2020 wasn’t quite what we expected, but I fondly remember a famous quote from Albert Einstein: “In the midst of the difficulty lies the chance.”
2021 is an opportunity for marketers to see the barriers of 2020 as challenges and improve their processes and working methods. Four emerging topics, particularly in the field of analytical marketing technology, will lay the foundation for martech advancement in 2021.
1. Optimization and modernization replace complete transformation
Some martech vendors have a digital transformation agenda that is about “ripping and replacing” software systems. Instead, why not focus on optimizing costs, modernizing technologies and processes, and redesigning marketing trips?
The digital transformation takes years. Instead of removing entire systems and starting from scratch, in 2021 companies will focus on optimizing and modernizing through analytics.
This includes optimizing marketing resources, marketing program costs, and loyalty processes, as well as upgrading marketing technologies to take advantage of new features: think machine learning, data collection and transformation, and channel convergence.
2. Machine learning is becoming mainstream in marketing
In 2018, I wrote in an article that companies have not yet fully realized the promise of artificial intelligence (AI). Machine learning, a subset of AI, will become much more mainstream in 2021.
Machine learning models are used to better predict customer and prospect value, namely the value of marketing-qualified leads across web and mobile channels.
Gradient enhancement machines and random forest models are used to better segment customers based on their behavior. A better evaluation and classification of the value leads to a higher degree of personalization and subsequently to improved conversion rates on digital channels.
The features mentioned in the 2018 article – product recommendations, loyalty programs, text and search, and digital advertising – are also fast-forwarding thanks to increased and improved use of machine learning.
3. Attribution is mandatory
The alignment of sales and marketing departments within organizations is critical. Because physical sales interactions are limited, sellers rely more heavily on marketing results to feed the pipeline.
Attribution is an analysis technique similar to optimization that will prevail as companies reinvent and reinvent their strategies while more precisely controlling costs and processes. More and more brands will want to assign the marketing activities from channel to sales in detail. Early clicks are more closely related to late-stage engagement and conversion.
Analytical frameworks for attribution are already being developed by some of the most mature marketing organizations, and I sense that the majority of fast followers will make more use of attribution in 2021.
4. Better conversational AI comes from improved digital engagement tactics
From a data perspective, brands will necessarily expand the level of detail in the customer data they collect: due to the limited interaction through physical channels, digital customer behavior data will be required for better engagement.
From an analytical point of view, conversational AI is used in the form of chatbots and other digital inclusion mechanisms to support product and service recommendations – also known as the analytical “Next Best Offer” or “Action”.
The best conversational AI in 2021 will combine three things: enriched customer data, machine learning techniques for better prediction, and AI and robotic automation capabilities for delivery.
* * *
As analytical marketers step into 2021, the focus will be on:
- Revision and modernization of processes and technologies
- Control and allocate costs
- Increase conversion through better engagement and personalization
- Leverage available technology and processes to build on past accomplishments.
For some companies, 2020 was a year of turbulence and losses. Others performed better than average and will jump into 2021 faster. One thing will be consistent, however: data and analytics will continue to satisfy the hunger for insight that brands desire.