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As we are into 2018, let’s take a look at how things changed in 2017 and the trends we can expect to watch unravel in the year ahead. For startups, content marketing strategies must be built for the future, not the past if we hope to be successful.

2018 will be a year where the Indian consumer market starts to take center stage, where the rise of the smartphone changes the way we think about content, and where the distributed marketing model solidifies its dominance.

Content Marketing Trends Startups Should Watch Out

Bite-Size Visual Content

In Q3 of 2017, India surpassed the United States in smartphone sales, placing them second only to China in total smartphone consumption.

Growth, in India, means that Indian startups can shift attention away from the West and towards a growing consumer base at home, and with that comes a shift in perspective. From 2016 to 2017, mobile share of the devices used to access the Internet in India grew from roughly 65% to approximately 80%.

What is happening in India is, of course, part of a global trend, as even the West now consumes more mobile data than desktop data.

It’s no secret that mobile users are looking for more visual experiences, more shareable experiences, experiences that take less time to consume, and interactivity that doesn’t involve a keyboard.

What all of this means is that bite-size visual content is going to start playing a much bigger role in content marketing strategies in the following year. Arguably, audiences are already there. It’s the marketers who need to catch up.

Zomato exemplifies the power of visual content marketing to great effect. Raising more than $65 million in funding, and expanding to 24 countries, the online restaurant directory has managed to earn a staggering amount of attention with only its visual content.

Have a look at a few of the “infographics” Zomato has published. These clever “graphs” are great pieces of relatable visual information and a jab at the idea of quantifying subjective information. These are fantastic pieces of marketing for the social media age because they are simultaneous:

  • Bite-size enough to encapsulate a full idea that can be digested and re-shared within seconds
  • Funny enough to elicit an emotional response from the people who see it
  • Relatable, in a way that encourages people to share it saying “I agree with this”
  • Original enough not to come across as redundant
  • The perfect fit for visual media, since the message and the joke would fall flat without the visual gag

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On a more serious note, Bengaluru-based Simplify360 is killing it on Pinterest with their visual media. They have recognised that selling the power of data to companies is best accomplished when you represent that data in a visual format.

Changing Demographics Mean Changing Content Strategies

India’s economic growth projections far outpace the global average, with consumption expenditures expected to grow by 12 percent each year, more than twice the global growth rate of 5 percent. As mentioned above, growth in India means that startups can turn more of their attention to consumption in the home country, but to achieve this growth, the content marketing strategy required will be slightly different from both the approaches, the one learned from the west and the one we might expect from traditional Indian view.

Urbanisation in India is following a unique trend. While India is urbanising as quickly as anywhere else in the world (and arguably faster), the urbanization is largely from rural life to small towns, rather than from rural life to big cities and suburbs. City dwellers will account for over 60 percent of consumption, and make up 40% of the population, by 2025. Emerging cities will play a big part in the economic growth, in 2018.

Emerging cities behave differently from big cities and will influence your approach to content marketing in some important ways:

  • These consumers are more local-minded and less culturally homogeneous. More targeted and personalized content marketing strategies will be necessary.
  • Consumers in emerging cities tend to have a strong value-for-money orientation, meaning that they will approach purchase decisions very differently than other markets.
  • A more conservative financial outlook is common. These consumers will be more interested in long-term purchasing decisions and less interested in short-term results. This only enhances the value of lead nurturing and loyalty-focused content marketing, while reducing the value of landing page-focused marketing campaigns with an eye on immediate sales.

But, as I mentioned, it isn’t enough to note how India’s unique story of economic growth differs from how content marketing has been approached elsewhere. We also need to recognize how that growth is affecting Indian culture and spending habits:

  • The country is moving away from extended families living in the same home and toward smaller “nuclear” families consisting of single men and women, couples, and parents with children.
  • Nuclear families spend 20 to 30 percent more than extended families per capita. They tend to be younger, more optimistic, and more interested in keeping up with fashions and trends, especially in durables and apparel, with less of an interest in practical goods. This means that content marketing strategies must likewise be perceived as current, fashionable, trendy, and “in the know.”
  • The Indian market is more interested in “better” products on average than Western countries. Thirty percent of consumers are willing to spend more for better products, while the West tends to be more interested in discounted items. Identifying and proving your unique selling proposition, then, will be even more fruitful in India.

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The number of digitally-influenced shoppers will grow from 140 million in 2015 to 300 million in 2020, and a large portion of that growth will be happening in 2018. Now, is the time to deploy loyalty-oriented content marketing strategies and start building an audience among this growing demographic.

More Brands Will Recognize The Value Of Outsourcing Their Content Marketing

In 2015, only 4% of Indian brands were working with a content marketing agency. That figure exploded to 24% by 2017. A full 60% of content was outsourced, either to a specialized content agency, a creative agency, or a digital agency. We can only expect this trend to continue in 2018.

The explosive growth in content marketing over the past two years and the likelihood that this will continue should not be surprising. The skills necessary to successfully identify gaps in the information market, meet those gaps, build customer loyalty, capture audiences, build e-mail lists, and nurture leads into customers, are very different from the skills necessary to develop a product USP and minimum viable product.

Whether, startups should consider outsourcing their content marketing efforts, in the same way, that more established brands might, is an interesting question. As with more established brands, the answer will be unique to the brand and its unique strengths, but on the whole, the position of a startup, if anything, enhances the need for external professional input on a content marketing strategy.

Startups tend to rely more heavily on the value of press and hype than more established businesses and a list of contacts and early signups is arguably more valuable to a startup than an established business.

For outsourcing to work under these circumstances, however, it’s important for both startups and agencies to recognize the unique needs a startup has. Particularly during the pre-launch phase, a singular brand message, a focused lead acquisition strategy, and a clear press-coverage approach must be established.

The market is changing, and content marketing strategies will follow. Demographic, technological, and cultural changes are presenting us with a very interesting future. Let’s seize the opportunities, as they emerge.

This story is a part of our Predictions series where we bring to you the forecasts and predictions for the year 2018, hand-curated by the Inc42 editorial team and industry experts. You can read all the stories of Predictions 2018 series here.

Note: The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views held by Inc42, its creators or employees. Inc42 is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by guest bloggers.