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Digital Marketing in 2020 and Beyond

A computer screen displaying purple squares in the context of digital marketing.

Features, Nuts & Bolts

Digital technologies have completely transformed how marketers promote modern brands. What changes will the next decade bring?

Marshall Lemon

January 21 2020

In 2019, we explored the entire world of modern Martech to highlight the most valuable tools and best practices for digital marketers in our Nuts and Bolts series. Of course, now it’s 2020 — and if there’s one constant in marketing, it’s that nothing stays the same for long. Perhaps over the next year, new trends and technologies will emerge that completely transform how we reach customers, or we may find new ways to leverage traditional techniques like email and SMS marketing.

For our final installment, we’ll take a closer look at the broader picture of digital marketing to highlight not only what will change, but what might stay the same.

The future of mobile marketing and advertising

The field of mobile marketing has experienced remarkable growth over the past decade, driven mainly by widespread smartphone adoption. We can expect this trend to continue in the short term, particularly in emerging markets such as India and Southeast Asia where smartphone penetration is gaining steam. However, in mature markets such as North America and EMEA, we will reach a point where obtaining new users becomes more challenging than expanding your campaign to other countries. Once mobile marketing techniques are no longer a novelty, can we be confident they’ll still have an impact?

This question is one of the reasons why mobile marketers are seeking innovative new ways to reach customers. Most notably, brands have started exploring the marketing potential of virtual reality and augmented reality technology. In the long-term, AR might allow companies to deploy ads and promotions through overlays that react to your real-world surroundings. You could look at a product and see competitive pricing options, or glance at a storefront to see daily promotions.

In 2020, however, the most likely emerging technology to impact the mobile marketing ecosystem is AI. Machine learning technologies have the potential to automate and personalize mobile content creation and delivery at scale, enhancing our existing marketing capabilities. Marketers will become far more targeted when acquiring customers instead of casting a wide net across smartphone users.

It’s worth remembering that many mobile marketing innovations won’t come from technological discovery, but government regulations. Legislation like Europe’s GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act have established new rules for obtaining and managing private user data. Many brands will need to update their policies — if not their entire business models — if they wish to thrive in this new environment.

The good news is that this new regulation can be an opportunity to build trust and brand affinity with consumers if marketers are willing to embrace it. The growing number of consumers concerned about privacy are also more willing to work with brands that respect their personal views and needs. 

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The future of social media marketing

In 2019, social media’s performance as a marketing channel was innately tied to mobile platforms. That’s unlikely to change in 2020: Major platforms like Facebook and Instagram continued their pivot towards mobile-friendly stories and video posts while deploying ad creative to match. Yet, as marketing techniques evolve in response to technological advances or regulations, we should expect social media to follow suit.

Some of these changes are already taking shape, built around a common theme of connections. Instagram uses its Close Friends feature to limit their posts to select groups. Brands and casual users alike are embracing live video streaming to create a sense of immediateness and intimacy with followers. The expensive influencer industry is evolving to include micro-influencers who are trusted among smaller follower counts. In short, future opportunities in social media marketing will come from brands who are willing to forge relationships with their customers.

The future of CDPs

Customer data platforms (CDPs) will only become more important to marketers in 2020 beyond. These tools make it far more straightforward to store and manage user data and deploy marketing campaigns at scale. Depending on the nature of your organization or industry, customer relationship management (CRM) software may also be needed to track your interactions with each customer.

CDPs and CRMs will also be essential for managing data as new privacy regulations emerge. Legislation, like the GDPR, allows users to gain control over how their information is used, often through the form of a direct request. If consumer records are not available to users through a web or app-based interface, users will expect businesses to provide all data related to them on demand. CDPs make it easier to respond to such requests while granting marketers additional tools for managing a higher level of responsibility in regards to user data.

The future of ad fraud

No conversation about the future of digital advertising is complete without considering ad fraud. There is no shortage of malicious actors who pretend to represent advertisers and content publishers in an attempt to siphon away ad spend — costing the industry billions in the process. These damages can even extend to consumers who interact with the ads, exposing them to phishing scams and stolen personal data.

Preventing ad fraud will require extensive collaboration between marketers and advertisers, even those in direct competition with each other. Regulations can also provide safer digital ecosystems for marketers to work in, which also creates clear legal consequences for fraudsters. At a minimum, more businesses will need to create fraud prevention policies and enforce them across the organization — larger brands may even need to create dedicated departments or outsource fraud prevention to third-party experts.

Unfortunately, in the long-term, ad fraud is unlikely to be solved in full. While the issues faced in 2019 will be addressed, patched, or otherwise resolved, fraudsters are notorious for seeking out new opportunities and weak points in any system. In the meantime, marketers can make better use of digital techniques to limit its impact, reducing the harm to the broad ad industry.

As we move into 2020, it’s important to remember that digital marketing is not a one-size-fits-all industry. The field encompasses everything from technological advancements, like voice-based capabilities, to traditional communication techniques, like SMS and email marketing. There is no one right way to acquire and retain consumers, but there is a wide range of tools and techniques to help you reach your goal. By understanding these nuts and bolts of marketing, you’ll be better prepared to understand and reach any audience — in 2020 and beyond.

Marshall Lemon

Marshall Lemon is a writer, editor, librarian, and game designer. As the Content Marketing Manager at Fluid PR Group, he helps businesses craft engaging stories within the context of well-researched industry data. He lives in London, Ontario with his wife and two adorable puppers.

This article was originally published by our friends at PostFunnel.

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