What digital channels are marketers looking to in 2020?

As we close out 2019, we look at where marketers are looking to place marketing budget in the social marketing and digital channels sphere

According to recent research by WARC, marketers are looking to increase marketing investment in emerging social media channels, such as TikTok, and away from old channels such as Twitter and Snapchat.

While traditional digital channels such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube still take the lion’s share, there does appear to be evidence marketers are willing to try the newer channels, particularly when marketing to a younger audience.

Gartner said TikTok was the third-most-installed app worldwide in the first quarter of 2019, behind WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, and surpassed Instagram and Snapchat to be the leading short video application with 500 million monthly active users. The analyst firm added TikTok is fertile ground for brands to launch low-cost viral marketing campaigns. 

WARC said Instagram will see an increase in spending in the coming year, with 68 per cent of surveyed executives saying their investment will increase. YouTube is also expected to see an increase in spending.

Meanwhile, three in five respondents intend to increase their spending on Google. The vast majority (93 per cent) of respondents will use Facebook next year, with 34 per cent planning to increase spending. 

Interestingly, one-third of respondents also claim they will increase their investment in TikTok next year. WeChat has attracted a 17 per cent increase. By contrast, Snapchat is experiencing a decreasing investment of around 18 per cent, as is Twitter, with a 19 per cent decrease. 

In June's edition of WARC's Global Ad Trends, it was found ad growth in the social and messaging sector had halved over the year. WARC's Marketer's Toolkit found one in five marketers intends to reduce spend on Facebook in 2020, with Twitter and Snapchat also facing the prospect of muted revenue growth. This could be a signal of a changing of the guard; Americans aged 13 to 16 years-old are already using TikTok more than they are Facebook and Twitter.

This cooling in growth comes at a time when trust in information on social media reached new lows and calls for greater regulation for tech and social media companies grow louder.

With the increased investment in online video and digital channels including YouTube and TikTok, marketers are clearly aware of consumers’ love for video. As such, live video is an emerging technology three-quarters of respondents say is either quite (43 per cent) or very (31 per cent) important to themselves or their clients in 2020. 

So where are Australian marketers investing their ever-shrinking budget next year? CMO asks the question. 

Michelin Australia 

Michelin Australia said channels such as TikTok and WeChat probably won’t come into play for its 2020 plans. 

“I know for us in Australia we have a large Facebook audience, but have not yet ventured into Instagram with a local page," Michelin Australia PR and brand partnerships manager, Ebony Doherty, told CMO. "Those new channels target quite a young, on-trend/social-savvy, interactive audience, and probably not the right channel for Michelin at this time. I can see a lot of beauty/fashion channels getting into this one for sure."

Instead, Michelin will be investing in proven channels – Facebook, YouTube, and Google. "We will be continuing our involvement in radio and further extending this into advertising in podcasts," Doherty said.

“Podcasts are something that were tested in 2019 and proved to be worthwhile. Getting people listening to our messaging while on the road and/or travelling is key. We’ll continue some of our TV and print advertising also. 

“There is a certain follow of the ‘trend’ that needs to happen but in terms of some of those social channels, I don’t think we’re there yet.”


Airwallex head of growth, Neil Luo, said as a B2B company, it is focused on channels allowing it to target businesses. 

“In 2020, we will continue to invest in channels such as Facebook and YouTube – they provide a broad reach for our customer base, which we then enrich and retarget through other channels," he said. “We will also explore emerging platforms such as podcasts. Podcasts offer engaging and powerful content that can be consumed on-the-go, and as a result, have garnered immense popularity among business communities." 

WeChat has always been a focus as it is a great way to target SME customers in China. Luo said in 2020, Airwallex will build a WeChat mini-program to drive greater return on investment from advertising in the messaging channel. 

“While TikTok is a global phenomenon, it is still very consumer-focused and attracts a younger demographic. It might be an interest in future if it evolves its offerings for B2B marketing,” he added. 

Meridian Energy

“The constant refrain of marketers for generations has been ‘the customer should be at the heart of everything we do’ and I think we’re set to be the first generation of marketers who can really make that a reality," Meridian Energy CMO, Michael Healy, said.

"Things like TikTok are interesting for sure, but I don’t think  anyone’s goals or plans for the coming year should be limited to channel, media, publisher or platform. Instead, I think it’s about being ambitious in finding insightful opportunities to drive business value, and express and build our brands through whichever channels or experiences our customer(s) prefer… then making the technology and execution choices required to make that work.”


Tealium's CMO, Heidi Bullock, is the first to agree the job of the marketer is to invest dollars in the best possible way to drive quality, sustainable growth for the organisations they work for.

"Driving growth requires attracting new audiences, while continuing to delight existing customers," she said. "A few key points: New audiences may not be on the channels you leverage today; and existing customers are not static, they find new channels and look for evolution of all things – including your products/brand."

While Bullock expected marketers to start building their plan around what programs and channels are proven and work, she noted such proven channels will most likely require more investment to get similar results as they are already saturated and standing out costs more.

"That is why marketers should have some part of their budget for experimentation and trying new things. It is important to give your tests a few months and see what happens," she continued. "For example, if you market to a pre-teen demographic, YouTube probably performs well, but layering in TikTok could be a powerful way to expand your brand story." 

Tealium's emphasis going into the new year is investing in channels that can help create more engaging experiences. 

"For example, we are planning to use chatbots for landing pages and product tools to create relevant experiences while in-app," Bullock said. "I also plan to experiment with more social media channels for stories. Beyond the platforms, we are examining how to adjust digital spend in light of how regional privacy regulations. We want to spend more intelligently with an eye towards prioritising privacy/ governance alongside personalisation."


Yellow executive general manager, James Ciuffetelli, said the marketing and product teams' primary focus will be to continue driving consumer awareness of the Yellow brand across digital platforms.

"We believe AI will continue to drive better engagement and communication that will ultimately drive ecommerce transactions. The team are working hard on ensuring chatbots continue to be an important part of our digital marketing efforts in 2020 as the generation of ‘instant gratification’ will reward brands that are able to respond to consumer problems quickest," he said.

"Visual search will take the user experience to a totally different level and channels, such as Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube will be essential marketing platforms for small business to tell their stories.

"We will continue to focus our efforts on marketing across as many platforms such as social media, apps, email and blogs relevant for our consumers. Our ambition will continue to be to connect buyers and sellers across as many platforms that are appropriate."

Ciuffetelli said getting an omni-channel marketing experience right for small business in 2020 will deliver an enhanced user experience and cohesive brand message that delivers great ROI.

"Search engine optimisation will continue to become even more accountable with more pressure than ever on digital marketing companies like ours to claim as much space in Google’s coveted first page of results as possible," he said. "We believe our expertise and focus on SEO will boost click through rates and drive more organic traffic to websites which will help small businesses claim that much sought after top spot."


More widely, Forrester cites a budget shift from search engines to ecommerce platforms. 

“In general, we see a budget shift from search engines, like Google and Baidu, to ecommerce platforms, like Amazon and Alibaba, as consumers increasingly search more on ecommerce platforms than search engines to discover and explore products they are interested in,” Forrester senior analyst, Xiaofeng Wang, said. 

“In 2020, more brands will do so, especially with new initiatives like live streaming commerce gaining momentum. 

“Brands will shift marketing dollars from performance marketing and last-click channels to brand marketing and brand-building channels like online videos. More brands like Adidas will realise the flaw of last-click attributions and adopt more advanced measurement methods, and adjust their digital marketing strategies. 

“Marketers will continue to increase investment in social commerce and influencer marketing, especially on social platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and WeChat, as consumers rely more and more on recommendations from peers and KOLs [key opinion leaders] to make their purchase decisions.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia.  

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