​Predictions: 9 digital marketing predictions for 2020

CMO asks the experts about what digital marketing will hold in 2020

What does 2020 hold for digital marketing, and marketing generally?

There's no doubt data-driven marketing strategies and digital marketing practices are accelerating thanks to marketing technology maturity and the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), customer data management platforms and orchestration capabilities.

So we asked a raft of industry experts from the marketing technology and industry community to give us their thoughts what digital marketing will look like in 2020 and beyond, off the back of the latest innovations and growing realisation of digital as the dominant component of the modern marketing approach.

1. Bigger data strategy budgets

According to Forrester, advanced firms will be double their data strategy budget in 2020 as the total cost of getting data wrong will become apparent.

Tealium chief marketing officer, Heidi Bullock, said companies that can provide valuable and the right experiences for the buyer will win in the next year. And to do that, they need a data-first strategy.

“As part of a great experience, companies need to be able to deliver meaningful outputs at the right time. This is largely dependent on a unified customer profile, real-time data inputs, and also rapid decision making on what the right experience is," she said. "This is where we will see progress with AI and ML to deliver journey orchestration in more of an automated manner.

"Currently, even if organisations have the right data, it is often a semi-manual and rules-based approach to taking action on that data. Better machine learning tools will free marketers up from managing back-end processes to create the tailored experiences their customers demand.”

The Lumery co-founder and head of strategy, Ben Fettes, said as pressure mounds in turbulent, global economic environments where ‘returns’ are expected, data-driven marketing with an emphasis on ROI will continue to increase. 

“At the same time, data science will start to out-perform a marketers’ traditional efforts to execute, especially given the continued investment in subject matter experts, which are creating more operational models across more industry sectors,” he said.

Pluralsight head of marketing, APAC, Josephine Lanzarone, is another who sees almost all marketing programs driven by data and insights to achieve personalisation in 2020.

"Today, strategic, quality digital marketing is the engine driving significant pipeline and lead generation," she said. “Connecting with prospects at a time they’re seeking information will ensure content is tailored to their needs. We’re at a crossroads when it comes to quantity and quality of digital marketing - while targeting a wide set of prospects can widen the horizon of opportunity, spamming prospects can essentially damage a brand.”

Bullock noted forward-looking organisations will take a data-first strategy if they want to deliver the right experiences.To help, she predicted continued uptake of customer data platforms (CDPs).

“It means marketers will value having the CDP act as a trusted foundation of clean data to fuel their entire tech stack. As many organisations saw last year, if the underlying data is stuck in silos and not accessible in a timely manner, the right outcomes are not achievable,” she said.

“The best apps in the world will fail unless there is real-time data flow across technologies and departments."

2. Consent management and privacy in the spotlight

 Another red-flag reason for marketers to lift their data game has to do with consent management.

“To deliver the right experience for a buyer, companies need to be able to support their preferences around privacy," Bullock said. "If data is siloed in systems and difficult to attribute to a consenting individual, marketers are going to be bogged down in compliance issues instead of improving the customer experience. This is increasingly considered table stakes and more important than ever with new regulations and compliance.”

Cheetah Digital CMO, Richard Jones, said traditional vendors are set up to help brands market to unknown users by leveraging cookies to snoop on consumers and their behaviour. But with many predicting it's time to prepare for a cookie-less future, marketers are going to need to rethink the way they gain consent to use consumer data as such "questionable tactics aren’t as easy as they once were".

"Web browsers are disabling third-party cookies in order to fend off loss of market share and no one wants to be seen as 'not on the customer’s side' when it comes to privacy," Jones said. "In the year ahead, marketers will pivot to zero-party data strategies to drive personalised marketing with consumers' permission, as well as double down on loyalty programs to reward ongoing direct customer engagement.” 

Pegasystems CMO, Tom Libretto, saw marketers getting serious about transparency and data governance.

“It turns out GDPR was not just a drill: This year, companies like British Airways and Marriott got hit with major fines for customer data privacy violations. With GDPR now being enforced, and a similar law set to roll out in California (CCPA) next year, a wait-and-see approach to data transparency is no longer acceptable," he said.

"This data regulation wave will continue to swell in 2020, putting big pressure on marketers to invest in systems to help them comply. Their overall business success could turn on their ability to meet these increasing data governance expectations.” 

3. Stacks to be streamlined

Constant updates and innovation in the martech space had led to a piecemeal approach to the stack, with some companies having upwards of 10 solutions in play. 2020 will see a streamlining of the martech stack, as more solutions offer more capabilities and vendors are reduced.

MediaMath A/NZ VP of partnerships and country manager, Yun Yip, expected to see more and more companies begin to address some of the unintended consequences that the rapid evolution of the adtech industry has thrown up.

“My own company has recently overhauled its entire supply chain to ensure a clean and addressable environment, creating new terms of trade to modernise the business," she commented. "Aside from being the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense as brands look for an alternative to the walled gardens and their 'black box' opacity, which is been gaining momentum lately.”

4. Digital marketing is just marketing

“We have seen omni-channel customer service increase over the last few years and we expect to see the same occur in the digital marketing space,” RelationEdge country manager A/NZ, Paul Milinkovic, said.

“While the traditional marketing channels of print, TV and radio will continue to be used, digital marketing channels will become the first choice for many organisations due to the ability for marketers to accurately profile those that engage with their content. Additionally, the low cost of digital advertising through social channels and the higher conversion rate, makes digital marketing an obvious choice.” 

Isentia head of insights NZ, Ngaire Crawford, hoped this will lead the term "digital marketing" finally disappearing.

“There will continue to be more platforms, more algorithms, more demand for an audience's attention, so having a clear story and purpose has to come first - not how you choose to communicate it,” she said. 

5. Contextual advertising experiences a renaissance

GumGum SVP of global commercial development, Adam Schenkel, said contextual advertising, the centuries old way of reaching relevant audiences by placing an ad next to brand or product related content, is set for a renaissance next year, boosted by technological advances in sentiment analysis.

“The shift towards mobile advertising has strangled the effectiveness of the cookie which, along with GDPR, has led to consumer data privacy concerns and a renewed focus on user experience. This means brands are seeking alternate methods of targeting consumers," he said. 

“Contextual advertising is now highly sophisticated thanks to the use of AI-driven natural language processing [NLP] sentiment analysis across both image and text. This has the potential to open up highly valuable inventory and drive real advertising ROI for brands, while delivering a positive user experience for consumers.”

Integral Ad Science managing director for APAC, Stephen Dolan, also saw contextual targeting returning to the forefront of media planning in 2020. 

"Contextual adjacencies are top of mind for both marketers and content publishers. Now more than ever, having a detailed and accurate understanding of a Web page’s content both opens-up inventory for publishers and allows marketers to be relevant to their audiences," he said. "The claims are supported by plenty of evidence such as Biometric research conducted by Integral Ad Science and Neuro-Insight, which show people respond to the entire context surrounding an ad impression rather than just a single component of it."

As a result, the conversation will further evolve from what Dolan described as a "black and white binary focus of brand safety" to more nuanced and bespoke brand suitability.

"In today’s digital landscape, we are scaling successfully through the likes of programmatic - now we need to focus on quality. The first goal will always be safety, but the close second should be to appear in a brand-safe environment at scale and in a suitable context and digital advertising in 2020 will see more traction towards this move," he said.

Up next: Our last 4 digital marketing predictions for 2020

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