At Online Retailer, (25-26th July) in Sydney, we asked dozens of delegates from around the world to share their thoughts about the state of digital marketing today — and also where we’re headed down the road.

Our methodology? We asked attendees in and around our booth to write down their ideas, and post them on our “idea wall”. It quickly turned into a giant canvas of yellow sticky notes with amazing insights, adages, truisms, concerns, and predictions about digital marketing, e-commerce, and personalisation.

marketing predictions

So what did we learn?

Biggest Digital Marketing Challenges

Surprisingly, the biggest trend within the “challenges” section focused on internal roadblocks (as opposed to operational concerns or difficulty in orchestrating omnichannel customer experiences, etc.).

Biggest areas of difficulty, as delegates shared, include:

  • Time: Marketers are strapped for time, and are pressured to do more work with the same amount of hours in the day.
  • Accountability: Maintaining clear processes with defined responsibilities continues to be a difficult issue as channels, tasks, and job functions evolve exponentially.
  • ROI/Financial. Proving ROMI and showing evidence that marketing efforts are providing value for the business continue to plague marketers…a common and long-held issue.

In addition, marketers noted struggles with personalisation across channels, growing visibility in a saturated marketplace, segmentation that creates 1-to-1 relationships, sifting through too much data, accumulating accurate customer data, and getting emails delivered to the inbox — all issues that a single, centralised marketing automation platform can get us closer to addressing.

Why Marketing Matters

The overwhelming majority of responses within the “importance of marketing” section referred to:

  • Making marketing more personalized
  • Maintaining a customer-centric mentality
  • Proving a clear and comprehensive understanding of who customers are

It was also noted that gaining alignment across business functions is a key area of focus, along with maintaining messaging consistency and creating a single, unified brand.

A common theme emerged as I dissected the qualitative results shared among this section: a core function and purpose of a marketing team is to “inspire creativity” both within the business and woven within the outward expression of our brands.

What Does the Future of Digital Marketing Hold?

Ever considered which new (or not even yet created) devices you’ll have to ensure your brand is present within? If you did, you’re not alone.

Delegates shared a similar sentiment. The ideology of a future akin to “Minority Report” with in-store facial recognition – and including chatbots and immediate delivery dispatching from drones – may have once been the reserve of sci-fi, but are now rapidly moving to the forefront of the real world!

While many marketers alluded to “technology” as a key area to focus for the future, we drilled deeper to identify three specific tech-related areas:

  • Big Data: Leveraging all the customer data you collect to make intelligent decisions.
  • Automation: Scaling your marketing execution across your entire database with automated systems.
  • Omni-Channel: Ensuring you can meet customers when and where they decide.

Marketers also anticipate simplified attribution, with “live attribution” and considerably shortened decision-making ability, mainly thanks to AI.

Final Thoughts

Among all we learned, perhaps the biggest point of debate — and the biggest question — among forward-thinking digital marketing teams persists: will AI take our jobs?

Marketers continue to worry whether we’re moving towards a time where marketing will shift to machine-to-machine.

While the simple answer to that question is “no,” the advent of intelligent technology does require that marketers remain creative, strategic, and maintain social responsibility in the face of tremendous technological change.

Moving forward, we’ll focus on how technology can help, not hurt, our jobs as we strive to both increase internal efficiencies (something AI is already good at), and scale 1-to-1 interactions among our customer base.

Handpicked Related Content:

David Box is a Sales Manager at Emarsys who considers himself a Digital Evolutionist. Looking beyond simple transactions and “transformational” sales; to that of an ongoing process – one that continues to evolve.