Opinion: How businesses can thrive in this new decade of personalized marketing
An iconic 1993 New Yorker cartoon noted that “on the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” Early internet advertising was also a reflection of that time: it was largely impersonal.
How times have changed. Digital marketing today is so well personalized that Facebook is sometimes accused—wrongly, we promise—of listening to people’s conversations and tailoring ads accordingly. And compare those annoying pop-ups that once dominated to some of today’s cutting-edge online experiences: augmented reality ads that allow you to virtually try on a product before purchasing it, or a messaging bot that can answer questions and place an order.
Digital advertising has evolved, just as television and radio have done. Like today’s mobile devices, advertising is now sophisticated, powerful and personalized. It has made marketers more effective and enabled the launch of entirely new businesses that would not have been possible a decade ago.
After a decade of increasing personalization, marketers are now demanding more of publishers, platforms, and agencies. This is making marketing better, but it’s also disrupting much of the long-standing ecosystem that has served brands for decades.
So, what exactly does the next decade hold for our industry?
For starters, even more of the same—more disruption and greater personalization—occurring faster than ever before.
Trends are no longer mainly starting here in the US. Innovation today can spring up anywhere, and hopscotch across the globe at a terrific pace. While relatively few Americans transact via messaging apps today, for instance, it’s relatively commonplace elsewhere. Consumers in Asia have been engaging in “conversational commerce” for years, using messaging to buy and sell products instead of a website. We expect the convenience of buying through messaging to spread globally at ever greater speeds.
Take the experience of buying a car, one of the biggest consumer purchases. Auto manufacturer Renault used a combination of Instagram Stories and Click-to-Messenger ads to drive sales of a limited-edition vehicle in Italy, the Captur Tokyo. Over the span of 30 days, they sold 100 cars—20 directly through Messenger. Now, imagine the promise that AR and VR hold for exploring a new car model right from home, rather than having to go sit in it at the dealer.
The next wave of innovations in messaging, augmented reality and virtual reality will enable consumers to discover, explore, and purchase products more efficiently. And they will also challenge pretty much every reliable marketing practice of the past.
These increased capabilities also come with higher expectations, particularly earning and keeping people’s trust first.
It’s clear that people want more control and transparency over how and when a business reaches them in the first place. Rightfully so. That means brands, and companies like mine, need to give people greater insight and control into how their information is used.
All of these changes will ultimately require marketers to move even faster. Put bluntly: companies slow to adjust to new consumer behaviors will have a tougher time surviving.
The best marketers today know that people will adopt a new app, device or behavior a lot faster than the typical marketing department. A tactic that might have worked last year may no longer be effective today, and the biggest error we can make is arriving late, or missing the moment entirely. Annual planning processes will only be effective if they provide for the ability to make changes rapidly as new trends emerge.
Speed, flexibility, and iteration are what set many successful, disruptive brands apart today. For the next decade, it’ll be table stakes. Two-day delivery is standard customer service today, and soon it’ll be hours. Product ideas go from ideation to launch in six months or less, as opposed to the years it took in the past [IAB, February 2019]. And, as many successful direct-to-consumer brands like Casper or Peloton have shown, once you find product-market fit, you can become a household name in a year or two.
The pace and level of competition will only get more intense. Businesses, especially big companies, must learn to move quickly, iterate and resist complacency. The added complexity of this era taxes marketers, agencies and consultancies—and it also creates new opportunities for those who develop expertise in managing an ever-changing world.
As we enter this new decade, preparing for disruption is as important as fighting to preserve what worked for you in the past. There’s so much uncertainty out there, but here’s a sure bet for the 2020s: those who can embrace change quickly will thrive.