Since 2018, marketing technology (MarTech) has seen year-on-year growth of 22 percent with estimated market size of $121.5 billion globally. Combined, the North American and UK MarTech market are worth $65.9 billion. As marketers vie for the attention of an increasingly fickle consumer, they’ve turned to more sophisticated MarTech tools. Here’s what’s new and trending in the MarTech world in 2020. From optimizing customer experience to augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) apps and even machine learning for marketers, here’s how to most effectively leverage the technology for more successful campaigns and greater consumer engagement. 

Optimize Omnichannel For Better Customer Experience

Marketers are using tech to focus on customer experiences regardless of the media platform. This paves the way for customer experience optimization and tracking, as echoed by WARC’s study in which over half of respondents noted that customer experience optimization is a high priority for their organization. Still, less than 50 percent of brands are using MarTech to track customers between channels.

Today’s consumer expected a seamless interaction with brands across multiple channels, and brands should turn to tech to bridge the divide. Cross-channel sales should be top of mind for marketers as they’re expected to reach $1.8 trillion by 2018 according to Forrester, though only 44 percent of marketers applied uniform segmentation across multiple touchpoints. Using MarTech to build a customer experience is critical to improving omnichannel strategies. The answer? Integrate digital data and customer information from internal systems such as loyalty programs and CMS using automation platforms to create user profiles based data from multiple channels, collected in real-time.

Mobile And Mixed Reality Apps

Consumers are driving retailers’ need for yet another MarTech touchpoint for engagement—AR and VR apps. One-third of US consumers reported using AR, but 73 percent of that group said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their experience. While only 10 percent of consumers said they’ve used AR or VR while shopping, 45 percent say they’d like to try it. In the same survey, 30 percent of consumers said they’d never visit another clothing store again if AR allowed them to buy the right size item with confidence.

Despite the low consumer adoption rate for AR, consumers are showing an interest in AR/VR apps that could potentially simplify their retail experiences—and brands are taking note. Apps that have AR or VR features, also known as mixed reality apps, will more than quintuple their advertising revenue to $11 billion by 2024, from $2 billion this year. Smartphone mixed reality is also set to account for 75 percent of consumer revenues by 2024, according to a report from Juniper. 

IKEA, for example, was an early adopter of AR ads in 2013 when it released its iOS AR mobile app that lets users see virtual pieces of furniture from the company’s 2014 catalog.

“We expect social media applications to account for 40 percent of all consumer mixed reality revenues by 2024. Third-party content delivered on these apps has been key to their success, therefore investment in content development frameworks will increase their app’s content library with minimal investment,” noted the research author, Sam Barker.

Similarly, 5G cellular networks and edge computing are two emerging technologies expected to increase the precision of location intelligence and overall marketing efficiency in 2020. Looking forward, marketers can use insights from connected device data to improve campaigns in real-time using automation and artificial intelligence (AI).

Tailor To Various Types Of Search

Microsoft’s 2019 Voice Report revealed that 75 percent of households will have at least one smart speaker by 2020. On a similar upward trajectory is the usage of mobile to conduct searches and compares prices on products. But rather than text-based searches, consumers are increasingly researching and purchasing via voice searches. A whopping 72 percent of people used voice search through a digital assistant in 2019.

To reach target audiences, brands can make their online presence conducive to voice-based searches by updating keywords to reflect natural language in web content and sites as opposed to overly technical language. Machine learning is necessary here to improve internal searches and answer consumers’ questions.

Artificial Intelligence-Enabled Automation Tools

Over three-quarters of brands use MarTech to assist them with email and social media while nearly two-thirds of brands use MarTech for analytics, content and customer relationship management (CRM).

AI-enabled automation platforms can help simplify email marketing, lead generation and performance measurement. For example, brands should use automation to draft messages for each segment to reach different audiences wherever they are in the funnel. That extends to location-based data to support customer communications via mobile as well. Automation also takes care of repetitive tasks such as these to not only increase campaign return on investment (ROI), but also improve productivity and campaign management.

Improvements in systems and components have led to sophisticated algorithms, making AI a significant part of any company’s decision-making processes. The way that brands are successfully using AI to inform business predictions including price optimization, forecasting, upselling and lead scoring is growing sales. Data-driven insights from AI have become so helpful in generating sales that Accenture found that AI could lead to an economic boost of $14 trillion in additional gross value added (GVA) by 2035. 

Programmatic Buying

Programmatic buying is growing as over half of display ads in the US are now being bought programmatically. Programmatic buying involves AI software and technology to automate ad buying on the web at a speed greater than that which humans can achieve manually. Real-time bid impressions are made instantly when the system sees a cookie or mobile identifier that matches the advertiser’s targeting criteria. Marketers can position themselves to reach audiences based on their interests and demographics thanks to programmatic buying that utilizes a mix of data sources at the time an impression becomes available.

Over the course of a few campaigns, programmatic technology gathers additional performance data, allowing the system to determine what time of day and location performs best for the ad.

As beneficial as MarTech is, brands are challenged to implement the tools. Half of global respondents in WARC’s report said that budget constraints are a main barrier to MarTech investment, up 36 percent from last year. MarTech budgets in North America and the UK are up three percent, and 43 percent of marketers globally expect these budgets to increase over the next 12 months.

The roll-out of data privacy laws such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) could, however, limit marketers’ ability to enrich MarTech capabilities with data-driven insights. How companies collect and use customer data is a topic of concern that only limiting third-party-purchased data could mitigate. To maintain consumers’ trust while still encouraging them to share personal data requires marketers to implement interactive experiences that make consumers feel safe sharing information and as though they’re receiving a fair exchange of value for the data.