Digital marketing changes more rapidly than any other sector of marketing, which is inevitable given the speed at which new technology comes into play and the world’s increasing move towards digital. ChannelAdvisor’s VP of Digital Marketing Strategy, Link Walls, said earlier this month, “Technology has enabled us to get significantly smarter as marketers. The amount of data we have on every campaign is pretty mind-blowing and enables us to do a much better job of crafting relevant advertising campaigns that minimize waste”.

Keeping up with these ever-changing developments is a challenge in a normal year, never mind coming out of a year like 2020, which only accelerated the transformation of the ecosystem. Consumers being confined to home has made online advertising indispensable, as people engage via screens in almost every aspect of life.

The Advertising Association/WARC Expenditure Report anticipates a 15.2% growth in the UK advertising market in 2021 – better than key markets including US and China -due to strong online activity. In 2021, the UK ad market is set to accelerate past last year’s decline and back into growth to push past 2019’s high (£25.37 billion) and reach a total of £26.69 billion.

As such, in 2021 there will opportunities for digital advertising, but the challenges will remain stronger than ever, particularly with data privacy, the end of third-party cookies and IDFA on the horizon. Brands will need to re-evaluate how to run responsible and efficient campaigns and engage with customers across multiple digital touch points. Here our thoughts for 2021:

Be programmatic

One of the big trends we’ll see this year is likely the use of programmatic advertising via AI. This will give brands the freedom to be increasingly specific with target audiences, due to automated ad purchases.  For example, Samsung Ads – the company’s advanced TV advertising unit – started exploring this last year with the launch of Samsung DSP, a self-service demand-side platform. It will give programmatic buyers access to exclusive CTV inventory, as well as offer targeted audiences and data from across millions of households.

What is clear is that the channels where customers are reachable is growing exponentially and AI enables the management of programmatic platforms, using targeting signals and real-time adaption for unique ads or campaigns. This automation is fast and efficient, results in higher conversions offering marketers with an abundance of opportunities to have targeted conversations with prospective customers.

Be personal

A year ago, before anyone had considered what 2020 was about to unleash, Gartner predicted that 80% of marketers who invested in personalisation would abandon their efforts by 2025, due to a lack of ROI, issues with customer data management or both.  Over a quarter (27%) of marketers believed data was the key obstacle to personalisation — revealing weaknesses in data collection, integration and protection.

As commerce remains largely online, and high-streets suffering more than usual, there has been a lack of face-to-face interaction and the personal touch customers often feel in store. Implemented a hyper personalised experience can bring that human touch to digital interactions.

Be an advocate of responsible and innovative advertising (campaigns)

There have been increasing concerns about privacy and the use of third-party cookies to enable personalised advertising, which will force big changes coming within the data landscape this year – think Apple’s IDFA and Google’s phasing out of third-party cookies. Established publishers such as The New York Times have already announced the phasing out of third-party data for audience targeting in its direct buys, a year ahead of Google’s cut off. These cookies have been central for programmatic display advertising, but marketers will need to find new ways to deliver relevant content to consumers. In a bid to restructure, it will be first party data that take centre stage, and marketers should make this a priority.

Engaging, relevant content is the key and now, more than ever, there is a greater thirst for content that cuts through the noise.  It can’t all rely on the content, though, and 2021 is also likely to be one of the most testing and interesting years for digital marketing. As the industry looks to re-invent and re-think digital advertising strategies in light of pending regulation, marketers will need to be smart with their approach.

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