Smart data and programmatic will keep improving marketing efficiency – but they won’t replace human contact

  • by helga
  • 30/12/2014

Smart data and programmatic advertising - key trends for 2015This is the third of my posts with 5 key trends in digital marketing for next year, in a countdown to 2015.

Big (or smart) data continue to be buzzwords everywhere*. Forbes states that marketing campaigns will become even more data-driven and hyper-targeted in 2015; e-consultancy and Smart Insights talk about ‘machine learning’ and ‘in-house programmatic trading desks’.

Smart data and programmatic will keep improving marketing efficiency, but guess what – they won’t replace human contact

Programmatic is here to stay- if you don’t understand what it means, now it’s the time to look into it before looking silly. Programmatic ad spend is set to increase in the coming years and it will command over 50% of PPC ad budgets in the US according to emarketer. I reckon that at some point it will be even hard to think of a digital campaign without some ‘programmatic’ features.

At its simplest level, ‘programmatic’ refers to using special digital exchanges to distribute, price and control content through partners’ channels in a sophisticated and targeted way, rather than buying individual packages and inventories from several partners. The latter method is much more time-consuming and inefficient, so the adoption of programmatic tools is inevitable. It’s just a matter of time before the right marketing skills and tools to manage programmatic in-house become available and widespread. Until then, most brands will need to rely on media agencies and a few centres of digital expertise.

Better, bigger (and less gimmicky) marketing SaS tools

Digital marketing software will become better as the market continues to grow and consolidate in 2015. Larger tech providers will continue to buy new entrants and integrating campaign management and analytics tools across different marketing channels – CRM, email, social media etc. This will deliver increased efficiency and automation in generating, nurturing and converting leads.  Smart use of data, improved algorithms and automation across more fragmented channels will continue to be essential to the success of most brands.

…But sales and ‘people skills’ still in high demand

At the same time, it looks like the need to integrate various channels and understand ROI in a more fragmented marketing landscape is breaking up a few of the traditional silos. Marketing Land predicts “better alignment of sales and marketing” in 2015; ClickZ talks about “a gap closing between digital and physical”; Mashable says that marketing will become “people-focused”. Seriously? I though we were already catering for humans!

I’m not entirely sure if this angle represents wishful thinking from marketers (as in oh no, machines will never replace humans – that’s just a bad movie franchise), power hunger (software improvements are only small and incremental at this stage – but all CMOs would still love a larger team) or simply nostalgia for when we had to interact with more humans. After all, humans are still highly social creatures – customers and marketers alike.

So what – what does this mean for your organisation?

In 2015, look out for tech tools that help you improve planning, monitoring and measuring marketing activity across several channels. However, get your basics right before relying on marketing technology, more sophisticated tools and big data to achieve improvements. This is especially true for start-ups: even if your business model relies on scale and larger media budgets, you need a small-scale proof of concept that it can work. Try to sell your MVP (minimum viable product) to people on the street. Share links on social media to get direct input. Don’t invest in tech tools or spend time trying to make sense of big data just because it’s accessible.

Once that’s settled, understand and forecast the digital efficiencies you could achieve through new SaS tools and programmatic buying. Consult comparison sites and read reviews before procuring new platforms and suppliers. Hire new talent or upskill your team in marketing analytics – it’s not rocket science and there are plenty of courses online.

And remember that, all other things being equal (particularly price), brands that touch and inspire – through real people and nurturing relationships – will always stand out from pure digital mavens.

That’s it for today. I’ll be back to talk about social media tomorrow, New Year partying allowing!

I need help with marketing in 2015!

* to name some of my sources: e-consultancy, emarketer, kissmetrics, mashable, clickz, smart insights, search engine land, moz, marketing land, marketing week etc

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