Predicting the future of content marketing is all about seeing where ideas, impact, and acceleration combine. Truly, it is the ideas that have the most impact and the quickest innovation speed that will determine where the future of content marketing lies.
So, with that in mind, what will content marketing look like in 5 years?
Omni-Channel Marketing with Adaptive Content
To say that we live in a multi-channel society no longer encompasses the depth and breadth of our online experiences. Omni-channel marketing--the idea that a single customer journey should be optimized across all potential channels, rather than viewed piecemeal as different channel-specific opportunities for engagement--is a much more appropriate phrase for where content marketing is heading in 2020.
Adaptive content, versus the more static, "one size fits all" approach that's embraced today, is what's needed to bridge the gap between multi-channel and omni-channel marketing. And the idea of adaptive content is best illustrated with an example...
Say you've registered for a business conference. The system has all your information, so why, when you arrive at the event, are you greeted by a static website that doesn't give you the information that would be most useful? A site using adaptive content could display a list of the vendors you shouldn't miss in the expo hall, based on your company and job title, in addition to presenting a list of local hot spots, based on any meal preferences you shared when you registered.
It's hard to imagine customization like this in our current, "one browser, one user paradigm," but think bigger! The year 2020 has great things in store for markers willing to take on the challenge of omni-channel message delivery.
Massively Curated Content Experiences
People are already overwhelmed with the volume of content being produced. In 2012 alone, there were already 27 million new pieces of content being shared every day. The content marketing of the future lies with giving meaning to all of that content by curating a content experience specifically for a target customer.
Think of a curated content experience like an exhibit at an art gallery. Museums don't just throw art up on the wall and say, "There you go!" Instead, they put together pieces that share a theme or tell a story--and they give explanatory signs and remarks to help viewers understand the meaning they intend to convey.
By 2020, content marketing will likely involve bringing together multiple types of content in multiple formats to tell a story that's specific to the highly-targeted audience being pursued. By providing a variety of formats and content, companies will be able to give the potential customer not just information, but an experience that's full of meaning in order to draw them to purchase.
The Niching of Niches
The overwhelming amount of information available already makes it hard to stand out in a crowd, and in ten years, things will only get worse. What we'll see, as a result, is the narrowing of niches into very tightly defined avatars that will be specifically targeted with marketing messages.
Already, marketers are finding success in focusing on specific market niches in order to make themselves more relevant to their target market. In ten years, it's likely that we'll have created niches within niches--even more highly targeted markets to which we can be extremely relevant. We'll be drilling down to the true target buyer persona and appealing to that person in a very, very precise way.
Marketers who fail to focus their content marketing in this way simply won't be able to deliver the kind of relevant messaging and VIP service that their competitors will be focused on providing, and will likely fall to the side as consumers choose more and more personalized marketing messages to respond to.
Continuing Development of Consumer Psychology
Understanding how people's minds work, as well as the emotions and logic that make them respond to a given message, is already a major field of study. But in ten years, it will become both a science and an art. The impact of advances made in the field of psychology to practical applications in marketing has always been strong, and it's likely that the two will become even more intertwined as competition for digital consumers increases.
As an example, marketers have been using the centuries-old "carrot and stick" approach for decades. However, by 2020, our understanding of consumer psychology will be far more refined, allowing marketers to appeal more directly to the irrational, emotional side of consumer decision-making processes. The realization that humans are not fully rational when making decisions is already widely accepted--ten years from now, it will be fully integrated into marketing efforts.
An additional development in psychology that stands to have a remarkable effect on marketing is the continuing development of positive psychology. Psychologists continue to learn not only how to make the sick feel normal, but how to make the normal reach their highest potential in terms of success and emotional well-being.
The lessons learned in these studies have the potential to turn marketing upside down, as marketers learn to appeal not just on the alleviation of pain, but on the activation of potential. As products and services tap into the positive side of psychology, the businesses that are forward-thinking enough to take advantage of these advances will see sales and engagement skyrocket.
Predictions From Other Industry Experts
Here's what other content marketing experts think will happen in 2020:
"We're going in a direction in which we're no longer used to sitting still and passively listening to or reading things, we also want to interact with them. Interactivity is the best way to learn and is the future of both education and content marketing. And content marketing is all about educating potential clients." -- Nichole Elizabeth DeMere, Community Growth at Inbound.org
"Content marketing will be much more personalized, segmented and dynamic in 2020. That will require data scientists and engineers working side-by-side with writers and designers. The reader experience is going to be incredible."--Jimmy Daly, Head of Content at Vero
"Content marketing will be more specialized, segmented, and individualized. It will follow the same path that we see in digital advertising--the ability to programmatically control and tailor which audiences see what types of content. Imagine marketing automation--like the HubSpots and Marketos of the world--on steroids. As technology plays an increasingly important role in matching audiences to content, the notion of quality will be even more important." -- Ritika Puri, co-founder and CEO at Storyhackers
"Every business will have one person on their team working on developing content to reach their audience at least part of their time. There will be less of a lag in adopting content marketing at an organization, but more so a need to focus on what types of content to produce, how frequently to publish and where content will best be distributed." -- Brian Honigman, CEO of Honigman Media
It's hard to predict the future, but one thing is certain. The number of marketing messages will continue to multiply, and it's only those who create meaning for consumers in the midst of their content that will be successful at reaching customers. The creation of adaptive content across omni-channel messaging campaigns, intensely curated content experiences, the niching of niches, and the continued development of consumer psychology will all shape content marketing into 2020--and far beyond.
What do you think content marketing will be shaped by in the next decade? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!