As a technology-centric digital marketer, I am constantly evaluating consumer adoption trends, tech startups, and the latest in emerging platforms. My goal is to align consumer behavior with relevant digital solutions that create value for my partner brands.
We are in the midst of an innovation revolution, with a slew of new and innovative companies and startups vying to become the next big thing. We are now more connected than ever, and functions that used to require separate devices are now accessible simply through your phone. Finally, we have seen exponential growth in terms of the sheer volume of data being created.
We are also in a state of constant bombardment about the future state of digital marketing. Microsoft recently stated that the company believes by 2020 marketing departments will be reshaped to concentrate around three digital hubs: content, channels, and data.
Where should marketers and brands place bets over the next five years? What is hype over substance? Taking all of this into consideration, I interviewed my strategy teams in Los Angeles, New York, and Dallas to map the state of digital marketing in the year 2020.
This was a very interesting exercise, as my expectation was closely aligned to the idea that we would rally around five to ten top-level topics, which are mainstream points of discussion. After the first hour, we had identified 31 “territories” we felt were going to represent the next five years of digital marketing.
We had fun with discussions of drones, crypto currency, the internet of people, and more. While the team agreed fundamentally about certain platforms making an impact, there were pros and cons to impact and feasibility. The following are the top four territories we felt would be most relevant in five years.
Mobile plus wearables equals integrated mobile
Before we look forward with mobile, it is always helpful to take a quick look back. With the launch of the first iPhone in 2007, we experienced a transformational shift, which has since changed the way we live our lives.
Prior to its launch, most mobile phones were just that — phones. The iPhone was transformational, with simple emphasis on usability, utility, and personalization via a robust app marketplace.
Heading towards 2020, we will experience another transformational shift in mobile. This time, the transformation will be less about the handset and more about mobile-as-a-mindset — coming to life through a collection of integrated technologies, some virtual and some physical, such as wearables.
The rise of integrated mobile will create a seamless physical-to-digital or “phydigital” ecosystem. From a marketing perspective, integrated mobile represents the next iteration of media-to-shelf.
A brand’s ability to connect with a consumer will primarily exist through mobile connections. Such as when, based on consumers’ personal preferences, brands provide contextual content that seamlessly transitions into serving a location-specific value.
Converged media and mass customization
Traditional advertising shifts, combined with on-demand behaviors, such as connected televisions, original branded entertainment, curated content, and native advertising, all wrapped with mass customization, was an extremely hot topic of discussion with a majority of the team.
We have all seen the shifts in how media is consumed. Fragmentation and non-linear consumption will lead to more cohesive and relevant networks to connect with consumers. That sounds counterintuitive, but the fragmentation is an opportunity to reimagine connections with consumers in the near future.
Refined segmentation, based on usage and self-selected behavior — overlaid with the core desire for discovery and recommendations — will create signals and new points of connection based on platform consolidation over the next five years.
We will see better connectivity between the branded entertainment being consumed and the opportunity to personalize relevant and contextual information, which is focused on creating a 1:1 connection with the consumer.
We will see the shift in terms of branded entertainment, as well as social platforms such as Facebook, now making a major strategic pivot towards a reach and frequency model, which is built to provide incremental reach to television. This shift is also predicated on the principle of lowering post frequency with a high rate of personalization through targeted media.
Here is a whitepaper that I recently wrote outlining the full Facebook shift.
Internet of Things is now connected life
Another topic of interest to the team was the Internet of Things. The term “Internet of Things” was coined in the mid ’90s and may already be dated. “Connected life” seems to be the leading candidate to describe the next wave of interconnectivity.
You may have noticed the rise in intelligent home offerings, smart-grid enabled appliances, personal fitness devices, and enhanced vehicle telematics. All of this accessibility and interconnectivity leads to more opportunities for marketers to create relevant, predictive connections with consumers.
This is both a blessing and a curse for brands and marketers. As the various connected devices communicate with one another during the course of the day, they may soon have the predictive capabilities to deliver products in near real-time based on personalized preferences.
When this happens, it may fundamentally shift our current thoughts about the five stages of the consumer buying process. To recap, the current process is based on problem recognition or need state, information search, alternative evaluation, purchase decision, and post-purchase behavior.
With a predictive model based on interconnected systems, marketers will need to focus more intently on brand affinity to drive consideration, while also accounting for consumers having to take an additional step to proactively swap a product in an existing consideration set.
Accessibility and interconnectivity throughout our everyday lives will be built on yottabytes (1 trillion terabytes) of personalized data, which will drive digital marketing significantly beyond rudimentary banners and transform traditional thinking about digital marketing.
2014 and 2020 will be similar in that Google will still be incredibly relevant for digital marketers. Google is a key player in all of the previously discussed elements, such as mobile through Android, converged media through YouTube, mobile accessibility, connected life through Fiber, telematics and autonomous vehicles, and even wearables, with the continual evolution of products like Google Glass.
By serving as the curator of the open web, Google is not a portal such as Yahoo and MSN of the past. It’s not Facebook in terms of a closed platform that limits its footprint on the open web. Because of these factors, combined with the focus on innovation, Google will be an incredibly relevant marketing platform in 2020.
Its reach and focus on innovation, as well as owning key waypoints of consumer interaction from search, will give Google’s YouTube and Google+ the ability to focus on simplifying access to all properties through single sign-on.
After a recent meeting with the Google+ product team in NYC, it became very clear to me that the role of social in the Google ecosystem is less about the stream and more about the interconnectivity of the ecosystem and the ability to connect content where it is the most relevant for a consumer.
If I were a betting man, I would anticipate that Google’s staying power for the next five years, as well as the possible acquisition of other key discoveries and curation platforms, will round out its ability to go beyond search-and-retrieval, such as Pinterest and Evernote. Remember, you heard it here first.
No one truly knows what the future holds or what digital marketing will look like in 2020, but based on 14 years of digital experience and a strong track record of identifying substance over hype, I feel confident the Microsoft view of content, channels, and data is accurate. Integrated mobile, converged media, connected life, and Google all represent the core digital hubs of content, channels, and data — and each will be relevant in 2020.
Follow Edwards at @BlackFin360.
“Planet system in your hand” image via Shutterstock.