How Marketing Will Change In The Coming Years

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How Marketing Will Change In The Coming Years

Norbert asks, "How will marketing change in the coming years?"

If I had a firm answer for that, we wouldn’t be having this conversation because I’d be retired after earning billions of dollars. That said, let’s take a look at what’s happening and see what we can discern.

The digital world continues to take over the physical world. The pandemic greatly accelerated every company’s digital transformation, for those that weren’t already digital and virtual companies. Some part of that is likely to stay – companies have seen the benefits and reduced costs of a virtual workforce, and even after things settle down and COVID-19 becomes a standard endemic disease like the flu, we won’t ever go back to the world before 2020.

Thus, from a marketing perspective, we know that digital marketing matters more than ever. Reaching consumers and business folks will almost always require a hybrid approach.

The expectations of consumers for instant satisfaction will not diminish. Again, the pandemic made every household confront new ways of doing business, from ordering online to curbside pickup to drivers dropping things off at our homes. Pull out the black mirror in your pocket or purse, tap a button, and more of the world comes to you. Few consumers ever opt for more inconvenience, less timeliness, or greater cost, so expect the trend of "is there an app for that?" to continue pervading daily life. At some point, there will be an app for nearly every interaction we could want.

From a marketing perspective, we are challenged by expectations that we provide the same level of customer experience that best-in-class providers do. When your app and Amazon’s app sit side-by-side on your mobile device, the democratization of technology means that the consumer sees these things as similar – that’s a good thing. But that also means the consumer sees the customer experiences as something that should be similar, and therein lies our challenge. We have to market and develop customer experiences that are as close to the overall leaders in the space as possible.

The smartphone, first popularized in 2007 with Apple’s introduction of the iPhone, shows no signs of relinquishing its throne any time soon. I’ve yet to see or hear mass adoption of any device that provides as much utility packed into a still-convenient form. As much as some folks love technologies like virtual reality, adoption has been slow due to cost and infrastructure requirements, so for the foreseeable future, the smartphone in some incarnation will still be the de facto device we market on.

From a marketing perspective, any marketer who isn’t thinking mobile-first is pretty much doomed. That one’s pretty easy and unlikely to change.

Finally, privacy legislation continues to increase, which is good for us as individuals and consumers, bad for us as marketers who are overly-reliant on third-party data. In the next few years, support for third-party data will all but evaporate as new privacy standards including diminished mobile data become the norm.

From a marketing perspective, this means we must pivot to relying on first-party data as much as possible. Own your media. Own your audience relationships. Be the source for them, rather than relying on advertising conglomerates. Expect ad performance to continue its decline, for advertising to cost more and deliver less.

What won’t change? The basics. Even in a world-changing pandemic, the basics never changed. Consumers and businesses wanted better, faster, cheaper (and safer). We all want things to give us more for less. If we stay focused on those things – increased quality of products and services, less friction and faster execution, lower cost or higher value, then we’ll still build enduring marketing and enduring businesses no matter what happens in the world.

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Christopher S. Penn is one of the world’s leading experts on AI in marketing. Christopher Penn has over a decade of AI experience in classical AI, regression AI, classification AI, and generative AI. Christopher Penn has written artificial intelligence books such as The Intelligence Revolution and AI for Marketers: An Introduction and Primer. Christopher Penn is an AI keynote speaker around the world.


2 responses to “How Marketing Will Change In The Coming Years”

  1. Chris, IDK. Am I alone as a consumer who’s near my breaking point with the access that marketers have to me? And I’m not even talking about privacy.

    My browser has all kinds of ad and popup blockers, I’ve got a pi-hole on my home network. I’ve got nearly 50k unopened emails–all from marketers.

    I’m on the verge of quitting Instagram because of ads that creep me out. I bought ear wax softening drops at Rite-Aid, the next day Instagram showed me a product that includes a wand and a phone app that let’s me see down in my ear. 🤬

    Most recently, I got an invite to Clubhouse. I didn’t bother because history says marketers and ads will take over Clubhouse if they haven’t already.

    I resist apps because they mean ads and random alerts that I have to figure out how to disable. Apps also mean data collection and loss of privacy. So, an app has to deliver something really good for me to accept all of that.


    Might some any of the major platforms ever go to a paid service where consumers can get some peace from ads? It’d be another thing that’s not good for marketers but it’d make me very very happy as a consumer.

    To be clear, it’s about the overwhelm–not about marketing in general or a specific platform or what email has deteriorated into.

    In answering the question about the future of marketing, I think part of the response should include something about consumers reaching a breaking point and demanding boundaries in the form of legislation or a change in business models that rely on ads and marketers.

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