We’re not sure anything we write in this first paragraph is going to sum up what a cracker of a year 2016 was for marketing tech, and marketing in general. From some amazing work coming from IBM Watson, to huge events such as the US presidential elections, Brexit, the EUROs and Rio Olympics, to the mass adoption of 360 video and virtual reality and beyond, it has certainly been a year to keep marketers on their toes
The good news is, marketing budgets – in certain industries – have not been squeezed, despite economic pressures. And the better news is that at least some UK and US marketers look set to have even more money to spend in 2017, which is good, because as the below predictions show, there is a heck of a lot to be spending on.
But far be it from us to surmise what might be around the corner – although the GDPR, incoming Trump administration and other regulations might be keeping you busy for some of the year. Instead of predicting all of the next year’s top trends and tricks are, we’ve asked 11 industry experts for their thoughts.
1. ‘Proper’ use of AI: Katy Keim, CMO Lithium Technologies
According to Keim, who has contributed to MarketingTech a number of times over the last year, chatbots and AI are going to be a big deal. But, marketers must know how to tame this beast.
“One of the big talking points in social media marketing at the moment is the role of AI.
Without the immediate pressure of someone on the end of the telephone, customers fear interactions with social media agents may leave them waiting in the cold. Lithium’s research shows that 63% of customers (and even more for millennials) will reach out to a call centre as a very last resort.
“The ideal system switches seamlessly between human and bot interactions when each is appropriate and timely. The trick for companies going forward is to choose specific situations where a bot might be most effective. Here’s where algorithms can help sort queries efficiently and provide the most helpful response for the customer, making sure they aren’t left frustrated or crossing a brand off their list for poor service,” she explained.
2. Smarter consumer data: George Corugedo, CTO RedPoint Global
Corugedo told us that marketers are now realising the importance of having a consumer data platform (CDP) in the martech stack.
“CDPs are going to have a breakout year in 2017. The proof is in the numbers and you’ll see its strong following with the recent launch of the Customer Data Platform Institute.
“Achieving actionable insights from all customer data will continue to be an extraordinary challenge for marketers into 2017. In 2017 more CMOs are going to get the in-house skills to harness data or find select technologies that don’t require those specialised skills,” he said.
3. Ad Fraud will drop: Gil Becker, CEO AnyClip
While adblocking may grow even more prolific in 2017, actual ad fraud levels will hopefully drop, according to Becker.
“Desktop ad blocking may pass 50% by the end of 2017 and ad blockers will become an increasing concern for advertisers. Since blockers are a symptom of a bigger problem – consumers’ annoyance with ads, technological solution providers and creative agencies will come up with advertising solutions that are less intrusive and more personalized, reducing the desire to block ads.”
“Fraud levels will continue to drop for two main reasons. First, there is a growing awareness of the problem and the industry is enforcing strict requirements for low fraud. Second, technological tools to monitor and block fraud (among brands, exchanges, and across the ecosystem) are becoming better and more cost effective, driving high adoption rates.”
4. Personalisation will come at a price: Alex Comyn, CSO Amaze
We’re all very familiar with the phrase ‘personalisation’ by now, but new tech such as AI, smarter use of data and beacon technology mean 2017 will see it being taken to another level indeed.
But, the existing issues around personalisation and consumers finding it a bit ‘creepy’ at times will also increase. So, marketers, tread carefully, warns Comyn.
“As a result of bot-driven machine learning and AI, more sophisticated and personalised offers will be developed. Deals will guarantee multiple delivery and payment options supported by real-time data and will take into account loyalty and rewards and data related to physical locations by tracking where a consumer has been and predicting where they are likely to be. Consumers and brands alike need to prepare for deeper, more contextual disruptions at every point in life.
“With deeper, more contextual marketing predicted at every point in life, data sharing agreements will need to become more transparent and permission will be more sought after. Consumers will demand control over how they are targeted and the right to know if they are talking to a real person or not. A kill switch must be offered for those who want less or want out,” Comyn explained.
5. It’ll be an omni-channel world: Silvio Kutic, CEO Infobip
In 2017, omnichannel will grow considerably, Kutic claimed – and it’s not hard to see why. Different communications channels will be brought together with new approaches to manage this tech and more simplified integrations. But this is another area in which marketers must watch out for consumers’ preferences.
Cultural identities will be less about where we are and more about what we believe and who we connect to
“Businesses of all shapes and sizes will strive to take advantage of omnichannel messaging as a result. The integration of several different messaging platforms will let businesses take their communications much further. This approach will also make it possible to introduce fallback options tailored to the needs and habits of individual consumers.
“With omnichannel messaging becoming a reality in this way, enterprises will move past thinking about the individual channel that delivers the message and will instead focus their attention on consumer engagement and how to build it. This will result in a more holistic approach to understanding consumer communications preferences,” Kutic says.
6. Consumer-generated content will thrive: Christopher Baldwin, HOM UK Selligent
Consumer-generated content is out there, Mulder, but brands aren’t always that smart with how they utilise these tweets, reviews, shoutouts and blogs in campaigns, or even ad-hoc.
However, Baldwin predicts that in the New Year, we’ll start to see a more sophisticated use of this kind of content. This is good news, particularly as consumer-generated content has been around for such a long time now.
“It will be used to promote conversion, increase trust, and push urgency in purchases,” according to Baldwin.
“We can expect to see CGC spread from being confined to product pages, to display across category pages, email marketing and even in-store,” he said.
7: Mobile marketing: Dan Francis, Director of strategy, planning and product Proxama
According to Francis, chat and notification screens will be the battlegrounds for brands on mobile.
“The fight for the brand app to stay on a user’s’ phone is over. Apps are routinely downloaded, discarded and ignored. This has long been the traditional battleground for apps – the fight to be on the first (or second screen) of a user’s’ phone.
“Second, users rely on only a few trusted apps and distrust or won’t engage with others. However many of these ‘Super Apps’, that are used for primarily for messaging and social interaction, provide a new and secondary battleground for brands to engage within. Take Facebook Messenger for instance,” he explained.
And marketers can take advantage of these easily by harnessing the power of our next trend: Chatbots.
8. Conversational interfaces: Dan Calladine, head of media futures Carat Global
All types of ‘bot’ from voice to text-related will enjoy a greater adoption by brands next year. That is, at least, according to Calladine.
“We think that chatbots, and other forms of conversational interfaces, like Siri, Cortana, and Amazon Echo will have a very strong year in 2017.
“Chatbots can be set up to answer common queries, and even take payments – Facebook is following a path pioneered by other players like WeChat in China – while Echo and others will see more and more brand integrations, like the ones with Spotify and Uber, to make them more useful. To capitalise on this, brands need to make sure that their own data is readable by other services; being ‘bot ready’ could be as important as SEO,” he said.
9. Improved human customer engagement: Robin Collyer, Marketing and decision specialist, Pegasystems
A more holistic brand-customer interaction, could we ask for anything better for Christmas?
According to Collyer, better awareness with analytics and real time data will see the interaction of the customer and the brand re-imagined in 2017 as technology facilitates a more “human” customer engagement at scale.
“Increasingly automated CRM tools will take service to the next level by preemptively anticipating customer needs before the event takes place.
“Real time data streams will become the primary fuel for CRM systems. With data coming from devices, applications and even IoT appliances, real-time data streams are poised to drive real differentiation in customer experience.Marketing will be centred on leveraging these data streams to address customer needs in real time and offer solutions to problems that customers didn’t even realise they had,” he said.
10. Augmented and virtual reality: Omaid Hiwaizi, global head of brand experience Blippar
Of course we couldn’t write a predictions piece without mentioning the two big ‘uns, augmented and virtual reality.
Hiwaizi said that he believes augmented reality will be used more and more in the new year, building on its successful implementation in campaigns throughout 2016.
“I see the biggest opportunity in 2017 being AR. While this technology has been tested by many brands over the last five years, it has now come of age, illustrated by the incredible growth of Pokemon Go and multiple examples of brands like Pepsi and Max Factor using it as a strategic tool, to drive consideration or usage of products or ongoing engagement in the brand.”
Shopping has certainly changed, and 2016 saw the first cashier-less store open up thanks to Amazon Go
While many are centering on VR – the hot favourite – it may seem that augmented reality too has a lot to offer marketing in 2017.
11. Enhanced shopping experiences: Jamie Merrick, head of industry insights at Salesforce Commerce Cloud
Shopping has certainly changed, and 2016 saw the first cashier-less store open up thanks to Amazon Go. We no longer shop at just one store, often browsing around online for the best deal or asking our friends and family for a recommendation.
“The shopping experience is no longer linear, as consumers make a convoluted journey across devices and channels. In order to finally deliver the promise of the fully joined-up single view of the customer and retailer, we’ll see 2017 as the year where mobile, desktop, physical and virtual all link up to become one true ecosystem with interlinked purchase histories and baskets,” said Merrick.
“Across the globe, the total value of physical goods ordered via digital channels is expected to increase by 15.5% in 2017. App-led businesses like Uber and Deliveroo have put pressure on retailers and brands to offer a similar experience for rapid delivery. Adoption and use will rise significantly in the year ahead.”
12. Visuals are changing: Andrew Saunders, senior VP of creative Getty Images
Even the visuals marketers use in 2017 will change, according to Getty Images’ Saunders.
From the ‘Gritty Woman’ breaking glass ceilings, adopting a power-stance and looking ready for a battle to the spontaneous and playful ‘New Naivety’ visuals brands are adopting, visual marketing is set for a shake up.
One trend challenger brands are adopting is that of the aesthetics of photojournalism to connect with younger consumers and bring a raw, spontaneous edge to their storytelling.
“The Unfiltered trend is the antithesis of glossy advertising; it illustrates a new direction in commercial photography, a move towards a more documentary aesthetic. It opens up a dynamic new method of image-making which cuts through the noise, and makes consumers sit up and take notice,” according to Getty.
But the last trend Getty mentioned, we think, is the most important. It’s that of the Global Neighbourhood; embracing the circulation of people, goods and information that’s happening in an increasing way around the world.
“Cultural identities will be less about where we are and more about what we believe and who we connect to,” according to Getty. “Cross-cultural and socially borderless imagery will become more prevalent as brands learn to change and respond to our increasingly complex consumer identities.” Accepting and responding to these changes by working together and encouraging positive thoughts, feelings and behaviours in a world that’s so uncertain will be vital to marketers in 2017.
In a way, the pen is in your hands. To quote the famous Peter Drucker: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”