What digital marketing trends can we expect to see in 2020?

February 6, 2020
SCMP Insights
What is a trend?

It sounds simple, but in media terms you need to apply three rules.

First, a trend needs the ability to be mass. That means that no matter how much it may seem like a trend, virtual reality just doesn’t cut it.

The video game console, PlayStation, for example – the most likely candidate to go mass first – had sold only 4.2 million units by the end of Q1 2019. So, unless you work in this space, in marketing terms this is still very niche.

The second rule is that it needs to have traction. Just because everyone has access to something doesn’t mean that it’s a trend. So, utility technology or platforms need to be discounted.

Finally, to be a trend it needs to have reached a significant level of maturity. In other words, don’t believe the hype.

There’s actually a graph that’s used to describe the hype cycle, created by Gartner. It describes the journey from the peak of expectations through to the plateau of productivity.

While there is value in riding the hype, it’s rarely efficient and can prove very costly.

What’s driving the trends for 2020?
Globally, there has been almost no inflation for the past 10 years so marketers have had to look at margins very closely to drive profits.

Compounding that, most major markets are slowly drifting into a recession that will likely take hold in 2020.

What does this mean for media?
Trend one: consolidation in three parts – company consolidation to drive growth through acquisition; buying consolidation (so-called supply path optimisation) released as incentives and a reduction in mediation; and publisher consolidation in the form of cooperatives.

Trend two: data reimagined – third-party cookies are going away, and we could debate whether this is good or bad for the industry, but it definitely will see marketers looking for first-party data and those primary relationship owners such as scaled premium publishers.

It is also likely to continue to drive in-housing of media and direct-to-consumer brands.

We will also see marketers looking to data to help prove return on investment and differentiate quality from long tail [the large number of products that sell in small quantities in contrast with the small number of best-selling products].

This means moving away from proxies, such as CTR (click through rate) and towards engagement metrics.

Trend three: the new digital battlefield of voice and digital video. Television is tipped to see no significant growth over the next three years.

So, I expect to see digital pulled into the upfronts – annual television-buying deals – for the first time in a significant way in order for traditional broadcasters to see growth.

Companies such as AT&T, which now owns Xandr – formally AppNexus – are pushing hard in this space, too.

Voice is mass, with 50 per cent of homes in the United States expected to have a base unit by 2020 and almost every smartphone having an assistant integrated.

In fact, right now a quarter of all searches on Windows Mobile devices are by voice.

Yet despite this, media activations are very nascent, with publishers, platforms and marketers working together to figure out how to engage audiences in new ways.

Whatever happens during 2020, one thing will remain constant.

Marketers will continue to seek out quality and value – and quality publishers will continue to innovate to achieve their success.