It’s been an exciting year for marketing tech. The space is maturing rapidly and money continues to flow in from the investment community. And if 2015 was good, 2016 will be even better as the space continues to evolve and mature.
Here are some of the key ways we believe marketing tech will evolve during the next year.
Marketers are getting used to the reality that consumers expect them to know a lot about who they are, what they like, and how they want to engage with ads and brands. There’s an almost infinite number of data points that can be drawn from to create a fuller picture of each consumer.
In 2016, marketers will keep learning how to draw on the right types of information to understand consumers, without crossing the line and knowing too much. Many will start with their own customer-relationship management databases, then add more and more data to fill in gaps. They’ll also be challenged — from a technical perspective — to manage all the various data sets.
More than 97 percent of a typical business-to-consumer site’s audience is anonymous. For business-to-business sites, that number varies between 57 percent and 90 percent. Yet personalization only starts when the visitor shares an email address, signs up for an account, or has a trackable IP address. The reality is, web personalization is hard, especially at the top of the funnel.
Traditionally, the companies that personalize at the top of the online-marketing funnel have needed big budgets and dedicated resources in marketing and engineering to tackle this challenge, said VB Insight analyst Andrew Jones. A recent report by VB Insight found that personalization is on the rise even in small- and micro-businesses. The key driver has been the number of vendors that have emerged to solve real-time personalization challenges.
Mobile marketing automation
In just eight years, smartphones have taken over the world. In the past 3.5 years, smartphone media consumption has surpassed that of television. Mobile commerce jumped 123 percent in the first quarter of this year. These trends will continue into 2016.
Many marketers still have no clear mobile strategy, but that will change markedly over the next year as they continue to search for the right strategies and technologies to reach mobile consumers. And not just any customers. They’ll be figuring out how to attract the kinds of customers who will keep paying dividends across a long and loyal relationship.
There are plenty of reasons why watching videos on 5-inch screens is becoming so popular — ubiquitous mobile-device usage and better broadband coverage. Users now spend around 86 percent of their time in applications, which means that in-app video ads will increasingly take a larger share of total ad spend.
If ad tech is a subset of marketing tech, it could be that some of the thousands of small ad-tech firms will be acquired by larger marketing-tech companies. Marketing automation and ad tech are still very young, but over the next year some believe we will start seeing the consolidation people have long been predicting.
We are also likely to see the continued growth of large marketing platforms from Adobe and Salesforce. Many believe these marketing clouds will continue to address more of the critical marketing-tech functions, and they’ll do this by acquiring smaller marketing-tech companies.
In time, there’s a good chance we’ll see two or three marketing clouds start to separate themselves from the pack in terms of growth and strength. And as those players vacuum up more new business, some smaller companies that only offer niche services may be challenged to survive, making an acquisition a more attractive exit.
A new focus on creative
Apple started a big controversy this year when it announced that its new iOS 9 would permit ad blockers. As people access more content on their mobile devices, and as much of that content is served onto iPhones and iPads, this is a threatening development for mobile advertisers.
Advertisers may not be able to overcome that threat without making tough changes to their ads. The fear is that if consumers are blocking mobile ads, publishers that run them will see less revenue and will struggle to survive.
“How do we balance the right of the publisher to get paid with the right of the consumer not to get stalked and hounded?” Bob Knorpp of The CoolBeans Group asked, cutting right to the core issue of the ad-blocking debate.
During 2016, the advertising industry will be putting more money and brainpower into creating ads that people don’t want to block. Right now, a quarter of all mobile users employ some type of ad blocker in their mobile browser.
I expect the above trends will be some of the major themes in marketing tech over the next year. We’ll have another look at the same issues at this time next year to see how things have progressed.