Four key martech trends every CMO needs to know
Martech marches on, as it always does, and it can be a struggle for chief marketing officers and marketing managers to keep up with the rapid rate of innovation. New and upgraded technologies abound, some with game-changing potential, others less so. Working out where investment should be made to gain a competitive edge is far from easy.
Change is also driven by new regulation or shifts in policy, such as Google’s long-touted and twice-delayed plans to address privacy concerns by phasing out third-party cookies in its Chrome browser, a move pushed back to the second half of 2024 to give marketers more time to test alternative solutions. With so much going on in Martech, it’s difficult to see the wood for the trees. Here are four trends every CMO needs to know.
1) Low-code systems
Low-code/no-code systems are, as the name suggests, platforms that require little to no coding knowledge to use. As they do not rely on specialist design or coding skills, these intuitive tools typically make use of ‘drag and drop’, saving time and giving marketers the freedom to optimise and experiment with content length, format and design.
Nick Mason, CEO and founder of content marketing platform Turtl, sees this as a major and empowering trend for marketers.
“Given more control over delivery and execution, they’ll be able to take ownership of what they create and distribute their focus more evenly to the parts of their job that most matter to them – writing powerful content, communicating with other passionate professionals and using analytics to review content performance – instead of simply copy/pasting emails and changing the name at the top.”
Bearing in mind both the high cost and shortage of developers, a low-code approach may also be cost-effective amid ongoing economic uncertainty.
With a low-code application-building platform, marketers could work side-by-side with IT to build out bespoke solutions according to Nick Ford, CMO of low-code platform Mendix. Ford adds that examples of this include better interface layers for outdated systems; integrations across different marketing technologies; improved workflows around marketing operations processes and aggregate reporting systems to improve insight into data across platforms.
Gartner predicts that by 2026, 80% of the low-code user base will be outside of formal IT departments, up from 60% in 2021.
In this context, Ford advises: “Use low-code to create modern, adaptable solutions to eliminate tedious, manual tasks and optimise and connect disparate processes.
“The time your team isn’t spending on low-value work will create space for more creative ideas and innovative campaigns.”
2) First-party data
Although Google has pushed its third-party cookie removal deadline to 2024, others have already moved on – and third party cookies have already been depreciated or off-by-default in browsers including Safari, Firefox and Brave.
“iOS’ default browser Safari leaves more than 50% of the addressable market without a way to successfully attribute and measure campaigns,” observes Matt White, VP EMEA of the AI-driven ad and marketing firm Quantcast.
“That’s happening right now. Planning for a completely cookieless tomorrow means starting today. It’s imperative marketers position themselves for success before third-party cookies are completely eliminated and they’re left scrambling for ways to reach, measure and segment audiences with specificity,” he adds.
Advertisers can respond to these seismic targeting changes with a clear and compliant first party data (1PD) strategy. The real benefit comes from 1PD being information an organisation collects directly about individuals interacting with its business.
“We see this as a way for marketers to positively respond to data privacy changes and create significant competitive advantage,” says Eleanor Hill – director of digital performance at data-driven marketing firm Medialab.
“We’re also seeing marketers experience performance uplifts with success across various use cases with the deployment of 1PD. This can be through activities to improve retention, increasing upselling to existing customers through more personalised experiences, through growing a customer base by finding similar audiences or through like-for-like targeting.”
Hill claims 1PD deployment can also increase media efficiency in “delivering the right message at the right time” and generating product innovation insights by understanding customer product use and pain points.
Miranda Glover, CMO of digital experience and technology agency UNRVLD agrees that the shift to 1PD is a huge opportunity for smart marketers. Managed with the right mindset, operational model and supported by the latest technologies, 1PD should help create more purposeful marketing programmes that build direct relationships with audiences.
“To achieve success, leading brands this year will be focusing more attention on their owned channels,” Glover predicts.
“They will be assessing how to drive more direct engagement with their customers, sidestepping aggregators and third-party channels to develop direct-to-consumer e-commerce solutions that will increase their share of ownership and decrease the cost of sale.”
Glover adds that agency clients such as SMEG and New Era Cap are successfully pivoting their services to direct-to-consumer channels and have achieved impressive first-year results.
Freddie Turner, the EMEA managing director of programmatic ads firm MiQ anticipates a push by publishers to leverage their valuable first party data to improve addressability in a post-cookie world.
How this shakes out remains to be seen, but, he adds, most efforts are rightly focussed on identifiers as the prime cookie alternative.
“Those publishers with logged in, authenticated users, leveraging identifiers such as RampID or UID2, will find solutions that are scalable across the industry, privacy-conscious and effective,” she adds.
Meanwhile the industry is waiting on further progress with Google’s Privacy Sandbox, the attempt to create standards for websites to access user information without compromising privacy.
“While some information has been provided around targeting capabilities like TOPIC, which targets interest-based advertising, and FLEDGE, which aspires to enable remarketing by showing ads at a website-based on prior interactions on different websites, these are still nascent,” says Turner.
Equally important is the work Google is doing on conversion tracking to provide key insights into users’ actions after viewing or clicking an ad.
Meanwhile, the Accenture Life Trends 2023 report suggests people may soon regain control of personal data through digital wallets containing tokens to represent ID, payment methods, loyalty cards and more. For brands, this might replace data lost to cookie restrictions with 1PD from people who voluntarily share it.
3) Search and social SEO in the metaverse
The metaverse has received a good deal of flak in recent months, including mockery around avatars getting legs at last. Yet people’s desire to escape the many stresses of everyday life has ignited huge potential.
“The distinction between digital and physical is blurring and there’s a growing sense throughout the marketing world that the door to a vast – and immensely profitable – new frontier is beginning to crack open,” observes Virginia Alvarez, head of insights & effectiveness at agency Wunderman Thompson’s data division.
“It’s a doorway leading away from the physical world, and into the metaverse,” she adds.
Megan Boyle, head of content marketing at digital marketing agency The Audit Lab notes that while it’s difficult to say what search engine optimisation will look like in the metaverse, it could take a couple of routes. Full integration with current search engines is highly likely, in which case SEO strategies probably won’t be forced to adapt too much, instead just having to understand these new technologies while still maintaining similar approaches.
“On the other hand,” says Boyle, “it could be that larger platforms create their own browsers, which could result in a reset to square one as brands scramble to establish themselves, while the early adopters thrive at the top. Only time will tell as the scope and premise of the metaverse constantly evolves, so speculation is the best we can do for the time being.”
Boyle believes the ways in which campaigns are tracked won’t change too much, still focusing on the fundamentals of increased sales and traffic. Current tools and metrics used to calculate progress and impact, such as domain authority and page rankings, are sure to evolve alongside this technology, but will “most likely be built on the foundations of how we operate now, not only to smooth the transition but also to make marketers consider it as an option in the first place.”
Games such as Minecraft or Roblox have simplified the building of virtual properties, potentially leading the way for future metaverse building blocks.
In the not-too-distant future, Alvarez predicts, users will own virtual property as they would physical property, and it will remain linked to the individual user and not disappear between different online sessions, which ultimately will help develop SEO in the metaverse.
“Once people start fully buying and selling properties, or looking at what activities or goods are on offer, brands can start applying search optimisation best practices,” she says.
A generation that sees virtual goods, products, services and relationships as no less valuable than physical ones is also emerging. “In the not very far away future, NFTs will become key in social as they can showcase backstage and exclusive access to the experiences brands could offer, for the first time,” explains Alvarez.
“They will become a status symbol in the virtual world. Maybe even more so because you can check the scarcity [demand], through SEO, to know how much they actually paid for that.”
4) Implementing AI into marketing strategy
Machine learning and AI will play a key role in marketing departments in the coming years. Gartner predicts that by 2025, organisations using AI across the Marketing function will shift 75% of their staff’s operations from production to more strategic activities and 70% of enterprise CMOs will identify accountability for ethical AI in marketing among their top concerns.
“With this in mind, marketers quick off the mark to adopt AI technologies will be able to shift resources and budgets accordingly to focus on activities that support a more dynamic team,” says Carol Howley, chief marketing officer at email signature solutions specialist Exclaimer.
“For instance, AI can streamline processes by reducing time consuming and manual tasks. This allows marketers to focus on strategic tasks like analysing, interpreting and actioning insights gleaned from AI data capture. Essentially pivoting to a data-led marketing approach and enabling personalisation at scale with reduced churn.”
The challenge CMOs face is the scale of the AI opportunity. There are few marketing activities where it can’t be applied, potentially causing paralysis of choice – new capabilities, vendors and benchmarks, all must be evaluated and integrated.
Surveying the AI landscape isn’t the place to start. Instead, look inward at the business and its priorities, asserts Stefan Tornquist, SVP research and learning at information and training provider Econsultancy.
For many brands, internal workflows are the stumbling blocks to better customer experience and greater efficiency. By auditing processes for specific points of friction, leadership can identify the areas where AI can make an immediate and powerful difference.
“Bring in the smartest minds from agencies, consultancies and vendors to discuss the possibilities,” says Tornquist. “Empower middle managers to test AI solutions that could help their teams, whether it’s in drafting copy, simplifying email campaign management, media targeting or a host of other everyday tasks that eat time and resource. Create working groups of marketers and technologists to take a hard look at internal processes that cap productivity or limit creativity.”
This piece was written without recourse to ChatGPT – of course (only the best human-generated insight for our readers!). Yet OpenAI’s chatbot deserves a mention here thanks to its headline-grabbing ubiquity. Flawed as it may be, this AI has some impressive content generation capabilities, making it an easily accessible window (well, Microsoft is an investor) for peering into the near future.
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