Main content

2020 - the year in martech

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher December 29, 2020
Marketing against a backdrop of COVID-19 and the rise of online interactions...

(via Pixabay)

I was looking at my introduction for the 2019’s marketing tech in review article, thinking about what has changed. Has the martech stack improved? Are companies getting better at implementing the right technologies, integrating where necessary? We’ve made strides, but the pandemic yielded some adjustments that, I think, were necessary.

Marketing and Sales technology enables companies to create better customer experiences across the customer lifecycle. But in our rush to implement the latest and greatest, the customer was getting lost. I’d argue 2020 forced us to rethink and redesign our marketing and sales strategies to focus on what customers want and need.

I pulled together articles over the past year that reflect that renewed focus. Of course, it’s still about marketing technology, and we saw some interesting changes that will drive what happens in 2021.

CMWorld 2020 - content marketing is evolving, are you ready?

It's not enough, Rose said, to be the FAQ of your industry. "This puts you in the zone of passivity." You need to get in the zone of action where you create advocates early and often who will help you reach and move audiences. But it's not something that your content marketing team alone can do. It's a company muscle, he said.

Content Marketing World went virtual in 2020, like almost every other event, but that didn’t mean Robert Rose, Chief Architect, Content Marketing Institute, and Joe Pulizzi didn’t deliver. If you want to understand how content marketing is evolving and its continued importance in the enterprise, you need only to listen to these guys. Both talk strategy, but if you’re really listening, you get a good picture of the marketing tech you will need to find success.

What is the future of digital marketing and the impact of COVID-19? A Discover Martech virtual event review

There will be no more one-off marketing channels; everything should lead to something else. There will be a lot of digital content in a single experience, where the customer can pick and choose what they want and the path they want to head.

COVID has permanently changed the way we market. And it has dramatically affected the marketing technology we need. Physical events turned to virtual, webinars took on a new life, and we started talking about creating cohesive content experiences and experiential marketing.

Is ABM the new B2B marketing cloud? Martech faces off between platform and best-of-breed

ABM will become the new B2B marketing cloud with data as the hub. One thing B2B marketers are doing that is key to their success is creating a new data architecture that brings together all account-level data in one place. When brought together, the data from systems of engagement like email, advertising, chat, and all interactions can create a more informative data model.

There is a growing belief that account-based marketing is the primary marketing technology you need. While it’s quickly becoming a crucial part of the martech stack, there are no signs yet that it will replace the beloved marketing automation platform. But that’s where we may be headed, according to some, including Terminus CEO Tim Kopp. And he’s not the only one who thinks this way. That being said, the ABM platform will also need to evolve if it is going to be the new marketing cloud. This leads me to the next story...

Demandbase announces Demandbase One - but is it a complete ABM solution?

Demandbase One, Miller said, is the combination of an ABM top-of-the-funnel solution with a first-party sales solution covering middle-to-bottom of the funnel. Essentially, it's the Engagio interface, including predictive analytics, sales intelligence, audiences, and measurement (the core platform) with key Demandbase solutions for advertising, website personalization, orchestration, and attribution plugged in.

When Demandbase acquired Engagio, you knew big things were going to happen. The combination of the two solutions provides a strong ABM capability, but also a little of that lead generation marketing still needs. It’s also a solution for both marketing and sales, further helping to cement that much-needed partnership. I think that’s what I like about Demandbase One; the interfaces and the integrations work for everyone. It’s not another silo of data or technology.

Marketing trends wake up call - future-proofing your stack

COVID-19 has shown us that we still need human connection, even as we lean ever more into the digital world. We need to connect with customers as human beings, Byrne said. We need to flatten internal hierarchies and work together. But to do that, you need the right marketing and CX ops platforms.

The Martech Conference was packed with insights on marketing technology trends. I always listen to Scott Brinker, VP of Platform Ecosystem at Hubspot, because he’s neck-deep in understanding how marketing technology needs to evolve. That’s away from silos to platforms (open ones at least), networks, and ecosystems. Between Brinker and Tony Byrne, it’s clear that we need our technology to talk together better, enabling us to deliver better experiences.

Can AI improve your marketing copy? Phrasee says yes

Make no mistake, AI can do a lot. However, modern AI systems excel at narrowly defined tasks. In the case of Phrasee, our system specifically generates short-form marketing copy. In some situations, it is better at this task than humans. However, we can't flip a switch and use the technology to write a blog post or an ebook.

Last year, AI was on my list. This year, it continued to be technology marketing was interested in understanding better. Especially when it came to writing better copy.  Phrasee made the list this year because it’s a good example of AI technology that could help us create great short-form copy faster. The two keywords being “great” and “faster.” Marketing campaigns run in terms of days and weeks now, not months, so we need a way to create copy fast and adapt faster.

Personalizing swag in pursuit of stronger customer relationships - the rise of gifting in direct marketing

Sendoso addresses the very real problem of the pendulum swinging too far in the direction of efficiency and speed, while thoughtfulness and consideration hover at an all-time low. Sendoso helps companies get back to that practice of thoughtful gifting without slowing down.

I’m not sure how much physical gifting happened in 2020, but the concept has a lot of merits. In the B2B world, we are inundated with information on the Internet, in our email, and social feeds, but we don’t get much in the way of gifts from companies trying to build relationships. Companies like Sendoso and Alyce offer a new perspective on gifting and direct marketing, and it’s worth looking at how this strategy can build better relationships and ultimately improve revenue.

Twilio buys into CDP market with $3.2 billion Segment acquisition

As I've noted in the past, the hodgepodge of systems and monolithic apps that companies use to engage with their customers is one of the biggest pain points that companies, especially B2C companies, face …The combination of Segment and Twilio means that we will be able to help any business make their customer engagement across every channel more personalized, timely, and impactful ... We believe that it's just the start of the opportunity to bring data and communications together under great APIs to transform how customers build better, more integrated and more relevant engagement across the board.

So, I know this acquisition will make at least one other list, but I include it because Segment is a CDP - customer data platform. And the CDP is one of the most in-demand marketing technologies in 2020 and will continue to be in 2021. It’s all about being more relevant and providing better experiences. We have so much data about our customers strewn across marketing, sales, and customer support apps. We’ve been talking about this 360-degree view of the customer for a very long time. If the CDP is the tool to provide that single view, then it should be on your list of martech to get in 2021.

Brands are all-in on digital commerce - but are they getting commerce experiences right?

Maybe you think it’s strange that consumers expect just as good a shopping experience buying toilet paper or cereal, as they do a major purchase like a television or a computer. But it’s true - experience matters. ...The problem is, the experience is still lacking for many brands, even for basic things like navigation, search, and product information. Something needs to change, and brands are acknowledging that they need to put more time and effort into their digital commerce experiences.

We have a long way to go before we can safely say that COVID is behind us. And that means the ‘new normal’ for 2021 will be online shopping. Online shopping may be the primary way to shop for years to come. But, current digital commerce experiences are not up to snuff. Just because it’s how we “have” to shop these days doesn’t mean brands can deliver crappy experiences. There is always a competitor who will work harder to win customers.

Don't mix up chatbots and conversational AI. There's a big difference, says Pypestream CEO

In Scott Brinker's 2020 marketing technology landscape supergraphic, the area of technology with the most solutions is social and relationships, and it's the third fastest-growing. Within that category of solutions, conversational marketing and chat have seen a growth of over 70% over the last year.

Last year, we were talking about how to build a better bot. This year, we started differentiating between traditional chatbots and conversational AI. They aren’t the same thing. Conversational UIs are like smart apps that connect to backend systems and help customers do things faster (transactional activities), according to Pypestream CEO Richard Smullen. I particularly liked the healthcare use cases he provided, including monitoring, health tracking, and appointment setting. There’s opportunity for many types of brands here. Hopefully, we’ll hear more about it in the coming year.

A grey colored placeholder image