Predictions: 14 digital marketing predictions for 2021

In 2021 savvy marketers will continue to embrace creative ways of connecting with consumers to build awareness and drive demand through online touchpoints and digital insights in their campaigns. And with the absence of large events and in-person gatherings, restricted, by year’s end we could have smaller events with much richer digital integrations based on the learnings from 2020, says Cohesity CMO, Lynn Lucas.

In everything, digital must be the channel, according to Capacity Digital CEO, David Karandish. “The traditional workplace is dead. We can’t assume business will be done in person, in the same location anymore. The definition of ‘availability’ is also shifting and people are unplugging from the matrix a bit,” says Karandish.

This makes adaptability a key factor yet again in 2021. “Things will continue to be in a constant state of flux and, as leaders, we need to focus on how marketing can be a catalyst for change to maintain growth,” Showpad chief growth officer, Marissa Aydlett, tells CMO

Based on these imperatives, we explore the major ingredients that will help drive digital marketing success in the New Year.

1. First-party data

Ogilvy head of experience technology, Jason Davey, sees digital marketing strategies shifting to prioritise first-party data as the looming cookie crisis gets real (despite some delays). It’s for this reason he sees customer data platform (CDP) vendors enjoying a meteoric rise as multi-channel data collection, attribution, curation and decisioning becomes more accessible and affordable.  

“As a result of lots of effort in integrating data across digital channels in 2020, we will see a further increase in the use of virtual agents by brands, assisting customers in a conversational shop assistant-like interaction to traverse the complexities of modern life from changing phone plans to buying your next car,” Davey predicts. “This will, in turn, put more emphasis on CMOs to determine the ‘tone of conversation’ for their brand.

“All this data will continue to drive the hyper-personalisation trend, with more interest in predictive data analysis. Digital twin computing will become the standard way to predict real-world data impacts in a virtual world simulation.”
Also expecting a shift to first-party data is BlackLine CMO, Andres Botero. “With Google Chrome ending its support of third-party cookies in 2021, digital marketers will need to shift from reliance on third-party data for audience targeting and campaign measurement to a new model – improving the way they collect, manage, and activate their first-party data,” he says.

“In addition, marketers will want to partner with publishers that have obtained first-party data through legitimate and privacy-centric collection methods. Publishers have an opportunity to prove the value of their first-party data to brands while figuring out how to scale through programmatic advertising.”

The marketing chief notes brands are getting excited about the ability to unify first-party data sources into a single customer view in a CDP, although the platforms don’t necessarily do everything a marketer expects them to do.

“The collection, management and activation of first-party data can be facilitated with current marketing technology, for example, CRM, marketing automation and identity resolution platforms for reaching people across email, the open Web and CTV. The opportunity to improve how first-party data is used may reside with the existing tools in a marketer’s stack rather than by implementing new tech,” Botero says. 

HubSpot head of marketing A/NZ, Kat Warboys, believes the demise of cookies, as well as the challenges COVID has brought with it this year, has made it imperative marketers find a new approach. The key is being able to adapt the way they advertise to how consumers like to buy.

“We’re seeing a shift in strategy, with marketers using first-party data and contextual advertising to create personalised and relevant content for consumers,” Warboys says.
“In 2021, the secret to delivering better advertising lies in marketers’ ability to unlock the data at their disposal and leverage it to deliver hyper-relevant messaging and a unified buying experience. At HubSpot, we call it ‘CRM-powered advertising’.”

As well as enabling marketers to create more relevant, engaging ads for prospects by providing them with up-to-date customer data, this approach is about automating ads based on live CRM data and accessing reliable reporting based on holistic customer data.

“Relevant and timely messaging is the key to grabbing consumers’ attention, engaging them, and guiding them throughout the entire buyer’s journey,” Warboys says.

GoDaddy senior marketing director Australia, Suzanne Michell, has seen how the past 12 months have been the catalyst for huge insights-driven changes in the digital marketing landscape. “It’s a trend I expect to continue in 2021,” she says.

“Mass adoption of CRM systems this year will enable platform businesses to enhance their targeting and user experience capabilities in the months and years ahead. Deeper insights into customers increases targeting abilities to provide greater accuracy and more personalised customer engagement. This can help to drive smarter marketing, increased growth and better overall user experiences.”

2. Privacy will disrupt adtech 

A year ago, a privacy prediction might have been more focused on regulation. Today, we are seeing the tech giants taking the lead on privacy by limiting cross-site tracking – Apple through its strengthening ITP and Google with the promised sunsetting of third-party cookies.

“Once these measures are in place, regulation can almost stand down completely because the tech will make it near impossible to violate related regulations,” claims TrafficGuard COO and cofounder, Luke Taylor. “For adtech, this means disruption. Some businesses that rely on tracking mechanisms to provide services and data to advertisers such as retargeting companies, data companies and maybe even some DSPs, won’t be able to operate.”

Taylor also sees new types of tech evolving to help marketers measure performance and this could see them even shift the ways they measure success. “If they haven’t started yet, marketers need to be testing these new tools and measures while they can still track and attribute conversions to verify effectiveness in this current, trackable environment,” he says.

In terms of advertising, marketers will need to gain a better understanding of context to guide their future strategies and put more emphasis on creativity to cut through when their audiences aren’t as targeted as they once were. “Advertising will need to work harder when it’s not as targeted,” Taylor continues.  

For Adswerve president and CEO, Clint Tasset, embracing a privacy-first culture will be an executive priority. “We can expect to see the ad industry follow the footsteps of Big Tech’s self-guided push to become more privacy-focused, especially in light of progressive consumer data privacy regulations like the GDPR and CPRA. The momentum around greater consumer privacy in the public and private sectors is reaching critical mass.   It’s no longer a question of ‘if’ an industry-wide privacy framework will arise, but ‘when’,” says Tasset.

“Businesses need to ask themselves if they want to ride the wave or let it take them under. To prepare, they’ll likely need to restructure their organisations and rethink their existing processes to embrace a privacy-first culture.”

Rising privacy requirements will bring about the renaissance of contextual targeting, according to Integral Ad Science country manager A/NZ, Jessica Miles. “The usefulness of data will be limited by the death of cookies. If you have all this data about the individual but no way to activate that data in digital environments you might be better off not having it at all,” she says.

“There will be an increasing reliance on contextual targeting as a proxy for the audience. However, contextual targeting in 2021 will be more sophisticated than ever before. With cutting edge technology, we can now ascertain the sentiment and emotion of an article, interpreting the content the way a human would. With these increased capabilities, we’ll see more advertisers take advantage of both context targeting and avoidance to drive additional value and greater alignment in their digital marketing.”

Off the back of this, advertisers will start to substitute that audience data with contextual intelligence rather than having to support all the data management and privacy regulations that go along with capturing and leaving personally identifiable information,” Miles adds.

Criteo A/NZ commercial director, Colin Barnard, agrees one of the paramount initiatives for the advertising industry is the development and adoption of a future-proofed solution for online identity that isn’t reliant on cookies or large tech players with vested interests.

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