Earlier this year, I collaborated with Jason Baldwin, global head of product management at WPP, on this project to describe five major trends in martech that would shape the decade ahead for agencies and brands. You can download our full paper, including many terrific interviews from WPP executives. I’m republishing it here as a 7-part series. This is part 1.
The 2020s have had a tumultuous start.
Yet for all the challenges of this year, it has taught us that people and organizations — even large organizations — can adapt quickly when we must. Many companies implemented new ways of engaging with their customers through digital channels and new ways of operating internally with a remote workforce in a matter of weeks this spring.
Previously, such significant changes would have been estimated to take years.
A Twilio study of 2,569 companies published this summer found that, on average, COVID-19 accelerated their digital communication strategy by six years. An article by McKinsey shared data that showed that in three months of 2020, US ecommerce penetration grew as much as it had in the past ten years.
In Microsoft’s Q3 2020 earnings call, CEO Satya Nadella said, “We have seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.”
This year has taught us how disruption can come at us quickly. It’s not just risk from start-ups or large, adjacent competitors that might someday threaten our business. Disruption can happen instantaneously. The global pandemic shut down critical elements of marketing and sales, such as retail channels and in-person events, in a matter of days.
While we hopefully won’t repeat this year’s challenges, we can expect more and different kinds of disruptions ahead.
The big tech companies — Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft — that we rely on for many of our digital go-to-market mechanisms can make sweeping changes in a snap (e.g., goodbye third-party cookies and all the marketing plays built around them). Or they can be forced into major overhauls by governments (e.g., GDPR, CCPA, executive orders, antitrust actions). Either way, we must be ready to adjust to an altered digital environment at any time.
All of this is on top of the accelerating advance of new technologies. A massive expansion of mobile communications bandwidth with 5G, and then 6G. Exponential growth in computing power and data storage that enables AI algorithms to achieve new levels of sophistication. Demonstrations of OpenAI’s GPT-3 generating stories, websites, and machine learning models from a few simple inputs that amaze us today, but will soon be taken for granted. Augmented reality. Robots and drones. The Internet of Things. Quantum computing.
Science-fiction-ish visions from the future will be mainstream in this decade — several within the next couple of years.
It can feel overwhelming to marketing professionals who must keep up. Yet it is also exhilarating. With imagination, resilience, and a sense of adventure, marketers who are willing to lean into these changes will pioneer the future of marketing and lead a decade of incredible innovation.
We must adapt quickly to harness these changes. But now, more than ever, we know we can.
This report examines five major trends with marketing technology poised to shape marketing strategy and operations at agencies and brands over the next 10 years. Instead of predicting the course of individual technologies — such as 5G or virtual reality interfaces — we’ll delve into second-order effects on marketing strategy and operations derived from them.
The five trends we’ll cover:
- “No Code” Citizen Creators
- Platforms, Networks & Marketplaces
- The Great App Explosion
- From Big Data to Big Ops
- Harmonizing Humans & Machines
Each of these trends is already emerging in practice today. But we believe each of them will grow exponentially in the years ahead. Collectively, they will reshape marketing disciplines in profound and wondrous ways.
This report isn’t about martech as a category of products. This is about martech as a strategic and management “operating system” by which brands and agencies will run marketing in an ever more digital and hyper-connected world.
It’s going to be an amazing decade in marketing: the Age of the Augmented Marketer.