​Predictions: 9 digital marketing predictions for 2020

CMO asks the experts about what digital marketing will hold in 2020

What does 2020 hold for digital marketing, and marketing generally?

There's no doubt data-driven marketing strategies and digital marketing practices are accelerating thanks to marketing technology maturity and the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), customer data management platforms and orchestration capabilities.

So we asked a raft of industry experts from the marketing technology and industry community to give us their thoughts what digital marketing will look like in 2020 and beyond, off the back of the latest innovations and growing realisation of digital as the dominant component of the modern marketing approach.

1. Bigger data strategy budgets

According to Forrester, advanced firms will be double their data strategy budget in 2020 as the total cost of getting data wrong will become apparent.

Tealium chief marketing officer, Heidi Bullock, said companies that can provide valuable and the right experiences for the buyer will win in the next year. And to do that, they need a data-first strategy.

“As part of a great experience, companies need to be able to deliver meaningful outputs at the right time. This is largely dependent on a unified customer profile, real-time data inputs, and also rapid decision making on what the right experience is," she said. "This is where we will see progress with AI and ML to deliver journey orchestration in more of an automated manner.

"Currently, even if organisations have the right data, it is often a semi-manual and rules-based approach to taking action on that data. Better machine learning tools will free marketers up from managing back-end processes to create the tailored experiences their customers demand.”

The Lumery co-founder and head of strategy, Ben Fettes, said as pressure mounds in turbulent, global economic environments where ‘returns’ are expected, data-driven marketing with an emphasis on ROI will continue to increase. 

“At the same time, data science will start to out-perform a marketers’ traditional efforts to execute, especially given the continued investment in subject matter experts, which are creating more operational models across more industry sectors,” he said.

Pluralsight head of marketing, APAC, Josephine Lanzarone, is another who sees almost all marketing programs driven by data and insights to achieve personalisation in 2020.

"Today, strategic, quality digital marketing is the engine driving significant pipeline and lead generation," she said. “Connecting with prospects at a time they’re seeking information will ensure content is tailored to their needs. We’re at a crossroads when it comes to quantity and quality of digital marketing - while targeting a wide set of prospects can widen the horizon of opportunity, spamming prospects can essentially damage a brand.”

Bullock noted forward-looking organisations will take a data-first strategy if they want to deliver the right experiences.To help, she predicted continued uptake of customer data platforms (CDPs).

“It means marketers will value having the CDP act as a trusted foundation of clean data to fuel their entire tech stack. As many organisations saw last year, if the underlying data is stuck in silos and not accessible in a timely manner, the right outcomes are not achievable,” she said.

“The best apps in the world will fail unless there is real-time data flow across technologies and departments."

2. Consent management and privacy in the spotlight

 Another red-flag reason for marketers to lift their data game has to do with consent management.

“To deliver the right experience for a buyer, companies need to be able to support their preferences around privacy," Bullock said. "If data is siloed in systems and difficult to attribute to a consenting individual, marketers are going to be bogged down in compliance issues instead of improving the customer experience. This is increasingly considered table stakes and more important than ever with new regulations and compliance.”

Cheetah Digital CMO, Richard Jones, said traditional vendors are set up to help brands market to unknown users by leveraging cookies to snoop on consumers and their behaviour. But with many predicting it's time to prepare for a cookie-less future, marketers are going to need to rethink the way they gain consent to use consumer data as such "questionable tactics aren’t as easy as they once were".

"Web browsers are disabling third-party cookies in order to fend off loss of market share and no one wants to be seen as 'not on the customer’s side' when it comes to privacy," Jones said. "In the year ahead, marketers will pivot to zero-party data strategies to drive personalised marketing with consumers' permission, as well as double down on loyalty programs to reward ongoing direct customer engagement.” 

Pegasystems CMO, Tom Libretto, saw marketers getting serious about transparency and data governance.

“It turns out GDPR was not just a drill: This year, companies like British Airways and Marriott got hit with major fines for customer data privacy violations. With GDPR now being enforced, and a similar law set to roll out in California (CCPA) next year, a wait-and-see approach to data transparency is no longer acceptable," he said.

"This data regulation wave will continue to swell in 2020, putting big pressure on marketers to invest in systems to help them comply. Their overall business success could turn on their ability to meet these increasing data governance expectations.” 

3. Stacks to be streamlined

Constant updates and innovation in the martech space had led to a piecemeal approach to the stack, with some companies having upwards of 10 solutions in play. 2020 will see a streamlining of the martech stack, as more solutions offer more capabilities and vendors are reduced.

MediaMath A/NZ VP of partnerships and country manager, Yun Yip, expected to see more and more companies begin to address some of the unintended consequences that the rapid evolution of the adtech industry has thrown up.

“My own company has recently overhauled its entire supply chain to ensure a clean and addressable environment, creating new terms of trade to modernise the business," she commented. "Aside from being the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense as brands look for an alternative to the walled gardens and their 'black box' opacity, which is been gaining momentum lately.”

4. Digital marketing is just marketing

“We have seen omni-channel customer service increase over the last few years and we expect to see the same occur in the digital marketing space,” RelationEdge country manager A/NZ, Paul Milinkovic, said.

“While the traditional marketing channels of print, TV and radio will continue to be used, digital marketing channels will become the first choice for many organisations due to the ability for marketers to accurately profile those that engage with their content. Additionally, the low cost of digital advertising through social channels and the higher conversion rate, makes digital marketing an obvious choice.” 

Isentia head of insights NZ, Ngaire Crawford, hoped this will lead the term "digital marketing" finally disappearing.

“There will continue to be more platforms, more algorithms, more demand for an audience's attention, so having a clear story and purpose has to come first - not how you choose to communicate it,” she said. 

5. Contextual advertising experiences a renaissance

GumGum SVP of global commercial development, Adam Schenkel, said contextual advertising, the centuries old way of reaching relevant audiences by placing an ad next to brand or product related content, is set for a renaissance next year, boosted by technological advances in sentiment analysis.

“The shift towards mobile advertising has strangled the effectiveness of the cookie which, along with GDPR, has led to consumer data privacy concerns and a renewed focus on user experience. This means brands are seeking alternate methods of targeting consumers," he said. 

“Contextual advertising is now highly sophisticated thanks to the use of AI-driven natural language processing [NLP] sentiment analysis across both image and text. This has the potential to open up highly valuable inventory and drive real advertising ROI for brands, while delivering a positive user experience for consumers.”

Integral Ad Science managing director for APAC, Stephen Dolan, also saw contextual targeting returning to the forefront of media planning in 2020. 

"Contextual adjacencies are top of mind for both marketers and content publishers. Now more than ever, having a detailed and accurate understanding of a Web page’s content both opens-up inventory for publishers and allows marketers to be relevant to their audiences," he said. "The claims are supported by plenty of evidence such as Biometric research conducted by Integral Ad Science and Neuro-Insight, which show people respond to the entire context surrounding an ad impression rather than just a single component of it."

As a result, the conversation will further evolve from what Dolan described as a "black and white binary focus of brand safety" to more nuanced and bespoke brand suitability.

"In today’s digital landscape, we are scaling successfully through the likes of programmatic - now we need to focus on quality. The first goal will always be safety, but the close second should be to appear in a brand-safe environment at scale and in a suitable context and digital advertising in 2020 will see more traction towards this move," he said.

Up next: Our last 4 digital marketing predictions for 2020

Page Break

6. B2B and B2C marketing will converge

The convergence between B2C and B2C marketing will continue in 2020, with consumers demanding similar experiences in their work and personal lives. Datorama CMO and head of marketing cloud at Salesforce, Leah Pope, is one who believes marketing experiences from both camps will look increasingly similar next year.

“You’ll continue to see that B2B and B2C customers want the same experiences and marketers will need to evolve to meet those expectations," she said.

"While B2B marketers have historically trended toward short-term sales activation, they need to think more long-term about their personalisation strategies and how to create long-lasting relationships with customers. First party data is core to delivering those experiences.”

7. CMO tech remits get revised

The Lumery co-founder and managing director, Rajan Kumar, said capability will continue to increase within marketing functions come the New Year. However, the need to augment a team due to new, more advanced technology offerings will be necessary in the year ahead in order to ensure teams can operationalise their work.  

“Importantly, as the dynamics of data, tech, people and process continues to shift, we’ll start to see a change in the CMO responsibility," he said. A big one he predicted was technology shifting back into chief digital or technology officer.

"This will allow the CMO start to re-focus on growth – the leading pack will get behind this,” Kumar predicted. 

8. Content is king

 IAB Australia CEO, Gai le Roy, said digital marketing continues to face relentless innovation with every part of the advertising ecosystem being re-invented through a digital lens.

“While this innovation is creating a welcome supply of new commercial opportunities for marketers, it also places extraordinary demands on them to dramatically improve their understanding of the underlying technologies," she said. "In 2020, it will become even more important marketers fast track their digital knowledge so they can better understand which levers they need to control as they manage their brand’s digital marketing and manage the every changing governance requirements around consumer data." 

And with consumers increasingly demanding companies become more transparent about data usage, marketers are being forced to develop improved creative marketing and content experiences, le Roy said.

"In 2020, this will advance considerably and we expect to see a new breed of companies that seamlessly deliver marketing, content and commerce experiences direct to consumers which will change people’s expectations of both product and marketing activities,” she said. 

BLASTmedia senior vice-president, Kim Jefferson, said since content marketing exploded, brands created mounds of content simply because they had to.

“In 2020, brands will produce punchy copy with actionable, valuable takeaways that can be featured everywhere from the brand’s blog to national publications hungry for guest contributions," she predicted. "One forward-looking, original content idea will have more impact than five expected, keyword-stuffed blog posts from 2019."

Avionos integrated marketing practice director, Mary Koberstein, said Google Ad’s update leveraging machine learning to optimise PPC bids will allow marketing teams to spend less time on PPC campaign management and more time focusing on SEO content optimisations.

“Voice search with devices like Alexa, Google Home and Siri are here to stay, and organic search strategy and optimisations will put an emphasis on structuring content to answer consumers' questions," she said. “Interactive media and content will continue to be drivers for increasing engagement and conversion for customers."

For years, marketers have been bogged down by the manual work of combing through data and building segments to execute campaigns, Libretto added.

“But with the increased use of AI models, much of this work can be automated – which will drive a shift in attention towards the creative aspects of marketing," he said. "AI is now able to scale the number of personalised offers organisations can send. These means graphic artists and other creative types will be in high demand to help fuel these campaigns with eye-catching content.” 

9. Empathy and authenticity take centre stage

For Forrester, however, group-targeted experiences are soon to supplant personalisation. Marketers will move away from laborious and often-unwanted personalisation efforts and instead, seek to authentically connect with customers through group-targeted experiences, the analyst firm said.

Libretto also believed marketers will go all in on empathy in 2020.

“As more businesses focus on customer retention, marketers will get smarter about demonstrating more empathy with their customers and prospects. Instead of trying to squeeze every last dollar from customers, businesses will focus on sending more relevant offers in context with customer needs while phasing out ‘spray and pray’ strategies across broad segments," he said. 

“Early adopters of this empathetic approach are already seeing results, such as in banking, telco and airlines. Now that the bar has been raised, other industries will be forced to follow suit and deploy their own empathetic strategies." 

With the 2020 US election cycle heating up, Libretto said a new level of awareness on how information can be presented and manipulated to influence behaviours.

"While this is extremely healthy for society at large, this increasing scepticism toward content puts added pressure on marketers: How can they ensure they get their brand message across to customers without inadvertently tripping their ‘fake news’ radars – which are only becoming more sensitive with increased education?" he asked.

"Expect brand authenticity to become a rising topic among marketers trying to stay true to their brand who need to cut through the noise.”

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: