This past year was the year of GDPR, Facebook breaches, the decentralized web and blockchain, to name a few. These topics will no doubt remain relevant in 2019, but we asked marketers how they see these themes evolving and what else they think is on the horizon.
Here are their top 10 predictions for data, ad tech, ecommerce and more in 2019.
Not surprisingly, regulation was at the top of marketers’ and analysts’ lists.
Sucharita Kodali, vp and principal analyst serving ebusiness and channel strategy professionals at research firm Forrester, said data will be much more tightly regulated with oversight from Congress, state attorneys general, the FTC or all three, along with significant fines that will force marketers to take this seriously.
Jeremy Cornfeldt, president of digital performance marketing agency iProspect U.S., too, expects more scrutiny, particularly of data from mobile devices in light of Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention feature, which was updated in September 2018 to make it harder to track users across sites, and California’s Consumer Privacy Act, which will go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.
“GDPR, however you feel about it, was shot across the bow from angry consumers looking to take back their data, and we marketers are going to need to be more conscientious about how we use that data,” said Pete Meyers, marketing scientist at analytics firm Moz.
For his part, Gustaf Stenlund, digital marketing manager at content marketing analytics platform Nudge, expects continued consolidation on the supply-side of the digital advertising business. He pointed to publisher-led marketplaces like Concert at Vox and The Ozone Project, a joint venture from the Guardian, News U.K. and Telegraph that allows advertisers to buy digital placements across multiple news sites. They emerged in 2018 as easy-to-use destinations for brands to buy trustworthy placements and reach niche communities and could be a blueprint for the future.
“This could be the answer to quality at scale, the oasis we’ve all been looking for,” Stenlund said.
Mar tech consolidation
In addition, Ben Young, CEO of Nudge, expects to see the middle and/or low end of the mar-tech market disappear as it increasingly makes sense for brands with smaller budgets to allocate incremental ad dollars to existing platforms rather than paying for additional tools from additional platforms.
Alternatives to third-party cookies
The new year will also be the time when publishers deal with the hidden web or the proportion of online audience that is anonymous because it comes from iOS Safari, Firefox, Facebook Instant Articles or Google AMP where third-party cookies are blocked. That’s according to Joe Root, co-founder of behavioral data platform Permutive, who said this means publishers are unable to serve targeted ads or personalize their content for those particular audiences.
Instead, he said publishers will start using next-generation data management platforms that allow advertisers to use their own audience and first-party data.
“It will be incumbent on us … to educate the market and work with products that allow companies to drive revenue in a market that doesn’t have to rely on third-party cookies,” Root added. “In 2019, publishers should be able to have visibility on their entire audience, own all of their data and … to … provide a credible, brand-safe premium alternative to the internet giants currently sucking up the majority of ad dollars today.”
In a similar vein, Michael Koziol, global CEO at digital agency Huge, said it’s possible we’ll see a rise in personal data intermediaries that maintain and negotiate data permission and sharing on behalf of consumers, particularly if trust issues with media companies persist.
“That means that the media will need to put up more than free content or access to their platforms in exchange for the right to market back to these audiences,” he said.
Continued growth of social commerce
Social commerce had a banner year in 2018, and Mara Greenwald, group media director at performance marketing agency Performics, said we are starting to see advertisers catch up to consumer behavior. That includes chatbots and messaging apps driving and processing purchases, like WeChat in China, as well as forthcoming features from Instagram.
“I predict they will finally have the functionality to complete an entire transaction in-app, making them an even more powerful player in the social landscape,” she said.
Google distribution options for branded content
The new year will also be the year Google finally embraces branded content.
“Their ad ecosystem is still in the classical digital era, and Adwords is all direct response,” Young said. “Google will push off their insights from YouTube, [influencer marketing platform] FameBit and search to launch content distribution solutions for branded content. In response, Facebook will play to their strengths in mobile video, social posts and stories, and we may see consolidation in the content recommendation space.”
Retailers as advertising platforms
Similar to Amazon’s seemingly overnight success in advertising as well as retailers’ habit of following in its footsteps, Cornfeldt expects to see players like Walmart, Target and Best Buy grow their own ad businesses as they embrace similar models.
Aaron Levy, director of paid search at digital marketing agency Elite SEM, expects to see more examples of AI going awry as it targets consumers based on behavioral tactics yet misses the human element.
“I recall the heartbreaking story of a young woman who was inundated with ‘young family’ products on Facebook: nursery items, baby toys, diapers, etc., after the poor woman miscarried,” he said. “Given the myriad of new targeting toys and programmatic tools, I’d bet we’ll see more examples of them going awry until we can teach them empathy or how to ‘unlearn’ what they’ve learned.”
And, finally, Young said he anticipates a decline in influencer marketing as Facebook and YouTube scale “safe” options.
“Publishers will provide their own take on premium influencer programs to help deliver quality and a safe voice,” he said. “In essence, the replica of what happened with blogging, where some made the break to mainstream and others didn’t.”