- ClickZ’s quarterly advisory board meeting focused on unpacking the most important marketing takeaways for 2020 and what it means for 2021 and beyond.
- Our Advisory Board members consist of thought leaders and luminaries who bring decades of marketing experience to the table.
- Key themes from this quarter’s meeting include the importance of agility, the frenzied pace of digital transformation (and the accompanying digital backlash), and the need for more agility across the board when it comes to martech tools, messaging, and creative.
At the quarterly ClickZ Advisory Board meeting on December 3rd, our focus was on looking back at the most important things we’ve learned over the course of a very unusual year. We also looked ahead and made some predictions based on how these learnings can inform the next year and beyond. Our Advisory Board members consist of thought leaders and luminaries who bring decades of marketing experience to the table.
Key themes from this quarter’s meeting include the importance of agility, the frenzied pace of digital transformation (and the accompanying digital backlash), and the complexity, agility, and (a lack of) spontaneity in marketing that’s emerged as a result of wrangling remote teams.
#1: Data driven analytical teams that work remotely struggle with creativity
The inability to get in a room and spontaneously share ideas and engage together as a team has had a negative impact on creativity. The problem is pervasive across many different teams and groups as companies have adjusted to the rapid need to work remotely.
Prediction: Legacy technologies like email and phone calls can help foster human connection and creativity. Email continues to be an important channel as the need to connect remotely endures. Our experts recommend a renewed focus on investing in email and SMS as a key channel for 2021.
#2: Live events aren’t coming back until 2022 (plan accordingly)
More than one advisory board member is pushing live events out the first quarter of 2022 based on the realistic timeline of events around the pandemic—namely, the widespread distribution of a vaccine that’s unlikely to happen in the U.S. until May or June of 2021. By the time people start getting comfortable with events and travel, we’ll likely be into the first quarter of 2022.
Prediction: In lieu of in-person events, picking up the phone and talking will be an essential way to inspire creativity and true connection in 2021. Zoom’s rigidity can hinder the natural propensity we have to let our hair down and actually talk (and listen) to each other. 2021 will still involve Zoom calls, but it will probably involve old fashioned phone calls too.
#3: Brands with a solid ecommerce and digital foundations did well in 2020
Digital-first brands with a sound ecommerce infrastructure were better prepared for 2020’s rapidly changing consumer shopping behaviours. They were also better equipped to move to digital/remote work.
This approach made them more agile and better at adapting to customer needs. These companies also tended to have a clear purpose, thus their marketing resonated with consumers. Companies that focused on people and talent as one of their key elements in 2020 were more successful than those that didn’t.
Prediction: 2021 will see a continued acceleration of digital transformation, data relevance, and a focus on recruiting top talent as a means to ensure long-term survival and maintain sustainable growth.
#4: Agility was a huge challenge in 2020
Agility posed a challenge to companies who were forced to work remotely, eliminating or reducing the ability to brainstorm together spontaneously. The 2020 post-COVID environment has required businesses of all sizes to pivot very quickly in a way that is constant, making the ability to think ahead, be creative, and plan strategically very difficult.
Prediction: The whole idea of agility, even for small companies, will change, particularly with the alignment between sales and marketing. This is probably one of the biggest challenges coming out of 2020.
Sales is going in one direction and marketing is lagging behind. It will be important to budget and plan in shorter time frames so that marketing and sales can be aligned and be more agile as external factors relating to the virus shift.
#5: There’s been a big shift to optimizing the customer journey which places more value on customer analytics
Customer analytics were more important than ever in 2020. Understanding how people use your products, how they move through the customer journey, what’s causing friction, and how companies can create better, more personalized, customer experiences is critical for developing relevant products, services, and messages for the post-COVID consumer.
Prediction: Customer analytics will (and must) become more responsive, so that brands can better connect with customers and deliver more personalized, empathetic, and meaningful experiences. The goal will be to improve customers’ lives, helping them even before you actually sell them anything.
#6: There’s been a striking shift in consumer shopping behavior driven by the pandemic
There’s been a massive acceleration in ecommerce penetration and in how consumers buy things. Amazon is the poster child for this shift. It took them twenty years to get to a million employees.
But in the past 10 months alone, Amazon hired nearly half a million employees (that’s an average of 1400 new workers a day). Demand for companies like Instacart has exploded. Consumers are using their phones to shop at Target and Walmart using apps to facilitate purchasing.
Prediction: Looking forward, retail media will become a massive channel for creating consumer awareness. Facebook, Google, and Amazon are becoming equivalent to the old media channels (NBC, CBS, and ABC) of the past. As we move into 2021, consumers will not only purchase goods from these platforms, but learn about new products from them.
#7: Every place where you transact is becoming a media platform, but creative is a challenge
Everything is a place to transact and that means everything can become a media platform. The consumer offer is linked to the credit card which can be used online or offline, giving consumers opportunities to be rewarded brands and stores through the financial institution they do business with.
Creative poses a challenge in this environment and will need to be the scaled so that it resonates with people whether it’s online or offline.
Prediction: Creative as a service is going to be a scaled mechanism that more advertisers are going to look to, especially now when they can’t deal with a creative team in person. Being able to tap into a marketplace of people who can help brands create unique, authentic content on the channel they’re working towards will be key.
#8: Best-of-breed technology is the only way to stay agile
Customer data and experience orchestration serve as that glue to effective martech implementation, but only in an environment of minimal complexity. The way marketers think about journey building is changing.
Simplifying the tools we use to create more agility is critical as we move into 2021 and beyond. Best-of-breed vendors are the only ones able to achieve this in the current overly complex martech ecosystem.
Prediction: A redefinition of marketing technology will be happening over the coming years, with AI and lifecycle experience at the center of this change. Best of breed will be the only way to stay agile in this environment. This means that martech platforms must be friendly to data from second and third parties so that it can come into the stack and actually be useful.
#9: Brands and businesses need to become more efficient
Rationalizing and tightening up the martech stack has been an essential strategy throughout the past year. In the highly uncertain environment that defines 2020, companies have been focused on the effectiveness and efficiency of their martech stack. This means making sure there are as few tools as possible and that they have a direct business impact.
Prediction: Martech vendors and platforms have been consolidating their tech tools and this will likely continue into 2021. The technologies that are most successful will be clearly focused on initiatives that have a direct impact on businesses’ bottom line.
While digital transformation will continue into 2021, digital backlash will occur within uncertain market segments and tools where the analytics and measurement aren’t clear.