Each year the list of essential marketing technology gets longer. For 2020, Headless content management systems, data analysis and SEO should be at the top of marketers’ agendas.
Reading time: 20 mins
The amount of technology that supports marketing is both astounding and overwhelming. From sophisticated email automation to augmented reality advertising campaigns, technology in marketing isn’t just to impress, but to drive up performance and return on investment for marketers.
The ultimate focus of marketing technology is to provide customers with a relevant experience that generates brand loyalty and customer engagement. This comprehensive guide to the top marketing tech trends should provide marketers with the tools they need to work efficiently and create engaging marketing campaigns, keeping up to date with what the competition will be using, and the customer expecting, in 2020.
1. CX: Customer Experience
Customer experience (CX) is the foundation of any brand’s digital marketing activities. It refers to every interaction a user has with your brand across all channels and devices. While user experience (UX), the interaction with your product or service, is a part of this, CX encompasses a whole lot more.
Digital c-suite executives are now starting to make CX a top priority for the coming year to differentiate their brands and keep customers coming back. Achieving this requires investment in truly understanding customers’ opinions, not what we think they are, to avoid internal bias. Doing this makes sure money isn’t wasted on inappropriate content creation, campaigns and supporting IT systems that are based on hunches rather than data.
CX plays a part in every trend discussed below – that’s how vital it is to any brand’s marketing. Ultimately, it should be at the heart of all digital marketing decisions, across all platforms.
2. Micro moments: focusing on user intent to capitalise on that moment in time
A micro moment is that second after a decision is made by an individual who wants to know, go, do or buy something. For example, they might be discussing holidays and decide they want to go to Edinburgh. In that micro moment they are intent on visiting Edinburgh, and we can assume they will want to find the quickest and most cost-effective travel.
The micro moment is heavy with intent as the person instinctively reaches for their phone, computer or smart device, wanting instant results. Drilling down into this moment and finding the best way to use it to a brand’s advantage will be a key feature of marketing in 2020.
The best way to capitalise on these micro moments is to have a website with structured data that allows for enrichment of your search results with information that the user wants immediately, such as contact information, location, opening hours.
Search engine optimisation is one path to ensuring a brand appears before a customer during a micro moment. But this can also be done via pay-per-click advertising (PPC) and sponsored social media adverts, which should be based on customer experience research to identify when a customer is having a micro moment and how to carefully target advertising.
3. Using programmatic advertising to improve advert targeting
Programmatic advertising enables companies to use real time data to identify the optimum audience for the ads they are running for a specific campaign. The company’s chosen platform uses these insights to buy and sell digital advertising space via an auction system which helps the company learn more about where the relevant audiences engage most.
While programmatic advertising is not new, this approach is likely to become increasingly prominent in 2020 as marketing departments become more aware of how to best use it to their advantage.
It offers a way of presenting customers with the exact information they need, just as they need it, enabling brands to leverage these micro moments of engagement. For marketers, this level of access and personalisation results in efficient and effective campaigns that compete successfully for their customers’ attention.
4. Blockchain: consumer data
Blockchain has been a buzzword for several years, but many marketers don’t realise the technology can also be used in marketing. Very simply, blockchains are a record of interactions within a group. Each transaction is a ‘block’, and these are sent to a chain that is stored by everyone within the group and therefore is almost impossible to hack, as it would require hacking every user’s data storage individually.
Cookies may seem to offer something similar, but they are temporary and only able to gather information while a user is on the site. Blockchains use emails as a form of digital identification and can track where customers shop beyond one company’s website. This can give a company valuable insight into customer activity and what works best in terms of online marketing.
As a result, automated emails, targeted adverts and conversational marketing can become highly personalised. This level of data also gives companies the edge to get ahead by anticipating customer needs and choosing opportune moments and channels to target.
5. Geofencing: location-based marketing
Geofences are digitally fenced physical locations that users can enter and leave. An individual’s location is detected via using Wi-Fi signals from their phone, GPS, Bluetooth or cellular data, which triggers a notification to be sent to the brand that operates the ‘fence’. Accuracy is determined by the number of data points, meaning a densely populated area is where geofencing operates best.
This is not a new concept, but recent advances in enabling technology means geofencing is poised to play a larger role in 2020. We have already seen this in retail, with brands starting to send customers discount offers as soon as they have walked past a physical store. Used in combination with other technologies like blockchain, this means brands can build a comprehensive digital customer profile with the added dimension of location to drive increasingly personalised marketing campaigns.
6. SEO and split testing: Search Engine Optimisation
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is already integral to every successful brand’s digital marketing campaigns. One way to optimise the chances of your content appearing in first place on Google is to adopt an SEO strategy that includes split testing.
Websites higher on search engine results pages (SERPs) typically generate the most traffic. Split testing involves creating A and B page versions and then monitoring which one performs best. Doing this is a great way to develop a consistent and effective SEO strategy that can be implemented across campaigns.
But as the ecommerce world is becoming more and more competitive, in 2020 split testing will no longer be a differentiator, it will become a digital necessity for those brands who want to thrive in an ever competitive landscape.
7. Cloud-native Headless CMS: next generation Content Management Systems
Content management systems (CMS) store digital content for brands, such as copy, images, logos, iconography and so on. This can then easily be used by anyone in the company, such as a marketer adding a customer quote to a blog. This content is being increasingly published via multiple front end applications, such as a website, app or in-store kiosk. But many CMS solutions designed in-house or that have not been updated by vendors cannot interface with emerging front end applications such as wearables or augmented reality.
2020 will see the next generation of (Headless) CMS platforms moving away from traditional monolithic platforms where the front and back ends are locked-in and towards platforms that are able to seamlessly connect with any channel, software or device.
Having a next generation cloud-native Headless CMS will enable brands to become more productive and efficient, no longer searching for or requesting content from other departments, by having it located in a central hub. A cloud-native Headless CMS means all these assets are secure yet accessible by a wide range of internal and external stakeholders. This enables marketing teams to create and manage content easily and securely, as well as removing the necessity for recoding or redesigning content for different channels.
8. PWAs: Progressive Web Apps
Progressive web apps (PWAs) are immensely popular and gaining traction. They are already being used by several companies, including Twitter, Forbes and Starbucks. Essentially these provide an app experience on a website, optimising for mobile and other smart devices.
Websites are usually limited by the time it takes to load them, but PWAs work offline using data cached from the previous online use. This means they are more efficient and reliable, which could be a key feature that separates a brand from its competitors. When working online the PWA loads faster than normal webpages, using less internet data and caching data for the next offline use. This gives them the easy accessibility and therefore reach of a website, combined with the engagement and potential lead generation of an app.
9. Videos and live streaming
Video marketing doesn’t just include video adverts seen on YouTube, TV or the sidebar on a website. As well as these product or service specific videos, they can also be used to enhance your brand. For example, a video outlining the ethical sourcing process of your company may improve your brand as a transparent, socially-responsible organisation.
Alternatively, an ‘explainer’ or ‘how to’ video can be used by customers to gain a better understanding of a product before purchase, encouraging them to buy, as well as being used as aftersales support. In a world where online reviews can massively affect a company’s revenue, importance of customer experience, and how videos can improve that, should not be underestimated.
Video marketing can help a company income grow 49% faster, through direct advertising and brand enhancement. Live streaming is also a more personal way to connect with customers, allowing them to have questions answered live and giving a face to the company.
10. Voice search and smart device optimisation
Voice search, using Alexa, Siri, Cortana or other smart assistants, detects what customers say and translates this into a Google search. They will only continue to grow in importance as studies have estimated that 50% of all searches will be done by voice or image on smart devices, by the end of 2020.
This is different from a normal search because it often contains question words such as when, where and what in full sentences, rather than just keywords. The featured snippet in a Google SERP is likely to be the answer read out by a smart device, which looks for longer complete sentences, but also the distance from the device, for example the nearest Italian restaurant.
Over 25% of UK households have a smart device, and this is predicted to rise to over 50% by 2024. Clever tricks, such as including web addresses in sentences, like “For more information, go to…”, will be read out by a smart device and increase website traffic.
The next generation of Headless CMS’s can centralise content and deliver it to voice search, without duplication, something which is far more complex and difficult with a monolithic estate. As with all these trends, marketers can optimise return on investment by using them together to appeal to customers, engage with them, and improve brand activity.
11. Personalisation and hypertargeting
Both these marketing technology techniques use data collection and analysis within automated technology. Customers today respond better, buy more and stay loyal when they feel the brand really understands them. Personalisation uses certain data to market one-on-one to the individual, making them feel the advert or marketing is personal to them.
Beyond simply understanding, the brand must either react to or anticipate the needs of that individual based on known profiles, current behaviours and likely intent. This mix of behavioural insight and historic data is often actually available to marketers – but usually in a siloed, unusable way. Investment into the tools that support personalisation across any device, in any channel, is likely to have a high return, as studies show that brands that utilise personalisation are, on average, 26% more profitable.
12. Customer Data Platforms
Customer data platforms can be used in collaboration with data management platforms, the main difference being that customer data platforms can collect largely personalised information about individuals, whereas data management platforms collect anonymous information.
Customer data platforms allow companies to get real-time data about customers and use this to create customer profiles in order to understand customer behaviour in relation to a variety of different demographics. From this, companies can connect the platform to other software and systems to target people in specific ways that are most likely to achieve interaction with their marketing campaign and continued engagement with the brand.
13. Maximising a multi-channel approach
In this day and age, it goes without saying that each customer is unique, and individuals consume information in different ways. What’s more important is that marketers now adopt a consistent multi-channel approach across all platforms, placing customer experience principles at the heart of their practices.
One way of maximising this multi-channel approach could be through implementing a Headless CMS, whereas another could be through employing augmented reality as part of a wider marketing strategy.
However, these more digitally mature methods are not always the most suitable for a business. So, on a smaller scale, a business could record a podcast for one purpose, and then use the audio as clips in a radio advert, as fuel for a blog post, or as quotes for posters and billboards as well. Repurposing content for different channels is an effective way of building a multi-channel approach, ensuring the maximum number of customers are engaged.
Therefore, while the awareness of a multi-channel approach has existed in marketing circles for some time, 2020 will mark the year in which marketers can really take ownership of this approach as they will have the most appropriate tools to do so.
14. Conversational marketing: email, chatbot, social media
Conversational marketing is an interaction-focused form of marketing that involves feedback from customer to brand, creating a more personal, engaging marketing method. The dialogue can take place over social media, through email, website chat bots or instant messaging for customer support.
Conversational marketing makes a customer feel valued as communication is personal and can get them to the exact service or product that will be best for them. It also creates an excellent channel for aftersales customer service. All these can enhance CX and differentiate brands. Analysing data from conversational marketing also enables marketers to focus investment into the platforms that provide the best returns.
15. SERP zero: the featured snippet
The most desirable position used to be number one, at the top of the results page. Now, however, the aim is to be in position zero: the featured snippet. This refers to the small box that appears at the top of some Google searches containing the answer to the search query quoted from a website in a small ‘snippet’.
This is supposed to provide the best, simplest answer to a search query so that the user either gets their answer immediately or clicks on the snippet website for more information. This, of course, leads to a greater likelihood of users visiting the featured website, meaning more traffic, more brand engagement and more potential leads. If using voice search on a smart device, this is the answer that will be read out by the device, giving the website prominence and credibility.
16. Social ecommerce: shoppable posts
Social ecommerce is using social media platforms to promote services or products to customers. These can be some of the most interactive and engaging marketing tools, as well as making the step from viewing something on social media to buying it even shorter.
Shoppable posts are often used in conjunction with personalisation, to provide users with products they are more likely to buy, on a reliable platform, at their price. Alternatively, they might be advertised by someone they follow on social media already and are therefore are more likely to trust their opinion. With 74% of people using social media to inform them about trends and products, this is clearly a worthy investment for marketers.
17. Augmented Reality (AR): Immersive marketing
Augmented reality (AR) is already being used by marketers, such as with Snapchat filters and bus stop video adverts. AR is the overlaying of information, often animated visuals, onto the real world, usually seen through a screen with a camera.
This can be used in practical ways, such as allowing users to see what furniture or other products would look like in their home, or in more dramatic, impactful ways, such as disrupting reality with unexpected scenarios like AR animals or aliens. Immersive marketing experiences are more memorable, making the customer feel involved in the product or service and therefore more likely to discuss, share and spread the message.
18. Predictive analytics and artificial intelligence (AI)
The ability to predict a customer’s next want, need or request, allows marketing and advertising to be placed in front of them at opportune moments. Artificial intelligence (AI) can use machine learning to analyse the information gathered about customers and improve how it reacts to customer actions. Predictive analytics uses insights provided by data and behaviour to create customer profiles that drive marketing.
An example of this may be a takeaway service that learns which days a customer tends to buy dinner and targets them with advertising or email deals on those days. It may go so far as to track the customer’s journey home and send a text alert or advert with a promotion before they arrive at a competitor’s shop. Predictive analytics often uses geofencing, programmatic advertising, micro moments, shoppable posts and the omni-channel approach in order to achieve this personalised method of marketing.
Predictive analytics can also use information gathered to automate pricing strategies on ecommerce websites, using customer behaviour insights to understand at what price point the customer would be likely to purchase the product that they have shown interest in. This would then trigger a price promotion personalised to the individual customer.
19. UGC: User generated content
Often praised for its authenticity, user generated content (UGC) can boost a brand reputation through user recommendation. Essentially, UGC is voluntarily produced by customers sharing their experience of a product or service with their peers, followers or audience.
Brands often gift experiences or products to social media influencers with lots of followers, who then use the product and give an honest review, a mutually beneficial process. However, brands can encourage all their customers to provide UGC, such as H&M collating images of people wearing their clothes, GoPro featuring videos of customers using their cameras and Coca Cola encouraging customers to post photos of themselves with their personalised named bottles.
20. Visual Search
When a customer sees an item in the window of a closed shop, visual search allows them to take a photo and search for the product either on the internet or on that shop’s specific website. Visual search is the ability to use an image, or section of an image, as the input into a search tool and have it return matching or relevant results.
Visual search has been growing in capability during recent years, with customers waiting for technology to improve to the point when the visual search is worthwhile. It finally has and now many leading companies offer visual search, including Pinterest, Amazon and Google, as well as many fashion brands and other search engines. In the world of AI and machine learning, this is one of the most sought-after technologies, with 70% of a surveyed audience saying they would shop online more if visual search was more universally available.