The Top Marketing Trends: Data Dominates Marketing Innovations

July 15 10:02 2019 Print This Article

Marketing in 2019 is all about data. And it’s less about the size of the data and more about its usability and usefulness.

Whether it’s the huge information storehouses where companies keep detailed information about every customer who has ever made a purchase from them or the scientific analysis of ad spending relative to new customer engagement, data will be the center of almost every new marketing innovation for years to come, experts agree. Look for technology advancements to focus on how data of all types is collected, analyzed, shared, used, and secured.

“Marketing is much more scientific and analytics-driven today,” observes Jim Dickie, cofounder of CSO Insights and a research fellow at Sales Mastery.

As proof of this, one need only look at Google’s purchase of Looker for $2.6 billion and’s acquisition of Tableau Software for $15.7 billion. These acquisitions, which took place in early June, better position Google and Salesforce to compete in data analysis and visualization for marketing and sales applications.

A key element in this new data-consumed landscape has been the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which took effect in May 2018. Since then, marketers all over the world have needed to obtain explicit consent from European consumers prior to collecting, sharing, and using their data.

In advance of the GDPR, a whole class of software solutions emerged to help companies ensure that their marketing strategies were in compliance with the legislation, addressing not only the consent mandate but also respecting consumer preferences for how, when, and on which channels they want to be contacted and the types of marketing offers they want to receive.

Solutions for acquiring and maintaining consumer consent, data security, data breach notification, data governance, and database activity logging had been available for years but were rarely discussed prior to the GDPR. These capabilities are now baked into almost all of the major marketing platforms, with dozens of niche players offering point solutions as well.

An unexpected development stemming from the GDPR—and the possibility of other jurisdictions enacting similar legislation—has been the shift from outsourced agencies to in-house departments for many marketing activities. This trend is only expected to accelerate as companies desire greater ownership and control of their data. Additionally, bringing some marketing operations in-house can lead to significant cost savings and quicker turnaround times.

GDPR has had another effect on marketers: In the past, companies went for quantity over quality, gathering and storing as much third-party data about consumers as they could get, even if they weren’t planning on using it. Today, companies are shying away from third-party data and instead focusing on the first-party data that consumers voluntarily give about themselves.

And when it comes to data, they are also finding that smaller is better. Fifty-two percent of companies agree that small data is better than Big Data at helping them understand the why behind customers’ actions, according to a study by Forrester Research.

And because there are so many strings attached to the data they receive, companies are looking to get as much mileage as they can out of every bit of data they have. Artificial intelligence (AI) has dominated the marketing technology landscape as a result.

Denis Pombriant, managing principal of Beagle Research Group, says AI and machine learning “are well on their way to being subsumed into the CRM suite.”

For Ray Wang, principal analyst, founder, and chairman of Constellation Research, the future of marketing will be in mass personalization at scale, data-driven digital networks, blockchain marketing, and smart services, all of which will be guided by AI.

Sheryl Kingstone, research vice president at 451 Research, also sees great potential for AI in marketing. In fact, she calls AI for contextual matching “the secret sauce” for turning information into action.

But AI’s use in marketing goes far beyond that. Within the past two years, most marketing systems vendors have made significant investments in AI. Among other things, AI will help marketers with personalization, media spend optimization, campaign planning, dynamic content creation, audience segmentation, and audience targeting.

These last two are probably the areas where AI has seen the most attention. For marketers to reach consumers with the level of personalization that they expect today, their segmentation efforts need to be as granular as possible, and AI makes this possible.

Drawing on the data that companies have about their customers, AI can be trained to identify important variables, common traits, and other similarities to come up with specific buying personas and then match customers with those personas.

Only within the past few months have companies started experimenting with dynamic segmentation, an application of AI that also factors in customer behaviors that change over time, assuming that some consumers might take on different personas for different reasons.

Social listening and sentiment analysis—the act of trawling the web and social media platforms to find all mentions of a brand or related keywords—is another one of the biggest uses of AI in marketing right now. Advances in technologies like natural language processing, text and speech analytics, and image and character recognition have proven extremely useful for marketers looking to analyze their brand presence and the conversations around their brands in social media. In this way, they can spot potential issues and address them before they go viral.

AI-based social listening and sentiment analysis can also be used to spot purchase intent, which marketers can then employ to target specific consumers with contextually relevant advertising or strategically placed offers.

Predictive analytics is a new and revolutionary capability of AI technology that has only become possible in the past year or two. Whereas AI previously could only analyze data retroactively to identify trends, today’s technology is capable of creating models and predicting future outcomes based on those models. It can, for example, help identify when a particular customer might need to make a repeat purchase.

AI is also being used by marketers for programmatic ad targeting, with predictive algorithms helping them determine where to best place their ads, the best time of day to run them, the probability of audiences converting because of them, and more.


When it comes to where to place their ads, marketers—like most of the world—have gone digital. The ubiquity of mobile devices means consumers have more choices today than ever before for how, when, and where they receive messages; to keep pace, marketing has had to come up with new messaging that caters more to customers’ and potential customers’ digital lifestyles.

Experts expect the advent of 5G mobile technologies to have multidimensional and far-reaching effects on marketing. The expansion of connected peripheral devices will generate far more actionable and meaningful consumer data. Data speeds will accelerate, altering consumers’ expectations for loading speeds and latency. Reduced latency will lead to renewed interest in augmented and virtual reality.

In the current mobile environment, push notifications and SMS have also become vital marketing channels, but the marketing spectrum has expanded even further.

For one, voice and visual search are now marketing elements whose use in digital marketing will only become more apparent, many experts contend.

With voice and visual search, engagement becomes even more convenient and meaningful for both marketers and consumers across each stage of the purchase journey. Marketers who optimize their companies’ websites for voice and visual search will win consumers looking for instant information on their mobile devices, experts agree.

In keeping with the digital revolution, video is also red-hot right now. According to some experts, 80 percent of all online content next year will contain video, and marketers are getting on board in huge numbers. Aberdeen Research reported recently that 41 percent of marketers currently see video as a key part of their strategies.

The same research found that 86 percent of businesses use video on their websites, and 77 percent use video on social media. In the past year alone, the number of businesses using video on landing pages jumped from 49 percent to 60 percent; the number of businesses using video in email jumped from 36 percent to 46 percent.

There’s good reason for this. Aberdeen reports that video marketers get 66 percent more qualified leads per year and achieve a 54 percent increase in brand awareness. And according to Forbes, 90 percent of customers say video helps them make buying decisions, and 64 percent have reported that watching videos made them more likely to buy.

Among the types of videos used, the most common are video blogs (vlogs), interviews, tutorials, presentations, product demos, reviews, and ads. Dickie suggests one more form: case studies. “Marketing needs to come up with new messaging, specifically involving more case studies that show what companies have done already for similar customers,” he says.

Regardless of how they use video or the types of videos they choose to produce, marketers will need to think seriously about video optimization. All videos need to be engaging to rank on YouTube, but they also need to be carefully optimized for selected keywords to rank successfully.

But in the end, the bottom line is that “experience, not products, will be the battleground of the future,” Kingstone says. “Since emotion is the currency of experience, businesses will strive to drive spending by harnessing the power of human decision-making behavior to brand loyalty. The revitalization of storytelling gives businesses an opportunity to regain their footing by creating more interactive and personalized engagements with customers across mobile, social, and video channels.” 

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GDPR Associates
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