John Wanamaker, the late department store magnate, once stated, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is I don’t know which half.” Marketers continually try to eliminate what Wanamaker called wasted advertising while reinforcing brand messaging. Data and analytics are helping them achieve that goal — which is why digital marketing is now a major emphasis. Dave Chaffey (@DaveChaffey), co-founder and Content Director at Smart Insights, observes, “We can see the huge impact that digital marketing has had.” On the other hand, marketing guru Michael Brenner (@BrennerMichael), believes digital marketing can go too far and the human touch is still required. He explains, “There’s a pushback against the increased digitization and automation of interactions between brands and consumers, and a desire to make marketing more human again.” The digital marketing arena is very active. Content and brand strategist Nidhi Dave writes, “At one time, artificial intelligence, data-driven marketing and voice search engine optimization (VSEO) were ambitious concepts bordering on the ridiculous. Today, these innovative digital marketing trends are among the top priorities for most business owners in 2020.” Dave goes on to list nearly four dozen trends affecting the digital marketing sector. Below are just a few digital marketing trends and predictions. As you will see, the line between trends and predictions is fuzzy.
Digital marketing trends
Trend 1. Social influencer marketing. Sven Lubek (@seono), managing director of WeQ, observes, “Influencers used to be huge celebrities or ‘internet celebs’ with millions or hundreds of thousands of followers. But now, companies are turning to people with a much smaller social media following to leverage as influencers and reach a targeted audience with a voice they trust. Influencer marketing has evolved to become more personalized. As it becomes more authentic, 92 percent of people trust other consumer recommendations over corporate advertising. … A mediakix study predicts that the ad spend for influencer marketing could reach $10 billion by next year. It’s clear that influencer marketing is here to stay.”
Trend 2. Customer experience. Brenner writes, “2020 will be the year of the customer. We’re seeing a massive shift in beliefs about what marketing actually is. It’s no longer about trying to convince people to buy from or work with your company. Instead, the priority has moved towards providing fantastic customer experiences that will keep people coming back for more.” Chaffey believes great customer experience is an important part of lifecycle marketing. He explains, “Although it’s often said that the ‘funnel is dead’ since consumer follows non-linear journeys, regardless of the product or service you’re involved with marketing, it will always be the case that to grow a business, your primary focus is growing awareness, closely followed by increasing customer leads and prospects. … Digital [marketing is essential] in creating a unified customer experience, … but it’s shocking that digital marketing isn’t seen as a driver of boosting revenue from existing customers.” Lubek believes providing interactive content will greatly enhance customer experience. He writes, “The reason interactive content will be one of 2020’s top marketing trends is because this level of interactivity in retail is new and original.”
Trend 3. Video marketing. Lubek writes, “Video was a digital marketing must in 2019 and it will continue to be one in 2020.” This trend has been building for a number of years. Five years ago, Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee), CEO of VaynerMedia, wrote, “The single most important strategy in content marketing today is video. Whether it’s video on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or Youtube, the content you need to be thinking about creating and marketing on social for your business is video. Period.”
Trend 4. Conversational marketing. According to Gartner, “Conversational marketing technologies enable interactions between companies and customers that mimic human dialogue and do so at scale.” Chatbots are poised to play a significant role in conversational marketing. Dave explains, “Chatbots will continue to be an important part of digital marketing in 2020. This AI-based technology uses instant messaging to chat in real-time, day or night, with your customers or site visitors.” She adds, “By 2022, chatbots will help businesses save over $8 billion per annum.”
Trend 5. Personalization. Brenner notes, “Increased data collection and advancements in technology have already had a huge impact on the level of personalization that is possible and on what consumers expect from their interactions with brands.” Chaffey reports, a McKinsey research report concluded, “Intensive users of customer analytics are 23 times more likely to clearly outperform their competitors in terms of new customer acquisition than non-intensive users, and nine times more likely to surpass them in customer loyalty.”
Trend 6. Marketing technology (Martech). Chaffey writes, “Today, Marketing Technology presents a bewildering choice of software services for businesses looking to improve their management of digital media, experiences and supporting data. If your business and your agencies adopt the right blend of Martech, it can help give you an edge against competitors, but if not, you may be missing out on the insights and automation processes they are using.” Marketers need to think broadly about technology. Lubek notes, “From 5G technology on mobile devices to advancements in AI, voice and connected TVs, how consumers engage with ads will truly transform in the coming year.”
Trend 7. Consumer privacy. Chaffey notes, “Repeated privacy faux-pas by Facebook, Google and security breaches at other brands leading to the release of customer details have highlighted to consumers that their data isn’t as safe with online brands as they may have once thought. Privacy regulations like GDPR have been enacted to improve data privacy with increased fines.”
Digital marketing predictions
Prediction 1. Snackable video. Martha Ivester, Head of Ads Marketing for Google in Northern Europe, predicts short videos will become more important in the years ahead. She states, “The massive growth of video-sharing apps reveals new ways consumers engage with content — and the type of content that sticks. Raw. Clever. Creative. Snackable. … 2020 will see a wave of ads exploring this new paradigm.”
Prediction 2. Digital marketing transformation. Brenner writes, “The business of marketing is becoming increasingly complex. For companies to succeed in 2020, they’ll have to think beyond what they’re doing and link everything back to the why of the business as a whole. … Strategic marketing transformation is the term used to describe the process when a business operating without a strategic marketing plan evolves by changing its fundamental business processes and procedures.” Julia Solovieva, Director of Business Operations, EMEA Emerging Markets for Google Russia, states, “Technology has changed our lives beyond recognition. What we used to expect from the most upper level services we now expect from any product or service. Digital marketing transformation is key to success today, and we expect it to become an even stronger trend in 2020.”
Prediction 3. Content democratization. Today there are so many ways to create content marketers need to think more broadly. Tina Walsh, Chief Brand Officer at Tongal, states, “I am most excited about the shift in content consumption behavior, which is creating opportunities and forcing businesses to rethink how and where they go to for ideas and content. Brands can no longer thrive by going to the same places they’ve always gone. If the business of content has completely changed, why hasn’t the way we go about making it? The industry needs to innovate and I say, ‘bring on the challenge.’”
Prediction 4. Individualization versus personalization. Rick Milenthal (@TheShipyardCrew), CEO of The Shipyard, predicts, “In 2020, we will move irrevocably into what is conceivably the end game of marketing: a future where a target market is a segment of one, where virtually every individual can be precisely targeted with highly relevant messages (albeit anonymously and with appropriate permissions). This means executing at the intersection of data science and creative. To operate in this new world order, we need to recalibrate how all of our marketing disciplines adapt to enable the individualization (as opposed to personalization) of communications.”
Dave concludes, “As John F. Kennedy once said: ‘Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.’ For anyone in digital marketing, change is an integral part of the job. You must keep looking ahead and strive to embrace new technologies, tools and strategies in order to gain an edge over your competitors.” Brenner adds, “Content marketing will continue to dominate the digital marketing landscape in 2020. Most of these trends rely on content in some way. To have success in them you’ll need to have a solid base of quality content across all your marketing channels.”
 Dave Chaffey, “What’s new? What’s next? 6 essential marketing trends for 2020,” Smart Insights, 6 January 2020.
 Michael Brenner, “10 Digital Marketing Trends You Need to Know for 2020,” Marketing Insider Group, 25 November 2019.
 Nidhi Dave, “42 Digital Marketing Trends You Can’t Ignore in 2020,” Single Grain.
 Sven Lubek, “7 Digital Marketing Trends to Consider for 2020,” Chief Marketer, 4 November 2019.
 Gary Vaynerchuk, “The Rise of Video Marketing on Social and How It Affects Your Business,” Gary Vaynerchuk Blog, 2015.
 Zarina de Ruiter, “10 digital marketing predictions for 2020,” Think with Google, December 2019.
 Heide Palermo, “The 6 Marketing Trends That Will Drive Innovation in 2020,” Adweek, 13 January 2020.
 Rick Milenthal, “A Look Ahead At 2020 Marketing Trends,” MediaPost, 2 January 2020.