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, 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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7. Dynamic content creation is a must  

According to Lenovo ISG Asia-Pacific CMO, Sachin Bhatia, dynamic content creation and presentation in real time will move into implementation cycles in 2022.  

“Technological advancements and the continuous push to hold consumers’ attention means marketers must rely on dynamic content creation,” he advises. “The human attention span has dropped to eight seconds, shrinking nearly 25 per cent in just a few years [according to Microsoft research]. To continue to engage and connect with audiences, dynamic content is key. With enhanced customer interactions, brand assets will deliver far better ROI.  

“Marketers can also use implementations where, based on user signals, in-session behaviour, user-response and patterns, the content can be adapted and presented in real-time for maximum performance.  

“For example, many implementations are moving towards geo-location based or personal based dynamic content presentation.”  

Industries Bhatia expects will dominate this trend in 2022 are ecommerce, entertainment and food-tech companies.  

Read more: How Nova Entertainment changed its UX for better content engagement

8. Hybrid experience management is here to stay

Even as marketers up the game digitally, it’s clear a hybrid strategy for customer experience management is here to stay, continues Xiang Woon.

“While we have invested heavily on a digital-first strategy due to the pandemic, going hybrid with a combination of virtual, digital and physical connections is the way forward,” she recommends. “2022 will be the year for marketers to enhance virtual-event livestreaming with an in-person program to provide a shared experience.                                                                                                                                                             

“While incorporating digital into customer experience management, a hyper-focused marketing experience through digital will make or break the consumer decision making journey. With digital channels, it has allowed marketers to connect customers. However, this has also allowed marketers to flood prospective customers with an overwhelming list of content, making discovery more complex and time-consuming.

“Marketers will need to leverage the appropriate technology and streamline their digital efforts to create a hyper focus experience – beyond adding their first name to an email – speaking to their wants and needs by offering a one-to-one relationship. It will all be about leveraging the data you have to add value to a customer’s experience.”

Lenovo’s Bhatia also believes clear implementation of hybrid marketing use cases will be critical for B2B marketers two years on from the onset of the global pandemic.

“In 2022, figuring out new ways to connect physical and digital worlds will be a strong use case for martech platforms,” he says. “As the pandemic forced so many daily interactions online, the lines between customer and provider and between commercial and social interactions is blurred. As a result, marketers are exploring new ways to bring both the physical and digital world together in hybrid marketing use cases.

“These need the right platforms and features to enable seamless movement between experiences in both worlds. Imagine virtual webinars connected to automation platforms that use email or chatbots to create conversations. Product and SaaS based companies are expected to lead in building and leveraging these hybrid methods.”

Read more: Report: CMOs and CIOs should make a tandem leap into the hybrid future

9. Stronger marketing measurement tools

Hand-in-hand with better utilisation of martech is the need for better ways of proving effectiveness. Tecala senior marketing specialist, Jemma Healy, says deeper insights and powerful reporting tools as the importance of ROMI and marketing accountability becomes more prevalent than ever are driving the quest to ensure systems are not only better integrated in 2022, but offer better measurement and reporting of activity.

With boards now equipped with deeper insights, using them to drive better business decisions, the pressure to report on the success of initiatives and automate reporting of metrics, will continue to evolve

Jemma Healy, Tecala

“Accountability and measuring the impact of the marketing department’s efforts has hit an all-time high,” she says. “The emergence of Covid drove a wave of cost reviews and tightening of budgets. This has resulted in a stronger need to justify your seat at the table in a clear and concise manner. With boards now equipped with deeper insights, using them to drive better business decisions, the pressure to report on the success of initiatives and automate reporting of metrics, will continue to evolve.

Building a complete marketing measurement toolkit that incorporates new ways to monitor and drive the effectiveness of marketing will become standard procedure, Woon agrees.

“There will be better cross-CMS integrations, tracking and optimising prospect targeting capabilities, as well as optimised sales cycles and attribution through leveraging intelligent automation and machine learning,” he says. “There will also be a need for more meaningful metrics for the business and measurement will most likely never be perfect. However, technology providers are continuously working on more meaningful data for marketers so that there is better understanding of how the marketing budget is being utilised.”

Alongside this, Healy sees agile learning of prime interest to marketing leaders and their teams in 2022. “This will allow brands to measure complete return on marketing investment (ROMI) more effectively and adapt to the constantly evolving environment,” she adds.  

Read more: Telstra's four Ps of marketing analytics

10. Emphasis on integration and implementation increases

Full Circle’s Crater identifies tech stack consolidation as a further outcome from the desire to achieve better and more streamlined measurement.

“In 2022, marketers will have to adjust their strategies to include digital and non-digital campaigns,” she says. “With thousands of martech solutions to choose from, merging existing strategy and post-pandemic strategy is a must. In the New Year, marketers will embrace streamlined and consolidated toolkits that enable better focus and produce clearer measurements.”

Likewise, Security Centric head of marketing and sales operations, Jill Taylor, says effective martech implementations are a must for marketing functions.

“2021 saw significant changes in the way social media organisations and technology companies allow tracking and targeting of their users, and it’s likely privacy-led changes will continue on third party platforms,” she notes. “Due particularly to these changes, it will be essential to implement martech based around ‘owned’ properties and these should include a robust analytic component. Third-party tracking changes mean a reduced ability to apply attribution and track campaign success, so ensure reliable data is available from your in-house martech.

“Beyond the need to invest in robust martech, organisations should be looking at how their technology gets implemented. Connecting all the various technologies together can be complicated, which both means a requirement for a specialised skill set, as well as potentially presenting a security risk if it isn’t implemented correctly.”  

Read more: 8 lessons Mission Australia’s CMO and CIO learnt together to deliver martech success

11. Optimised, more automated view of customers on the way

ActiveCampaign APAC regional marketing manager, Natalie Ng, says many marketers have struggled to orchestrate effective, real-time customer experiences due to an inability to connect behaviours to individual customers and limited visibility of real-time customer interactions.

“Increasingly, we’ll see a winning combination of cloud and machine learning-based martech solutions address these challenges and transform the way marketers connect with customers by delivering a comprehensive set of capabilities that bring together an optimised view of the customer,” she says. “These will include real-time customer interactions for more relevant and effective marketing campaigns.”  

It arguably couldn’t come soon enough. According to Forrester Research, three-quarters of personalised engagement strategies are not expected to meet ROI goals in 2022.

“Persistent digital engagement will become the norm, with 70 per cent of marketers adopting an always-on digital engagement strategy in 2022,” the analyst firm predicts. “The stakes are high. Three times as many B2B buyers [17 per cent] said the provider’s competence during the buying process was the most significant driver of their purchase choice as those who said it was the relationship with the sales rep or customer references.

“Marketing leaders will turn to smarter, more autonomous and automated, solutions with complex tech stacks. Marketing tech’s slice of the marketing budget, which has dropped to 19 per cent, will increase to 25 per cent in 2022. But 75 per cent of efforts to create automated, personalised engagement will not meet ROI goals because of inadequate buyer insight.

“In 2022, 10 per cent of B2B organisations will identify metrics to measure the value created for buyers during the buying process. B2B marketing teams need to inculcate the pivot to customer centricity in planning and execution processes.”

Read more: 7 lessons in embracing modern B2B marketing

12. AI breaks through the human trust barrier

Spurring all this one is artificial intelligence (AI). SugarCRM chief product officer, Rich Green, is confident AI will finally break through the human trust barrier in 2022.

“Marketeers don’t yet trust AI but 2022 is the year that they will. Companies are still cautious to rely on AI to analyse and automate business processes, so they work in a ‘dual mode’ of people and AI until they feel confident in AI skills,” he argues. “2022 is the year where AI will prove its mettle by offering near-term guidance, assisting sales and marketing with recommendations they can choose to follow. Over time, as AI proves to be accurate and helpful, trust will be established.”

SugarCRM highlights several areas for AI’s application in sales-marketing-service in the next year: Lead quality analysis and probability of converting; nurture campaign effectiveness, particularly around attribution and adjustment; churn analysis; forecasting and pipeline analysis sentiment analysis for case handling and next-best actions; anomaly detection; and conversational AI.

“As AI proves its mettle in helping organisations make better decisions and reducing blind spots, busy work and roadblocks, AI’s role in sales, marketing and service will become both welcome and trusted,” Green says. “Most Australian organisations have only used AI for prediction. In 2022, they will start using AI to better understand customers here and now. Most companies have copious amounts of data, but the human brain is not wired to make sense of it to understand trends and find outliers in a given dataset.

“AI assists the human brain by providing the ‘moving mouse’ effect to target the data you need to act on.”

An example Green points to is a business development representative that can either manually go through a list of 1200 leads or use AI to assist with generating an ideal customer profile to prioritise those to contact first. Green also sees AI more actively detecting and adding solid data to an organisation’s CRM.

“In 2022, it’s possible the best data in your CRM will be the data you didn’t enter,” he says. “The accuracy of the data companies have in their CRM systems diminishes over time – by approximately 30 per cent each year. Today, it’s incumbent on users to properly enter data and to keep it fresh. That dichotomy represents one of the most fundamental challenges in CRM. The more data you enter, the less time you can spend making use of it, and the less likely it will all be accurate.

“Organisations will leverage AI more in 2022, to help solve this problem. AI will reach inside and outside your organisation to automatically find loads of information and deliver it to your CRM, eliminating data entry and extending the half-life of your data by automatically keeping it up to date.”

Read more: How Alibaba is using AI to power the future of business

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