The Future of Digital Marketing in 2024: Ferryhopper’s CMO shares her insights
Hello there. I’m Vassia, Ferryhopper’s Chief Marketing Officer and this is my debut on Medium.
Starting in the marketing world at 20 in 2017, being part of a then-little-known start-up called Ferryhopper, I’ve had a front-row seat to the ever-changing landscape of digital marketing.
I’ve written this article to unpack crucial insights that are shaping our 2024 marketing strategies at Ferryhopper, with the hope that it will offer some ideas and directions to those feeling uncertain about the changes on the horizon.
Buckle up, as we embark on this journey of forecasts, data, and digital musings.
Let’s dive right in!
Emerging AI and the Future of Digital Search
As we stand on the cusp of a digital revolution, Large Language Models (LLMs) like Bard and ChatGPT are redefining the essence of online search. Have you heard whispers about Project Magi? The rumors only amplify the mystique surrounding these groundbreaking shifts.
These changes could indicate the new chat-search era!
Let’s not forget voice search. Already, more than half of Americans are using voice-activated features daily. With a growing number of Google App searches becoming voice-based, the implications for voice advertising and optimized content for voice searches are profound.
If you ask me where to place your bets, I’d pinpoint two surefire trends:
- Digital search is changing from keyword-based to natural language queries.
- Search responses will evolve to become richer and more multimedia-focused, serving users precisely what they want, when they want it.
The game is bigger than SEO now; it’s about creating magnetic content that users don’t just stumble upon, but actively seek. For those of us steering medium-to-large enterprises, brand fortification is non-negotiable at this point.
To ensure our brand’s vitality, we should keep in mind three things:
- High-quality and abundant content will be necessary for inclusion in AI-generated results.
- Video content will gain importance, as it’s expected to feature in chat-based search outcomes.
- Well-maintained, up-to-date and crawlable website information will be essential.
Now, for the pièce de résistance: the transformative role of LLMs in copywriting (and in content generation in general). While some colleagues may express concerns that AI will dehumanize content, I propose we view LLMs as the Swiss Army knives of our industry. Their nuanced understanding of language dynamics allows us to craft SEO-rich, audience-tailored content like never before.
In this era, incorporating automation into our content strategies is less an option and more a mandate for scalable growth. Therefore, it’s crucial to align these powerful tools with keen data analytics and the creativity and expertise of our copywriting teams.
The No-Click Phenomenon: The Unseen Revolution in Digital Search
One trend marketers can’t afford to ignore is the rise of the no-click search experience.
This phenomenon has gained significant traction over the last three years, with major platforms — led by Google and now powered by Large Language Models like ChatGPT and Bard — aiming to answer search queries directly within the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), essentially bypassing the need to click through to external websites.
The strategic intent? To keep users on their platform for as long as possible, thereby maximizing opportunities for ad revenue.
This isn’t just a search engine quirk; it’s a holistic shift in the digital interaction paradigm. Platforms like Instagram often restrict the inclusion of outbound links, while LinkedIn and Facebook algorithms favor native content over posts that guide users off-platform. Despite attempts to game the system — like placing links in the first comment — these algorithms are sophisticated enough to outsmart such workarounds.
Of course, this no-click phenomenon is not universal across all types of search queries. In specific industries like ours, where users are looking to purchase “ferry tickets”, the click-through rates remain relatively stable. However, it’s essential to note that most of these clicks are funneled towards paid advertisements, a subject that warrants its own discussion in a future article.
So, what are the implications for us as digital strategists in this new no-click and chatbot-centric search world?
I see the transformations happening in two fundamental ways:
- LLM-Answer Optimization: If AI chatbots like ChatGPT and Bard are set to dominate Search, then optimizing your content for these platforms becomes non-negotiable. We’re not merely talking about keyword optimization; we’re talking about crafting content that fits seamlessly into chatbot-based, no-click search experiences. And let’s be clear: advertising space within these AI dialogues is not a question of if, but when, making it crucial for our advertising content to be optimized for chatbot interactions as well.
- Crafting High-Impact Content: The success of a no-click strategy lies in your ability to create content that not only answers immediate queries but also drives users directly to your platforms, or into your CRM systems (producing excellent Audience-centric content as I will explain in the next topic of this article). The aim is to offer such compelling, value-laden content that users feel inclined to seek out your brand even when they are not directed to do so by an immediate click.
In summary, the no-click phenomenon pushes us marketers to be more innovative and tactical. It’s not just about keeping pace with evolving technology; it’s about altering our strategies to match new user behaviors and platform expectations. The road ahead may be challenging, but it’s also full of opportunities for those prepared to adapt.
Navigating the Confluence of Intent and Audience-Centric Strategies in the New Era of Content
Following the conclusions of the no-click discussion, marketers are at the intersection of two pivotal approaches to content: Intent Content Marketing and Audience Content Marketing. Each comes with its unique set of tools, challenges, and skills, but mastering both is imperative.
Intent Content Marketing
This approach is highly technical and driven by data. The goal here is to produce content that directly answers search queries (in any form they are submitted). This requires a deep understanding of search algorithms and the intricacies of paid ad placements. Essentially, it’s about being where your audience is searching and offering the most accurate and helpful information possible, while you are targeting the intent of your audience (what they are searching for without caring about who they are). The perfect strategy for immediate traffic to a website and for high-buying intent queries.
Audience Content Marketing
This is where creativity thrives. Rather than strictly adhering to algorithmic requirements, the focus is on producing content that resonates deeply with your audience’s needs, preferences, and emotions. This strategy is particularly crucial for navigating social media algorithms that are increasingly geared toward engagement rather than mere visibility. The perfect strategy for brand growth and community building.
Case in Point: The TikTok Phenomenon
TikTok serves as an ideal platform for Audience Content Marketing.
The renowned platform isn’t just for fun; it’s a brand-building powerhouse and a prominent search engine.
Gone are the days when it was only about viral dance challenges. Now, it’s about real connections and engaging content. And it’s not just for the younger crowd. Brands, experts, and even cool grandmas are joining.
My advice to succeed on this platform? Avoid cringe-worthy, in-your-face ads. We’ve seen it work. Our Ferryhopper TikTok account has earned more than 3.5M organic views in just some months, all thanks to creating content that we find valuable, enjoyable, and funny.
While navigating user-generated content platforms it is important to stay respectful of the platform’s culture.
Let’s linger on this topic just a bit longer — it’s worth it since video content is poised to be the holy grail of 2024 (more on that on the topic that follows).
TikTok isn’t just about getting views or engaging users. It’s also a solid customer acquisition tool. I’m spilling the tea here, but our customer surveys reveal that an increasing number of people are discovering Ferryhopper for the first time right on TikTok. Depending on the service/product you are trying to market and your target groups the same goes for YouTube videos, Instagram reels, and so on.
Video: The (not so) New Vanguard of Content
The video era has dawned, and it’s really important to contemporary marketing. Video’s capacity to cross linguistic and cultural divides renders it a universal communication medium. It is also the best way to show your brand’s tone of voice and differentiate it from the competition.
The stakes for video have been raised even higher as we look into 2024. With emerging technologies like AI and AR, the scope of what video can achieve is broader than ever. We’re not just talking about interactive videos or immersive experiences — these are old news. The future holds opportunities for real-time engagement and personalized user experiences that could make static content formats seem archaic.
From my experience, video is on track to become a key element in answering search queries on all platforms.
Sophisticated chat-based AI models like Bard are improving their ability to understand, decode and present video content corresponding to the search query. One of their ultimate goals related to digital search is to provide chat assistants that offer quick, relevant audio-visual support for our questions.
As stated before, these “new-age” queries will be framed in more “natural language” and will be less “keyword-centric.”
In the new face of search, we’ll see queries like “(Why) should I visit Amorgos Island?” instead of just “Amorgos Island.”
Imagine the search engine’s best answer being a brief video clip that captures the essence of Amorgos Island, rather than a lengthy article. (My best guess is that the lengthy article will still be there, in a lower position or as an extra resource; don’t panic copywriters!)
The algorithms are evolving to not just read text but to understand video and audio cues, adding another layer of optimization for us marketers to consider.
In my mind, brands that sideline video content risk not just human disengagement but algorithmic invisibility.
Innovation at Ferryhopper: Our Response to Change
Change is the only constant, and at Ferryhopper, we’ve internalized this mantra. We’re not just adapting to change; we’re actively driving it, particularly in the ferry industry. Our commitment to embracing state-of-the-art technology means that our strategies are not just current, but futuristic.
This forward-thinking approach means we’re quick to experiment with beta versions of advertising platforms and eager to test new features as soon as they’re available. And it’s not just about advertising; we’re willing to overhaul our entire Business Intelligence and data analytics toolkit if a more effective solution comes along. We are also ready to reshape our acquisition strategy and leave our comfort zone to try out new channels and mediums.
If you are interested in our AI explorations on a more technical level, our CTO dives into this topic in his article, where he discusses how we became the first Ferry Online Travel Agency to integrate with ChatGPT plugins.
As we gear up for 2024, I feel like curiosity is our best co-pilot. I’ve picked up a lot along the way thanks to exploring various data sets and delving into tech marketing forums, and I’m excited to continue learning. I hope this article proves useful as we all enter the next marketing era. So go ahead, be curious — and don’t forget to enjoy the ride, because it’s about to get wild!
P.S. Curiosity, along with empathy, and imagination could be the final human traits that AI struggles to master.
Image Credits: Why the Star Wars theme? The saga is the ultimate symbol of futurism, much like the constant evolution we see in digital marketing. I generated these galactic images with Bing Image Creator (it’s free). The prompts for creating these visuals? They’re nearly identical to the alt-texts I’ve used here. Trust me, years of honing my alt-text skills have finally paid off. May the Force be with us all on this digital odyssey!