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

What is the future of marketing and what are the top 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 of marketing.  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.

The future of marketing

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. The marketing future 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 are going to hit soon, but how marketing is changing? What is going on?

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

In 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 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. Hence, the future of marketing is going to be focused on ROI metrics.

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. Woohoo!

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 to 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 future: CMOs vs top management

Back in 2014, Betsy Holden, the senior advisor at McKinsey outlined the major issue of a 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 to 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 analysts 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 a strange combination of duties. Startups are reinventing the titles of marketing and setting new titles that are 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 a lack of a 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.

Skills trends 2020

The Future of Marketing

While the marketing trends in 2020 are going to bring some heads-up of hot new channels and interesting tactics we need to adopt, the future of marketing is considerably uncertain.  There are many crucial facts 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. Therefore, we should reconsider the ongoing evolution in business and learn the lesson. The future of marketing is going to be challenging in terms of educational programs, marketing skills, and the marketing industry.

Our journey ends here and this is my prospectives. So if you have further opinions, please share in order to enhance this discussion.

How to Overcome The Challenges of Your Digital Marketing Department

It takes a lot of what ‘not to do’ before you are able to shape an idea of what you need ‘to do’.

I have been there witnessing how the digital marketers started back in time with just couple of us sitting in the corner with no idea what we do and often treated as internet geeks.

Now digital marketing has become one of the core foundations of the business. It is becoming the department that can drive ROI and has huge ability to shape the business with real-time statics. Yet, it is becoming more and more complicated and the biggest headache for CEOs.

Technically, if money cannot buy happiness then money cannot buy the best digital marketing achievements or teams.

1. Starting with the function of digital marketing

Commonly known as the most critical loop that leads nowhere. CEOs expect direct ROI profitability and growth hacking charts rising up while digital marketers believe that their role is more revolutionary inside the organization.

So what is the bottom line for this debate? Both parties are right, I would say. There are many functions your digital marketing can drive inside your organization and there is no ultimate recipe for that. Digital marketing function will be always built according to the company’s strategic business objectives.

The role of the department should serve the core values and client relationship as well as driving ROI. Looking at digital marketing function as acquisition factory will turn it into another sales representative which is a narrow view of the picture.

In a world dominated by the internet and online communication, digital marketing can affect and functionally drive value to the brand awareness, sales quality, customer relation, retention, product development and even HR.

The conclusion: Digital marketing can bring value to the organization when it is positioned to serve the strategic business objective. Startups do understand this and that’s why they rely on digital marketing to serve the overall business objective.

2. Then what are the capabilities?

Digital marketing is hugely powerful but it is not a straightforward machine to feed with money and expect the profit on the other end.

Let’s forget the magic and try to imagine digital marketing capabilities as the financial assets for investors. There will be long-term profitable assets and short-term ones. If you expect to sell the long-term profitable assets immediately, you will end up with zero profit.

Digital marketing is not all in one tactic to acquire clients that have the same lifetime value. You cannot simply put inbound marketing, content with paid channels in one basket and expect the same results from all.

Scenario #1 “The CEO is again shouting when he is looking at our budget and conversion. These will the 3rd time after one thousand for me to go on mission impossible of explaining how each channel has it is a different function. He wants to see the relation, pushing for the language of numbers and the direct impact on conversion. A few months more till the results started to build up and visible trend finally arrived. The inbound marketing was something hard to push on with the limitation of the budget he forced but it finally paid off. Now he gets the picture of the long-term tactics such as content”

3. Considering technology with the market environment

In digital we are growing massively. Machine learning, digital clouds, automation, and programmatic are taking us to a great level of targeting and monitoring. Yet, the online market environment is getting more and more competitive. From SEO, social media to search bidding and Ad placement we are struggling with more and more challenging space for converting the value conversions. Or in business: “The ROI”.

In the old golden days of marketing, the size of the company and market share used to play a big role while now small startups with gorilla marketing joined the game. The competition is getting wider and highly competitive and doesn’t rely only on your budget size or the USPs of your product. One smart social media strategy designed by a small startup can go viral and beat the big firm massive paid campaigns.

4. What about the consumer?

Along with the big flood of online content, communication, and technology, the consumer habits and behavior are evolving to be more complicated. With all the current competition going on the consumer keep developing different habits online. The data analysts in marketing teams are solely focused on finding the patterns and we all know by now that it is getting how challenging it is.

With the use of advanced analytic tools, CRM, marketing clouds, attribution models, social listening and campaign management platforms, we can learn have advanced knowledge and deeper insights of the consumer, but we also eventually learn how it is important to develop more of strategic funnel journey.

5. Setting the KPIs

Getting to the most important part where we need to define the KPIs for the digital marketing department. The majority of KPIs should be optimized to serve the business strategy. There are several factors you should consider when setting up the KPIs metrics

  1. The department functions inside the organization: For companies with branding objectives they use upper funnel metrics while companies who are customer focused they use social listening and social proof metrics.
  2. The direction of business: KPIs should be always clear for the digital team and doesn’t have a conflict or overlap with other internal departments or process.
  3. The reliability and stability: Chasing everything would lead to nothing. If the KPI focus is stable and not swinging this would help the team to be more strategic and focused.

6. Searching for the ROI

Businesses usually have a different formula to calculate ROI which I believe it is the trickiest task. While it is important for a manager to secure their results and to manage the budget, marketers are always struggling to prove their efficiency.

Over the years, I started to develop the idea that ROI is not one straightforward term. It is can be divided into three types:

A) The initial ROI: It is the rate you need to target so the digital marketing campaign starts to be profitable.
b) The maintained ROI: The rate the where you should plan to protect and stabilize
c) The future ROI: The strategic ROI where the digital marketing strategy should build up gradually.

Yes, we might have different types of ROI according to our strategy but we all know that calculating ROI is a very tricky thing when it comes to the digital world.

  1. You need attribution model to be able to understand the different impact of channels
  2. Each business will require a different approach to cross channels/cross-device journey
  3. The funnel is always different. You might have a shorter funnel in e-commerce and long funnel in business services
  4. ROI channels in B2B is different from B2C channels

I will leave you with the below statistics to have some more insights.

So what?

Conclusion: Let’s finalize some final points:

  • Defining the digital marketing function inside the organization is the first thing that should be done right and clear.
  • Digital department capabilities should be measured with a strategic metrics
  • Marketing technology is a part of the whole environment.
  • The consumer journey is a rollercoaster with common patterns to define.
  • KPIs is not few metrics to measure. It is how you define your digital marketing functions and outcomes.
  • There is no one road or straightforward formula to calculate your digital marketing ROI

That was my thoughts. If you have any points to discuss, please leave your comment or contact me.