I am sat in a Pret A Manger, warming my hands on a coffee cup and reading a Wikipedia page about the philosophy of time. Why? So I can write a pseud’s introduction to another digital predictions piece, of course.
[Brian Cox voice] Is the past immutably fixed and the future undefined?
[Patrick Moore voice] What’s the point of predictions if we admit that the present is not universal?
That will do. Essentially, I want to bring you a few quotes from my friends about what they think will happen this year. But I also want to acknowledge the danger of the format. While everything from TV to SEO has been pronounced dead, the apocalyptic marketing prediction will live forever.
I also add the caveat that I recognise digital is not everything for marketers, however tightly marbled in the multichannel sausage it is nowadays.
1. The single customer view won’t be easy
Steffan Aquarone, founder of payments platform Paygora, says: “I saw a lot of organisations invest in customer data platforms in 2019 – the sorts of systems that can take data from anywhere and everywhere, with the grand vision of attributing it all to customer or potential customer records and being able to use clever algorithms to spot patterns in it, maybe even trigger personalised marketing communication.”
Aquarone asks: “Will they have banked enough data to do anything meaningful? And have they built the tools that put all this power in the hands of marketers.”
2. We can’t rely on cookies any more
A crackdown on cookie-tracking has come in the form of intelligent tracking prevention on Safari, enhanced tracking protection on Firefox, and a plan to block third-party cookies on Chrome within two years.
Ecommerce consultant James Gurd says: “I’d like to see a more open debate about viable alternatives to traditional cookie-based tracking. It’s an area ecommerce teams need to think carefully about, because being reliant on cookies for tracking, measuring and marketing is becoming increasingly fraught with inaccuracy.”
Of course, there’s a reason browsers have blocked cookie-tracking and that is chiefly privacy. Brainlabs founder Daniel Gilbert says this has sent a clear message to advertisers – “personalisation should not come at the cost of user privacy”.
In 2020, Gilbert would like to see “the industry actually following through on past promises and collecting data transparently to improve the overall data economy, and increase trust with consumers.”
3. ‘Platform-right’ advertising
Nervousness about data privacy among advertisers may lead to them becoming slightly less fanatical about the one-to-one targeting that programmatic has for so long boasted.
As much as I like the debate about whether the word ‘digital’ is of any use any more, it’s clear digital skills are still in demand.
VaynerMedia managing director Sarah Baumann puts it more eloquently, arguing for ‘platform-right’ advertising: “Tighter data regulations, greater ad-blocking capabilities, privacy concerns and increasing competition are going to push advertisers to do more with less data in 2020 – giving increased importance to understanding what platforms offer which audiences and how consumers are behaving on them.”
Expect to see more spend beyond the walled gardens and doubtless more noise around connected TV.
4. The rise of the content designer
Customer experience is increasingly important and therefore digital product design and content are, too.
Andy Budd, user experience (UX) aficionado and founder of Clearleft, tells me a role “that’s been growing in popularity the past couple of years is ‘content designer’ and its logical partner ‘UX writer’. Both these roles are in response to the dawning realisation inside organisations that content is too important to leave solely to the marketing team. Instead, content is getting ever closer to the point of product creation.”
5. SEO becomes less of a career
Google’s BERT algorithm was released in October, promising more relevant results for searchers, for example by identifying where prepositions like ‘for’ and ‘to’ are critical to understanding the intention of the query.
Econsultancy writer Patricio Robles played devil’s advocate, saying: “There’s no reason to optimise content for a search engine when the search engine’s understanding of search queries becomes human-like.”
Searchmetrics vice-president of product Malte Landewehr has a more sanguine take on the future of SEO as a distributed skill: “I believe over the next few years we’ll see many aspects of SEO starting to be automated and incorporated into content management systems. There’s a gradual shift that could eventually make SEO less of a job or career and more of a skill that is covered by a combination of marketing, product management, UX, PR, content marketing and front-end development.”
6. We still lack digital talent
As much as I like the debate about whether the word ‘digital’ is of any use any more, it’s clear digital skills are still in demand. Gilbert says: “Despite the huge surge in skilled digital media practitioners over the last decade, there’s still a shortage of technically-literate digital marketers in the UK.”
So, maybe rather than a prediction, we should end on a resolution – get out there in 2020 and learn to do something in digital media that you haven’t done before.