The martech lowdown: 2016 trends in review and a look at our bright future
What's in store for martech? Columnist James Green takes a look at the trends in 2016 and which advancements will shape the industry next year.
Reviewing advances and setbacks in the marketing technology and ad tech industries in any given year is like watching a NASCAR race: There are drivers who push the limits and either succeed or fail, and others who can’t quite get out of the starting gate.
But some things remain constant each year: Technology gets smarter, and marketers, digital enthusiasts and consumers get more knowledgeable about using digital tech, allowing new trends to emerge.
This year was no different. We saw advancements in cross-channel marketing and attribution and shifts in consumer behavior as marketers tapped more sophisticated strategies to reach prospects and their customers. Here’s the lowdown on where we’ve been in 2016 and where we’ll find ourselves in the next year.
Cross-device took charge in 2016
Although it was not newly introduced this past year, 2016 was a big year for cross-device. The ability to reach someone on any device has become the new normal.
Mobile will increasingly look like desktop as everything comes together. Apps will begin to look like the mobile web as more and more of them are written in HTML 5.
Advertising will increasingly be plugged into everything and cease to care about which device you are using at any point in time. If you’re in the market to travel to Bermuda, you’ll get offers on whichever device you are looking at that very moment.
And the offers will pop up in every conceivable channel and medium. There will be no escape.
Point solutions may have caused more harm than good
What’s missing from marketing technology today is the glue that keeps channels tightly intertwined. Marketers have become more accustomed to buying the best point solution rather than a platform, but then there are huge challenges in finding ways to coordinate these point solutions and break free from operating your channels in silos.
There are two disadvantages here. First, it becomes very difficult to know what to optimize toward or to figure out which pieces of technology are producing the best ROI, as every channel is claiming success for the same new customer.
Second, it makes it difficult for your channels to coordinate, meaning when someone buys a product, you should not continue to retarget them, or when someone leaves without purchasing, you should be feeding that information into your triggered email and digital advertising strategy so that both channels are acting on the data in real time.
Too many point solutions result in paying for the same customer more than once, frequency issues and a broken data-driven marketing strategy.
We’re still plagued by attribution, but 2017 may change that
At the moment, attribution is largely siloed from actionability — meaning you can sign up an attribution vendor and they will tell you what worked after it happened. But by then, it’s too late.
In the future, technology will be connected to attribution so that the various point solutions can scale up and down automatically based on their individual performance. This requires a common data layer that can bring point solutions together under one roof and share the data insights and real-time information in a way that allows brands to automatically understand their marketing spend and make programmatic adjustments to derive more value out of the top-performing channels.
Email will continue to shine in 2017
The biggest revolution in email marketing over the past few years has been the greater sophistication in triggered emails. If properly executed, email is usually the top marketing channel.
Email gives you that one-to-one connection to the customer and can be easily tailored and optimized in real time — e.g., connecting email so that it’s triggered if you abandon a shopping cart.
The ability to plug email into an algorithm based on your website’s performance and your customers’ buying habits also will drive email performance in 2017.
We should expect to see new triggered emails introduced into the market and advancements in automation that make segmentation and personalized marketing more efficient and predictable.
MadTech will get madder
Smaller, high-growth companies have been gaining ground by consolidating their advertising and marketing technologies, forming what we refer to today as “MadTech.” Through better data organization, usage and coordination across channels, these companies promise a positive user experience, new prospects and increased customer lifetime value.
The only companies that will survive will be the ones with both personally identifiable information and broad intent/cross-client data combined with scale. Others will get consolidated or die, and given the thousands of marketing and advertising companies in the US alone, that’s a lot of consolidation and death.
In addition to pure survival, consumers are also what’s driving the future of MadTech. There are simply too many companies competing for consumers’ data and attention — and this has created a backlash, with customers feeling confusion and anxiety as they get bombarded with irrelevant online experiences and worries about how their information is being used.
Evidence — and real-life examples from companies like Amazon and Uber — prove that people desire convenience and personalization in customer journeys. And well-organized MadTech companies have figured out how to provide that convenience and personalization to people across the channels they engage in and the devices they use.
We’re entering the final stretch of 2016, a year of advancements and one in which we’ve seen continued systemic challenges. While we are in an age where totally new themes are hard to come by, expect to see advancements and innovations that take us much further than we are now in many areas, including attribution, cross-channel marketing and personalization.
The year ahead promises to be exciting — especially where company consolidation and teamwork come together to tackle attribution and the siloed channel conundrum created from the sea of point solutions.
Here’s to MadTech in 2017!