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Marketing Trends To Watch: How SMBs Can Elevate Their Visual Strategies


Marketing Trends To Watch: How SMBs Can Elevate Their Visual Strategies

Author: Dr. Rebecca Swift, Senior Vice President of Creative for iStock

In the ever-evolving world of consumer engagement, staying ahead of your competition requires not only foresight, but also a keen understanding of the prevailing marketing trends. For small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in particular, guidance to inform business decisions is critical to ensure resilience, adaptability, and sustained growth in the face of shifting market dynamics.

With 2024 in full swing, let’s take a look at four emerging trends which could help you grow your business. For each, we’ll equip you with actionable insights – powered by iStock’s VisualGPS research – to guide and inform your business’s visual strategy and ultimately drive your customers to action this year and beyond.

1. Authenticity builds brand trust

According to our research, 75% of people globally are excited about the potential of artificial intelligence (AI). And yes, the opportunities it brings are entering us into an extremely exciting time. However, this groundbreaking technology doesn’t come without its challenges, in the form of image manipulation and deep fakes – in fact, 74% of UK consumers tell us they can’t tell if an image is real or not. A staggering 97% of British consumers also agree that ‘authentic’ images and videos are pivotal in establishing trust, so it’s clear your business should be leaning into authentic visual storytelling to connect with your end consumer

To build consumer trust, focus on visual storytelling that feels genuine. Think about choosing visuals which connect with your audience through humour or by showing people in different set-ups, that capture a candid moment. Unless you are working in the sector, avoid luxury and overtly glamorous, and focus on accessible and relatable – this is especially important for SMBs in the travel and hospitality industries.

2. Humanise your storytelling

Research showed that 43% of Brits prefer human interaction over technology. So, despite the obvious efficiencies technology brings, a lot of people not only want but crave genuine human connection and the irreplaceable value of personal engagement.

When storytelling around technology and how it enables your business, communicate the idea that tech is in our hands. Do this by visualising human presence and control over technology and AI tools in your marketing. Interestingly, nostalgia for early Web 1.0 aesthetics will continue to be on the rise and is a great way to convey familiarity in the face of the unfamiliar. And don’t forget to use bright tertiary colours such as magenta, teal, lime, violet, and yellow/orange to enhance visual appeal towards the future.

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3. Unlock the potential of video content for commerce

User generated content (UGC) tutorials and influencer reviews have sent Instagram’s and TikTok’s Shops skyrocketing in popularity. But according to our research, 70% of British consumers do not trust in-app shopping features on social media platforms. This is where video marketing comes in.

Due to its immersive capabilities, video formats can be leveraged as a key tool to highlight what your business can do for your customers and build trust. In 2024, embrace the power of video for your SME. From creating short-form craft tutorials to lengthier explainer videos, you’re on the right track to captivating and engaging viewers through a popular new medium.

The rise of TikTok videos has also impacted consumers’ search behaviours, as they use this and other video platforms to find services or products, making video SEO a priority for businesses. It is important to remember that stock images and videos do not have a detrimental effect on SEO, but can actually help get your content in front of potential customers. All the information on your TikTok video can affect search ranking, so make sure you are also being descriptive with your title, hashtags and captions.

4. Its all in the prompt 

According to our research, 42% of businesses globally are already harnessing AI-generated content. By leveraging commercially safe AI tools and capabilities, businesses can produce innovative and unique visuals, ensuring risk-free and ready-to-use creative content.

To help you create standout images, keep your prompts short (we recommend no more than 50 words) and as descriptive as possible.  Don’t be afraid to play around with the word order of your prompt. Try placing your most important elements – such as subject and location – near the beginning. If you feel stuck improving what you are trying to generate, think about how you can describe it in a different way. By following these simple steps, you will notice a difference in the quality of content generated. And remember – if the prompting is not getting you the image you want, you may just find what you’re looking for in the pre-shot library of images.

Elevating your marketing strategies

As you start planning and executing your marketing campaigns for 2024, try bringing these tips into your workflow. By harnessing these insights, you can elevate your campaigns, build brand trust and help your business stand out from the crowd.

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