12 martech trends to watch in 2022

In the latest of our 2022 predictions series for CMOs, we explore the marketing and customer technology innovations on the way

It’s been another year of growing sophistication across the marketing technology landscape. As artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced automation progress, capabilities being introduced into the ever-growing array of martech stacks and customer engagement technologies is exploding.

Thanks to acceleration of digital and ecommerce during the pandemic, there’s growing desire for agile, cloud-based, flexible technology solutions that can adapt to business needs, whether these be for commerce solutions or digital or hybrid experience management.

Combine that with marketing teams needing to decouple from cookies and shore up their first-party data positions, both in terms of data management and security as well as actionability, and it’s clear martech and customer technology integration and optimisation are going to be critical in 2022 and beyond.

In the second of our special predictions report series, CMO takes a look at what’s in store for marketing technology innovation and utilisation in the coming year.

1. Headless technology allowing for innovation at scale

According to AKQA managing partner, Brian Vella, the rise of headless technology is changing the landscape and empowering brands.

At its heart, ‘headless’ means content authoring and production sits separately to its digital delivery or consumption channel. For example, a headless repository of content can be tapped into by an independent front-end in order to populate a website or kiosk app via APIs. This desire for flexibility is only expected to increase in 2022 as more and more organisations look to better harness content and commerce to deliver experiences.

“While the impacts of Covid may have sped up the process, the change has been coming for a while as technology companies innovate and adapt their offer to meet the modern needs of brands and their consumers,” Vella says. “Consumer expectations continue to shift from seeing digital commerce and transactions as a utility, to a connected component of a broader brand experience that exists across channels. Headless technologies are a powerful way to deliver exceptional customer experiences for brands and importantly, meet their shifting expectations.

“Consumers are expecting brands to blend digital and physical experiences. Using your mobile app and website to support their in-store experience for live inventory, location information, store specific pricing and enhanced product content, and to complete a purchase without going through checkout - all with an expectation of individualised service.”

Consumer expectations continue to shift from seeing digital commerce and transactions as a utility, to a connected component of a broader brand experience that exists across channels.

Brian Vella, AKQA

To meet this need, Vella sees companies shifting tech investment from channel-focused platforms, such as the Web CMS and shopfront, to composable, API native platforms. These focus on delivering enterprise-wide capabilities that are open to integration and designed to be remixed across existing and new consumer channels, he explains.

“Companies are pairing these platforms with real-time data integration and activation. Primarily this is through investment in real-time CDPs to provide and orchestrate connected brand experiences across channels, and through connecting operational and online behavioural information give companies deeper insights into their customers and performance, allowing them to plan their future products and experiences,” Vella continues.

To help, AKQA has joined the MACH Alliance, an industry body focused on future-proofing enterprise technology. “Partnering with MACH allows us to be part of the global advisory network to back our clients’ ambitions,” Vella says.  

“It aims to guide and show the business advantage of open tech ecosystems that are microservices based, API-first, cloud-native and headless.”

Read more: What you need to know about headless websites and commerce

2. The great migration to cloud   

Sana Commerce chief marketing officer, Jeroen Kuppens, predicts further migration to cloud everywhere in 2022 and beyond. Again, he suggests the imperative for this tech transition has been accelerated by the global pandemic.

“Previously, the key motivators behind cloud adoption were to optimise costs, drive faster innovations and enhance commercialisation opportunities. However, the pandemic’s influence on digital migration and remote working has made factors such as remote workforce management, data security, disaster recovery, system reliability, automation and scalability key priorities to ensure business continuity,” he says.  

“As companies seek ways to make their business faster, and more accessible for both customers and employees, we will see accelerated investments in cloud technologies as companies work towards replacing their existing technology stacks with cloud alternatives to boost their current and long-term capabilities and growth.”  

3. Optimising martech is the name of the game

Given the proliferation of martech systems across organisations today, it’s not surprising to find several industry pundits forecasting an ever-greater focus on optimisation and better integration of the tools in marketer’s hands in 2022.

8 x 8 senior marketing manager A/NZ, Pablo Munoz, points out disruptions caused by Covid-19 have seen many organisations re-assessing martech budgets.

“Organisations will be optimising for value and therefore to avoid wasted resources,” he says. “This will inevitably mean re-evaluating the organisation's martech stack and eliminating underutilised technologies, and also expanding adoption of technologies that are driving a return on investment.”

For Cheetah Digital principal solution consultant, Miles Toolin, this will lead to the death of the ‘build your own martech stack’ phenomenon. He claims building your own is becoming stale and “not showing results”.

“Outside some of the larger enterprises in the world, the build versus buy argument comes into play here,” Toolin says. “You have SaaS vendors who spend hundreds of millions of dollars on building natively integrated technology stacks, leaving the building and the risk to them. As a business, we should be focused on customers and solving our use cases challenges in an agile fashion, not embarking on building a tech stack to solve a problem.”

In addition, Toolin claims too many businesses are stuck in ‘transformation fatigue land’ as they’ve embarked on journeys based on trends such as customer data platform (CDPs), activation and personalisation.

“Amplified by Covid, almost all businesses realised they were not ready for a true digital experience that translates from in-store to online seamlessly for their customers. We are now seeing a multitude of businesses look deeper at technology and investing in the digital space,” he adds.

“Businesses that were ready saw consistent numbers and if not increases in digital streams of revenue during Covid. They are now ahead of the competition and moving on the next phases of the customer experience.”

Yet as we see more tech heavy lifting in play, Zoho chief strategy officer, Vijay Sundaram, believes martech needs to be as personalised as possible to organisational needs.,

“Just as no two businesses operate the same, no two businesses should use martech the same way in 2022,” he says. “Personalisation is key for consumers today, and so it must be key for the businesses, brands and marketers that want to build relationships with them.

Just as no two businesses operate the same, no two businesses should use martech the same way in 2022

Vijay Sundaram, Zoho

“That’s why marketers will be prioritising software they can customise to suit their needs and, ultimately, the needs of their customers. The marketers who do so will get the most cut-through and the most from their technology in 2022. Even with optimism higher in 2022 than in recent years, marketing budgets will remain tight, so customisable martech solutions will provide infinitely higher ROI than off-the-shelf software.”

4. CDPs drive more meaningful customer relationships

Speaking of CDPs, Salesforce regional vice-president for Marketing Cloud, Kevin Doyle, is one of many predicting their exponential trajectory continuing in the New Year.

“The battle for data privacy and transparency is reshaping marketing as we know it. Google and Apple’s decisions this year to limit third-party access to user data is forcing marketers to rethink their approach to measuring campaign performance, capturing data, turning data into actionable insights, and using data-driven insights to drive stronger business outcomes,” he comments.

“Given the changes, marketers can no longer lean on vanity metrics, like email open and clickthrough rates, to guide their decisions. Instead, they need to shift their focus to first-party data. While many are already collecting this type of data, what we’ve seen this year is that the majority are not making the most of it. In a lot of cases, they can’t take full advantage of the rich resources at their fingerprints because they’re scattered across multiple disconnected platforms, and not being collated to leverage the all-important insights beneath.

Once a ‘nice to have’, CDPs won’t be an optional tool for the 2022 marketer — they’re essential to thrive through the next evolution of data privacy

Kevin Doyle, Salesforce

“What’s needed is a customer data platform, bringing together all the data an organisation has on their customers into one central place, in real time. Adopting a CDP gives marketers full visibility into a customer’s history to gain a better understanding of the customer experience, including what factors lead to sales. This, in turn, allows marketers to improve the segmentation of their campaigns, delivering highly personalised content and driving deeper customer engagement.”  

Doyle describes a great CDP as one that’s self-service, marketer-friendly and an actionable system that automates and streamlines the process for marketers.

“Once a ‘nice to have’, CDPs won’t be an optional tool for the 2022 marketer — they’re essential to thrive through the next evolution of data privacy,” he adds.

Insighten director, Gagan Batra, also sees the demise of third-party cookies and proposed changes to Australia’s Privacy Act as impetus for organisations to better embrace first-party data strategies and data collection mechanisms more holistically next year.

“As a consequence, organisations are initiating a better value exchange with consumers through increasingly sophisticated and carefully crafted experiences across all channels and touchpoints,” he says. “This value exchange relies heavily on martech platforms to collect, store, manage and distribute data for segmentation and activation purposes in an increasingly flexible way. But also by balancing this with the strict guardrails of the progressively complex consent and privacy laws with the imminent changes to the Privacy Act to come into effect in the new year.

“Currently, significant resources, both time and money, are being spent to make the data available to multiple systems to allow marketers to act. That is, collecting data in the CDP, collecting data in the analytics platform, collecting data for marketing automation, and so on. This practice is no longer sustainable with the arsenal of tools IT and data teams need to manage and maintain.

“There will be a significant shift in the preference for flexibility and streamlining first-party data collection and distributing it to many. Marketers are looking to orchestrate the customer journey under one roof and many platforms are going to become the front end where they ingest the data in the back end from pre-built integrations and offer a flexible offering where users can use as much of the stack as they want. 

“The vision is clear but the path to implementation is murky and strewn with obstacles, many of which are unknown. We will need to stay open-minded and be prepared to change and adapt our thinking as the market evolves.” 

Read more: The lowdown on customer data platforms

5. Context aware, 100% anonymous personalisation

Founder and CEO of Particular Audience and SimilarInc.com, James Taylor, is another who sees growing concerns around privacy, permission, security and data ownership firmly at the centre of the digital marketing debate in 2022. This has direct bearing on martech’s evolution.

“The existence of digital push marketing is at stake. CDPs, email marketing platforms and SMS marketing tools are all likely to peak in 2022 as marketers scramble to own and control as much first-party customer data as they can before privacy laws, opt-ins and the demise of third-party cookies make their jobs a lot harder,” he predicts.

“The future of marketing is controlled by the customer. Customers opting only for relevant, timely content that matches their real-time context and does not compromise their personal data. The days of spam filled inboxes are starting to come to an end. Convenience through anonymous personalisation will begin to dominate.”

Read more: Explainer: What marketers need to know about the proposed privacy law changes

6. Engagement tools proliferate

Growing customer expectations are also behind Nintex director of field marketing, Asia-Pacific and Americas, Eileen Tan’s prediction that engagement tools will proliferate in 2022.

“There are so many martech systems available to marketers and it seems marketing departments are continually adding new tools. Core tools like CRM and marketing automation will continue to be the bedrock for marketing teams, but I expect leaders will look at adding tools that help teams further engage with prospects and customers,” she says.  

“This could be a chatbot on the company website, using AI to determine topics of interest and surfacing the relevant content for consumption. It could be an add-on tool to enhance landing pages with guided tracks and specific CTAs to drive deeper engagement and increase uptake of content and events.

“As ABM [account-based marketing] becomes more important, understanding customer intent will help with segmentation and arm sales and marketing teams with additional insights to effectively engage throughout all stages of the customer journey. Marketing leaders will add a tool to their tech stack that helps with identifying intent and enable their teams to deliver customised content and experiences to the right customers, at the right time.”

Personalisation across the Web, email, through live chat / chatbots, digital ads and other channels will ultimately help brands offer customer-centric experiences that will win the attention and dollars of their ideal customers in 2022, agrees BlackLine director for APAC marketing, Fei Xiang Woon. Full Circle Insights CEO, Bonnie Crater, says advancements in click-to-close technology will be another outcome of the push to better convert.

“In 2022, marketers will take the next steps in their digital campaigns. During the pandemic, marketers were forced to rely on digital marketing, as opposed to in-person events that gauged traction. With advancements in click-to close technology, marketers can track digital ad engagements and identify the channels, programs, vendors and so on, that drive revenue,” she predicts. 

Read more: 7 innovative brand chatbots

Up next: 6 more important marketing technology predictions for 2022

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