Jono Duguid, Digital Marketing Specialist at The Blue Room shares insights into what digital marketing trends we can expect this year.

2020 – dubbed “the year of great vision” both as a pun for 20/20 vision, but also as it is expected to set the tone for the decade ahead – holds a lot in store for the world of digital marketing and I am super excited about what’s ahead.



If I think back to digital marketing a mere decade ago, there are a number of things I recall… Twitter being this “new” social network being used (regularly) by only the cool geeks (I was one of them). We also hashtagged “for days” and just about anything would get a hashtag – a fad that very quickly fell away (thank goodness) to make way for only the necessary.

2010 was also the year of the blog. If you were cool, you knew a few of the big bloggers (I was cool). If you were cooler, you were a big blogger (I wasn’t that cool). If you wanted free things like the bloggers, you started a blog (I started a blog…) – and this was where we started seeing the first glimpse of influencer marketing. One of my majors at university was drama, and I loved seeing shows, I just lacked the money, so I started a theatre blog, which also included a mishmash of other things. As a result, I got invited to every theatre show in Cape Town and was one of the go-to critics on local theatre. But I couldn’t sustain full-time blogging and work life, so I chose work, much as many of the early South African influencers and bloggers eventually did.

But because people realised there were free things to be had in blogging, everyone jumped on board, and suddenly between 2011 and 2012 just about EVERY person had a blog. Eventually, most couldn’t sustain it and we’re back to more of a select-few of true bloggers (a full 360 degree turn within a decade).

Facebook was still an ever-growing social network, with a growing middle-aged market, and the occurrence of the pre-roll advert on YouTube meant that there was a new way to reach consumers (although, at that time, viewers weren’t too fond of this new advertising medium, so one had to ‘play it cool’ and not be over eager with the ads, to avoid damaging one’s brand).

It was also a big year for the world of digital marketing, as all of a sudden companies were starting to take note of this “new” way to reach consumers. Not all were on-board, it must be said. I remember talking to an HR exec from one of the major banks (via Twitter) about getting said bank up and running on social media. The response was that they did not think social media usage was significant enough to warrant them offering CRM online. Sure enough though, after getting enough flack from the public for not having social media channels and being behind their competition, they finally caved in a year-or-so later.

2010 was also a gamechanger in the smartphone industry, as the Android OS was just over a year old and iPhone 4 was launched, and all of a sudden, we started looking to get rid of our Blackberry phones and move to something else. We also, through making this change, discovered the real cost of data and very soon became conscious of our data usage. Not all our friends and families changed over from Blackberry immediately – and we got use to “free” messaging on BBM, which meant that there was space for something to help us connect to each other: enter WhatsApp.

But possibly one of the biggest things to happen this decade, happened in 2010: Instagram launched.

So, just as 2010 was the foundation for the decade ahead, so I believe 2020 will be the foundation to the next 10 years in digital marketing.



Some of these trends you may have heard of before, some you may not have – I’ve devised this list with two criteria in mind:

  1. the ongoing research into digital marketing phenomena that we conduct: looking at behaviour, interest and intention, as well as uptake both in South Africa and across the globe
  2. case studies from work that we have done as The Blue Room



Voice Search SEO Search Engine Optimization - Digital Marketing Trends 2020 - The Blue Room Cape Town South Africa AgencySearch engine optimization (SEO) is something I preach, because in my years of digital marketing experience, I have seen time and time again how great SEO can pay off. But, in an ever-changing world, you have to be ready for the next big thing, or else you get left behind.

“What is the next best thing you?” you ask. Well, it is Voice Search SEO – or what some have dubbed, VSEO. What does it mean? You know the way you sometimes say “Hey Siri”, “Okay Google”, or “Alexa…” – and then ask for something? Adding another dimension to your SEO, being able to come up first when one of the above virtual assistants offers an answer to a query, is why it is so important. In fact, at the time of writing this article,  the total voice searching userbase amongst adults in the USA was at a staggering 42.7% – and Google says that 20% of all searches are done via voice. A study by Comscore suggests that this year more than 50% of searches will be done via voice, whilst Gartner have said that this year 30% of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen.

So, make sure that you invest in a great Voice Search SEO strategy – as to get ahead of your competition, while it’s still the early days. Don’t be like the bank I mentioned in the introductory ode.



Social Media Stories (ephemeral content) - Digital Marketing Trends 2020 - The Blue Room Cape Town South Africa AgencyWe are going to see major growth in stories (or to be fancy, ephemeral content) over the next decade. Last year we saw corporates playing around with it, but this year, we’re going to see a significant amount of growth in this type of content – and as such, we’re going to start seeing higher quality ephemeral content. It won’t just be behind-the-scenes content, it will become quality, well-produced content.

The leaders in ephemeral content channels at the moment are undoubtedly the Facebook Group, who after seeing the success of ephemeral content on Snapchat, added it to Instagram, followed shortly by their other two big platforms: WhatsApp and Facebook.

The addition of interactive polls, hyperlinks, and filters (that can even tell you which Disney character or Kardashian you are) will only further increase consumers love and use of these channels.

This is a trend I am very excited about and I cannot wait to see its continued growth over the coming years.

Read more on using ephemeral content for business



Interactive Content, VR, AR, Augmented Reality Virtual Reality - Digital Marketing Trends 2020 - The Blue Room Cape Town South Africa AgencyLast year I wrote about the rise of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) as trends to watch – and I still believe that we are yet to see these trends fully come to life. But it is not the most inexpensive of the trends, and thus still has some time to wait, before more and more companies will jump onboard the wagon and we can virtually try on clothes or cosmetics, see more gamification (like our award-winning app with AR game), and get to visit places we’ve never been able to visit before.

As a side note: I also believe that within the VR realm specifically, we’re going to have additional senses catered to (such as smell), which anyone who has been on the Soarin ride at Disney’s California Adventure theme park will tell you, makes everything so real. And while that ride doesn’t use VR, it certainly has found a different way to alter our reality and make us believe we’re a bird flying through those various parts of the world. And I think that if we look at how this ride achieves this and implement these findings to VR, we’re going to unlock something even more incredible.

Also, with Facebook getting into the VR game with Facebook Horizon, I am interested to see what, if any effect, it will have on VR. At this stage, I don’t think it will pay-off the way Facebook is expecting – but I am happy to be proved wrong in the coming years.

AR & VR are not the only types of interactive content (but they are super cool) – there are others, like images with product links on them that take consumers direct to said product’s page on an online retail store’s website. And while these images are nothing new, I think we’re going to continue to see an increase. More exciting, however, is the space many of us digital marketers are in at the moment: experimenting in a new space of interaction and fun: from 360 degree images and videos that create experiences as users move around, to good old fashioned quizzes and polls, better than ever before.



Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) - Digital Marketing Trends 2020 - The Blue Room - Cape Town South Africa AgencyYou’ve probably heard that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are coming for your job – and whilst that might sound super scary (and like you need to start making a plan), it really is a long way off and there’s really no need to panic, just yet (we’ll leave that to next decade!)

In its current carnation, AI and ML are all about simplifying our lives, assisting with mundane tasks, and tasks that require a lot of maths to be done super quickly. There are of course, other uses and way more advanced uses, but for the average business: the above is what it comes down to.

The most cost effective and real-life experience of AI is something I wrote about on last year’s trends list: chatbots and IM.

They’re nothing new, but they’re growing in popularity, and we’re seeing them extend beyond just websites and Facebook pages. You can use them on WhatsApp business too – and for those who still like old fashioned calling people, you’ll notice that call centres use them to assist, reducing the need for higher amounts of call centre staff. But where to from here within the online marketing world?

One word: advertising.

AI and ML is going to make it a lot easier for us to reach our desired consumers. If we think the accuracy we’re getting at the moment on search engine marketing (SEM) and pay per click (PPC) is good now: just wait for the returns we’re going to start seeing for our clients when the various platforms understand the buying cycles of each individual consumer, when and how best to target them to catch them vulnerable enough to make the purchase you’re wanting from them?

The good news is: whilst the advertising platforms will do all the algorithms and distributions, digital marketers (i.e. humans) will need to program to reach certain consumers (so, we’ll still have jobs!)



Push Notifications - Digital Marketing Trends 2020 - The Blue Room Cape Town South Africa AgencyOne of the greatest benefits of a mobile application is the ability to talk directly to your consumer with the cunning use of push notifications. Although, as the saying goes: “With great power comes great responsibility” – which in this instance means find the right balance of notifications, so that you’re adding value 90% of the time, and not spamming your consumer.

But mobile apps are not the only places we can reach consumers. Now we have push notifications for browsers. And whilst they’re nothing new, they’re on the rise at a significant pace. Just last year, 85% of online stores used push notifications. In fact: at least twice as many people sign up for web push notifications compared to a newsletter. Whilst I foresee browser developers getting a little stricter in the coming years around push notifications, I do believe that the time to harness this digital medium, if you aren’t already, is now.

Need assistance navigating these digital marketing trends? We can help you! The Blue Room offers a wide range of digital marketing solutions that will elevate your brand. Interested in what we can do? Click here to view our full list of digital marketing services.

To find out more – and to give your business the edge – call us on 021 553 0315 / email

Written by Jono Duguid, Digital Marketing Specialist, The Blue Room