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10 Mega-Trends Transforming the Future of Digital Marketing in 2020

Last updated: 01-20-2020

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10 Mega-Trends Transforming the Future of Digital Marketing in 2020

While on winter break, I took some time to reflect on the journey ahead for marketers in this new decade. When focusing on the key trends and upcoming innovations, I see 10 mega-trends that are sure to influence digital marketing into 2020 and beyond.

Changing technologies, economies, and habits are altering user behaviors and these 10 mega-trends in particular will have deep implications for the marketing landscape over the coming years. Organizations that are ready for these mega-trends will make massive gains in market leadership and growth. This list is meant to evoke thought, debate, and research. I hope you find it useful: 

This year, 5G will become available in large markets worldwide. The impact of this will be larger than the introduction of the iPhone in 2007. With speeds as high as 10Gbps (your home internet has trouble getting 100Mbps consistently today unless you have fiber), it will have a significant impact on the internet. If you think micro-moments is a crazy phenomenon today, wait until 5G becomes pervasive globally. Yes, rolling out 5G in most markets is a 3-to-5-year journey, but it is starting. Internet home connections via cable and DSL will vanish the same way dial-up internet vanished 10-15 years ago. But 5G’s biggest impact isn’t going to be that you can download a Hi-Res DVD quality movie on your phone or tablet in 10 seconds or less (which you will). Its biggest impacts are going to be on healthcare, transportation, IOT, etc. Think about how good videoconferencing on your phone will be! 

And it’s not just the speed. Added benefits will include location with pinpoint accuracy  (even indoors!). With just three bars, you can get as close as three feet accuracy indoors. This will allow apps to place you in the correct aisle of a store and in front of the right products. Imagine being able to target a prospect with that kind of accuracy with marketing messages about what’s right in front of them?

Given the penetration of Google Home, Alexa, Siri etc., a fully context-aware voice interface is not far away. It has deep implications for search, knowledge, shopping, and service. Imagine having this conversation with your voice assistant:

You: Hey Google, can you find me flights to Seattle from San Francisco?

Google: When would you like to fly?

You: Tomorrow or the day after

Google: Hold on a second. I know United is your preferred carrier, but rates are pretty high on United. Alaska has a few good options. Would you like to hear them?

Google: Here is a good option for you Alaska Flight 873. Would you like to book it?

You: Yes, that works for me

Google: All right booking it on your behalf. 

This is not the future. It is already here. Today, emails and texts are read to you, and you can respond with voice if you so desire. This will change call and support/service center technology requiring less humans. It will bring about productivity gains that will have a large shift. Digital marketers will need to adapt and incorporate voice interface technology into their campaigns and programs to stay ahead of the curve and ensure a more customized experience for their customers. 

Along the same vein, real-time language translation is coming. Several companies are testing it now. Google Assistant can translate 27 languages in “Interpreter Mode.” Though still early, many companies have started offering products with translation capabilities. CM Translator is available on Amazon for $99 and translates 40+ languages on the fly. Check out their cool video here. Apple’s Siri will soon translate between U.S. English and French, German, Italian, Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. Google’s Pixel Bud earbuds work with Android devices to translate between up to 40 languages (Google also offers Google Translate and Word Lens, which translates words in photographs). Waverley Lab’s pilot system consists of two earpieces shared between two people who don’t speak the same language. Imagine a world where companies can interact with their customers and provide personalized experiences in real-time while speaking, typing, searching, in completely different languages. It would dramatically change the way we interact with brands and not just how, but who, could interact with us. It would even change the way things like airline announcements are done (so I don’t have to listen to announcements in three to four different languages before I can get back to my nap or movie).

As with voice interface technology, marketers need to be ready for real-time language translation – ready to adopt the technology, and weave it into their campaigns and programs to transform the customer experience. If done well, this is bound to become a valuable differentiator in any market, and inevitably, an expected way for brands to interact with customers worldwide. 

The capabilities of AI are accelerating tremendously. Providing low latency with AI and machine learning to drive fast responses, optimizing for data movement, privacy/security, and network optimization using specialized chips and hardware allows companies to build products to help our customers live more efficiently, but also enables us to engage and learn about our customers faster than ever before.

Intelligence is starting to show up in more and more places in both the B2C and B2B markets. The doorbell camera recognizes familiar faces that live at home. Your home heating and cooling learns patterns on when to use the system and when not to. Your car opens the garage door automatically when you get home. Your blinds automatically go down when the sun is heating up the interior of the home. Garden sprinklers turn off when there is rain or too much moisture in the ground. These are some everyday products that are already here or starting to appear in the market.

In the business world, we might be able to predict things like when an employee might leave their current job, if a job candidate will be a good fit, when a customer is going to churn, when a customer might leave a website, when a customer may want to refinance their house, or buy a new car, and what type of discount or promotion might drive a customer to purchase. Marketers already depend upon data, and with more intelligence available, they will be able to personalize more precisely and better predict customer actions.

I am a big fan of IFTTT. When it first came out, I thought it was a silly idea. But now that the world of IoT has exploded, and we have so many connected devices in our lives, it makes a world of sense. It makes a ton of sense in our business lives as well. As we speak to prospects about Oracle CX Unity, this is an area of opportunity that keeps coming up, driven by data and intelligence. For example, a major airline might be interested in a scenario like this “if customer is going to miss their connecting flight, and they are a top-tier loyal customer, find them up to three best-flight options as soon as they have connectivity. If they choose one, book immediately. If no flight options available, book them a hotel and transportation and provide food vouchers. During this time, do not send any promotional messages to the customer.” These automation services will become more ubiquitous, more intelligent, and will require a new approach to computing, load management, etc. It may change the way we approach software design and architecture altogether.

Implications of this kind of automation will improve customer service. It will change from being reactive and costly, to being proactive and have solid ROI fundamentals behind it. For years, digital marketers have reaped the benefits of marketing automation, and it will only become more valuable, efficient, and necessary to their work. 

Only 52 companies have remained in the Fortune 500 since 1955. The rate of change for companies, products, and consumer interest has only accelerated since the invention of the internet. It has been predicted that in the next decade, 50% of the current Fortune 500 will turnover, and the average company longevity in the Fortune 500 will reduce to 14 years, an all-time low.

New entrants to the list like Netflix, Uber, PayPal, and Tesla don’t just disrupt one company with their innovation; they shake an entire market, bringing a new perspective, new capabilities, and new opportunities. These opportunities can influence marketers by proving that through the use of the right technology, resources, strategy, and mindset, companies can make a noticeable impact.

And data will be key to using these tools correctly, so data-driven marketing is here to stay. Data and intelligence are core components to use to understand your industry and your customers better. Companies that embrace these core components and continue to iterate their marketing programs with their learnings will improve their longevity. 

Manufacturing, Tech Innovation, FinTech, Hardware etc. are no longer as cash and infrastructure-intensive as they used to be. This will ensure that new products and brands continue at a fantastic pace. For every Dollar Shave club, Tesla, Casper Mattress, Uber, Airbnb, Peloton, GoodRx, RobinHood, I predict there were will be 5x as many brands that will challenge the status quo. VC and PE money continues to pour into these types of disruptive companies with astounding returns in most cases. These companies disrupt with product and technology, but more with business models. They tend to be tech savvy, marketing savvy, and move with speed. Yes, of course we will find a few WeWorks, Theranos, etc. in that group. Yet, Fortune 500 will continue to shift rapidly over the next 5 years. 

All of this disruption benefits the consumers with better technology, better pricing, and better options, and marketers will have to keep up with the ever-changing landscape. Consumer expectations are always evolving, and marketers will need to get ahead of the game as much as they can to meet and exceed them.

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area for the past several years, I have watched with fascination as Google’s Waymo tests its driverless cars. After many, many years of building and testing, Waymo has started true driverless ride-sharing service in Phoenix, Arizona. Yes, true driverless car pickup and drop-offs. Watch this video.

Within the next five years we are likely to see these cars in every major city in the US; maybe even globally. Self-driving trucks are already being tested by UPS, Amazon, and Uber. This is just another example of how innovation never stops. Technology always continues to advance, and digital marketers must stay up to date on what technologies are changing the world and how it can aid them in connecting with consumers. For example, if you don’t have to drive car, what are you doing in it while taking a ride? Surfing the web on your phone? Shopping? Texting? Checking social media? Self-driving cars can provide more opportunities for marketers to engage with their audiences. 

Who would have imagined a world where Beyond Meat and the Impossible Burger would reach mass scale and be offered at many fast food restaurants in the Western World? Or that those fake meat products would rake in close to $5B in revenues in 2019! People all over the world are changing. Consumerism is on the decline. Generation Z, as an example, is:

The younger generation does not believe in college education the way we did, are planning ahead for a better financial future, and are willing to take more risks to achieve their dreams and aspirations. They care more about the environment, more about their impact on the world, and are willing to change. That is a sea of change from a generation ago.

So, how can marketers catch their attention? How can they earn their business? You can’t waste Generation Z’s time. You have to be transparent, empathic, and offer value. Show them how you can fix their business problems and make any interaction with you positive and helpful. Build a good reputation and offer solutions to make their work lives easier. 

It feels like we keep adding more channels for communication, increasing the amount of personal communication we have with friends and family, and professional communication with customers and colleagues.  Ten years ago, phone and email dominated, followed by messenger. Now the list includes text, WhatsApp, FB Messenger, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Slack, WeChat, Line, Zoom, Snap—it’s a never-ending list. The overlap between personal communication and private communication is increasing. Linking communications across channels (connecting Outlook, and Gmail to Slack), smart calendaring (Boomerang Calendar), autoreplies (Gmail already has it), etc. are all in the works. I recently had a Zoom call with my family to celebrate an event. Imagine if a bot could call your favorite restaurant or hair salon to make or change an appointment on your behalf. Or transfer money between accounts using only your voice and Face ID. That’s not far away either. Automobiles now allow you to receive text messages read out to you and respond to them via voice without having to lift your phone. 

The number of channels and ways to communicate with audiences will only continue to grow. Marketers needs to stay on top of the best methods of reaching their audiences and how these people prefer to be contacted.

Taking advantage of the opportunities these trends present will require that you move fast, stay focused, take risks and execute strongly. You have to be persistent and open to continuous learning, growing, and improving. Working with new technologies and how they change user behaviors  can come with a steep learning curve, but you will stand out from competitors struggling to adapt fast enough to the new world.

Know what’s ahead, educate yourself, and be prepared. Use data as your power tool to build a stronger brand and craft better marketing programs by understanding your customers, adapting to their ever-changing habits, and adopting these innovative trends and technologies.

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