Marketing technology has come a long way since the new century dawned. As recently as the 1990s, many marketers were still relying more on "gut instinct" than hard facts, but harnessing big data helped them make more informed decisions. What passed for personalized emails was often little more than a mail merge to insert a contact's name. Target audiences were painted with a broad brush that often included more people who had no interest in the product or service than people who might actually become customers. Automated campaigns, predictive analytics, customized content, seamless connections across touchpoints and powerful marketing analytics have helped transform how — and to whom — marketers are delivering their messages.
Marketing technology has become huge. In 2015, investors sank $17 billion into more than 300 companies providing marketing technology solutions. Investors have been willing to fund marketing tech companies because marketers have been increasing their spending on technology. By 2018, spending on marketing technology is expected to exceed $32 billion, according to IDC.
All of these facts have led many to wonder what the future might hold for marketing technology and the companies that provide the solutions. Although predicting future technology trends can be perilous, it allows marketers to envision what the future might hold, reflect on past strategies and evaluate new technologies that just might provide a competitive edge. Without further ado, here are four predictions on what lies ahead for marketing technology.
- Customer privacy issues will become more important. One of the key benefits of marketing technology is that it allows you to collect an amazing amount of relevant data that you can use to deliver personalized content or customize your marketing messages and campaigns. Although customers want relevant, personalized messages and content from you, they do not necessarily agree with the methods that you may use. For example, 91 percent of those responding to a study conducted last year disapproved of companies forcing customers to give up their information to receive a discount. The increased use of ad blockers also points to the fact that customers are often not in the mood to share their browsing habits or data with marketers. Marketing technology that is used to collect data will need to provide customers with more control over what they share and with whom. Otherwise, marketers risk alienating potential customers through a loss of trust.
- Marketing technology vendors will decrease in numbers. Many smaller vendors will disappear through mergers, acquisitions or failure. Larger players will buy out many of the promising startups. This can be a boon to marketers; dealing with 30 or 40 vendors can create various problems for marketing teams, so dealing with a handful of marketing technology vendors who provide all of the services needed can be much more efficient. Currently, many marketers are forced to rely on a patchwork of solutions that they must somehow piece into a seamless method for managing their relationships with customers. Look for vendors to develop single platforms that contain all of the functionality needed; some of these new platforms will likely be derived from mergers involving multiple small vendors who each provide a part of the total solution.
- Marketing technology will be used to enhance the emotional ties between businesses and their customers. One of the drawbacks to marketing technology is that it can be used as a substitute for customer engagement. Many marketing tech tools treat customers as statistics or faceless entities to be converted, retargeted or moved along the funnel. Successful marketing professionals will accept that customers are more valuable than the sum of the data they provide. They will embrace an engagement strategy that combines analytics, customer insights and data to connect with customers as humans and improve the customer experience. Based on this strategy, they will then employ marketing technology to nurture relationships and strengthen emotional ties, maximizing their ROI in the process.
- CMOs will expect better results from marketing technology. Not too many years ago, marketers were not overly discerning when it came to their technology purchases. As a result, they often purchased overlapping or redundant technologies, and they sometimes failed to focus on technologies that provided the best return on investment. This does not mean that spending on marketing tech will decline. On the contrary, according to the Computerworld Forecast 2016 survey, 23 percent of the respondents planned to increase marketing technology spending, while 13 percent reported that it was an entirely new area for them. What it does mean is that marketers will increase their spend in categories with proven returns. They will also be more cautious when deciding whether to invest in new, unproven tools or categories that offer proven long-term results. Expect to see more investments in tools such as CRM and technologies for conversion rate optimization or customer intelligence. Technology that enhances content marketing will also be on many marketers' shopping lists. Marketers will become more creative, emphasizing quality over quantity, and they will look for technologies that can help them deliver content that is increasingly personalized and highly relevant.
Although these predictions are based on current trends and expert analysis, no one can guarantee what the future holds for marketing technology. The industry is advancing at an amazing rate, so it is possible that the future of marketing technology will be impacted by innovative technologies that have yet to be revealed. About the only thing that can be stated with complete confidence is that marketers who do not learn to harness the power of technology are going to find it difficult to reach their target audiences, build strong customer relationships and deliver their messages in ways that will not undermine their efforts. Marketers who adapt and embrace technology correctly are far more likely to succeed.