Last week I attended the 2021 Digital Marketing World Forum from the comfort of my house. I was eager to hear from expert panelists on the future of marketing, especially as we start to emerge from the Covid 19 pandemic.
There have been so many changes socially, culturally, and in the way people do business, I was eager to hear all the insights and analysis. It was a fantastic event and here are a few of my takeaways, and my own thoughts on what it means for the the future of marketing.
Digital Marketing World Forum Takeaway #1: 3rd Party Cookies Are Going Extinct
This isn’t exactly news. Google announced the demise of 3rd party cookies (the little tracking codes embedded by ad companies to follow our movements from app to app on the internet) in February of 2020. But, this month they accelerated that announcement.
Back in September, Apple announced their new iOS 14 update would limit the number of days cookie data could be stored on its devices to 7 days. Right now 3rd party cookies play an essential role in the digital customer journey, and businesses are going to need to adapt. Here are some predictions from the conference.
- Buying power is heading back into the customers’ courts. Without 3rd party cookies, companies need to show up where the customer is, instead of waiting for the customer to come to them.
- It will be more difficult to create extremely targeted ad audiences. Casting a wider net means reaching more people to find your right customers and higher cost for customer acquisition.
- We’re going to have to adapt to new ways of gathering data with 1st party cookies – information about a customer you gain from a single platform like a website.
- Approach your multi-channel approach holistically. There is no room for marketing silos now that you cannot follow your customer’s actions. Your customers don’t know that different people or teams manage different parts of your communications. Make sure your marketing works seamlessly.
Digital Marketing World Forum Take Takeaway #2: Customer First is More Important Than Ever.
With the power of data collection back in the hands of the consumer, knowing who your customers are, where they hang out, and their preferences will be even more important for successful marketing.
And, you’re going to have to ask your customers for this information instead of tracking their behavior and preferences silently. Customer data is a commodity and this new trend is putting the choice of giving this information more squarely with the customer. Customers will still be willing to trade their information for value, so companies are going to need to be more forthcoming with offers to trade for customer information. Here are some thoughts about the new customer journey.
- Customers expect more authenticity from companies. They still care about the product or service, but they also take into account the brand values and impact on the world. Customers want to know who the business is, not just what they sell.
- Content will continue to be king, and it will be more important to create engaging content to connect with your audience consistently.
- The future is people first and brand second. Exchange value for customer information, and actually listen to your customers and make changes based on their input.
- You need to be where your customers are. Build a multi-channel marketing approach with newer technology like mobile texting, and tried and true favorites like email and direct mail.
Digital Marketing World Take Away #3: Don’t be Afraid to Kill Your Darlings.
The pandemic changed everything, or rather, accelerated everything that was coming. This means companies need to adapt quickly to what their customers are telling them. And with customers regaining more control over the buying cycle, listening to them and adapting is key.
“Don’t be afraid to kill your darlings.” Irada Doloff, Digital Marketer & Social Strategist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said this during a panel on the future of marketing. She stressed the need to examine all of our systems and offerings. We are in a time of adaptation, so never assume your current way of doing things is the best way.
- Listen to your customers feedback and take it to the drawing board to innovate solutions that make their experiences even better.
- Let your customers tell you where you are and meet them there.
- Don’t just rely on data to do your planning. Data tells you what people did but we also need to understand why people did it. Why they behave in a certain way? The only way to know is to ask them.
What Does This Mean for Social Impact Companies?
Mostly, our intuition and desire to put people first and to create businesses that are making a difference in the world is correct. Public opinion and need is finally catching up, and we’re in a good position to give our customers exactly what they need while fulfilling a higher purpose they care about.
Here are my key predictions for the future:
Social Impact Marketing Prediction #1: Losing 3rd Party Cookies is an Opportunity
I’m not mad about it. Yes, we’ve built journeys based on this information, but allowing customers the choice to give us information will ultimately build stronger trust.
It will challenge us to listen more and create better content, and this will bring more qualified leads, better trust in our brands, and build more loyalty to our businesses. Infact, that’s what loyalty programs should be about. Giving customers something extra in exchange for their information.
It will take time to adjust, but a more people-centric marketing funnel based on consent is aligned with a social impact company’s goals. Marketing is going to feel a lot more like service, which fits our strategies nicely.
Social Impact Marketing Prediction #2: Your Social Impact is Not Your Customer’s Only Main Concern.
Consumers are trending toward sustainability and the values of a company are now just as important as the quality of the product or service. Just as important, but it can’t be the only piece of the puzzle. The buying process and customer journey still needs to be easy and focused on the needs of the customer.
With more social impact companies entering the market, your good work can not be main driver of sales.
And with that…
Social Impact Marketing Prediction #3: Brace Yourself for Greenwashing 2.0
In the 90s and early 2000s the idea of a company being “green” was in, and businesses who were not necessarily aligned with being “green” tried to capitalize on it. Customers are smarter than that, and there was a huge backlash against “greenwashing.”
It’s already happening again. Just look at Amazon. They received so much negative attention for the state of their warehouses and the dangers to workers, their attempts to fight off unionization of workers, and their business practices that stifle competition; yet they ran positive ads showing their care for workers and social issues to try and cover up the troubles they were facing.
Social Impact companies need to be transparent and authentic in their work and the causes they center. Customers are demanding companies do better, and they are wary of imposters. But, there will certainly be many companies trying to hop on the bandwagon anyway.
We’re in for a wild ride in the next fear years with lots of uncertainty, twists and turns. It’s an exciting time to be in the social impact field and in marketing. Make sure you stay nimble and keep your core values and your customers needs central, and you’ll do just fine.
If you want help adapting your marketing plans for the future, let’s work together.
So, what are your predictions for the future? Let me know in the comments.