Solutions to Real-Time Promotional Challenges Will be Marketing’s Focus in 2020

Reaching Prospects at Just the Right Times Is Not Only Desirable, but It’s also Practical with Current MarTech Tools

As Marc Andressen famously said, “Software is eating the world” but eight years later we must ask – has the global market for MarTech products and services – one of the great success stories of recent times – finally reached capacity? Is the industry’s enviable pattern of growth likely to continue, or even accelerate, in the foreseeable future? If it does continue its historic penetration of the Marketing space, what new challenges will it solve? And what features would be required to solve them? Or could MarTech possibly be on the brink of decline in the face of market saturation, data privacy restrictions, and competition from even newer tools?

Not surprisingly, the answers vary, depending on who you ask. A new study from advisory firms BDO and WARC, together with the University of Bristol, provides some positive insight. Their study surveyed professionals in branded product companies, in marketing and advertising agencies, and among vendors of MarTech tools in the US, the UK, Europe, and Asia. Their conclusions are encouraging.

Taken together, their findings show that MarTech budgets grew by a healthy 25% in North America just since last year, now accounting for 30% of the overall marketing budget spent. Brand professionals reported they currently use MarTech tools for just about everything: email (79%), social media (77%), content marketing and management (68%), CRMs (65%), and analytics (65%).  In aggregate, the global MarTech industry is now worth approximately $120 billion, according to their report. But it is fragmented with an estimated 7,000 vendors now actively providing various martech products and services.

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It is also short-handed. According to the report, there is frustration over recruiting personnel who are skilled in manipulating and interrogating data for client acquisition and brand building – a skill set that has become increasingly important with new personal data privacy laws coming onstream. From the client-side, the skills which are most in-demand included “brand strategy,” “customer experience,” and “turning actionable data into insights.” Hiring the right talent to meet those demands will remain a serious challenge in 2020.

Even if unfulfilled, the needs they expressed are a valuable indication of what’s currently on the minds of marketers as well as their priorities for the coming year. For instance, many multi-channel marketers still struggle to capitalize on key customer engagement moments by failing to make a clear business case for real-time engagement. Most haven’t used predictive modeling or rigorous testing to determine whether a real-time response would be warranted, or what it might involve when they’re formulating their Marketing events. But that may be about to change.

The underlying challenge is to understand people’s real-world behaviors well enough to message them at just the right times – times that are both the most relevant and least annoying to them.  With brick-and-mortar retailers, for example, location-based messages that mobilize people to complete an action at a specific local store where they had previously indicated an interest, is a primary need. We expect that in 2020, Marketing Technology investments will focus on enhancing the experience along their customers’ journeys.

Likewise, marketers should figure out when prospects are commuting on public transit with time on their hands; that could be a great time for them to open your app. By the same token, you don’t want to send messages to users when they’re asleep so that they find a pile of notifications when they get up in the morning. And besides, that wouldn’t be considered real-time, particularly if you are competing with a bunch of other app notifications they’re getting at the same time. The key will be optimizing message delivery to the times of day that users previously engaged with the app.  Built-in A/B testing can help to predict click-through rates as well as helping to hone messaging. Particularly in testing for sales at different price points, it can be very helpful to know what the actual redemption rates will be before offering major discounts.

Effective Marketing is data-driven, but most Marketing teams don’t have enough in-house talent to do it well, and it’s difficult to coax a firm’s engineering team, which has other issues to address, into prioritize to help marketers execute their tactics. That’s why there’s a need for highly capable products – software that can do things like data tags and segmentation without requiring an engineer to set them up. By next year, we’ll see MarTech investments in new tools that are easy to use, that generate actionable insights and can be easily deployed by Marketing teams.

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Reimagining the Customer Journey to Increase Engagement

The traditional marketing model of systematically feeding leads through successive stages of the Sales funnel is now becoming obsolete. In 2020 and beyond, smartphones will have become the primary channels for communicating with customers and prospects. Mobile usage already surpasses desktop usage. We check our phones an average of 47 times a day, and for 35% of the population, the smartphone is the last thing they see before going to sleep. Savvy marketers know that to stay top of mind, they must stay on top of smartphones.

At the same time, though, customer engagement is dropping year after year, making lead generation and remarketing increasingly difficult. Email open rates are in decline. Phones go unanswered. About 26% of consumers use ad blockers on their desktops. Even LinkedIn marketing is getting played out—something unthinkable as recently as a year ago.

Keeping prospects engaged in a world of growing competition and shrinking attention spans requires direct outlets that are more likely to be seen than online ads and emails. Targeted messaging like specially curated push notifications, cuts through the noise and place messages directly in front of the target. More than half of all mobile users enable push notifications, so those messages are assured of reaching a massive audience. The average email open rate, in contrast, is less than 20% and email click-through rates average just 1-3%.

In the coming year, the key to success will be personalization; generic spray-and-pray marketing will continue to decline in efficacy and results. Highly targeted Account-Based Marketing tactics used for email campaigns and applied to newer channels, like push notifications, when combined with user preferences (like location), ensure that messages are timely and highly relevant. Along the customer journey, those messages should provide friendly, time-sensitive updates that make someone happy they looked at their phone.

The MarTech tool kit just keeps getting better. In the coming year, we expect marketers to expand their use of it, with focus on best of breed tools, that integrate with their existing MarTech stack and continuing to refine the outreach process. And we hope to see fewer barrages of spam and poorly timed messages cluttering our inboxes.

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