Moore StephensIt doesn’t matter which way you look at martech in 2018, it’s going to be about SPEED.

As more solution providers enter the market, the more discerning and selective investors will be. Right now, there are simply too many companies chasing the same customers and investors while trying to raise funds at the same time. For want of a better phrase, it’s a traffic jam. 2018 will be the year for the roads to widen and when we will see a breakaway pack of martech companies who will have succeeded by convincing both brands and investors that their solution and their team is best placed to win this race.

More will follow. In 2017, our flagship report – Martech: 2018 and beyond – we unearthed the fact that in the USA, well over a third (38%) and in the UK, nearly half (46%) of businesses are going to increase their investment in marketing technology. There is clear recognition that this is a race worth winning.

Martech is, without question, an already growing market. Our report, which was developed alongside WARC, was the first to establish the size of the UK and US martech scene, coming in at the already-significant figure of $34.3bn.

Our research revealed a very exciting perspective: there is an opportunity out on the track if you know where and how to look for it. There is no longer any argument over audience shift or automation of media planning and buying. The pit lanes so-to-speak, are full of not only success stories – but casualties too. Customers are obtaining their information in more ways than ever and martech is the vehicle to help businesses reach them. This moves the emphasis away from “ordinary” media into the speedy world of data science. This is martech.

But unlike races we have seen in the digital world before, this time it’s the marketer that has the car keys and they’re firmly in the driving seat. Indeed, figures from Magna Global show that digital marketing spend is expected to reach $273bn by 2020, a figure rapidly closing the gap on the expected $307bn on traditional advertising1. Those in the know are significantly funding, or fuelling the continued growth of the market and 2018 will be a flagship year for doing so.

So what does this mean for martech?

It’s bad news for the companies who have struggled to gain commercial traction and worse news for those who are not properly funded for the explosive growth ahead. 2018 will be the year their cars simply won’t start.

It also potentially bad news for martech companies who believe a standard car with standard parts and accessories (and a nice shiny manual) will compete. Marketers are moving away from the prescriptive single stack model and are far more likely to develop a bespoke approach which is right for their customers and right for their brand – the chassis might well be Oracle or Adobe but the tyres are coming from elsewhere and so is the engine, fuel and furry dice too. And they are accelerating ahead of the chasing pack.

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Why is this happening?

Because marketers are taking control like never before. We sense a general marketplace fatigue around adblocking, brand safety, lack of transparency, privacy issues and a plummeting level of trust in the way digital advertising is managed.

It is great news for martech companies who can demonstrate commercial traction and a growing loyalty among their customer base – even better if they have supportive investors on board too. No doubt these will be the champagne spraying, podium posturing winners in the paddock at the end of the day.

Our research shows a supply base that has doubled in size every year for the last five years – that’s too many cars heading into the chicane at the same time. Expect flames and bloodstains on the track, people.

Investors should ensure their due diligence includes extensive interrogation of their targets’ customer base – but that’s not enough these days. Technical due diligence is becoming more and more important. Understand the tin, examine the provenance of the code/software and let them demonstrate their proficiency in navigating (not just the hairpins) but procurement departments too.

Unlike its adtech predecessor, martech is delivering on investor returns and is getting the attention of analysts and market makers too. This is more of a grown-up toy rather than the gadgets we have seen in the past and 2018 is definitely when we will see the leaders sort it out before hitting the home straight in 2019 and beyond.

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