6 Digital Marketing Trends for Food Brands to Leverage in 2018

You’re throwing a party and need to whip up a few dishes that are sure to impress your guests. Where do you turn for recipes? The family cookbook, your Pinterest recipes board, or good ‘ole Google? Maybe you’d consult your favourite chatbot for recipe ideas and cooking inspiration.

Brands are increasingly getting behind new technologies. Things like artificial intelligence (AI). Things like chatbots and other digital technologies. The goal is to delight consumers with highly personalised and engaging content.

As we head into 2018, you can be sure that we’ll continue to see a central role for content marketing. We’ll also see more use of strategies centred around personalisation, automation and big data. These overarching themes can be seen across five major trends in digital marketing that we think are going to be BIG in 2018.

Our top digital marketing trends for 2018 are:

  1. More Content Marketing
  2. Ephemeral Content
  3. Live Video
  4. Voice Control
  5. Geofencing
  6. Chatbots

How can food brands large and small get in on the action? Let’s find out.

1. More Content Marketing

More than ever, content is king. And it’s everywhere. Consumers demand the best in products and service from their favourite brands. But they also want to be in control of the buying process. They want access to all the information they need to make a purchase. And they want to enjoy a top-quality, personalised experience whether shopping online or in person.

This is where the power of relevant and informative content comes into play. Food brands are no exception here. In fact, food brands often have very desirable products with great stories and talking points behind them. This is the perfect content opportunity.

A recent report by OneSpot demonstrates just how critical great content is. The State of Food Content Marketing Report points to the popularity of the phrase “How To Cook That” as a top ten search on YouTube.

The study also finds where consumers place the most value in content. Content like recipes and how-tos that “inform” (40%) and “educate” (28%) are most preferable. The report recommends that food marketers focus on high-quality content, particularly video. They add that this should be visually interesting and personalised to the individual consumer’s needs and interests. This is definitely supported by the other top trends we’re seeing.

2. Ephemeral Content

The importance of social media as a marketing strategy will continue to play a central role. Many brands have an existing presence across various social channels. However, only a handful of companies have really learned to leverage the power of social.

Snapchat and Instagram Stories are one such power tool. They allow users to interact with their followers by publishing photos and video of events in real time. Brands have been getting in on the action too. This is ephemeral content. Ephemeral content is content that disappears after a short period of time. It’s a great tool to gives consumers a behind the scenes peek at their favourite brands. This lends a feeling of novelty and authenticity in a way that resonates well with modern consumers.

GrubHub is a great example of an early Snapchat adopter. They’ve used the platform since 2013 to publish weekly content. This includes contests and giveaways, promotional codes, and stories featuring user-generated content.

This landed the food delivery a nomination for a Shorty Award in 2017 for its innovative approach to producing engaging content. They are also one of the few brands on Snapchat to consistently interact with its followers. As a result, GrubHub has amassed the highest Snapchat score of any brand at 53,668, (as of December 31, 2014).

Michigan based startup, Boxed Water, is another example of a brand innovating with social. The company offers an eco-friendly alternative to plastic water bottles and they’re very active on Instagram. They leverage stories and visually-striking posts to engage customers and build brand awareness.

digital marketing trends in 2018

Boxed Water excel at using Instagram for its cause-marketing and influencer marketing efforts. Their #ReTree campaign promises to plant two trees for every Instagram post featuring Boxed Water and the #ReTree hashtag. Throughout the campaign Boxed Water partnered with various Instagram influencers. These influencers encouraged others to get behind the cause by reposting and creating their own Boxed Water posts.

3. Live Video

Most marketers are aware of the fact that video reigns supreme in the world of digital content.

Recent statistics reveal that YouTube alone receives over 30 million visitors a day consuming 5 billion videos daily. The dominance of video will only continue to increase in the coming years. Major players like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are investing heavily in the medium in a bid to dominate the social landscape.

Whole Foods is one company that utilises video and personalisation to great effect. They are very active on social channels like Instagram and Facebook’s messenger chatbot (more on that later). Further to this, the grocer has a huge YouTube channel. Their video content includes how-to cook series and recipe tutorials plus videos on food trends and industry news. Mini documentaries go behind the scenes in Whole Foods “Stories From the Field” series. These videos aim to educate customers on the importance of ethical and sustainable sourcing practices.

Video is already big. But live video in particular is on the rise. A survey of live video watchers found 80% would prefer to watch a live video from a brand than read a blog about them.

Waitrose is leveraging the live video love affair in a rather unexpected way. In Spring of 2016 they live streamed footage of dairy cows on one of their farms. Sound like a less-than thrilling watch? Counter-intuitively, the videos are intentionally designed to be a tad dull.

Scenes of peace, tranquility and beauty convey a sense of wholesomeness. Waitrose believes that this speaks for its products. The videos offer a reassuring message to consumers right from the source: you can count on high quality food from happy, free-ranging cows.

4. Voice Control

While voice control has been around for years now (hello, Siri), few food brands have tapped into the technology’s marketing potential.

Meal kit delivery startup Gousto is one of the first to begin experimenting in this area. They recently released an Amazon Alexa skill that talks users through recipes step-by-step. This allows home cooks to prep meals hands-free without having to continuously consult a recipe card or webpage. This is a change Gousto hopes will make meal-time easier and more convenient for busy families on the go. And with one in four households in the UK projected to own an Amazon Echo by 2018, the investment in voice is a smart move.

digital marketing trends in 2018Food delivery service Just Eat has also jumped on the voice control bandwagon with Alexa. The interface allows users to execute simple commands like repeating a past order and checking on an order status. In theory this makes for a faster and more interactive user experience. Many customers use the Alexa skill to reorder. This means the technology is likely to be a huge boon for both customer retention and overall sales growth in the future.

5. Geofencing

Location location location. It’s a mantra oft-repeated by house hunters and estate agents, but the principle applies just as well in the world of digital marketing. Specifically, location-based marketing, or geofencing. This will play an increasingly prominent role in the way brands reach consumers outside the home.

Using GPS or RFID technology, geofencing creates a virtual geographic boundary or “fence” around an area. This fence can be programmed to trigger a response like a text, email or push notification when a user enters or exits the specified area. It’s a form of hyperlocal marketing that targets consumers where and when they’re most likely to buy. It also offers bars, restaurants, and even events a great way to tap into the power of social discovery.

If you have the Yelp app on your mobile device (and have enabled push notifications), this is probably something you’ve seen in action. Visit a new town and Yelp sends a notification: Welcome to Edinburgh! Here are some great afternoon snack spots.

The company is pushing geotargeting in a big way. In 2017 they completed a $20 million acquisition of Turnstyle, a location-based marketing and analytics platform. This demonstrates Yelp’s commitment to connecting consumers with local restaurants and businesses.

Whole Foods is also getting onboard with location-based marketing. They’ve placed geofences around different store locations and push targeted ads and offers to nearby mobile users. Whole Foods have even developed “geo-conquesting” tools that are set up around competitors’ stores. These target competitor’s customers to entice them to shop at a nearby Whole Foods instead!

6. Chatbots

Brands are increasingly incorporating AI-powered chatbots to automate and personalise their marketing funnels. From generating leads to addressing customer queries to gathering and analysing feedback. The technology is more accessible than ever before now that Facebook has opened up its Messenger platform. Now that the underlying technology is taken care of, brands can now develop their own chatbot apps with ease.

Bots like Sure and Dinner Ideas deliver users customised dinner recommendations and recipes. Delipair lets users tweet recipe links to @DelipairNow for instant wine pairing recommendations. And Whole Foods and Just Eat make the cut yet again as examples of brands leading the trends.

The Whole Foods Facebook chatbot allows users to browse products or search recipes by emoji or keywords. Does your pasta game need some inspiration? Simply select the spaghetti emoji and key in “Italian” cuisine. Presto. A recipe for Baked Rigatoni with Sausage and Mushrooms.


digital marketing trends in 2018

Meanwhile, Just Eat’s advisory chatbot helps users decide what restaurants to try and what dishes to order. The company is also currently implementing a customer service bot. This will automate simple tasks like responding to customer queries, tracking orders and offering refunds.

While not specific to the food sector, Intercom is a popular chat tool that can be integrated into your website or online store. This gives customers a direct line (to a real human!) for questions and support issues. This can be a great way to provide immediate, top quality service to customers who may be on the brink of buying.

Generating Growth in the New Year

In 2018 the brands that will be most successful will be those producing engaging, informative content and offering customers a highly targeted, personalised experience.

Brands leveraging new technologies have the best chance of staying ahead of the curve. This means being willing to experiment with AI, voice control, video, data and tools that augment these strategies.

The food industry is prime for customisation and media-rich marketing. Think mouth-watering product shots and video recipe tutorials. Think live cooking demos and engaging stories from your suppliers. Food brands are in the perfect position to leverage these trends for greater growth and engagement in the year ahead.

Are you using any of these technologies or tactics in your business?

Have you seen any other examples of food brands putting them to great effect?

We’d love to hear from you! Tweet us @saplingdigital or drop us an email.