21 digital marketing predictions for 2023

CMO has collated the opinions of marketing chiefs, agencies, industry thought leaders, adtech, martech, media players and more to bring you an assortment of hefty digital marketing predictions for the new year

Will the metaverse soar in 2023? What impact will the downturn have on marketing budgets and effectiveness? Are marketers prepared for the final demise of cookies? Can attention really flick the switch away from linear TV to BVOD? Will environmental ethics finally come to the advertising supply chain? Can we assume consumers will even trust brands enough to share data in the face of this year’s cybersecurity attacks?

CMO has canvassed a wide array of predictions from across the industry and waded through tens of thousands of words to find out what’s on the cards for digital marketing in 2023. Here’s what we discovered.

1. Marketers forced to do more with less

A general belief across industry thought leaders is the need for marketers to do more with less. Which means reassessing, realigning and rebuilding foundations in order to be smarter about marketing.

“If the last few years have taught us anything, it's that 2023 is going to be packed full of surprises. None, though, should come from your marketing team,” advises Shippit CMO, Brett Chester. “Marketers should have a twofold focus in the year ahead: Solidify your foundations and do more with less.

“As an urgent exercise, marketers should explore underlying logic supporting the growth aspects of their businesses. For example, marketing automation and scoring programs should be audited to ensure they are delivering quality and quantity leads to sales teams. This back-to-basics approach will help do more with less but is only half of the battle.

“So simultaneously, while expecting budgets are going to decrease year-on-year but goals and targets are increasing, get your spreadsheet wunderkinder to run retrospectively and expose all insights possible from your 2022 campaigns. They should clearly define the results you should expect if improvements can be identified then realised, and what your reinvestment theses should be. From there it's all about execution - the easy bit, right?”

Tecala marketing manager, Jemma Healy, agrees doing things smarter, faster and better is the imperative for Australian marketers looking to thrive in 2023. 

“Marketers will leverage automation to increase efficiency, performance and profitability, as well as gain real-time meaningful data insights,” she predicts. “With talent resource shortages and economic uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to empower employee productivity and improve job satisfaction. The combination of gaining access to real-time valuable data insights, as well as automating mundane, repetitive and tedious tasks, will empower marketing teams to focus on more creative and strategic initiatives that can drive agile marketing campaigns and messaging that will resonate deeply with differing client needs.”

BlackLine chief marketing and strategy officer, Andres Botero, flags digital agility as a must amid rising inflation rates, tight labour markets and slowing macro-economic conditions. “You need to meet prospective customers where they are and provide varied ways for them to consume your message – from the classic webinars to snackable content like videos and thought-provoking social media posts,” he says.

“Test and evolve how you get your buyers’ attention. Show you respect your audience’s time by delivering value at every touchpoint. Limited resources mean you can’t do everything, so find and invest in what delivers the best results.”

In a similar vein, GoCardless marketing manager, Emily-Jane Shurey, sees diligently curated account lists as absolutely vital for B2B teams. “When every marketing dollar is being scrutinised and must show clear ROI, working together with sales to build a list of great fit accounts will focus your attention and your budget,” she says.

2. Environmental ethics come to the fore in the ad supply chain

Reducing environmental impact has become a board imperative as customers and stakeholders demanding organisations operate more ethically. Sustainability and carbon emissions will be an additional metric CMOs need to consider in their own supply chain in 2023 and beyond, forecasts Scope3 head of JAPAC, June Cheung.

“CMOs will come under greater pressure from their boards to drive sustainable digital advertising practices, not only because it is the right thing to do but because it is driving business performance,” she says. “More CMOs will discover reducing carbon emissions actually delivers better media ROI and performance so will look for agencies who can deliver more effective and carbon-neutral advertising.”

Scope3 and Ebiquity research recently showed 15.3 per cent of advertising spend is wasted on inventory creating no value but generating excessive amounts of carbon emissions. Similarly, a Dentsu and Microsoft study found 84 per cent of global consumers more likely to buy from companies practicing sustainable media advertising.

More CMOs will discover reducing carbon emissions actually delivers better media ROI and performance so will look for agencies who can deliver more effective and carbon-neutral advertising.

Nuance Communications senior VP of intelligence engagement solutions, Tony Lorentzen, ties this to the broader theme of doing more with less. “Saving costs and doing so sustainably is no mean feat, and will result in organisations relying on automation, cloud and digital channels to continue delivering a seamless customer experience,” he says. “Automated customer interactions will see a boost next year, while behind-the-scenes organisations will use automation to create better workflow for live agents.”

3. Even the laggards will invest in first-party data capability

No one is any doubt first-party data is a centre of gravity for brand as the power of third-party data and cookies wanes. Yet clear many organisations still haven’t got their first-party ducks in order. Deloitte’s 2022 Global Marketing trends report shows primarily high-growth companies have shifted to a first-party data strategy so far.

However, the downturn pressure is finally going to see CMOs in mid to large organisations getting first-party data foundations in place in 2023, says n3 Hub business development director, Stephen Schwalger. A big investment here will be customer data platforms (CDP).

Forbury has already noticed a leap in direct and untraceable traffic due to extended privacy laws and settings, affecting reporting capability, head of marketing, Rebecca Emslie, reports. “Necessity is the mother of invention and in 2023 we’ll be exploring cookie-less tracking and expect to rely heavily on and further leverage first party data. The writing may be on the wall with these changes, but better to be aware than getting caught with a hand in the cookie-jar,” she says.

In a context where an “astounding” 86 per cent of Australian consumers want brands to make use of only first-party data when delivering personalised experiences, Twilio regional VP A/NZ, Kristen Pimpini, also sees CDP uptake strengthening.

“Many companies will take this a step further, by combining their CDP with their contact centre. Due to real-time data flowing between the two, marketing campaigns automatically become more tailored and are optimised over time,” he says.

Lexer CEO, David Chinn, sees online learnings carried into physical stories as data silos continue to break down across the entire omnichannel experience. “Data will be democratised so employees all have access to the same insights, regardless of where they are interacting with customers. I can see a not-too-distant future where the physical in-store experience is starting to feel as personalised as the ecommerce experience is today,” he says.  

4. It's about zero-party as well as first-party data

It’s not just first-party data requiring attention. Many point to zero-party, or consent-based data, as an ever-critical facet of the value-based data exchange and transparency consumers demand today.

“Brands are looking at new ways for their audiences to willingly share data. But understanding the importance of first-party data is only half of the equation to creating satisfactory customer experiences,” says RMIT Online director of marketing and student acquisition, Anshu Arora. “Having a well-structured and comprehensive zero-party data collection solution in place will go a long way in helping companies bridge this gap in a cookieless world.

“When customers provide information to a company voluntarily, the relevant, qualitative and accurate information allows for higher personalisation and better customer experiences. For example, we’re seeing a number of brands lean more into online quizzes and surveys, social media polls, downloadable such as research reports and ebooks. The challenge for 2023, is that it requires trust and direct access to consumers.”

Understanding the importance of first-party data is only half of the equation to creating satisfactory customer experiences.

Anshu Arora, RMIT Online

With consumer journeys no longer binary and occurring across a multitude of channels, Lightspeed senior director of global marketing, Simon Le Grand, says marketers able to capture, track and leverage valuable data in a consensual, privacy-compliant way will be able to build stronger customer profiles. “Those businesses able to use these insights and build a robust omnichannel marketing strategy that delivers an exceptional customer experience will come out on top in 2023,” he says.  

Wunderkind country manager, Jamie Hoey, is already witnessing significant reduction in the reach, effectiveness and revenue performance of one-to-one retargeting via typical paid channels.

“By utilising sustainable first-party and zero-party data practices, and prioritising respectful one-to-one communications with consumers, brands can put themselves in pole position to make digital gains in 2024,” he says. “But to capitalise on this growth in revenue, customer loyalty and lifetime value terms, it’s clear the next year will need to involve a tectonic shift in how marketers currently target, segment and engage with their audiences.”

Examples of zero-party data from WLTH head of marketing, Marco Zande, include interactive data collection methods such as surveys, polls and calculators. The latter has been used to great effect by the mortgage lending industry to help potential customers ascertain their borrowing capacity.

“Marketers need to make it a win-win transaction,” Zande says. “In exchange for some volunteered information, we can provide leads with useful content such as discounts, newsletters, ebooks and whitepapers.”  

5. Marketers must confront data privacy, transparency and governance

When it comes to digital marketing, there’s one word that should be dominating the CMO’s thoughts in 2023 for InMobi’s VP and GM A/NZ, Richard O’Sullivan: Privacy.  

“Now the Privacy Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 has passed both Houses of Parliament, it will mean markedly heavy penalties for a serious or repeated breach,” he warns. This is a fairly hefty Sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of CMOs when reduced addressability due to the imminent demise of third-party cookies and Apple’s IDFA means first-party data, with its own inherent privacy risk in terms of consent and usage, becomes increasingly important.  

“I believe we will see two camps emerge. There will be those marketers who lean fully into the new privacy-by-design landscape and create robust pathways to leverage first-party data for personalisation. Then there are those for whom the uncertainty feels a bit too white knuckle and who lean back and explore a more contextually driven approach.”   

In complement, marketing teams have a responsibility to actively help improve data transparency and governance. If the recent cyberattacks across Australia have taught us anything, it’s the threat of customer data breaches is only going to grow as cybercriminals hone tactics and techniques. Cydarm Technologies head of revenue, Jill Taylor, puts it bluntly: The devastating effects of the “weaponisation of consumer data by cyber criminals will continue in 2023.”

“Marketers working in organisations that handle large amounts of personally identifiable information will win against their competitors in 2023 by making a distinction between cybersecurity and privacy efforts,” she says. “Those well-versed in cybersecurity will already be aware effective privacy is a result of strong cybersecurity in an organisation. While traditionally the cyber team have been labelled a ‘cost-centre’, 2023 will continue the mindset shift to cybersecurity as a revenue enabler.” 

Taylor admits this is no easy feat. “Focusing on communicating uplifts or improvements with statements around the percentage increase in headcount with a security team, or increases in cyber budget in a fiscal year, can be highly effective to help improve consumer trust,” she advises.

“Additionally, encouraging and highlighting involvement in activities improving their industry’s or Australia’s cybersecurity efforts will align with a ‘good corporate citizen’ strategy without giving away sensitive information.”  

Businesses must understand what personal data is being retained, where it is being stored and who has access to it, Talend senior marketing manager A/NZ, Nadine Lafleur, says. “You need to be cognisant of how you're using data, where it's going, and why, and encourage employees to treat data like a currency,” she echoes. “When data across the organisation is healthy, it's easy to drive your objectives with data.”

Risk and compliance are becoming comprehensible to marketers as channels proliferate and brand risk escalates, posits Monday.com industry lead marketing, creative and advertising, Gavin Watson.  

“CMOs and risk officers need to increasingly work together to protect their brands,” he says. “We expect to see far greater focus on risk and processes related to content approvals and compliance in the new year, as brands install the right mechanisms to avoid mistakes in branding and deploy solutions that give smaller teams autonomy without the weight of a potential breach hanging over them.”    

6. Data clean rooms gain popularity  

As brands look to harness first-party data as well as augment safe second-party exchange, there needs to be a trusted way of exchanging this data. Enter data clean rooms (DCRs).  

“Data ‘clean rooms’ will become prevalent as a way to manage first-party data-sharing partnerships between brands and their business partners,” predicts Ogilvy chief experience officer A/NZ, Jason Davey. It’s the same story from Amperity area VP, Billy Loizou.  

“Data clean rooms aren’t perfect. However, they do supply marketers and advertisers with access to information they otherwise wouldn’t have,” he says. “As privacy rules become stricter, DCRs will skyrocket in popularity. In fact, recent predictions indicate by 2023, 80 per cent of advertisers with media buying budgets over $1 billion will use DCRs.

“However, a DCR is only an extension of a first-party data strategy. Connecting a CDP to a DCR allows first-party data to be anonymised and analysed alongside third-party sources. A CDP can also receive data from the DCR in the form of segments or targeted audiences it can then share with connected marketing platforms for activation.

“Think of it this way: You can use Venmo or PayPal without a checking account attached to it, but it’s a much better experience, with better outcomes, if they are connected.”

InfoSum GM A/NZ, Richard Knott, sees marketers reviewing data sharing practices and re-evaluating their approach to collaboration in 2023. “While marketers will prioritise data collaboration and direct relationships with media partners, they will need to unlock these opportunities without moving consumer data out of their environment. This will allow these organisations to tap into rich datasets and reach high-value audiences, while minimising the risk of exposing sensitive consumer data to potential breaches,” he says.

“Data clean rooms will be the next frontier to facilitate both, and it will be accelerated with solutions like Google PAIR.”

7. Hyper-personalisation gets a sense check

Even as the zero-party and first-party data frenzy continues apace, a few predict hyper-personalisation will lose some sheen in 2023. Vistar Media MD APAC, Ben Baker, is one of them.

“Going forward, marketers will have to come to terms with the fact a one-to-one level of granularity is not necessary, nor desired by consumers, to run effective digital campaigns,” he claims. “Hyper-personalised, individual targeting will give way to cohort or audience targeting, and campaigns will once again be designed around anonymised cohort data rather than insights into the individual.

“The personalised insights resulting from social media profiling and cookie-based data have lured brands to disproportionally skew their marketing mix towards one-to-one targeting such as digital advertising to devices. But as brands scale back this approach, many avenues are regaining relevance, such as the digital out-of-home media channel, due to new abilities to produce meaningful, anonymised data that still drives value for the business.”

But there’s still plenty of scope for personalisation in B2B, according to Sana Commerce CMO, Jeroen Kuppens. “We’re seeing B2B organisations increasingly acknowledge ERP-integration as a useful feature within their Web stores, since it allows for more impactful analysis of data,” he highlights.

8. Creators become absolutely critical to brand trust

As consumers continue to demand value and trust in the exchanges they have with brands, creators and authentic content have taken centre stage.

“We are moving to a world where we will only buy brands, products and services we trust. We will only buy from people we trust,” Impact.com MD APAC, Adam Furness, stresses. “For younger consumers in particular – and remember the spending power of Gen Z is on the increase – the people they trust are creators with whom they feel an affinity. 

“We’ll see brands putting even more emphasis on their creator marketing efforts, putting more value on long-term relationships with creators, and exploring new opportunities to use creator marketing, such as in the metaverse and other emerging channels.” 

We are moving to a world where we will only buy brands, products and services we trust. We will only buy from people we trust.

Adam Furness, Impact.com

To help, Furness recommends CMOs focus on balancing rapid test-and-learn as more creators are brought into the marketing mix. Bazaarvoice managing director, APAC, Kate Musgrove, is another who sees brands relying on the creator economy to grow their share of voice (SOV) and connect with consumers in 2023.

“It will be the ‘everyday creator’ whose values and content aligns with the audience and brand that will enable a greater understanding and more authentic connection to their offerings,” she predicts. “To develop truly authentic and engaging content, there needs to be a greater focus on letting these creators put their own spin on content, rather than directing them on what to do. This type of authenticity, along with experience, is sure to be successful for consumers who are yearning for a deeper connection when shopping.”

9. It’s about community authenticity, not influencers

Fiverr chief marketing officer, Gali Arnon, takes the concept even further, suggesting it’s power of community that will be the CMO’s superpower in 2023.

“With society being highly fragmented due to the pandemic, and societal issues like gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and geo-political issues, consumers expect more from brands and want them to have a voice in these conversations,” she says. “Brands need to tap into what their communities are saying, listen carefully and no longer remain neutral on important topics. A brand is nothing without its community, and the move towards a community-based approach is fuelled by the use of social media.

“Brands must utilise these channels to forge and maintain relationships. Investing in your community’s constituents and facilitating growth and understanding for stakeholders both internal and external will give digital marketers an edge and shape key insights for 2023 strategies.”

Yet several commentators mark a distinction between community and influencer marketing. Hub24 head of group marketing and communications, Anne McDonnell, is an advocate for authentic brand supporter over paid influencer.

“On the back of the prolific rise of influencer marketing, I think we’ll see the rise of the authentic influencer. Like the paid promo spots in Hollywood movies, consumers have caught on to the paid influencer model, and while they will be searching for information and education online, they want it to be authentic,” she suggests. “Companies that deliver great value and customer experience will look to their customers to advocate for their products and services through online channels.”

Meltwater marketing director for Asia-Pacific, Upali Dasgupta, expects marketers to keep working with influencers in 2023. Yet he’s also of the opinion influencer marketing is facing a course correction as consumers start to distrust influences due to fatigue with the amount of branded content.

“More marketers will begin expanding their influencer due diligence to include vetting the number of other partnerships an influencer is engaged in, and how frequently they post sponsored content,” she predicts. “This means we could see a big move towards nano influencers who don’t yet have numerous brands they’re working with, or we could see marketers tapping into niche and often closed, communities to find advocates.”

In contrast, Ogilvy’s Davey predicts influencer marketing will be increasingly embraced in B2B from 2023. “This will force many B2B brands to overhaul their – typically – overlooked social channels and redesign their social presence,” he predicts.

10. Focusing on consumer wellbeing is paramount

Consumers are also set to be spending less in 2023, a fact which prompted Getty Images head of creative insights, Asia-Pacific, Kate Rourke, to reiterate authenticity in content and creative as the best way forward for brands next year.  

“According to iStock’s VisualGPS insights, consumer’s concern on the rising cost of living, compounded by inflation being at an all-time high has in turn increased focus and prioritisation on our wellbeing,” she comments. “In 2023, digital marketers should prioritise authenticity above aspiration to connect with the majority of Aussies who are spending less. This means brands need to picture their offerings through experiences that improve their customers' wellbeing; while acknowledging the problems and concerns they are experiencing and will continue to face over the course of next year.

“It is no longer about showing the big milestones. Digital marketers should focus on the successes of our everyday experiences that improve our wellbeing and opt for visuals that portray genuine human connections and emotions.”

In the same vein, The Works head of social, Emelie Lundberg, emphasises social media authenticity in 2023. “The continued rise of TikTok and BeReal has shown a shift in audience's preferences, from curated picture-perfect content to more real, raw and in-the-moment captures,” she says.

“The challenge for many companies will be how to decide to represent themselves in this shifting landscape and what personality they will adopt that remains true to their brand identity. Consumers want to relate with brands they interact with, so it’s important to show shared values and lifestyles with the consumers. This shift towards more authentic content is a result of the mental health issues people are feeling not only from the pressure of being perfect on social media but also from the pandemic.”

Up next: 11 more digital marketing predictions, from customer value and data forecasts to team agility

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