Predictions: 10 technology trends in marketing for 2021

What technology will define and reshape marketing in 2021? CMO asks the experts

 6. Collaboration, automation and workflow tech  

After the rapid adoption of remote work in 2020, 2021 will see this starting to mature and give rise to new workflow tools that are collaborative-first.

“While companies have been forced into a remote-first setup, we’re unlikely to be going back to a fully synchronous world anywhere. Instead, we’ll see more tools which make it easy to collaborate online, and asynchronously,” claims Segment chief product development officer, Tido Carriero.

“In addition, we’re going to see a lot more low-code tools for building various pipelines, getting insights and user productivity. They’ll be dev-flavoured in the sense that they can be customised, have plenty of keyboard shortcuts, and include integrations with other popular tools. Users will be able to customise and re-use them as a building block.” 

Collaboration will revolve around security, work from home and AI, according to TetraVX partner and director, James Caroll. Now that companies are relying on home networks for security, many confidential conversations are susceptible to interception. “Security must remain a focus point in the next year if businesses want to maintain their security while at home,” says Caroll.

“Video conferencing will continue to boom, but companies will require more functionality. Working from home has highlighted what works and what doesn’t in terms of remote working. Companies like Zoom found success in being a product-first organisation, but it also lacked proper file storage and collaboration which are very important components of a business operation," he says.

There is going to be a massive shift to remote culture and management. "This will present huge challenges for communications, how people interact, how individuals are managed and how companies view and measure performance. The key will be replacing all the in-person communication that happens informally somehow and keeping people aligned and motivated," says CloudCheckr CEO, Tim McKinnon.

The shift to asynchronous workflows will also see more watch-on-demand events plugged into the funnel. “This year saw an explosion of virtual events as marketers adapted to a changing world. While I suspect a lot of us are feeling some virtual burnout right now, there will still be a place for these kinds of events, even after we resume in-person ones,” 6sense CMO, Latané Conant, says.

“Imagine a virtual event running 24/7. Your prospects get triggered into the event as they proceed to the right steps in your funnel, and they engage with this event through multiple means, like Netflix meets Slack. There’s video content they watch on-demand, there’s a live stream playing on-site and there’s a community of users and fans who create a unique and engaging place to be. Prospects learn about your solutions and then, after watching videos and chatting with others, they get directed immediately to your product team."

SolarWinds head geek, Liz Beavers, expects 2021 to be a time when teams have adopted automation workflows without fear. “Automation was out of necessity and now teams will be in a position to expand on their automations: Removing manual work, alleviating potential downtime/disruptions – all helping to increase efficiency and productivity,” she says.

“The extended remote operations continue to grow: Some offices are announcing remote work, permanently. Organisations, big and small, are seeing their workforces can be successful without being in a physical office.

"For many companies, office plans were built on ‘open concept’ - which based on the recommendations are not conducive to ensuring employees’ safety and wellbeing. Reconfiguring spaces to accommodate those guidelines could be incredibly costly, as opposed to shifting everyone to permanent remote work."

7. FaaS and SaaS

Function-as-a-service, or headless commerce and server-less functions, are another technology category predicted to become more than just a trend in 2021. WhiteGREY national head of technology, Juan Garcia, said these technologies are not new concepts, nor are they the solutions to all problems. They've come a long way and are here to take over.

“The impact is now visible in how we design and develop applications and is extending to how we build our teams around these ‘new’ skills. The most exciting part is the opportunity for brand owners, CMOs, CTOs and CIOs to start having the right conversations to transform how to plan, budget and work with marketing technology,” Garcia says.

“Headless provides that common ground with the potential to enable marketers and developers to use their preferred platforms and tools, to transform external costs like licenses and hosting to new business capabilities and to close that dreadful gap between the martech stack potential and the actual utilisation."

Complementary to this is the SaaS space. In 2021, several are predicting partnerships between SaaS companies are going to thrive and relationships will matter so much more.

“Increased shared marketplaces, such as Salesforce AppExchange, will benefit the tech industry as they allow for companies to co-sell and co-market together,” Sendoso CMO, Dan Frohnen, says.

We can expect to see expanding integrations and APIs being more interconnect and working together. This in turn, helps to streamline business operations and allows for ease of integration, automating tasks and improved services. “Having an API-driven strategy also creates more engaging experiences for customers and prospects while enabling the delivery of services such as personalisation and data collection,” notes Frohnen.

8. Robotic process automation

Engagement and relevance are two sticking points for marketing that the onward march of technology in 2021 will not only resolve, but surpass. This is thanks to AI as well as the growing use of robotic process automation (RPA).

“Using an AI capability to learn your customers’ habitual responses to the content a company is putting out will create a far more targeted approach to the individual and an increased level of personalisation, but driven through a holistic use of technology,” explains Nintex director, Chris Ellis.

“Train once, apply many times over. Coupled with the use of robotic process automation (RPA) technology to sweep up the mundane, repetitive, high-volume tasks, we’re freeing the marketing department up to be more customer and content focused, removing the monotony of dealing with multiple tasks across multiple systems, from a simple business card scan to a fully-tailored post-event outreach campaign and lead process." 

2021 is therefore an exciting horizon for the space of hyper-automation and for those organisations on the journey.

"The return on investment is well beyond monetary with a reduction in risk, employee satisfaction and a more efficient customer experience adding to a long list of benefits,” adds Ellis.

 9. Connected TV

Several industry pundits agree the global pandemic was very good for connected TV. And it's a technology advancement expected to mature and grow in 2021.

As consumers were forced to stay home, the biggest screen in the house took on more significance. Lotame CEO, Andy Monfried, points to Nielsen stats showing Netflix accounted for 34 per cent of total streaming time in Q2 2020, outpacing Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and YouTube. Meanwhile Roku reported a 73 per cent YOY increase in revenue for Q3 2020.

“Where consumers go, advertisers follow. More budgets will be directed to CTV as the space matures but the same measurement and scale headaches are sure to follow,” he says.

And it's again AI that will drive better converged TV-digital experiences. “The convergence of TV and digital is inevitable. It is happening whether brands and agencies are prepared for it or not," Amobee director of solutions, Dillen Alahendra, says.

"Its arrival has led to new models and approaches, all with the intention of taking advantage of the strengths of each channel. Marketers spend a significant amount of time planning and allocating appropriately based on limited resources and data. AI provides an advantageous edge to marketers by making sense of patterns, data and algorithmic applications to drive more informed decision-making in a converging media world. 

“When brands and agencies can understand the performance of different channels in real time due to machine learning and regression modelling, they’ll have the ability to optimise in real time as well, and provide better experiences for consumers across all channels from TV, digital and social.”   

Read more: What CMOs need to know about addressable TV right now

10. Blockchain 

Our 10th and final technology prediction impacting marketing in 2021 is around blockchain. According to WePower CTO and co-founder, Kaspar Kaarlep, fulfilment of Blockchain’s potential in marketing and advertising is on the cards in the New Year.

“With the hype having subsided, blockchain has got into the raw functionality and is poised to deliver results where it matters in 2021,” Kaarlep argues.  

Blockchain’s ability to link power purchases at a granular level to a local project that is supplying jobs to people in the business’ local area is also a powerful emblem of community support - fuelling the buy-local sentiment of 2020, which is one of the few trends worth carrying with us into 2021," he adds.

“Years on, the same issues of inefficiency, an opaque supply chain, and ad fraud continue to persist today. Despite the plethora of adtech and martech solutions, all we’ve truly gained is an oversaturated ecosystem of technologies, leaving brands burdened by choice, unable to strategically discern where their investments should truly go,” says Aqilliz chief strategy officer, Prateek Dayal. 

Dayal foresees greater openness among brands and marketers alike as they seek out innovative technologies that can better deliver on greater returns, be it in terms of cost, productivity, efficiency, or a smarter model of automaton.It’s time that we go beyond existing legacy solutions, instead opting for a singular infrastructure that can offer solutions on a holistic level,” says Dayal.  

Blockchain has the potential to move beyond hype to a true value proposition: the ability to offer a single, reconciled source of truth that all participants can refer to. Allowing for a transparent immutable ledger of transactions, blockchain can insert greater accountability across the campaign ecosystem while meeting compliance requirements due to its ability to provide data provenance. In addition, smart contracts offer a smarter, more automated approach to processes such as impression validation and payments reconciliation due to pre-encoded parameters that trigger a contract only when specific conditions are met,” says Dayal. 

Technologies such as these are likely to rise in prominence as marketers continue to weigh out the costs and benefits of today’s existing infrastructures against the potential of those that can truly address the needs of the future, he says.

Read more: Can blockchain deliver on its big advertising promises?

What blockchain will do to the experience economy

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