Predictions: 8 digital marketing trends for 2018

What does 2018 hold for digital marketers? We ask a raft of marketers, martech experts and industry commentators

5.Prepare to face the realities of Blockchain hype  

Which leads to CMO’s fifth prediction for 2018: Blockchain, both in terms of hype as well as reality.  

According to Forrester’s 2018 predictions, CIOs further exploit the potential of blockchain technology in the New Year. But don’t expect a major leap in technology maturity. Security, fraud management and identity verification are among the more pressing issues for future blockchain adoption that still need to be thoroughly addressed.  

“2017 wasn’t a great year for trust,” Swann admits. “The misinformation peddled in political campaigns has made us question our leaders and institutions; the validity of academic and scientific research was frequently questioned; and a consistent stream of data breaches eroded confidence in many commercial organisations. All of this opens the door for a big year for blockchain in 2018.    

Read more: What blockchain will do to the experience economy

“As we have more digital relationships with brands, their ability to convince us that their products are genuine, our transactions are secure and our data is protected, will become increasingly important. I can foresee brands putting more emphasis on telling consumers what they are doing to keep them and their information safe.  

“If blockchain technology can overcome the confusion about how it works and clarify its benefits it has the opportunity to position itself as a tool for brands to achieve greater consumer confidence.”  

Sales and marketing director of security consulting firm CQR, Mark Telkes, worries that in the age of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, blockchain is a technology concept that gets thrown around far too much with almost no real understanding of what it really is or application.  

“There has been an exponential increase in interest in the term over the last five years and there is no evidence that this has peaked,” he says. “It’s a race between the blockchain bubble bursting, and someone coming up with a practical use for the technology. This won’t happen in 2018.”  

Wong agrees while there has been much buzz, prototypes need go live and prove blockchain’s suitability for business for it to really take off.  

“We can agree that the decentralised nature of blockchain and the restriction to data manipulation makes it safe,” she says. “Not to mention the anonymity allows people to transact in the digital space securely. That anonymity is a double-edged sword. The rise of cryptocurrency has seen a rise in ransomware attacks as well. Cyber attackers can now demand money knowing that they can receive it anonymously.  

“As more people jump on the bandwagon, educating them on the differences between a public and private blockchain will be important as well. We must learn our lessons from implementing new technology in the past and ensure that educating the masses remain a top priority so that they won’t jump into it blindly.”  

Marketo VP of sales for A/NZ, Nic Dennis, points to a major speed challenge hindering blockchain’s application in martech. In 2018, there needs to be further development to facilitate significantly more interactions per second on a blockchain in order to keep pace with bigger systems and competitors.  

“It has been predicted that blockchain technologies have the potential to disrupt how digital advertising is measured, purchased and delivered – giving consumers more control over what personal data is available to an advertiser,” Dennis says. “With technology budgets in 2018 set to include more martech and adtech solutions, it’s clear that next year CMOs need to look to the technology they have and invest in developing solutions to cope with the sheer volume of customers and organisations they will interact with in 2018.”  

6.Virtual reality, augmented reality hit the trough of disillusionment  

Virtual reality is another much-hyped technology, and the application of mixed reality as a whole gained a few headlines in 2017. In 2018, Lee-Young predicts the focus on VR and AR will be on penetration and application, with the big VR players, such as HTC Vive, Oculus and Playstation, finally bringing down prices and releasing new wireless and standalone headsets.  

“From a content perspective, the big boys are invested with Disney, Hollywood, NBA, MLB, and global media outlets spending hundreds of millions of dollars creating experiences mainstream audiences would want to watch more regularly,” he says. “This will lead the way for others to create their own VR content or advertise within someone else's content.  

“Away from the obvious gaming, entertainment, real estate and porn industries, 2018 will also see VR being used to improve productivity, learning and training, and save costs in areas such as education, medicine, health and wellness, tourism, hospitality, sports, retailing and charitable causes. Once you realise its capability, there will be endless application ideas and opportunities for marketers.”  

Yet Gartner's Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies has AR sitting in the ‘Trough of Disillusionment’ and at least 5-10 years away from success. Ipsos director, Kirsten Riolo, and director of behavioural science, Pascal Bourgeat, both think uncertainty remains around VR and AR as to what the possibilities and opportunities are in this space.  

“AR and VR offers huge scope to change what [and how] shoppers process decision-making as well as transforming their impressions and levels of engagement,” the pair comment. “The downside is that as VR and AR more routinely shape our perceptions and impressions, the technology becomes less transformative and differentiating and just par for the course. The next stage will be to add other sensory dimensions to these experiences: The digitisation of olfactory experiences.”

Read more: Getting your brand ready for augmented reality

Read more: 5 great examples of augmented reality in marketing

Read more: 10 examples of virtual reality marketing in action 

Marketers will and should embrace these technologies but they must harness them in conjunction with their own human-based skillsets such as creativity and intuition, as these which will continue to add value to the marketing mix, Riolo and Bourgeat say.  

“They will also need to appreciate how behaviour works, knowing that while we can create new environments in which to interact with brands, the undying traits we all have are still the same. As these technological advances start to merge, honing our marketing skills to really know what they can affect will be pivotal for the marketer of tomorrow.”  

Tonic Health media commercial director, Jack Mortlock, also saw too much hype around virtual and augmented technology, and said 2018 will be more about the convergence of established formats with digital to create better experiences.  

“If the medium requires the consumer to do something that they’re not going to do anyway, it’s not going to work unless the payout is extraordinary,” he says. “When great creative is combined with digital and outdoor, brands can create an amazing experience for consumers without them having to go out of their way, and I think next year will see further convergence of established formats with digital to create better experiences.”  

7. Amazon will disrupt retail

Another major disruptor on the retail front in 2018 is Amazon’s arrival finally in Australia. Experts agree the digital juggernaut’s local launch places increasing pressure on local retailers to transform digitally or be left behind, with fragile, smaller businesses at particular risk of disruption.

 “Unfortunately, many are still lagging behind and struggle to offer experiences that match customer expectations digitally,” Cyara CMO, Linda Chen, says. “Brands must bear in mind the power of the customer voice – where one wrong move can alter mass perceptions of a brand overnight.

“And with global giants like Amazon now here, who are leaders in the CX game, demand for omni-channel customer experiences will be higher than ever before.”

As a result, Chen predicts the focus in 2018 will turn to customer experience assurance, and how measuring CX technologies can ensure brands are preventing failures before they even occur.

“We will see customers engage with organisations in both multi-channel and cross-channel journeys more than ever. Therefore, staying ahead of the curve and delivering consistently perfect CX is pertinent for organisations to survive,” she adds. “In order to achieve omni-channel CX success and retain customer loyalty in 2018, brands will need to have the right measurement technologies in place to protect and future-proof themselves by ensuring nothing is unpredictable.”

Ipsos managing director of loyalty, Richard Korn, says convenience, simplicity and ease are key. “This also requires empathy - looking at the world through the eyes of the customer to understand what’s working for them and their pain points,” he says.  

“This, however, is not a one-off exercise but something that must happen on an ongoing basis. To this end, businesses must have the right systems in place to capture feedback from their customers, which can then be used to address inefficiencies and optimise customer experience on the fly.”  

Marketo director of customer success, Mike Handes, says all CMOs should be thinking of future proofing their customer journey with technology such as AI, to ensure ongoing audience engagement.  

“AI gives marketers the tools do this at scale and more CMOs will begin to leverage AI technology to serve personalised content to customers across their digital assets,” he says. “Ultimately in 2018, AI will allow CMOs to boost engagement metrics and begin capitalising on the resulting data to deliver revenue growth.”  

8. The divide between adtech and martech narrows  

According to Raab Associates founder, David Raab, the safest prediction to make is always that current trends will continue in 2018. “That would mean more new marketing technology, more technical focus among marketers to use it, more convergence of martech and adtech, and more integrated, personalised experiences as a result,” he says.    

“But I think we may be at a turning point where those trends shift into something else entirely. A likely cause would be stock market decline, whose effects are magnified by malicious incompetence in government to create a full-blown financial crisis. Domestic or international political crises could yield a similar financial result.  The impact of such crises would be profound and marketing technology would be the least of our worries.”  

Read more: Navigating the mad-tech nirvana: What will martech and adtech convergence mean for marketers?

Assuming things don’t get too far out of hand, Raab sees all signs pointing to an inflection away from higher martech investments and towards consolidation as marketers focus on making better use of the tools they have purchased already. It’s a view supported by Gartner’s recent CMO survey, which found martech spending is actually expected to drop next year.  

“This could mean more spending on training and analytics but mostly it will just mean marketers working harder to get better results with existing resources,” Raab says. “It will also mean marketers look for places to save money, and continue to cut costs by bringing ad buying and related functions in-house.  

“But better data will make marketing outcomes more meaningfully measureable, so we can expert investments in attribution and even more pressure on CMOs to use attribution-based analytics to guide their choices and prove their financial benefit.”  

Datarati’s Taylor said he’d love to predict a date for when battle lines between adtech and martech are withdrawn and teams just get on with improving the value and effectiveness of their work.  

“Martech has in many ways already been consumed by adtech, and in 2018, we will continue to hear arguments over who owns what data, and when and how it should be used,” he claims.  

“Transparency, viewability and brand safety concerns, coupled with the marginalisation of agencies has also fuelled the rise of martech,” Bonzai vice-president of sales, Rupert Pay, says. “In 2018, CMOs will be looking to reduce the number of platforms they use, simplifying their lives in what is an already complex ecosystem.  

“We've already started to see this trend in the US, where brands on average are now using less than three DSPs, two of which are accounted for by Google and Amazon.”  

MediaMath country manager, Yun Yip, doesn’t see adtech and martech being consumed by each other.  

“The key is to break down the barriers between the two systems, resulting in more relevant, consistent consumer experiences across channels,” she says. “The integration of the two will enable a complete view of the customer journey and more efficient, meaningful conversations with customers.”  

Penso CEO, Con Frantzeskos, sees three martech-adtech trends coming to the fore 2018. The first is “muddling through”.  

“CMOs won’t commit to a philosophy or single platform but simply muddle through, looking for flexibility and options, shipping and deploying if and when necessary,” he says. Secondly, adoption is ‘Soviet-style’, with the majority of marketers choosing one of the major platforms such as Salesforce, Marketo or others, and build teams around these.  

As a last point, he notes the rise of “Sexy Stacks”. “CMOs will look to build a unique technology stack based not on a particular marketing automation ecosystem, but on ‘best-in-class’ delivery for category and industry needs,” Frantzeskos concludes.  

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