Have we ever seen a year of more rapid transformation in martech trends than 2020? How could it be otherwise as brands around the world struggle, not only with changed markets and consumer sentiments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also with physically altered workplace environments and a dramatically different economic outlook?
Many of the tech trends that dominated in 2019 have been superseded by a new wave of transformational change that aims, first and foremost, to contend with the continuously shifting global circumstances affecting marketing and other divisional teams.
Some long-term trends remain; a few are gathering pace; and others have been sent to the back of the line as new, more urgent needs have emerged.
Here’s how we’re seeing the key shifts in the changing, post-COVID-19 martech landscape in 2020:
- Martech spending: Paused but protected
Investment in martech spending has not been subject to disproportionate budget cuts and while in some cases major projects have been paused, budgets remain protected.
Gartner’s global CMO Spend Survey for 2020 -- released in early July and conducted in April and May while the Coronavirus pandemic was taking hold globally -- showed almost half of all CMOs (44%) experienced mid-year budget cuts due to the pandemic.
US and UK marketers reduced spending by about 40% in May, according to SMI ad spend data -- while US cuts for the same period are estimated at 32%.
Despite that, globally, martech as a proportion of spending has survived. It remains steady at 26%, while two-thirds (68%) of CMOs expect to increase their investments in martech over the next 12 months.
“CMOs believe technology will help them navigate through difficult times and recover faster, and thus will continue to shield these investments,” according to Gartner’s vice-president analyst for marketers, Ewan McIntyre.
Happily, brand-building has re-emerged as a strategic priority, nominated by one in three CMOs (33%) -- outranking martech in overall importance as brands prepare to market their way out of the COVID-19-induced recession.
Meanwhile, the martech projects that are prioritised in 2020 will be those that deliver a measurable return to the organisation within weeks, not months.
"CMOs need to build a plan that sets out the costs that can be eliminated, the essential costs that must be shielded and the costs where greater efficiency and ROI can be delivered,” McIntyre says.
- Efficient remote work tools essential
Exempt from any budget cuts over the past six months has been technology that promotes and facilitates remote marketing work, from virtual meeting and collaboration software to tech that improves the creative production of marketing.
Six of the top 10 fastest-growing software categories since the pandemic struck involve digital communications, according to technology review site TrustRadius, with web conferencing growing by 500%.
At the same time, CMOs have protected spending on digital channels, and reduced spending in physical media such as print and out-of-home: investments in paid, owned and earned digital channels account for almost 80% of multichannel budgets, according to Gartner, with digital advertising and search advertising, social marketing and website investment topping the list.
The result has been that marketing teams, working remotely, are managing a fragmented budget across social and digital channels, while trying to safeguard and amplify their brand in uncertain times.
That means multichannel brand management and compliance tools are joining communication and collaboration tech as part of the efficient marketer’s essential remote toolkit in 2020.
- Growing importance of API-based integrations
Integration is often quoted as the No.1 reason technology doesn’t work, according to Scott Brinker, Chiefmartec founder and creator of the Martech Landscape -- which identified 8000 martech tools on the market this year.
Integration remains as much of a challenge in 2020 as it ever was, as CMOs look to get the best performance across their martech stack, with just 13% of business leaders describing their marketing and customer experience technology as “highly integrated”, according to the 2020 Digital Transformation Trends Report.
Conversely, three in four have partially integrated tech stacks involving multiple cloud-based tools.
According to a new study from Pandium, 96% of SaaS companies now integrate with other Software-as-a-Service companies in the cloud and martech companies average 17 integrations, 2 more than the SaaS median of 15 integrations each. Meanwhile, 89% of martech companies provide their customers with an API.
Outfit’s vice-president of strategy and innovation Andy Fitzsimon says in-house developers are increasingly being called upon by marketing to help them achieve custom capability with deeper levels of integration.
Marketing operations teams are building technology stacks with complexity that in many ways rivals that of traditional IT.
Eliminating inertia and friction around the marketing process for the external customer journey is the name of the game.
“You have to win the war for technologists across your entire organisation,” Fitzsimon says.
“For whole-business capability, the service you deliver and influence you need often sits outside your tower.
“SaaS tools can be very opinionated with data, integrations. and capability. The platforms with an open developer API offer a get-out-of-jail-free card that has become the essential attribute of modern software.”
- Broader application of automation in marketing
Many marketers define automation narrowly as email marketing automation, but it will leap the confines of email-related marketing activity in 2020, making processes as automatic as possible and reducing human intervention to a viable minimum in a variety of areas.
Forrester has predicted that spending for marketing automation tools will grow vigorously over the next few years, reaching $25.1 billion annually by 2023.
But with marketing team sizes and general marketing budgets under pressure due to the Coronavirus pandemic, tech-savvy marketers will look to increase automation in a range of areas to increase operational efficiencies, reduce administrative overhead and simply save time.
Those who have had to downsize may take the opportunity to introduce automation to do some of the heavy lifting before increasing their team size.
This might take the form of introducing or expanding the remit of chatbot technology -- or augmenting it with Artificial Intelligence -- in order to answer more prospect or customer queries or learn more about them before they are connected with a human.
Equally it might result in the introduction of brand automation technology, which can dramatically reduce the need for human intervention in the creative production process. It enables companies to respond quickly, producing content for a multitude of channels to market while eliminating branding inconsistencies, solving compliance issues and reducing production bottlenecks.
Regardless, marketers -- who are so often on the front line of budget cuts in a recession -- will look for ways to use automation technology to do the heavy lifting when it comes to the operational efficiencies they need to find.
- Artificial Intelligence affects everyday marketing
Artificial Intelligence has the potential to unlock $2.6 trillion in value in the marketing and sales function, according to McKinsey -- much more than in most disciplinary silos.
Enabled by concurrent moves towards the unification of the many different data sources organisations have for their customers and prospects, the application of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to marketing is progressing rapidly, to the point where many marketers are already interacting with AI-based tools.
Two-thirds of C-suite executives (66%) say that their organisations are either already using AI and machine learning technology or are planning to invest in them, according to the 2020 Digital Transformation Trends Report.
Among the most valued use cases of AI for marketers are improved audience targeting and personalisation, better customer insights, more efficient and effective content creation, improved conversion and lower churn.
Through natural language processing, AI is already turning search on its head with the shift to voice: Around 50% of all searches are tipped to be voice-based in 2020, with ramifications for marketers including the growing importance of “position zero” -- the Featured Snippet position on search engine ranking pages.
Meanwhile, AI is allowing marketers to analyze huge amounts of data and information generated or captured in digital channels -- a trend that is gathering pace as people work and shop remotely more than they ever have before. We are heading towards accurate personalisation at scale – something not previously available to the average marketer.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the tech trends transforming marketing in 2020; but as we look to market our way through and beyond the COVID-19-impacted landscape in which all brands are operating, these are among the key trends we see gathering pace or being adapted to serve our brave new world.