Predictions: 9 digital marketing trends for 2019

What does 2019 hold for digital marketers, and marketing generally? We ask a raft of industry experts from the marketing technology and industry community to give us their thoughts on 2019 and beyond, and what marketers will need to know moving forward.

If there's one thing about marketing that can be said to be constant, it's that it always changes. With new technologies, such as voice, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, virtual reality, augmented reality, natural language processing and facial recognition becoming mainstream, it can feel as if marketers are always chasing their tails.

Add to this the constant, and very ad-hoc, data privacy protections going up almost by postcode, the marketing path is a difficult, and volatile, one to be treading.

So what does 2019 hold for digital marketers, and marketing generally? We ask a raft of industry experts from the marketing technology and industry community to give us their thoughts on 2019 and beyond, and what marketers will need to know moving forward.

1. Data privacy is here to stay

It is clear consumers are well aware of their rights when it comes to proper data collection and usage. What's also clear is the arrival of GDPR in Europe in May 2018, as well as other data privacy acts being implemented and overhauled around the world, are just the beginning of further consumer data crackdown.

In fact, in its recent report, the ACCC flagged changed to the Privacy Act, which could end up looking like a local GDPR.

As a result, Australian businesses are going to have to get a lot more agile and transparent in the way they collect, store and use customer data. Even if data is used for consumer benefit, a privacy breach will see consumers move elsewhere. As Facebook and Cambridge Analytica demonstrated this year, a company is only one data breach away from disaster, and no company, no matter how big, can afford this in a consumer-driven environment.

“GDPR, Cambridge Analytica, and data breaches have shed light on the global concern consumers share around who owns their data, how they’re using it, and why,” Spredfast and Lithium CTO, Raju Malhotra, told CMO.

“As such, governments and brands beyond the EU are adapting to suit. California passed the Consumer Privacy Act in June of this year and it’s only the beginning. Research from Janrain found 69 per cent of American consumers would like to see privacy laws like GDPR enacted in the US. In 2019, local and state governments will enact their own versions of GDPR and avoid the need to wait for federal regulation.”

At the same time, data is key to building stronger brands, for smarter targeting, combined with digital creativity.

“Trust and privacy will be an even bigger challenge in media; so, as marketers get to grips with GDPR, a pull-back from hyper-targeting practices will continue with more emphasis on attitudinal and contextual targeting," Kantar executive director of media and digital, Mark Henning, forecast. "Marketers will need to get intimate with trusted data by using their own or key trusted partners and focus on measuring its effectiveness to ensure it delivers on the targeting promise and impact."

With data the driving force for all business decisions – from marketing to sales and beyond – Tealium CMO, Adam Corey, said an added challenge is lines blurring around technology ownership. This has led to a real fight for control between marketing and IT departments.

“We hear the word collaboration a lot, but there’s a distinction between being required to work with certain vendors, colleagues and suppliers, and actively choosing to. However, against a backdrop of new data regulations and privacy concerns, in 2019 the customer will be rightly placed front and centre and strategies will be focused on the individual, rather than on separate, disjointed channels," he said.

In 2019, Corey expected companies to continue to refine their approach to handling data, as well as adopt Customer Data Platforms, helping them realise the positive impacts of connecting cross-team silos against their business objectives.

“We expect to see greater understanding of not only how data is collected, but the importance of treating it with respect, and the need for greater collaboration between internal teams and external partners to deliver seamless and exceptional customer experiences," he said. "There is a clear realisation that data is a valuable asset to any business, and as such must be treated with the care and regard it deserves.”

Spredfast and Lithium CMO, Katherine Calvert, also believed the ever-expanding reach of technology companies has resulted in growing privacy concerns from consumers.

“At the same time, consumers are expecting brands to meet them wherever they may be across digital platforms. With the spotlight on privacy and data as the new currency, smart brands will find ways to bring their customer engagement off of other platforms, and on to their own,” she said.

2. Customer capital is the new currency

Marketers have known for a while now that the customer must be central to every decision made within a business, meaning brands have been working for consumers. In, 2019, industry pundits expect to see the consumer working for brands as well.

For Calvert, customer capital is the new currency. “2019 will be the year brands leverage their social capital with consumers to help drive sales, answer questions, and act on the brand’s behalf in times of crisis,” she said.

“Digital social capital is a way for a brand to understand the value of its online social networks. Just as greater amounts of economic capital can lead to more opportunities, higher amounts of social capital can lead to a more significant impact on a brand’s audience.

“When a brand has more social capital, its community members are more likely to act on the brand’s behalf - think expressions of brand loyalty and communications that promote brand awareness."

It should surprise no one that communities now own the Internet, Calvert continued. "We all know the horror stories of a brand losing the narrative and facing the wrath of the Internet. At the same time, communities are the driving force that builds brands into cultural icons," she said.

"Consumers crave authenticity and brands must deliver that authenticity if they hope to create real meaningful relationships with customers.

“In 2019, brands will use the strength of their communities to turn their superfans into micro-influencers. By building and promoting places for superfans to create content, share stories, and shout brand love, companies will secure brand loyalty from the ground floor.”

As customer capital becomes the key strategy, Malhotra also saw the walls between marketing and customer care finally coming down in 2019.

“The term 'social customer service' is not often at the forefront of marketing discussions, but customers don’t see a difference when receiving marketing or care from your company,” he said.

“Brands will break down the walls between marketing and care in 2019. They'll use insights from customer care engagements to personalise how they market to them. The key to the perfect seamless customer experience lies with brands learning from the data they already have.”

Managing director, Asia Pacific emerging markets at LiveRamp, Dean Capobianco, said the marketing ecosystem will go from data-driven marketing to more people-based marketing and put customers at the centre of marketing. 

"Australia boasts a sophisticated advertising market and is maturing very quickly towards people-based marketing. We’re experiencing increasing demand from marketers who require people-based data in all channels, and as quickly as possible."

3. Martech consolidation

Marketing technology platforms and utilisation has been evolving and deployed at such a rapid rate that larger organisations have wound up with multiple platforms for multiple purposes. In addition, the disconnect that remains between these and other enterprise systems has made a single view of customer difficult, if not impossible.

Across the industry, many expect 2019 will be a year of consolidating martech, a move driven by ease of use and cost effectiveness.

“Brands and agencies will retire ad-hoc fixes for different areas of marketing and care in favour of platforms with a single view of the customer," Malhotra said. "Forrester found 58 per cent of B2C marketers want to reduce the number of vendors they use, and less than one-fifth believe they can get everything they need from a single vendor. Consolidation will allow brands to have all their tools in one place, be more efficient, and pay less for it.”

Calvert also expected enterprise companies to shift focus to owned platforms, where they can manage risk more closely while maintaining control over the insights from customer data, cutting out the middlemen.

Up next: Why inclusive design so vital in 2019, plus our other top digital marketing predictions for 2019

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4. Inclusive creative and design

Rising concerns around inequality, unconscious bias, and stereotyping in society, and the perpetuation of all three via marketing and creative, has never been more apparent. According to J. Walter Thompson Intelligence, inclusive design is the resulting trend, and an essential step to ensuring creative is designed without insidious bias against groups of consumers.

J Walter Thompson (JWT) Australia chief strategy officer, Angela Morris, said after a rollercoaster year of political, environmental and economic change, consumers are reeling and marketers need to bring a human lens to their activities as a result.

“Increasingly, we are seeing a growing acknowledgement that disruptive change via tech and data isn’t always without collateral damage to humanity. From the onslaught of social media judgement to privacy fears, consumers are looking for businesses and brands to take responsibility to ensure that progress puts human implications front and centre,” she said.

Kantar global content Lead, Amy Fridlund, also noted societies around the world are renegotiating gender, both in terms of what it means and what is acceptable.

“In 2019, marketers will start getting to grips with societal issues, and use their power and leverage to promote progressive gender portrayals in advertising. Women cannot relate to many of the ads they see, and progressive male role models are rare," she said. "For example, while 75 per cent of ads tested by Kantar in 2018 featured women, just 6 per cent portray women in authoritative roles.

"Learning how to deal with unconscious bias and win with women and will be increasingly critical to business growth."

5. The rise of voice

Recent reports show the local adoption of voice activated devices and smart speakers, like Google Home and Amazon Alexa, is outstripping the US and the UK. In fact, four million local consumers are predicted to use their smart speakers for shopping in 2019, according to Versa’s The Voice Report 2019.

Brands not incorporating voice into their digital strategies will find themselves behind the pack in 2019.

“In light of launches such as Google Home and the Amazon Echo, which continue to grow over the festive season I’m sure, it’s only a matter of time before voice will disrupt the digital marketing ecosystem as we know it," Quantcast head of marketing for Asia-Pacific, Rachael Townsley, said.

"With voice search on the up, I expect 2019 will see brands build this in to their media mix and address voice as part of their user experience. And for those in ecommerce, especially with Amazon entering the market, I expect voice ordering will push brands to focus on owning the customer in their homes.".

More than just another channel of engagement, Kantar executive director, Alistair Leathwood, said embracing voice requires a whole new way of thinking about brand.

"This is about being focused on natural language conversations and a recognition that sound and pronunciation are as important as logos, branding and other visuals,” he said.

6. Marketing teams shift from specialism to consumerism

From content to creative, to customer experience, care, service and data analysis, the role of the CMO has undergone significant change in the last five years.

“The modern CMO understands the fundamental goal of marketing is to establish and grow authentic connections with your respective audiences," Infogroup CMO, Tony Marlow, said. "Data is a critical first step to understanding your audience and this has already given rise to the data-literate marketer.

“Moving forward, we will see the top CMOs move beyond mere ‘data literacy’ and we will start to see a focus on becoming masterful at the science of turning data into intelligence upon which you can act for the benefit of your customer.”

But this shift towards single customer view and end-to-end engagement also impacting the way marketing functions are being set-up and operate. Employment Hero CMO, Cat Prestipino, expected a breakdown in what’s considered digital marketing as a result.

“When digital marketing started over a decade ago, it was the only channel where you could test and track the impact of your campaigns. Fast-forward to now with an increased focus on attribution, most marketing channels allow for some form of testing and measurement," she comments.

“As marketers are forced to focus on the individual customer journey, rather than the channel, silos within the marketing channel will disappear entirely and teams will be set up more along the lines of customer acquisition or customer retention consisting of different skill sets rather than channel ownership."

GroupM head of digital investment and partnerships, Venessa Hunt, said this is also triggering a shift of the CMO’s mindset to longer-term marketing goals with a focus on brand building.

“Digital is really going to re-earn its stripes as a method of building brands, not just performance,” Hunt said. “We’ll also see marketers focus on really understanding what ‘innovation’ means to their brand, being aware if they are not innovating enough or if they are innovating for innovation’s sake.”

As digital has become the dominant advertising vehicle, Townsley noted the focus on short-term tactics to drive results. Somewhere along the way, long-term brand-building took a back seat.

“It’s more important than ever for brands to shift their focus to long-term goals to survive. The role of brand affinity, loyalty and trust have a huge role to play in their growth across 2019," she said. "The digital environment offers up exciting opportunities for brands to connect with their customers in a meaningful way, at the moments that matter, and with efficiency at scale.”

7. Creative content is king

The consumer is demanding more bespoke content, when they want it, and on the channel of their choice. Gone are the days when the same content could be served across multiple channels without thought.

When it comes to the types of creative in-demand in 2019, video is a must-have.

“We live in a world of user generated content, there’s more video content that ever before,” Townsley said.

“Consumer attention has to be fought for and brands that use video that encourages engagement and excites their audience will win. With this in mind I expect we’ll see higher emergence of short-form video. Video is a powerful medium that works. Hubspot reported adding video to an email can boost click-throughs by 200-300 per cent and increase conversion rates by 80 per cent.

"I believe this will continue to grow and be a powerful medium for advertisers over the next year if done right."

As well as online streaming, JWT expected podcasts and audiobooks to continue to grow, as people seek to inform and entertain and educate themselves in other ways than simply looking at their screens.

As brands continue to increase their focus on digital, Bonzai CEO and co-founder, Rahul Pandey, also said the importance of creatives in the digital ecosystem will rise.

“In the coming year, we’re going to see an increasing shift from ‘adapting for digital’ from traditional creatives, to ‘creating for digital’ as a digital-first strategy. What’s particularly exciting about this is that it will put the spotlight on specialists who focus on redefining the ‘digital creative experience’ to unlock fresh opportunities for brands.”

Up next: Our final 2 digital marketing predictions for 2019

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8. Seamless UX

The focus on customer experience almost sounds like a broken record now, but it doesn’t make it any less important. The consumer journey is no longer linear, and may involve various touchpoints before a conversion is achieved.

The message? Be seamless across all touchpoints, link the journey, and ensure the best user experience whether the touchpoint is physical, digital, or anywhere in between.

“The customer experience will be more important than ever in 2019, with consumers expecting their digital experience to translate to in-store. The emergence of virtual reality, augmented reality, and improved mobile technology will continue to push retail brands to add layers and new experiences to traditional retail models,” said Rakuten Marketing Asia-Pacific leader, JJ Eastwood.

"This year, we have already seen retailers allowing online purchases being returned in-store, limited edition products available at in-store retailers and the ability to place online orders at the physical checkout. Next year, will see the emergence of virtual reality, augmented reality, and more. This will be a particularly important trend in the Australian market, as Australian consumers largely prefer to shop both online and offline, and as such, expect their experiences to translate, regardless of where or how they choose to purchase."

Kantar executive director of customer experience, Jon O’Loughlin, said 25 per cent of brand impact is delivered by paid media, with the remaining 75 per cent the result of owned and earned touchpoints.

“To make more meaningful connections with consumers, marketers will need to ensure they create branded experiences that are memorable and adapt to a world where brands, experiences and purchase journeys are self-assembled," he said. "Through a clear touchpoint strategy, focused around consumer understanding, to connect with Aussie consumers is to ensure you clearly focus on the touchpoints that matter most to your customers.”

FreeWheel commercial director A/NZ, Arjun Arora, said marketers heading into 2019 will face a big challenge in how they make the most of the technological advances in TV and video, and maximise campaigns across platforms and devices. Meanwhile, Rokt CCO, Ant Hearne, said 2019 will see more companies realising the value of marketing to shoppers when they’re already in an ecommerce or transactional environment.

“Smart marketers will reach out to customers with not only personalised and highly-relevant messaging, but also when they are in the mindset to engage. Those that are wise to this opportunity will be the companies primed for success next year,” he said.

For Unbounce VP of product marketing, Ryan Engley, 2019 will be the year of page speed for every business marketing online. He pointed out Google research showed 53 per cent of mobile website visitors will abandon a webpage that takes more than three seconds to load.

"Customers expect superfast mobile content and Google is making changes to be sure they get it. The company sent strong signals through all of 2018 that page speed needs to be a top priority, and this year, it'll be taking it further," he said. "Companies that can deliver lightning fast user experience will see a first-mover advantage - better quality scores, higher ad rank, and more leads and sales."

9. Programmatic remains dominant

Despite widespread backlash against programmatic for its lack of transparency, programmatic advertising spend is still strong both globally and in this part of the world. In fact, with global programmatic spend expected to surpass $43 billion by 2020, programmatic is far from peaking, and will reach its next phase of growth in 2019.

“As programmatic matures, we need to look to where the next phase of growth lies. The trend towards all forms of Advanced TV – Connected TV, Catch-up TV, BVOD; the acronyms and new terms are endless - picked up pace in 2018 and will continue to grow in 2019," dataxu country manager, Matthew Joyce, said.

“TV networks in all major markets, including here in Australia, are pushing audience and targeting features that already exist across the rest of the digital advertising ecosystem. In short, players on each side of the divide spent this year clamouring to benefit from the digitisation of TV advertising and will continue to do so in 2019 as they seek to ride the next wave of growth in programmatic.”

And with the age of personalisation here to stay, brands will be working smarter to ensure customers receive more relevant, contextual messaging informed by data and insights, Pandey said.

“Creative management platforms that can deliver creative campaigns programmatically and at scale will be a game changer for brands who are open to leverage new tools to allow both deeper engagement with customers and ensure campaigns work more efficiently down the marketing funnel.

“You will cross paths with high impact ad formats that delight and surprise. We’re not using the same technology as we did in 1994 when web ad banners started to surface, so why are we still advertising digitally like we did in the 90s? Creative advertising platforms have come a long way, and will continue to evolve in 2019, making lazy static banners a thing of the past, and non-intrusive, engaging, rich media formats the way of the future.

“High impact formats will no longer be a ‘nice to have’, but critical for brands who are serious about delighting and surprising their customer.”

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