Technology and consumer behavior are evolving quickly, and brands are challenged with keeping pace. Today’s consumers are digitally fluid and mobile-first, expecting a consistent brand experience across devices and locations. A recent study found that 49% of consumers say they frequently shop on mobile, and at least a third of consumers research online before visiting a store. At the same time, brands must address a constant stream of new data points and respond to search algorithm updates, channel activity, and industry trends, making it incredibly difficult to create an omnichannel strategy.
In evaluating top marketing and retail trends, there are three main digital marketing themes brands must prioritize in 2020 to be prepared for continued disruption in the industry, and to truly execute an omnichannel strategy.
1. Improving Analytics to Make Business Decisions
The average consumer engages across many touchpoints before making a purchase; it is no surprise most brands struggle to organize and use their influx of consumer data. Legacy systems and siloed databases create a tough environment for brands to extract the information they need to make important marketing decisions. To ensure a strategic marketing approach, brands should make investing in business intelligence a top priority in 2020.
To build a reliable data infrastructure, brands should follow these steps:
- Define a measurement framework aligned with business outcomes.
- Transform and activate data to uncover insights.
- Develop a testing strategy to understand campaigns across channels.
- Begin using AI-powered predictive analytics to uncover advanced insights like customer propensity and churn.
The benefit to improving an analytics strategy is straightforward: better ROI. Simply collecting data does not result in any actionable takeaway.
For example, many brands today can see that ‘Tom Jones’ clicked on retargeting ad A and spent $100, but there’s much more to the story. Armed with strategic analytics, brands can more fully understand detailed insights, such as the fact that Tom, and many customers like him, initially discovered the brand after a popular Instgrammer reviewed their product. It’s likely that many customers watch multiple YouTube videos, interact with two social media pages, and visit three specific pages on the website, all before they receive that specific retargeting ad and make that $100 purchase. The second example more clearly illustrates Tom’s full story and allows the brand to understand channel effectiveness to plan media for better performance.
2. Social Media as a Lifestyle
Today, social media has expanded well beyond its original use of sharing posts with friends and has become completely intertwined with most people’s daily lives. Inspired by China’s WeChat, which has over 1 billion monthly active users, platforms like Facebook are looking to become a one-stop-shop app where users can play games, read business reviews, make payments, book flights, grab a cab, shop a marketplace, and more.
At the same time, data privacy scandals are motivating platforms to provide less data to advertisers. These shifts will encourage brands to become more creative in how they reach and inspire customers across social touchpoints and content.
The lines between social and commerce are becoming increasingly blurred. For example, Instagram provides a major opportunity with Instagram Shopping, a visual storefront for browsing products and moving to Instagram Checkout. New features like augmented reality “try on” products and a shopping tab in Explore shorten the path to purchase, marrying shopping and social. Today, 130 million Instagrammers monthly are tapping shoppable posts, and brands are reporting incremental traffic and revenue increases.
More and more, social media is presenting a digital atmosphere between the world of the consumer and the brand. This new virtual world is now a second home for most people, presenting endless applications for brands to innovate and create compelling ways to engage in an authentic way. Features like chatbots, mobile video, ephemeral content, polls, and livestreams offer new options for brands to more directly develop personal interactions.
3. Leveraging AI for Better Marketing
AI offers countless opportunities for marketers, who can use the technology to gather higher quality data, test campaigns, personalize ads, power chatbots, and automate ad bidding. These methods not only improve customer experiences, they also free up marketers’ resources to work on strategy, insights, and other efforts that require more of a thoughtful, human touch.
When algorithms are able to learn from organized, high-quality data, AI can power better analytics. Already, it works in the background of many platforms like Netflix, Amazon, and Facebook, and has helped improve the customer journey throughout a multitude of digital channels.
Natural language processing (NLP) is advancing drastically and can be used to improve voice search and chatbots. People are searching for products in new ways; it is predicted that 30% to 50% of searches and web browsing will be screenless this year. Additionally, 85% of customer service will be powered by chatbots, and several brands already report higher conversion rates and ROI since implementing these customer service bots in Facebook Messenger.
Not only are these new forms of engagement improving relationships, they also offer an opportunity for marketers to use social listening and mood-analyzing messenger bots to measure sentiment analysis, understand customer behavior, and offer improved support.
Additionally, AI is powering automated bidding. Google Smart Bidding uses machine learning to optimize bids and increase efficiency. Likewise, Facebook Campaign Budget Optimization helps set budget and goal at the campaign level, and Facebook’s algorithm optimizes performance across sets. Ultimately, leveraging AI in bidding reduces resources and human error.
Master These 3 Themes for a Powerful 2020
Prioritizing these digital marketing themes is paramount to creating an omnichannel strategy and remaining competitive, particularly as new digital-first brands emerge, younger generations gain more buying power, and new technologies shift advertising.
Marketers are inundated with an overwhelming amount of data, channels, technology, and tactics. But by focusing on these areas, they will be able to better understand the present and future state of digital marketing.
Laura Russell is the Director of Strategy at Adlucent, a performance advertising and analytics agency for large brands and retailers, where she works closely with clients to tackle their business and marketing challenges, advising on how to best leverage data, audiences, and media tactics to drive measurable results. She has over a decade of experience in ad tech, advertising solution development and digital marketing strategy across various industries. She is passionate about creative problem-solving and excels at proactive planning, guiding Adlucent through innovative new solutions and inspiring her team to be “better every day.”