The Digital Marketing Trends in 2020: What is the Future of Marketing?

What are the digital marketing trends in 2020? I have been reading several stories and predications which outline few sexy and attractive marketing technologies and tactics such as voice search, micro-influencers, automation and of course AI.

Wonderful, but this all just trendy news we have been collecting for years now. We need to sense the future of marketing and predict upcoming challenges. Living another day is going to be a battle for marketers since the business environment is evolving rapidly.

Where we stand now? the majority of marketers are not considered yet about the future.  According to the most recent figures of 2019, the CMO survey indicated that the majority of marketing leaders are more focused on managing the present.

marketing change in 2020

Marketing is changing… How and Why?

Digital marketing has been evolving during the last 4 years dramatically and some people are not paying attention. The changes have been coming in different waves for almost 10 years between 2010 to 2020, and these changes are not going to settle down easily. It is going to be brutal in the coming years more than any time before. We have been seeing strong indicators of this major shift in digital marketing, yet we have been consuming it slowly or resisting it.

However, I did learn a great fact during my years of leading marketing teams and consulting brands and by speaking to my fellow marketers across different industries and regions. This fact is straightforward and simple; “Management doesn’t care about how you the digital marketing executes; it is all about the results”. Any given CMO at any given day is looking at one thing only; how is the performance doing? Don’t get me started!

What marketers can do while they are becoming the front line for businesses? And as we all know that business is getting competitive and aggressive towards growth. Ahh, growth is the word that you hear day and night everywhere, from big corporates to startups to even vloggers. Growth, growth, growth..

In all honesty, the growth concept is going to fully lead and fuel all the aspects of marketing and will mostly reshape the marketing definition in the near future. With that being said, the question I am trying to resolve here is not only what is the trends that is going to hit soon, but how marketing is changing? What is going on?

1)  Marketing methodology: What’s going on with marketing?

At the beginning I had to do my homework and explore what is top marketing experts are predicting. Dr. Dave Chaffey’s in his latest blog the six big 2020 marketing trends, indicated several major areas including lifecycle marketing, conservational marketing and marketing technology. After exploring Chaffey’s theories, I explored a few more articles by marketing opinion leaders. My conclusion that marketing predictions are mainly focused on technology, platforms and channels. I believe we have been in years of jumping between trendy channels and tools without having a solid vision or understanding the strategic objectives of digital marketing.

With the advantages of data and effective tracking of digital marketing, companies started centralizing the marketing department as the ROI factory. It is becoming aggressive and marketers are shifting from the creative side to the executions side of the corporate with more tasks of sales, customer relationship management and growth.

The complexity of ROI measurements is left to marketers to handle. Gradually, the marketing role is under the fire of making money with less interest in measuring other marketing roles such as brand positioning and visibility. Whether we like it or not, this fact about marketing is going to lead in the future.

I believe in data and performance, but this new role of marketing which is going to dominate more is showing a huge impact on marketers we have been seeing lately such as the intolerance from top management which resulted in a high turnover as they are measuring marketing performance based on ROI mainly.

According to LinkedIn analysis, marketing roles had the highest turnover rate of any job function—an impressive 17%. That’s more than 50% higher than marketingweek survey in 2018, 81% of respondents suggest they are likely to change jobs within 3 years, while 38% of which will do so by the end of this year.

marketing turnover skills

Even CMOs are hardly able to survive more than a year or two. Performance growth, quick catches, short term plans are more important than long term strategy and investing in brand value, quality content and creative campaigns.

Therefore, everyone is under the stress and the marketing is shifting towards improving the present ROI not building a brand that can generate future ROI.  In conclusion, marketing in 2020 and coming years is going to focus on quick wins strategies and the marketing positions will continue to the highest turnover without a stable ground to flourish.

That’s why I am not considered about sexy trends such as micro-influencers, interactive emails, conversational marketing, etc. These are great and attractive methods to implement, but we all know as marketers, that setting up a solid marketing strategy requires a deeper understanding of the consumer before encountering channels and setting up technology.

2)  The change in consumer: Are we ready for Generation Z?

Whether we already or not, marketers in 2020 have to deal with the latest consumer group, Generation Z. Those are turning 18 and entering the workforce and fueling the internet consumer are going to be a whole different story.  According to some of the market estimations, Generation Z will make up 40% of all consumers in 2020. Woho!

What is the impact of this shift? Well, we could have hints about their behavior but that’s is not a clue yet. The reason is simple; You can’t predict the nature of a consumer group that is shaping and will take time to fully mature and shapes its behavior and purchasing habits.

Eventually, a scary fact about Gen Z that they are quirkiest, with constant change in their tastes and content consumption. This means that marketers will need to catch up quickly with not only their creativity but also with a solid data infrastructure to be able to attract this segment.

Tip: Gen Z is sensitive to phonies tactics and cheesy styles. Marketers have to shift into more authentic and original ideas to be able convert. Wink wink, social media marketing is going to take a hard turn and the honeymoon years are over. The social media engagement is going to be revolutionized since Gen Z humor is absurdist and less-polite. So, if you don’t get their ways of communication, leave the space for younger marketers who are able to understand.

3)  Marketing management: CMOs vs top management

Back in 2014, Betsy Holden, the senior advisor at McKinsey outlined the major issue of marketing consultant, I found that while they have a lot of great platforms and technology but yet the issue is all about humans. The complexity of technology is double edged.

This leads us to understand a precise point which is, marketing technology is the trend and it is going to impact how we conduct marketing, but it is at the end of the day related to the skills and ability of human skills. Using marketing automation to segment the customer is going enhance the targeting but who sets the roles and design the consumer journey based on strategy and specific objectives.

Marketing automation challenges

In conclusion, while technology is science, using it is a matter of art and this could vary based on human skills. In 2020 and upcoming years, access to  advanced marketing technology will not be a critical concern, but the mind that manages it will be always the matter that will shape the relationship between the presence of marketing technology and its execution.

5)  The change in marketing skills

As we discussed the effect of technology, we have to tie it with data. Eventually, understanding the demand in the market we had to review in the previous points how marketing is moving forward in order for marketers to understand the environment they serve at.

Apparently, all the trends that are rising in the marketing will continue to be affecting the marketers. I have the habit of regularly checking the job descriptions on LinkedIn posted by companies from different regions and different industries. There are few facts that draw my attention which can summarize the change happening in marketing roles.

  • Encrypted titles: There are no standard titles for the majority of marketing jobs. For marketing analyst some companies might call it “Marketing Intelligence Manager” or “Data Analysis Manager”, and several more titles based on the company culture. We have been into that conflict since years ago when it comes to performance titles as some people use the term “PPC” and some call it “Paid search” and some call it “Performance manager” and so on. HR is even borrowing the title “Marketing consultant” for recruiters who are specialized in marketing hiring. I have no idea why they are doing this!! It is a big mess when it comes to titles and the more the platforms and tools we have, the more the titles are diversified. Sometimes it takes a while to understand a title with encrypted title and strange combination of duties. Startups are reinventing the titles of marketing and setting new titles that is nonspecific and more flexible to match their diversified needs.
  • Broader tasks and specific technologies: The description of marketing jobs is getting broader in terms of duties but very specific in the required tech skills. Companies tend to get marketers who fulfill their current needs even if it is a blur and cross-departmental with less aim for specialization. Some of the roles are fully customized due to lack of structured marketing department or instability in their marketing strategy with short-term plans and micromanagement. However, the companies need at the same time to be a superhero in their platforms and technology. The vast growth in the number of marketing clouds and tools is making it harder since every company is looking for candidates who are strong in their tech stack no matter how uncommon it is. Recruiters and their software who are filtering and scanning resumes are sometimes incapable of understanding that major automation platforms are conducting the same functions, and they filter people out because they are only reviewing based on very specific keywords.
  • The demand for data jobs: Everyone is hiring data experts in their team since the data-driven approach is taking over. This trend will continue to rise in 2020 and the coming few years till eventually, things will change. My prediction that this trend will decrease at some point for two reasons. First, the future marketers would adopt data skills and it will become an essential skill the same as any admin or management skills the marketer has to acquire to proceed with his career. This already did happen before when the traditional offline marketers had to learn digital marketing to survive. The same scenario will happen with data analytic skills. It is going to be a must. Second, with the increasing competition business will understand that data is telling what is happening and why it is happening? but the missing part will be what we need to make it happen? I expect in the coming years, creativity jobs will return to rising and take over the top trend of skills demand. We can see a quick hint for that happening already in the below stats.According to Altimeter report of 2019, Data Analysis is considered the highest demand for marketing skills, however, there is a huge rise for skills in video editing and production. This fact outlines how creative skill such as video production is becoming one of the major needs for the marketing industry.

Marketing Skills trends 2020

Conclusion: While the marketing trends in 2020 are going to bring some heads-up of hot new channels and interesting tactics we need to adopt, there are many crucial facts is happening in the background and we need to dig deeper in order to be prepared. The business environment and technology are going to reshape the industry as well as marketing skills. If you have a further opinion, please share so we can enhance this discussion.

How to Choose The Right Marketing Automation Platform for Startup

Marketing automation is a must-have for startups to manage their marketing efforts. But, even though you may have heard that many startups are still struggling with the definition of marketing automation. What is features of marketing automation and why it is important for the startup in particular? Sometimes as a marketing consultant, I like to take a pause and get back to the basics.

What is marketing automation? It’s pretty simple and straight-forward. It is a platform or set of tools that help to organize and automate marketing activities with fewer efforts and sustainable results.

Reality scenario: You are developing a B2B solution and you found out that you don’t have enough budget for hiring marketing resources. The struggle goes on when you start marketing campaigns but you are not able to connect the dots and convert due to limited resources. Relying on automation can solve the problem.

The use of marketing automation: Corporates vs Startups

Corporates are more exposed to the marketing automation platforms due to the sales initiatives running by enterprise automation platforms and their partners. The partners are very active in presenting the benefits of automation to the big companies and as well as providing long-term support benefits. No wonder that in the past couple of years the majority of corporates and SMBs already integrated marketing automation.

In startups ecosystem, the marketing automation still doesn’t have a clear path. One of the major reasons is that startups cannot afford the cost of well-known platforms such as Adobe Marketing Cloud, Marketo, Eloqua, etc. Startups usually tend to integrate many of the free and affordable tools that perform one or two tasks and they end up with a lot of tools that are all over the place but not connected in terms of managing and measurements.

Startups and growth

Studies show that 74% of companies report that using marketing automation software saves them a significant amount of time. However, using marketing automation can help startups not only run marketing activities but can as well help the startups to have a sustainable marketing strategy and a clear roadmap for their growth plan.

The starting point: Free marketing automation platforms

Is there an affordable or free marketing automation tools for startups? The answer is yes. There are many platforms that have a free limited version as well open source platforms. The list of free marketing automation platforms includes:

  1. HubSpot Marketing [Limited free version]
  2. Mautic [Open Source]
  3. OpenEmm [Open Source]
  4. Zoho Campaigns [Limited free version]
  5. MailChimp [Limited free version]
  6. Drip for e-commerce [Limited free version]
  7. DailyStory [Free version for startups]
  8. SendinBlue Email [Limited free version]
  9. Albacross [Limited free version]
  10. Leadsius [Limited free version]

There are still many more platforms you can search for and try. But hold your horses and let’s first identify how you can select your marketing automation platform? If you decided to take advantage of a marketing automation platform, the following considerations can help you decide on the right platform for your business needs and goals.

1. Make sure it is affordable and sustainable

It’s important to choose a marketing automation platform that you can afford in the long term. Remeber that your marketing platform should be suitable for your business growth such as growth in contacts and email campaigns.

Affordability doesn’t mean only the subscription and integration fees. It is important to choose a platform that is easy to manage and you have the team that can use it effectively. Consider the management of the automation tool as one of your investment and make sure that any adaptation, money, and resources invested should come with its benefits.

2. Choose the most suitable platform for your startup

Review all the features available in the marketing platform and make the decision based on your business objectives and targeted segments. Here are some of the things marketing automation allows you to do more effectively:

  • Email marketing and Segmentation
  • Landing page creation and A/B testing
  • Website personalization and CRO
  • Cross-channel marketing campaigns
  • Lead generation, lead nurturing and scoring
  • Measuring campaigns and ROI

marketing automation functions consulting

Create a checklist with the functions that will benefit your startup. Review each platform and choose the one that covers your needs. Remember always that there is no ultimate solution and each platform could have strong and weak sides.

3. Check the integration with other tools

In order to take full advantage of a marketing automation tool, make sure that you select the one that integrates with your marketing technology stack (website CMS, CRM database, and analytic tools).

It is critical decision to choose the suitable marketing automation tool that will facilitate your marketing activities effectively, and avoid inconvenient roadblocks along the way.

marketing automation integration consulting

4. Focus on how it can improve the conversion rates

You have to know that the marketing automation should not end at lead generation, as it can also enhance the conversion and sales funnels of your startup. Evaluating your marketing tech stack should be mainly focused on the business KPIs of your startup.

The selected platform should increase the ability to nurture and manage the leads with the most efficient tactics. Study how the automation solution can be integrated with the sales resources for identifying the Most Qualified Leads (MQLs) and dynamically aligned with marketing efforts.

5. Look for intelligence and variety of tactics

The purpose of marketing software is to make you a smarter marketer and move your marketing initiatives to a whole new level. How well does your platform enable you to understand your consumer journey? That’s a very important question to consider. It might take few rounds of testing and pilot campaigns in order to choose the right marketing automation platform but it will pay back.

Startups are more of easy movers and they don’t have the heavy layers of corporates. This gives the startups the ability to implement new process and shift their marketing strategy using the technology. As a startup, you can afford changing platforms and adaptation of technology, so test, test, test.

Don’t leave any stone unturned when it comes to software selection

In conclusion: The strength of marketing automation tools relies on enabling easy and automated tasks to generate and convert leads so the small teams can focus on the more important parts of growing the startup.

Finally, the more thorough you are during the MarTech selection process, the better off you’ll be in the long run. The key is to look for a platform that can not only meet the needs of your startup but that can also advance your marketing strategy and customer acquisition. Growth and technology are always deep down in the DNA of each startup and they have the ability to move faster towards the marketing intelligence. Aim carefully and move faster with technology.

How a Marketing Analytics Consultant Can Solve Your Business Problems

In a data-first world, the marketing analytics is now becoming the process of connecting marketing function with the business intelligence. The demand for specialized marketing analytics consultant is becoming essential to bridge the gaps in marketing data and to extract business insights.

The main question in every business -from a small start-up to a well-established organization- will always be: Do we get the most accurate informed-decision/actions our of our data?

Reality scenarios:

  • The market research is telling you that the region you are targeting is highly profitable. All figures and surveys are providing very positive indications. You launched a campaign for few months but the campaign results are very poor. Where do you need to search for the problem? The common conclusions are: The market research is not accurate, the product offering is not competitive enough, the brand is new in the market and you need to allocate more budget for awareness. Any or all of this could be the reason but how you can get sure which one has the biggest impact?
  • You hired the best creative team or agency which provide you with great visuals and UX. Yet, the conversion is still low and you are you are losing a lot of money on advertising. How can you indicate the problem? Is it the creatives you need to change or the performance team that is not managing the budget allocation properly?
  • Your sales team are commonly reporting that the marketing team is not driving quality leads while your marketing team is telling that the sales department are not performing effectively. How can you find out which team of the two is underperforming?
  • You have so many analytic tools and each one of them has its reports. You are not sure how to combine and simplify all this amount of data and report the right insights to your management. All this data is still not getting you anywhere when your CEO asks about the actions required to increase ROI.

marketing analytics metrics consulting yasser ahamd

With all these issues a business can either go wrong and lose money or define the problem, raise flags and take an effective decision. Holding many meetings and listening to different opinions from the team is not what companies need to survive in such evolving situations. Numbers, technology, market trends and consumer habits are changing and you have to move faster.

How can a marketing analytics consultant shift the way you are looking at your data?

Bringing data to the core of your decision-making process doesn’t only require technology and advanced automation platforms. A tool can give you the real-time figures but creating a relation between data and extracting an action is the biggest problem for any organization.

One of the major challenges CMOs face: finding professionals who can not just analyze data but most importantly to extract the critical insights. Data analysts are qualified to analyze the data but the marketing teams are always in need of a consultant with experience in both analytics and marketing strategy. Here I would love to share some of the main functions of the marketing analytics consultants and how it can help the stakeholders to solve business problems.

Function #1: Building an effective marketing analytics strategy

Starting with the strategy, consultants can always organize the marketing analytics process by building an effective strategy based on their findings. Establishing a custom analytics plan would provide efficient outcomes and controllable workflow.

  • Research the data sources and define what the marketing need to design a more effective process to collect, analyze and extract insights and patterns.
  • Evaluate all structured and unstructured data sources and define what is the best Martech and analytic platforms required
  • Identify the gaps in the digital marketing strategy and areas for improvement
  • Develop a marketing analytics strategy based on the business objectives
  • Establish a best practice approach for reporting and insights from your analytics

Tip: Google analytics reports and Facebook insights are not customize designed tools that are built to answer questions. Each business shouldn’t rely on extracting the built-in reports and develop his own customized insights. The process of reporting should start with a business question such as; how we are improving our ROI? The reports are meant to provide answers and indications and not just metrics. 

For more information about marketing analytics strategy, read the article: 5 Effective Tactics for Marketing Analytics Strategy.

Function #2: Marketing analytics consultant can fix the gaps in your data insights

Are you collecting the data you need at right timeframe and at the right volume? Getting overwhelmed with the vast amount of data availability is a mistake.

It doesn’t matter if you have access to all data sources, while it matters the most to have an effective scope. A professional marketing analytics consultant can help you to build the right strategy where data are meant to answer the business questions. Finding the metrics which define the action is a process where you a consultant can help to connect the dots. The analytics consultant can cover the following functions:

  • Analyze all the reports and indicate the gaps in the data (metrics required, data correlations, dashboard structure, reporting automation process, and timeframes)
  • Set the business objectives for reports (consumer behavior metrics, brand awareness metrics, performance metrics, transactional and ROI metrics)
  • Apply the analytical models required for client lifetime value, retention and forecasting
  • Help the team to extract and create stories using the data visualization and deliver a high level of relevancy
  • Determine the most effective marketing strategies and defining the performance gaps which can help in managing the marketing budget more efficiently

Tip: Insights are more important than data. Choose a professional consultant who can help you to stop chasing all the metrics and organize your reports.

Function #3: Marketing analytics consultant is an outside eye

There are several issues in organizations that prevent management from solving problems. Among the top issues are the common one; themselves. In many business cases, the way the senior management identifying the is the problems is not accurate and that’s why they need an outside eye (different perspective).

  • Consultants often work with many different companies and may have faced the same problem you are struggling with in the past and tested multiple solutions for it. They can provide a perspective based on what they’ve experienced and provided more insights into what is working and what is not.
  • An analytics consultant can bring in a more innovative solution and marketing technology ideas and advice which is suitable for your business which can save can cut the cost for budget and the resources required to implement a change in the department.
  • The consultants’ task is to define the gaps and highlight the performance issues which can resolve the conflicts between internal teams. This can solve several issues between different team members and defining the most relevant KPI. Understanding not just the performance of the channels but also the performance of the team members and roles.
  • A professional consultant can help you to understand the critical gaps in your marketing performance and raise the flags for urgent matters as well as drawing attention to milestone wins.

Tip: Each organization might be full of certain rules and policies that can prevent internal teams from implementing major changes. An outside expert can help you to push the change and implement new tactics in a shorter timeframe. 

Function #4: Covering the knowledge gap for your team

One of the key roles for marketing analytics consultant is to cover your team’s knowledge. The consultant can save you time and budget required for an extensive amount of training or additional full-time talents by training your team and providing the right approach for data analytics.

  • A professional marketing analytics consultant can help to structure your marketing team and identifying the knowledge and resources required. In some cases, a consultant can help you to avoid new hiring by implementing automation tools or delivering a sufficient analysis on regular basis.
  • The team can benefit from the consultant experience and enhance their skills as well as avoiding longer time in technical troubleshooting and research.

marketing analytics consulting

In conclusion: CMOs say just 42% of marketing decisions are made using analytics. Eventually, CMOs still report that they are still struggling with analytics. While the marketing technology and cloud solutions are providing advanced capabilities in combining offline and online data, the lack of talents who are experienced in both data analytics and marketing is a challenge.

A specialized consultant who has the knowledge of data analytics tactics and marketing initiatives can drive the marketing department towards the business goals. Putting all the wide collection of data (media, paid advertising, organic, social media, digital marketing, mobile marketing, customer relationship management and email marketing) into an insightful pattern can shift any business into a real customer-centric company.

5 Effective Tactics for Marketing Analytics Strategy

From a business manager’s perspective, successful results are achievable if a common objective and key performances are made clear across the organization. Marketing data analytics is one of the core competencies for data-influenced companies and play an effective role in connecting business objectives with consumer behavior’s data.

The main purpose of organizations to create a marketing analytics strategy is all about how to drive smarter questions, which will elicit thoughtful answers using the accessible data. Unfortunately, many stakeholders still tend to see marketing analytics as a way to measure the spending and marketing performance. That’s considered as a limit view of the data analytics capabilities.

The marketing analytics strategy main objective is to maximize the use of data to create a form of data-influenced actions that are aligned with the business objectives and effective on the long-term strategic advantage.

If I could highlight the most important fact about marketing analytics, I would definitely say that the best strategy to follow starts with a sharp focus on the objectives. To get a better understand, let’s start with some common situations.

Reality scenarios…

  • Businesses would say that they know their marketing objectives clearly, But Ehm!.. Not true.
    Once you investigate more with their situation, you will soon discover that those generic needs they have to be analyzed using the data.
  • Structured data and insights are not always ready and available. To build strategy you sometimes need to assist the company with their data aggregation and analytics.
  • Inside companies, the marketing departments are usually under the pressure of proving their performance results or struggling with 60 dense analytic charts and slides which is hard for senior management to understand a fraction of it.

When you are facing such realities, it is about time to start searching for a better understanding of the data role in your organization.

1. Understand the role of data analytics

First, we have to stat the fact that reports, slides, and charts generated by marketing analysts shouldn’t be for the sake of providing results. Results are not the key. When you are facing a gap in your performance, it is about time to start searching for a proper strategy which can help you to move from the phase of looking at results to the phase of understanding why these results are like this.

The toughest lesson I did learn about data that it is not just made of numbers and figures. If you don’t analyze the data properly, you will not be able to get an accurate action. In a data-driven world, a piece of metric can bring a major shift in your consumer journey if you are able to measure it in relation to another metric.

marketing analytics for companies

Describing the business objective as customer-centric doesn’t only require investing more money in product and customer relation while paying less attention to the real-time analytics. Marketing analytics is the playing an essential role in understanding the client behavior and interaction with the brand and the services provided.

Find out the objectives of your marketing analytics strategy and understand the role of it before you try to shift your business into data-influenced.

2. Set the effective KPIs and avoid the metrics delusion

The first questions, while you are navigating your metrics, should be: If I have a higher rate on this metric would it impact the business objectives? Does the higher engagement rate on social media increase the website conversion rate?

The metrics and dimensions should be selected based on the business objectives.

Marketing professionals should translate the business objectives into a set of effective KPIs. Each KPI should be based on a set of relevant metrics and data insights. You have to remember that chasing all metrics will always result in a huge waste of efforts and confusion in your daily or weekly tracking.

What’s the difference between a metric and KPI? KPIs are measurable values that are created by senior managers to achieve business objectives. Metrics are the moving status variables to track a specific business process.

All companies need to track profit is an essential KPI which might include website conversion, orders, monthly active users, and retention. Each KPI could have a strategic value for the organization such as market acquisition and CLV.

Eventually, the number of KPIs might increase from top to bottom when you set your marketing strategy. The CEO might have a set of KPIs which requires marketing to generate multiple additional KPIs. When those numbers grow bigger than your capacity and you find yourself experiencing data overload, then you will need to identify only the relevant metrics.

3. Define the target before you set the KPI

Targets are not easy to set, but once you do have a clear understanding of what are the indicators of success and failure, you will be able to identify your right targets.

Building an enhanced analysis for marketing is all about eliminating the irrelevant matters and focusing on the critical view. See the target clearly before you set a KPI.

By using the forecasting models, past performance, and competitive analysis the targets are easy to distinguish. Don’t set your KPIs without having preassigned targets. In any common situation, the stakeholders would always struggle with understanding the KPIs that doesn’t have a clear target. If you don’t have a target supported by figures, you will end up chasing the impossible.

marketing targets vs metrics

Remember that not all professionals will be happy with assigned targets. It is important to always use the analytics effectively to prove the accuracy of your target figures. Make sure you always assist your targets with industry benchmarks and forecasting indicators.

4. Organize an easy-to-read marketing dashboard

Your marketing dashboard is your home. It should be familiar (uncomplicated), tight and present your main needs. Build a dashboard that takes no longer than minutes to read and include the main KPIs you need to monitor. Use data visualization to illustrate the data correlation effectively.

Marketing dashboard should always have the following features:

  • All-In-One-Monitoring: The marketing dashboard should collect all the required analytics from data sources (GA, SM, SEO, CRM, Email Automation, Paid channels, PM system, Finance, etc.)
  • Visual KPIs Tracking: KPI tracking should be visualized with average rates over a periodical timeline.
  • Outlined Objectives: Define your top factors for tracking marketing activities (campaign tracking, channel tracking,  revenue tracking, engagement metrics, attribution modeling, etc.)
  • Set Data Deviations: Using 3 standard deviations to generate your rates. (According to researchers, 99.7 percent data distribution lie within three standard deviations).
  • Reliability and Accuracy: Your dashboard should have accurate clean data. Connect real-time data and reliable data connections to get an up-to-date view of your marketing activities.
  • Customization and flexibility: Adjust your dashboard according to your strategy and don’t use static settings for timelines and data validation.

marketing dashboard analytics consultant

Finally, you need always to be able to identify your performance top layer accurately and clearly. Marketing dashboard can help you to provide a transparent overview for the business stakeholders and clients and can decrease the amount used for reporting.

5. Get the managers involved with the context

If all the previous strategies fail, then I advise you to try this strategy. It is not an easy one because it’ll demand that you are truly expert in marketing analysis. You might think that senior management and client want data but that’s not accurate. They pretend that data is important for them but at the end, they are only looking at results. That’s how the business world works. 

Therefore, I believe you should focus on telling the story not showing the tables and relations. There are useful ways to get this done by adding some context to your dashboard and extracted reports. List a set of clarifications to the metrics such as: What influenced this metric? why these rates changed? what is the set of actions taken?

Learn how to tell a story instead of reporting data. This will require you to have an effective understanding of the organization and the client motivations. Avoid going outside the track and showing irrelevant metrics or you will lose your case at the first meeting. Remember that you will need few rounds to be able to play this game effectively and expand their knowledge about the analytics. Once they will see the relation “the context” they ask for actions. That’s the time for you to show the actions slides and win the meeting.

It is totally normal that business managers will be always doubting and pushing on the marketing to show more growth. The best approach for marketers is to always have their analytics clean, accurate and telling a story. Showing reports for the sake of flooding the table with many charts will always lead the marketing to an uncertain path while inserting context will lead managers to shift their focus from the numbers to the insights.

Conclusion: If you find yourself stuck with showing your performance in the proper way, try these strategies. If this doesn’t work then take a deep breath and try to understand where is the gap. Marketing analytics strategy is not straightforward practices and it will always require time, testing and flexibility in implementation. Work on each data source and fix your reports one by one. Give it a shout and remember that finding the insights is more important than the data. Finally, if your company is not a data-driven and data-influenced then I believe that you will change it with your tactics.

Please share your ideas and theories via comments or contact me for marketing analytics consulting.

Yasser Ahmad

Top Tips for Professional Arabic Keyword Research

Arabic keyword research is always considered as the cornerstone of any SEO campaign, paid search and content strategy. To build a successful Arabic keyword list, you will need an effective research to understand the local search habits and the difference between spoken Arabic and written Arabic.

Why Arabic Keywords Research is different

With 22 countries and different local trends, it is challenging to conduct a keyword research in the MENA region. The research in such language and marketplace has different nature.

  • Spoken Dialects: There are different spoken dialects which would require a further research into local trends. There are five major dialects in the region including Gulf, Egyptian, Maghrebi, Levantine, and Mesopotamian Arabic.
  • Culture: Arabic users have many search terms related to one keyword. A variation of keywords would need a further research into keywords relevancy.
  • Consumer Habits: Some keywords could have a high volume in a certain country in the market while it has very low volume in other countries. You will need to conduct a further research on consumer search habits.
  • Keywords Localization: Translating Arabic keywords from the English language will not provide an accurate result. Localization is also tricky from one country to another within the Arabic speaking countries.
  • Negative keywords: Collecting the most accurate negative keywords in Arabic is very tricky. The Arabic language sometimes has very similar or typical terms to describe a wide variety of services or products.

Top tips for Arabic keyword research process

1. Identify the seed keywords: Collect the initial keywords that are relevant to your business including brand names, products, services and locations you are targeting. The list is mainly created by the business owner to define their basic keywords and usually is provided in English or Arabic.

2. Use different keyword tools for exploring: Expanding the initial list by using keywords tools to collect relevant keyword suggestions, local search volume, competition level, relative frequency, suggested bidding, etc.
Use more than one tool to get a different variation of keywords. You don’t have to follow a certain path to get the most relevant keywords. Sometimes Google search page can provide you with useful suggestions for long tail keywords and sentences.

3. Understand the trend of the keyword: Google Trends is a tool that will allow you to learn a lot from your keywords. It will give you data for not just today, but for a longer period of time. This will add another dimension for your keywords and will help you to understand when the search volume increase and decrease around the year. This is highly recommended for e-commerce keywords and B2B businesses.

4. Understand the consumer’s search habits: The majority of searches in the Arabic language are using long tail combinations, which means that searchers do not usually look for specific keywords, but rather many other keywords get a small number of hits as well. This requires more planning and deeper research to get the most relevant keywords which might don’t show high volume but it is effective to reach the audience.

5. Categorize the keywords: In order to have a strategic approach to your keyword list, you will need to divide your keywords into several categories.

Branded Keywords, Industry Keywords, Transactional Keywords, Informative Keywords, etc.

It is important to define the categories that are relevant to your business and marketing objectives. Each business has its own different nature of content that might vary and that’s why categories of keywords should be relevant. Keywords categories for SEO and content strategy would require more focus on context while categories for AdWords campaign would require more focus on bidding metrics and competition level. Furthermore, negative Arabic keyword research is essential for AdWords campaigns.

6. Set the priorities to build the strategy: By setting up the keywords priorities you will be able to define the strategy and action plan for your keywords. Defining which keywords will be used for content creation requires understanding putting together the priority factors of organic conversion. While in search engine marketing requires different priorities such as suggested biding, broad/exact, landing pages score, etc.

Explore the competition and analysis your website and landing pages content before you set the proper metrics for keywords filtration.

In conclusion: Arabic keyword research is not an easy task and requires a native speaker with solid experience in exploring the consumer search habits. Keyword tools are helpful to find relevant keywords but in order to get an effective keyword list, you would need to expand your resources. Keyword strategy is the main guideline to have a proper categorization and filtration for your Arabic keyword research.

Avoid translating your keywords from English and run a culture customization based on the targeted market and consumer search habits. Finally, make sure you define the top relevant keywords for the Arabic consumer whether it is a local term, transcreation or transcripted.

I hope this was useful and contact me if you have a question or looking for an Arabic SEO consultant.

Marketing in the Middle East: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Marketing in the Middle East is becoming the topic that a substaintial number of people are wondering about.  Targeting the consumer in the Middle East is not limited anymore to international companies, it is increasignly important for startups and mid-size companies in the region who are trying to expand across different countires in the Arab world. We are in the era of startups where everyone currently is having some sort of idea or services or even a talent that they need to market. Therefore, marketing in the Middle East is attractive topic and becoming a demand for everyone search for opportunity around here. I get it, it is one of the millennial generation’s lifestyle and thanks to the social media and its tools for small businesses.

Eventually, the world is currently living in the era of startups where everyone is having a talent or an idea and want to make a profit out of it. I can understand this, but why everyone thinks that marketing is the last thing to consider? That’s what I cannot understand!!

The Middle East region is rapidly evolving, especially in the last 5 years, and getting highly influenced by the global trends such as e-commerce, business entrepreneurship, media and fashion influencers, and brands lifestyle products.

We might be able to confirm that the region is emerging fast and everyone including individuals is looking for jumping on board, yet marketing will be always a challenge that is everyone is struggling with.

Apparently, you cannot have a straight vision which can answer all the questions when you are establishing your marketing staretgy for the Middle East. That’s why I would like to invite you for a nice ride (I hope) to explore this market and to understand the nature of the consumer around here.

First, do you like western movies? This is some kind of metaphors I will encotuner. Yet, if you don’t get it you can still ignore and you will miss nothing.

The Good

The Middle East market is huge

The Middle East is rising as one of the fastest-growing markets and it is becoming more attractive due to some major factors.

  • Demographic structure of the region is playing a big role with approximately half of the population in Middle Eastern countries are currently under the age of twenty-five. Yay, young and energetic.
  • This young segment is spending more time on social media more than  the global average. Therefore, there is a great opportunities for marketers to use social media and content marketing especially for industries such as consumer products, fashion, food & beverage, and entertainment.
  • In the Gulf area, many of these younger consumers are affluent professionals, and this presents a big market for luxury brands and electronics. In marketing language this means a higher customer value and higher revenue per customer. Sophistcally, higher Return on Ad Spend (ROAS).

While some countries in the region are facing economic instability, the market is still having low taxation compared to the European markets. Lovely fact: The region has the highest spending on cosmetics per capita in the world and the appetite for beauty and fashion products is getting bigger. Tempting!

Easy to segment

The Arab consumers are relatively easy to segment and you need less efforts to identify the customer persona. However, If you are going to use traditional surveys, then it is a bad idea. The Arabs, in general, are unlike other nations and they are more conservative about sharing their honest feedback. Not to metnion the absent of solid market researches. You are alone in a vast dry desert of data.

Monitoring trends and tracking the social media engagement are more effective tactics to define the key motivations for your potential customers. Furthermore, proper data-driven approaches can definitely get you the insights you need. But, if you know how to collect data smartly not by portion.

consumer research arabic

Finally, localize your apporach. This doesn’t mean localization of your marketing content and campaigns, but effective localization of your marketing strategy for the the Middle East. Channels, creatives, user experince and all. I am not talking about translation. It is all about the culture. If you don’t have locals who are crafting your marketing message, then you need to hire someone who is expert with the local culture, slangs, and trends.

Common marketing tactics are effective

Some of the well-established brands are using the same marketing tactics in the region for decades and guess what? It is still working.

When I was in the advertising business someone told me an interesting story: “Back in the early 90s we had a meeting with P&G and they rejected many new creative ideas for a new campaign. The reason is that they believe that the Egyptian consumers only engage with the Ads that contains a song. Simply they didn’t want the campaign to be focused on the product features and wanted it more entertaining”. They eventually did have a good understanding of the market and made the choice to stick to what it works. Now, which is 20 years later, you would still see that advertisers didn’t change their tactic. They only adjusted it to fit with the digital media platforms but the tactic is still the same.

Common advertising and campaign tactics are still effective for the mass consumer in the Middle East. The consumers in the region are highly influenced by the media and mass campaign over the personalized experiences. A viral campaign is widely effective in shaping the consumer habits and it works for big brands, media production, and even politicians.

The Bad

The social concerns

arabic consumerThere is one important factor you need to fully understand about the Arab consumer and never forget. Arabs are highly influenced by the social concerns. They tend usually to buy the things that recommend by their circle of friends and family while putting fewer efforts on exploring the specific features of a product. Surprised? well it is even more. The regional consumer tend to buy products to gain a higher social class appearance. Yeah, to some degree this happens everywhere, but it is bigger over here.

The majority of consumers in the Middle East are trapped in trendy and fashionable brands and desperate to be part of one social group or another. They are suffering from an inability to choose based on their individual needs as this might lead to a prejudgment by the society and their circle of friends. Maintaining a certain social image is a quiet big concern which highly affects the consumer habits in the region.

If you are wondering about where the big brands are exceeding in creating a fashionable brand image? You will need to spin the world map and land in the Middle East. You might not find every girl wearing Nike shoes like in Singapore, but you will find that moving up in your social class requires an iPhone. Arabs don’t just believe it is fashionable, they believe it a star added to their exclusivity. If you are selling a product with high quality but it is not a fashionable trendy product, then you are going to struggle. Big time!

marketing in the middle east brands

Marketing tactics: How to build a marketing campaign in such market? My advice for you is to try to build up a group of loyal customers and create a very personalized email campaign. Focus on this small base of customers and make them feel exclusive and spoil them. Don’t rush the growth and position your brand with fabulous marketing materials such as high-quality videos. Grow your segment gradually using an effective social media engagement and never forget to maintain important factors such as excellent customer support, loyalty programs, CRM, and retargeting tactics.

Lack of standards

Marketers in the mature markets such as some European regions are highly considered about the conservative consumer who tend to read and check the specifications in order to compare services/brands before they make a decision and convert. The Middle East is considered as a region of emerging markets with less concern of critical thinking and product comparison practices. A quick tour in the most popular e-commerce websites would help you to understand that the number of product reviews is relevantly lower than most of the global markets.

If you are selling for the Germans, you should be ready with very dense product description and very caution with the customers’ feedback. Montioring the customers opinion is very painful process for a conservative consumer who tend to have high standards and highly concerned about reviews. In the Middle East, this is not exactly the case. Arab consumer are shopping because they just enjoy it. It is not a plan or investment, it is an entertainment. Huge difference in consumer behaviour. Keep that in mind.

Marketing tactics: Branding and marketing message are the most sensitive marketing materials you need to consider when you are releasing a product for Arabs. Build a campaign that will make your brand stand out in the market and always deliver your USPs in straightfoward and easily consumed ways. The landing pages should carry out a clear message up front and avoid any lengthy descriptions. Simplify your approach, aim well and hit right in spot. Push aggressively on offers and the Arabic consumer will go banana. They never disappionted my KPIs during the seasons.

The Ugly

Consumerism at its peak

The consumerism is drastically changing the lifestyle of the local consumer in Arab countries. Consuming more might sound like a great opportunity for businesses to market, but that’s not true and you have to think about it again. Consuming more of the cosmetic doesn’t mean a great opportunity for you to open your state-of-art cosmetic. The well-established brands will absorb this growth by producing a variety of products and acquiring small companies. Big brands are eating most of the cake down here.

Over the years we were able to witness how the local investors were filling the malls, the store shelves and road billboards with western brands,  leaving a tighter window for the consumer to browse the alternative products. The biggest local firms are investing heavily and there are few big players who are dominating the malls and international brands. From fashion to beauty, F&B, media production, electronics and even resturants it is a closed game. Amazon jumped in and acquired Souq.com to dominate the e-commerce in the region. The top players are manging the game.

That’s the ugly fact about the Middle East market; the consumers are surrounded by big brands which are massively funded by local investors (The Gulf money). The consumer will end up consuming more of the same item or same brand instead than being open to alternatives and new experiences.

Don’t be deceived by the initial figures about the market size and charts of your sector or industry. Don’t launch your business model and marketing strategy based on these tricky stats. If you don’t dig deeper into the market insights and adapt your strategy considering the price-sensitive consumer, you could lose a vast amount of time and resources.

Consumerism is also changing the lifestyle of the consumer and instead of satisfying people’s needs it is constructing commercial needs and desires to keep the production growth. In a country like Lebanon, you would see that some consumer tend to buy a piece of branded clothes instead of buying normal varieties of outfits. In Egypt, some would buy an iPhone even if it is beyond their ability.

Marketing tactics: If you want to conduct an effective strategy for marketing in the Middle East, you shouldn’t only focus on the factors you developed your product based on. It is more like a “Blue Ocean strategy” where you need to focus on how to brand your product. In other words, it is not quality concern, it is differentiation.

Moreover, it is important to know that Arabic consumer interact with the promotion campaign more than they do interact with the product itself. They will have higher awareness about the piece of the advertising than the product name. Make sure you campaigns are effective and delivers strong message.

Controlled by brands

UAE Top Rankings
UAE Top Rankings

Brands are turning into symbols of lifestyle and exclusivity in the region which is bringing huge struggles for startups and SMBs. Back in the 80s, the market had the first wave of international brands which boomed in the recent years. The brands’ big investments and the massive advertising made the local brands lose a huge chunk of the market share. Some of the local brands started to change their strategy and try to become more specialized and localized, but the ugly truth that many of them are exiting the market.

We have seen many creative and out-the-box solutions joining the market but after a while, they discover that the local consumer is more attracted by the international brand. Here we come to a major issue which is the marketing investment. These huge budgets play a big role in the game and eventually the marketing know-how of these big brands will give them always an edge.

Recently, I’ve wondered why all girls in Arab countries are wearing a “Datejust” Rolex? I found out that most of them are wearing a fake copy. They still would prefer to wear a fake copy of a big brand than going for another Swiss brand like Swatch. I wouldn’t call this as a final resolution but I can see that local brands are struggling to grow in industries such as beauty, fashion, and retail.

Marketing tactics: Don’t compete with the big brand and build a strategy that can help you identify the gaps. Use gorilla digital strategies and maximize the use of data insights. Establish organic acquisition channels with your SEO and Social Media to decrease your advertising needs. Build an extensive content strategy and gain the client confidence by being a reliable source of information.

Influencer marketing is the key to success in the region. To get people to trust your product or services you need to influence them with a celebrity or opinion leader or media advocate. This works much better than building a creative concept for your marketing campaign. When Vodafone wanted to beat the competitors in the Egyptian market, they hired Mo Salah and that’s it.

Is not a startup-friendly

For decades, marketers always wonder why startups are able to drive vast growth in the U.S. market while it is diffcult to grow in other enviroments. I believe that the nature of the market and the consumer behavior is the key. In contrast, Arabs don’t tend to try new solutions or services to fulfill their needs. Once you launch a new app or product, then you will generate a niche segment which is not enough to sustain your growth plans. This is Have been the main struggle for the majority of startups in the region I have consulted.

I know that there are tons of articles and figures about how the Middle East is becoming a big hub for startups, and I don’t disagree with that. Yet, when I get to sit with a lot of entrepreneurs I am always getting the same complaints: We are able to fund the business but the marketing is an issue. How to increase our market share? How to expand in the region? and many more of these utopian questions…

Let’s say the answer to this is pretty simple. The consumer habits in emerging markets requires much more than a creative idea. The business model should have room for adoption and product changes to be able to survive. The key here is not the consumer needs but the business model flexibility and ability to evolve.

Marketing tactics: Don’t rely only on the product and find ways to communicate the benefits. Reshape your marketing message to provide a compelling message. Open your platform or product for demos, gifts, samples, test drives and influencers. Be realistic and market what you can deliver. Don’t focus on going viral and focus on building more effective campaigns. Use data analytics effectively to feed your CRM then get it connected with online analytics. You need to master your own funnel and to gain a better understanding of the buyer’s persona.

In conclusion: Marketing in the Middle East has its gaps which you can benefit from. To launch an effective marketing strategy for the Middle East markets you need first to have a solid base of information about the market possibilities. Understanding the consumer doesn’t come right away from published statistics or conducting surveys, it requires running intensive researches in order to get the proper business analysis.

Finally, while social media is one of the best channels to generate leads for conducting marketing in the Middle East, but yet I still believe that content is the king.  Organic is the best method to generate leads on the long-term and at a lower cost per acquisition.

Arabic SEO Guide: How to Generate Organic Traffic in the Middle East

Arabic SEO is the most cost-effective approach to generate organic traffic in the Middle East region. Building a sustainable long-term organic reach is a cornerstone of every marketing strategy and that’s why Arabic SEO will be always the key access to online acquisition in the Middle East.

In the Arabic region, there are an estimated 146 Milion Internet users who are native speakers and commonly searching for nearby local services and products. We have been seeing high competition on geographic keyterms in English optimization for websites but the space in Arabic SEO still not mature.

In the last few years, digital marketing budgets in the region were mainly focused on social media organic traffic without paying attention the importance of SEO. This year, the new Facebook update for business pages are taking us back to the point where we need to get back to search engines as an important source for generating organic leads.

In this article, I will provide the best practices for Arabic SEO and how to expand your upper funnel with organic traffic.

1. Build an Effective Arabic SEO Strategy

a. Understanding the Arab Consumer: According to a research by Harvard Busines Review, the companies that gloss over the interplay between culture and religion ignore a critical factor for success in the Middle East region.The Arab consumer is unique in terms of search habits which is commonly impacted by culture and religion.

b. Local Market Research: Separate the region into different sections and define your top market that you will need to optimize for. If your top market is UAE or KSA this will require optimizing your content and keywords to match the locals top relevant keywords.

c. Language and Cultural Awareness: Optimize your website for the audience considering the local traditions and more importantly the cultural impact and implication of your marketing actions. Understand the relevant marketing messages, slangs, trends and more importantly how the language you are using localized into Arabic

d. Competitive Research: Conduct an extensive research on the top competitors in the market and analyze their current keywords ranking, domain authority, backlinks, and competitions level. Understand the landscape to identify the gaps in the content and to plan for the best approach.

Arabic SEO strategy Market Research

2. Optimize for Native Arabic Keywords

a. Arabic Keyword Research: Start with conducting an advanced research to find the most relevant keywords. It is not enough to extract the top relevant keywords based on the monthly volume. Collect a list of relevant terms used by your offline clients, sales teams and customer support and include it in your final list. Conduct an extensive filtration for your final list and divided it into (Transactional, Branded, Relevant, Informational, etc.).

b. Arabic Keywords Localization: DO NOT TRANSLATE KEYWORDS. Localize the keywords to avoid targeting ineffective terms. Usually, companies translate keywords from English into Arabic and they end up with losing a huge amount of relevant traffic. Example: The word “hospitality” translation would refer to “generosity” in Arabic culture which is totally misleading. The translation for some terms sometimes are transcripted in Arabic and not directly translated.

While localizing your Arabic Keywords pay attention to the fact that slangs are different for each Arabic country. Make sure your keywords are the most relevant for the local targeted market.

3. Fully Optimize The Arabic Website Content

a. Arabic On-Page Optimization: Avoid translating your Meta Data and use a professional native SEO copywriter to develop native titles and meta descriptions. Inherit your localized keywords properly into your Meta Tags and HTML content and don’t stick to the English SEO structure. Optimize all the media to include Arabic alt descriptions to be able to generate the top ranking under Google Images Search and Videos.

If you are an eCommerce business, it is highly important to localize your product related content using Arabic keywords including shopping cart, product description, images, videos, etc.

b. Arabic On-Site Optimization: Make sure you are using proper language tags into your multilingual website. Technically, it is not important to translate the URLs into Arabic, while avoiding duplicated content is highly important. Make sure you check your website for broken links and sitemap to avoid any redirections to English content.

c. Local Domain: Local domain play a big role in obtaining a higher rank in local SERPs. Choose a local domain name for your Arabic site such as (.ae, .com.eg, etc.) to maximize your benefits from the local search in the Arabic region.

4. Develop Content Marketing Strategy

a. Create Content for Targeted Keywords: To enhance your keywords ranking, you will need a long-term content strategy which fuels your website with optimized Arabic content. Don’t rely on localized landing pages and build content to support your ranking growth.

b. Answer the Questions Used in Search Quieres: One of the most effective tactics for Arabic SEO is to extract all the relevant questions that commonly used in search queries or social media and provide answers. Longtails keywords and answers to consumer questions play an important role in conversion rate for the organic traffic especially in Arabic region due to the lack of technical and informative Arabic content.

5. Verify your Local Business

Google My Business (GMB) listing is an important first step for a successful local SEO strategy. Verify your local business can increase your chances of showing up in Google’s local search and Google Maps.

local seo in Arabic

5. Setup your Arabic SEO Tools

a. Track Regionally: The best practice to track effectively is to setup your Google Analytics and SEO tools for your Arabic website separately. Majoirty of SEO tools provide different domain analysis and keywords ranking for your local websites.

b. Use Local Metrics: Each region has different online behavior which requires different metrics in order to track your KPIs effectively. Test and customize your metrics based on the regional factors to gain the knowledge required for your marketing strategy in the Middle East.

Conclusion: In the last 12 years I worked with over 50 Arabic SEO projects and I strongly believe that the Arabic SEO is one of the most successful approaches for a long life customer acquisition in the Middle East. I would always consult companies to allocate more budget for organic channels instead of only focusing on paid search and social media advertising. The proven track of successful results over the years is always leading to the fact that Arabic SEO is the most cost-effective investment for digital marketing activities in the region.

We are back now to the game where social media reach and advertising impressions are not as agencies imagined. Companies are now raising the need for better conversion rates across all the digital campaigns. The secret about Arabic SEO that the competition is still not high regionally due to poor content translation, lack of Arabic content and focusing on AdWords instead of developing organic growth. Those who are well optimized and developing their Arabic SEO will invest less and gain more in the game of digital marketing for this region.

If you have any questions or want to review and audit your Arabic SEO, check my digital marketing consultancy services.

AI and Marketing Cloud Technologies: Why The Gap is Still Big?

The science of marketing is becoming more complicated and sophisticated in the last few years which left us with unpredictable scenarios for the future. In marketing industry, I believe the 3 fundamental key areas are human psychology and how the consumer behavior evolved, the commerce trends and finally, and most importantly, the technology.

Today’s technologies, such as clouds, machine learning, data analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI), are changing the way marketers build their strategy on a tremendous level. The biggest question now is: What is the current status of MarTech? Did we arrive at the point where AI is fully reliable for marketers? In order to answer this question, we should look closely at the top tech players in the industry, which are ‘the marketing clouds’.

We have been looking at Marketing Clouds from all sides and still, somehow, we are still able to spot a big gap between the marketer’s needs and the available technologies provided by these platforms.

Marketing Clouds are still slow with enabling AI technologies

Looking at the current scene of marketing clouds would bring some strange conclusions. One of the main common facts that we know about marketing clouds that it all started with different approaches. Marketing clouds have different anatomies, technical structure, capabilities and commercial priority which brought in many obstacles for enhancing automation, predictive models and the enablement of AI.

1. AI means lots of different things to different clouds

AI MarketingWell, each marketing cloud has a unique character that suits it to particular types of clients and points toward its likely future development. The front line competition between two clouds such as Adobe vs. Salesforce is not driven by AI, after all, it is a lot more likely focused on expanding technical functionality, aggregated data sources, and dashboards visuality.

As a marketer, I believe that AI could be implemented in every marketing process but while I review and implement technology stacks I end up with the fact that each cloud has its own different priorities which technically doesn’t fit all the marketing department needs. In other words, the clouds have it is own complicated layers of tech and securities which are not as straightforward as marketers see it.

Finally, we come to another piece of the picture: Marketing clouds is relevantly a new technology, so it shouldn’t surprise you to know the term ‘artificial intelligence AI’ means lots of different things to each cloud. Recently the Oracle’s VP, Jack Berkowitz, agreed definitions were problematic and sought to provide some clarity.

2. Sales vs Innovation

Since we have at least five major enterprise software players are selling marketing clouds – Adobe, IBM, Oracle, Salesforce, and SAP – the commercial factor is playing a key role in this game. The market share is strategically more important for such tech giants than experimental AI enhancement such as ‘dynamic predictive segmentation’ which is still not fully mature yet.

The market share is leading the competition in the cloudland and big clients needs are what they need to secure before moving into more bold steps towards midsize brands and agencies. Here is a hint: Big clients are more concerned about handling a huge amount of consumer data and advertising budgets than performing advanced personalization experience. I hope you get the image!

3. Secure Data vs Automation and Predictive Models

Investors and business leaders are usually concerned about the maintenance of secure data within the organization; these execution difficulties brought a restricted environment with a small room for experimental processing and tighter margin for automation. In conclusion, priority was given to keep up with a secure processing, while customer experience problems took a backseat and a big part of it is still dominated by sales and customer support departments.

The fellow marketers armed with AI are still struggling inside the old fat big organizations to apply their experiments. The limitation is created by the organization mindset is pushing the marketing clouds priorities towards fulfilling the IT needs vs the marketers’ needs. We have seen many promising approaches to fix this gap from Salesforce and IBM in the past year and we hope the predictive models will demonstrate more effectively this year.

4. Technology Stack vs Cloud

Marketing stackIn 2017, we have seen some advanced machine learning techniques implemented but yet marketers are not satisfied. In marketing departments, we are still running manual sheets and relying on a variety of tools to get what we need.  In one survey, 82% of enterprise marketing professionals said they used components from more than one cloud; the other 18% were more or less loyal to one platform.

The modern marketer’s stack consists of 17 products or more

There are over 5300 marketing tools available and the new startups are developing more specialized ML and AI solutions for marketers. This number is crazy and at the same time painful for CMOs who are trying to establish their technology stack effectively. So far we still believe that marketing clouds are not an all-in-one solution and we have to go shopping for several tools to build up what we need. So when the time will come when the cloud beat the technology stack? I wonder!

5. AI requires good Data

Like any sophisticated system, the marketing technology can only go so far with a good data. If you lack good data, you’ll still end up with poor results out. One of the AI functions is training the system and having good signal going in which is still a hard job with the poor correlations of data sources used by marketing professionals. Marketers are dealing with different structured and unstructured data including real-time data sources, AdTech data, sales data, offline data which requires sophisticated data processing in order to run a complex AI technology. Not to mention that the data will have to run in different cycles such as seasonality, trends, and quality assurance processes. Overall, marketing data is not easily sorted and the bigger the numbers, the more complicated the process.

The marketing clouds need first to integrate a system that’s not only smart algorithmically but is also smart about its data sources.

It seems we are still struggling in that phase at this moment!

6. Context vs Data

In marketing, we believe that the context of data is more important than having structured data. For each industry the requirements are different and a machine learning solution must be reliable enough to understand the context of a situation and then give you the proper aid to be able to amplify your capabilities in that situation.

Automation is not technically the final destination for such path. There are many approaches that might drive marketing analysis in different directions which marketing clouds need to consider before taking a bold step. As we know that the clouds are not custom built for such task, we will have to rely on marketing professionals and data scientists to role this. Paying for the cloud support is not the answer to this question based on my experience. We have to build another internal layer of technology to activate the AI functionality offered by the marketing clouds. Yeah, it is as complicated as it sounds!

Are we already comfortable with letting machines make the decisions?

You would often see many leaders in the market announcing that the marketers are ready for letting machines make the decisions. This might be technically true but marketers are still struggling with proving this point to business owners and decision makers in brands and agencies.

AI is a big concept theoretically, but in reality, it’s about executing against a strategy more efficiently. I believe that the definition of AI will evolve over time, as marketers learn more and the technology itself evolves.

The digital marketing has moved from the basics of web analytics and content A/B testing to predicting consumer behavior before it happens. As a marketing consultant, I believe that we are in the moment where AI should start controlling reality. It’s not rocket science, but it’s all the little pieces of enhancements that will come together to help make better decisions.

Marketers should be ready to move from ‘automation’ to ‘intelligent automation’ stage.

Marketers need AI to setup the rules for the huge and complex amount of segments and not just processing these the rules in a timely fashion. Advanced machine learning, pattern recognition, and predictive modeling bring high-value actions and hyper-targeting at the individual level instead of the segment.

The current status of Marketing Clouds and where we are going?

Marketing clouds are evolving fast and the amount of investment in AI is increasing. We expect to see more of advanced functionality this year. Adobe is an experience company, who has invested down the stack, but its bromance with Microsoft shows the limit of its appetite to own it all. In the other hand, IBM with its Watson is investing heavily in its AI-driven customer analytics.

While SAP can be expected to invest in tools to help enterprise customers expand e-commerce across the customer lifecycle, Salesforce is growing fast in adaptation to personal data and personalization with their Einstein technology.

marketing clouds 2017

To conclude, I believe that it is not easy to plot marketers’ needs in layers from emotion to execution. Marketing clouds provider still need to put more of efforts in the right direction in order the activate AI technology in more complicated tasks. We expect clouds that can handle complex data and workflows around first and second party data to thrive. It is essential for clouds to invest in dynamic predictive segmentation and fund AI startups that promise to deliver an advanced management for marketing channels.

In a world where everybody struggles to own the customer data layer. The more the clouds change towards AI, the more they stay in the same size in future and survive the competition.

I hope you take the time to share your experience and discuss your opinion in the comments so we explore different sides of this topic.