalize your content in 2019. Consumers--especially Generation Z--want to feel that they're being personally spoken to, and they can sense cookie-cutter messaging from a mile away.

The answer is to customize your content for specific audiences. You'll need to create custom visual content that's optimized for each platform--and for the audiences most likely to frequent those platforms. For instance, the videos you create for Facebook can be more traditional 30-second spots, since the older demographics on that platform actually prefer longer ads. Meanwhile, for Instagram and Snapchat, you'll want more authentic-feeling videos optimized for vertical viewing on mobile devices, which is how younger audiences will be viewing your content.

5. Custom Design

It's no accident that custom designs convert seven times more customers than designs that use stock imagery. With the explosive growth in popularity of visual content such as infographics over the last decade, many marketers have rushed to create as much visual content as possible. But that strategy will be utterly ineffective in 2019.

Instead, 2019 will be about quality over quantity. Stock imagery makes your company look cheap--unwilling to invest in delivering a quality product. This turns audiences off, and means that low-quality visual content can actually hurt your brand more than having no content at all.

So as 2019 begins, invest your time in developing a strong visual marketing strategy that incorporates these new trends. It'll not only keep your company relevant--it will ensure you're on the cutting edge for years to come.

Published on: Jan 2, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.