Marketing Technology Trends for 2020

Martech Trends

It’s a wrap. 

We are bidding adieu to 2019 and welcoming 2020. As cliché as it may sound, but every new start brings with it a lot of new excitement and a new set of challenges. The year 2020 is sure to be one such new beginning. On the marketing front, I am expecting a lot of exciting martech trends and changes this year. While 2019 saw the emergence of a lot of ideas, 2020 is going about the maturation of those ideas.

This article is focused specifically on trends in marketing from technology perspective. It covers insights and benchmarks which will help you have better marketing conversations within your organization, and also with your customers. 

Let’s get started then.

1. Personalization – Taking the next step in its evolution

What happened in 2019

Personalization clearly ruled the marketing world in 2019, as manifested by ANA (Association of National Advertisers) choosing it as the word of the year. While the association’s knowledge center started receiving queries about it in 2018, the questions accelerated in 2019. The concept of personalization hit the right spot and held most of the space in marketing conversations. 

Organizations of all sizes from small to big dabbled with personalization technology to deliver the right messaging at the right time to the right person. The customers professed their love for personalization. As per a December 2018 survey from Adobe, 51% of US digital device users were likely to make a purchase when they received personalized content.

What to expect in 2020

Interestingly, early in Dec 2019, Gartner came up with its report “Predicts 2020: Marketers, They’re Just Not That Into You”. It made quite a bold statement that 80% of marketers will drop personalization efforts by 2025.

The key reasons cited for this prediction are a lack of ROI and difficulties with managing customer data, highlighting challenges in data collection, integration and protection. 

Now, Gartner views this trend from the vantage point of current challenges in collecting customer data for marketers and how personalization is viewed as of now.

Considering the data regulations, the general perception about data is certainly grim and confusing for the marketing community. Gartner’s prediction in this regard looks more like a reactionary attempt to answer how some of these challenges are going to be dealt with. It sounds rather pessimistic about it. 

It also fails to acknowledge the dawn of self-directional future of user data (read: zero-party data) and overall evolution of personalization as a concept in the next few years. Surely, there are numerous examples of bad personalization around us.

And that is primarily because of the poor practices, algorithms and not-so-smart AI technology backing marketing software that jumps on every opportunity to gain user attention.

But with the user coming into the picture holding more control than ever and AI’s growing foreseeable ability to be empathetic, I see the role of personalization becoming even more important. Up until now, personalization was built keeping the marketer’s agenda in mind.

In future, however, I see this changing wherein it will be for the customer, controlled by the customer, and enabled by the marketer. 

For the shorter term, I agree that we certainly do not have an easy way out of this. In lieu of several data legislations coming in effect, marketers are expected to struggle with their personalization efforts.

Gartner recommends marketers to have a proof of concept (POC) before investing in a personalization tool. This is a valid suggestion to ensure the technology you decide to invest in does what you intend to.

Other than this, I recommend marketers to take steady steps towards adoption of zero-party data and proper consent collection to avoid the risk of privacy breach. Following these basic hygiene practices will ensure you can use data optimally. 

Another recommendation is to collaborate with cross-functional teams to align personalization efforts and increase momentum. If you share control of personalization efforts, it can lead to shared insights and expand collective impact and ROI.

2. Artificial Intelligence – Heading towards a more humane future

What happened in 2019

Artificial intelligence (AI) enjoyed quite a lot of popularity in the year 2019. The year witnessed increasing adoption of AI in different business functions. As per McKinsey Global Survey, the use of AI is growing by 25% year-over-year in standard business processes. But the most interesting finding was that marketing and sales drove the most revenue from the adoption of AI compared to other functions.

Cost decrease and revenue increase from AI adoption

But it’s not all so rosy with AI yet. A study published by Albert Technologies in collaboration with Forrester, highlighted that though the adoption of AI in marketing has increased from 43% in 2016 to 88% in 2019, marketers are still facing many challenges and complexities in their processes and marketing stacks.

This was found to be largely because a majority of marketers are using AI in the form of assisted technology instead of an autonomous one. In simple words, this means a lot of them are using technology like old martech, limiting its potential. So, all in all, it’s been an okayish year for AI in marketing. 

What to expect in 2020

While we recognize the challenges faced in 2019, we largely remain optimistic about the role of AI in 2020 marketing. After all, technological developments are always iterative.

One such major iteration that’s likely to happen in 2020 is AI’s ability to identify emotions. Gartner supports this trend in its report and says that by 2024, more than half of the advertisement will be influenced by AI’s identification of emotions. 

This will be backed by the technology adoption of biosensors and consumer-facing devices with AEI (artificial emotional intelligence) capability. Business giants like Amazon, Walmart, and IBM are expected to use AEI to influence buying decisions.

Several big names in publishing like Buzzfeed, ESPN, The New York Times, Spotify, and USA today are using AEI already to serve relevant content and advertisements to customers on the basis of their emotions.

To be able to execute it would require brands to remain transparent and educate their customers about how they collect data, and how it is going to be used. 

In the shorter term, however, businesses will remain focused on building and improving their current AI based marketing operations. This would result in improved analytics and intelligence at their end, and therefore, better targeted campaigns.

3. MarTech Solutions – Riding on the cross-channel and omni-channel wave

What happened in 2019

In 2019, marketing leaders continued to see martech as a tool for driving growth and customer engagement. As per Martech: 2020 and Beyond, a report produced collaboratively by BDO, WARC, and the University of Bristol, the global spending on marketing technology is estimated to be $121.5 billion in 2019.

This is followed by a continuously growing appetite for spending on martech technology. On average, this year brands spent 26% of their marketing budgets on martech compared to 23% in 2018. That’s a 13% increase in the spending on martech.

Marketing Technology Budget Allocation

What to expect in 2020

Cross-channel and omni-channel customer experience is expected to dominate the marketing agenda in 2020 as well. Omni-channel strategy is becoming particularly important for eCommerce and retail businesses.

Besides, it has become a crucial parameter to differentiate from competitor brands. To this end, brands will remain focused on connecting data across different channels and investing in technology platforms which allow them to execute their strategy.

According to research consultancy Forrester, global marketing automation spend will reach $25 billion by 2023 and it is automation in conjunction with artificial intelligence that will drive progress in marketing.

At the center of it all martech will help marketers move away from vendor-agnostic environment and be truly able to drive their marketing decisions on their own instead of independent advice. 

“The holy grail is the single customer view – who are they, where are they, what are they doing right now, are they online, on the phone, driving, watching telly…how can my brand be relevant, helpful, worthwhile and trusted?”

Damian Ryan, Technology & Media Partner, M&A, BDO LLP

4. Customer Data Platforms – Helping marketers manage customer data better

What happened in 2019

If customer experience is the showrunner for marketers, customer data platforms are the enablers. A customer data platform allows marketers to break down the silos between different sets of data lying with various functions of a business.

It combines data from all sources to create a superset of data and makes it available to the organization for marketing campaigns and customer service operations. As an industry, 2019 saw several vendors joining the bandwagon. The CDP institute projected the industry to reach $1 billion in revenue by the end of 2019. 

What to expect in 2020

With increasing numbers of users seeking omnichannel and personalized experience from brands, and the growing need for marketers to have a unified customer view, customer data platforms have come to be seen as the most sought after technology.

They are seen as a solution to some of the most pressing challenges faced by marketers. Even though the technology is still in the evolving stage, as per a Forbes Insights and Treasure Data survey around 78% of organizations either had or were developing their own customer data platform by 2018.

The interest in customer data platforms continued in 2019 as well and is expected to grow in 2020.

“The value prop for B2B customer data platforms (CDPs) will shift from data integration to activation. CDP adopters will move beyond core data integration use cases to build more precise audiences for activation, leveraging AI-powered decisioning and broad integrations to begin automating and orchestrating buyer journeys.”

Caroline Robertson, Vice President, B2B Marketing Research Director for Forrester

5. Data and Analytics – Opening the next chapter in data privacy

What happened in 2019

The year 2019 was a lot about data. Conversations about data were everywhere – from data privacy to data quality. The highlights, however, were the two major data legislations namely CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) in the U.S. and European Union’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

The first half of the year started with a peaceful lull. However, the second half shook many marketers out of their slumber to the impact of these legislations. Other than this, the evolving customer expectations put additional pressure on marketers to improve the quality of data.

What to expect in 2020

What an eventful year 2019 was for privacy laws! 

Companies around the world are now scrambling to protect their customer data and meet the privacy standards defined by various regulations around the world. However, the regulations have added to the complexity of handling customer data. These regulations do not come with a checklist.

Instead, they require businesses to rethink their technology and processes. There’s an urgent need to shift how we think about customer data and how it is treated. And brands are left with very less time to get this sorted. Businesses which fail to comply with these regulations risk getting fined heavily and might as well lose reputation as well.

Considering the weight of the matter, we believe this topic demands a dedicated post on itself. So, we will cover this one in detail in one of our upcoming blogs. 

6. Conversational Marketing – An ally for both the marketer and the user

What happened in 2019

Over the past year, more and more businesses were seen catching up with the trend of conversational marketing. Marketers remained focused on providing the one-on-one treatment to their customers.

Email and phone remained the top most used channels for communications as highlighted by a Drift study on the State of Conversational Marketing in 2019. This is primarily because for decades now we have been using these channels for most of our communications. Besides, a third of users reported using online chat which tells about the evolving communication preferences of buyers. 

Email and Phone remains the big 2 customer communication channels

But interestingly, only 13% of users were reported using chatbots. It was surprising. But given that people prefer using online chats, it could be that they’re not able to differentiate yet between online chat and chatbot considering both of them look the same.

Interestingly, when this data is magnified further by age it tells that the younger customers are likely to prefer the speed and convenience of real-time communication channels. 

Chatbot usage by age
Online Chat usage by age

What to expect in 2020

My 6-year old niece: “Are you there, Siri?” 

Siri: “I’m listening…”

My niece: “I love you, Siri.”

Siri: “Thank you. I think you’re pretty great too.”

Adorable, right? Who knew technology could do that. My niece has found a friend in technology (for good or bad – yet to decide) and can often be found having such conversations with Siri and Google. 

Other than going aww when these conversations happen,  there’s one underlying behavior which I always notice – we all yearn for human touch to our conversations, even when interacting with technology. 

One reason could be the increasing penetration of technology into our lives – so much so that our human experiences are also mediated by it. As technology inches closer to human lives, we will notice it growing more human-like. Marketers will focus on creating human-first experience instead of technology-first. 

Hence, I believe the trend of conversational marketing is here to stay. Marketers will continue to experiment with ways to make conversations with customers as human as they can.

On the technology side, email and phone will hold the main frontier (as highlighted by Drift research) but chatbots (for swift responses and popularity among young audience) will be seen picking up in adoption as well. 

7. AR/VR in Marketing – Getting closer to the mainstream 

What happened in 2019

From an overall perspective, as a technology, augmented and virtual reality are in a space where the only takers for it are the early-adopters. The erstwhile hype around them nosedived and predictions of widespread adoptions were nowhere near reality.

Big brands like Samsung, Oreo, Ikea, Air Nippon, New York Times and Volvo were seen using it in their marketing efforts and surely did a great job. The campaigns were extremely creative and equally well received by customers too. 

What to expect in 2020

Being an expensive technology, the usage of AR/VR will remain restricted to mostly the big players. Talking about growth numbers, according to Statista, AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) are going to be an $18.8 billion dollar market by 2020 from $6.1 billion in 2016

Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality Market Size

The technology has started to penetrate the mainstream. Validating this, Deloitte identified that almost 90% of companies with annual revenue of $100 million to $1 billion are now using AR or VR technology.

There’s a potential growth in ad revenue from mobile AR, which is mostly derived from Facebook and Snapchat as of now. As predicted by eMarketer, it would be an increase from $779 million in 2019 to more than $2 billion by 2022. With 5G penetrating most of Europe and the U.S, more and more marketers would like to experiment with the technology. 

8. Video Marketing – Going bigger, and better than ever with 5G adoption

What happened in 2019

Marketing without video is not possible today. It no longer remains a novelty but a lot of what’s new in video marketing is how it has evolved over the years and how it is being used by brands.

To study this Demand Metric in partnership with Vidyard carried out a research on The State of Video Marketing in 2019. Around 70% of study participants rated video important or very important to their content marketing strategy. And almost all (97%) participants reported better conversion with video compared to other channels.

To quote the report, “large organizations lead in annual video production volume, with almost one-quarter producing more than 50 videos annually. The vast majority of companies create between five and 50 videos each year.” 

Video Marketing Conversion Performance

What to expect in 2020

We are finally heading in the era of 5G spectrum, with the US, UK, China, South Korea, and Germany as the early adopters. Several other major economies around the world like Canada, Australia, Japan, Russia, and Singapore are expected to rollout it in 2020. Marketers and communication professionals will benefit the most from this. 

With the increase in bandwidth and low latency, the network will be able to serve more devices and connect everything with the internet. The download speed will also increase by 20x. Simply put, you will able to download a high-definition movie in less than 5 seconds. The dependency on WiFi for video consumption will also reduce. All this would translate into people consuming on-the-go content more, therefore, more demand. 

Because video will explode with 5G, it is possible that users feel overwhelmed with the sheer amount of options. Practicing caution here by understanding what users like and what they don’t would be key to serve your customers better. 

Other emerging trends

Inclusive Design

John Maeda, a renowned technologist, dedicated an entire section to inclusive design in his Design in Tech Report 2019. He highlights the “imbalance” in the current technology and makes a call to the design world to “solve for one, and extend to many.” 

A customer experience, as Maeda, highlights “recognize(s) exclusion” and addresses the gap. With the society at large opening up to inclusivity, there’s a need to address it in the way we design customer experience as well. 2020 will see more brands becoming aware of this perspective and working to address it. 

Now, when we talk about design – it doesn’t only represent graphic design and web design. For us, marketers, it would also mean the way we design our communications, campaigns, the stories that we publish, and how we collect data and process it. And it’s a great time to start this change. 

One recommendation from my end would be to start learning about inclusivity and practicing it in the way we communicate to our users. 

Voice Search

Voice search is poised to be the next marvel in the mobile technology. You might already be using it, or barely use it but it is sure to change the way how content is discovered online. 30% of the searches are expected to be done without the use of screens by 2020.

This statistic was published in 2016. We got voice-assistant available on more devices today and the smart speakers can be found in more homes. So,  it is possible this number might increase by 2020. 

That said, do not throw out your keyword optimization strategy yet. Even if the voice search increases, it would not mean that people stop using text search. After all, we can’t vocalize all and everything we search in every situation or setting.

Wrapping it up

The year 2020 is set to bring loads of changes in how we do marketing. That said, the trends I mentioned above are sure to make an impact this year. Some of them have already come true, while others may take some time. 

But for all of them, you need to be prepared. Good luck with your 2020 marketing and have a great year!

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Kalpit Jain

Kalpit Jain

Kalpit is a Digital Marketing Technologist with over 21 years of experience in Technology, Digital Marketing, and Marketing Automation space. Currently he is the Group – Chief Executive Officer of Netcore.

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