2018 – A Perspective

2018 – A Perspective

As with previous years, you would have been inundated with reviews of the current year and predictions for the upcoming year. As we move into 2019, I want to reflect on 2018 and the impact it will have for the next 12 months for Columbus, A Merkle Company.

Firstly, we launched the Columbus Core, our data, product and strategic division, driving competitive advantage for our clients. Secondly, we became part of the Merkle family, allowing us to become a truly global business. Being a part of Merkle means that we can now tap into international insights and product developments. Within the SEO industry, Merkle has developed a website that assists SEOs across the globe – technicalseo.com (which ranks on Google page one globally for “SEO tools”). We are now also able to collaborate across brands internationally in the Americas, EMEA and APAC, allowing the sharing of best practice for the same brands in each market. Additionally, we now have access to Merkle University which complements our wider national training programme ensuring we have access to the best performance marketing training programmes in Australia. Given the pace of change in 2018, I expect 2019 to be an even more eventful year for us.

From an Experience perspective, 2018 has really been about the user and giving more power back to them. Andrew Molan discussed GDPR and the impact it has had on the industry. The user is regaining more control of what they see in the moments that matter to them. Adding the personalisation layer onto this, it is clear that we are seeing the beginning of people controlled marketing.

2019 – The user’s year

My 2019 message for any brand, focus on your key audiences and users interacting with your brand. At Columbus, we have the user at the heart of everything with any SEO or content program and moving into 2019, this focus will not be shifting anytime soon. At the end of the day, it is always the user who will be clicking (or saying) “buy now”, so we must ensure we are complementing their journey and interactions with your brand. In highly competitive markets such as retail, we need to ensure the user has a first-class service from first interaction to conversion, a complete end to end experience.


To me, it’s interesting that year after year you will always see a prediction where less optimistic marketers discuss the “death of SEO”. Often, these lists of predictions are forgotten about until the next set of predictions comes out.  This year, I won’t make a whole list of predictions for the next year. But there is one area I want to talk about and that’s the adoption of VUI. After attending both the Alexa and Google Assistant workshops in recent months, I’m really excited about what this area holds in 2019.

VUI (Voice User Interface) in 2019

As we close yet another year and edge closer to 2020, let’s bear in mind ComScore’s prediction that 50% of all searches will be voice by 2020. We still have some work to do to hit that lofty target. Brands need to develop more user focused Skills and Actions and users need to really start adopting and utilising this technology. I see significant potential for growth in 2019 for brands. After attending both workshops and meeting with leading national brands, I expect numerous high-profile brands to really invest in and develop Skills and Actions in 2019, so watch this space.

While it is still in the early adopter stages with VUI, but we have already seen some Australian brands experiment in this area. It is now time for more innovation in this area and for brands to experiment with this technology. One brand, Westpac, has been proactive on their digital journey.  Westpac has developed multiple Google Actions, with their current customer base adopting them at a  similar rate to their desktop internet banking platform 20 years ago. VUI in a similar position now and I’m looking forward to the developments we see over the next 20 years.

Technological advances over the last twenty years have been significant. With the tools and skillsets we currently have available, we should be seeing an accelerated rate of adoption and utilisation of these new technologies. Both Google and Amazon have continually improved their tech offerings over the past year,  so there has never been a better opportunity to experiment and build on these platforms.

In 2019 brands must focus on what their users need and how they can deliver that in the most effective way. It may not be the most ground-breaking voice experience or interaction but it’s a step towards innovation.

See you in 2019.

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