Hot Automation Trends to Watch in 2020

Brendan Hughes - CEO, Bionic Universal Marketing

Brendan Hughes of Bionic Universal Marketing explores the most exciting trends of 2020

2019 saw the acceleration of investment in marketing automation, as organisations sought to retain greater control and improve the performance of their marketing investments. Last year, the investment by brands in marketing technology increased by 22.0% with UK advertisers now spending a whopping 26% of their marketing budgets on automation solutions (BDO). 

We look forward to the year ahead and the types of automation that will become ever more prevalent across the advertising industry. Here are five hot marketing automation trends that are likely to impact your business in 2020. 

Augmented Reality
The usage of Augmented Reality in the marketing toolkit took a step forward in the past 12 months. We’ve already seen the clever innovations from brands such as Ikea and ASOS who have been bringing augmented reality experiences to their websites and apps. Over the past 12 months we’ve seen the big platforms such as Google, YouTube and Facebook, take significant steps forward in making it easier for brands to engage with this format in a commercial context. 

YouTube showcased it’s pilot with beauty brand MAC, using augmented reality to help beauty fans pick their next lipstick. Meanwhile Facebook continued to roll out AR solutions on the back of experiments with brands such as Michael Kors and Sephora. In September, Facebook made interactive Augmented Reality ads available to all advertisers on the platform. Most recently we’ve seen Google enable the Burberry brand deliver AR experiences directly within the search results.

Given the investment of the platforms, and Apple’s continued commitment to its ARKit it is likely that more brands will engage with AR in 2020 and beyond. Furthermore, consumer expectations are continuing to move in this direction. According to eMarketer, 37% of UK & US younger shoppers are comfortable with using AR as part of their purchase decision-making.

AI-powered Conversations
As consumers become ever more accustomed to interacting with brands via automated chat and voice interactions, we expect the trend towards AI-powered brand conversations to continue apace. Meanwhile, more and more organisations are embracing the use of AI to drive improved customer experiences and deliver internal efficiencies. PWC expects that most organisations will already have rolled out or be actively experimenting with AI over the coming years.

Many of the solutions now available in the market are enabling brands to create highly personalised and meaningful bot-driven customer conversations similar to those in place with brands as diverse as KLMH&M and LV. Solutions such as IBM’s Watson Assistant can be rolled out with ease across websites, and through messenger platforms such as Facebook, Whatsapp and Kik. 

We particularly expect to see more niche solutions emerge, such as those offered by EdgeTier which support human sales and support personnel to more efficiently manage live customer interactions. These types of solutions listen to audio conversations and in real-time trawl company knowledge-bases suggesting appropriate content or processes which the agent can filter. As we gaze into the future, there is little doubt but that conversational interaction between humans and computers will only but increase in prevalence. 

Cross-platform Ad Optimisation
Within each of the big ad platforms (Google, Facebook, Amazon, LinkedIn and Snapchat) there are a myriad of automated, AI-driven optimisation capabilities. However, the challenge for advertisers is that no one platform takes into consideration the engagements of the user on other platforms through their purchase journey. 

Google previously released some fascinating data points which highlighted that for purchases as diverse as candy or flights, consumers can engage with anywhere from 20 to 500 touchpoints prior to purchase. And yet it is surprising that, according to eMarketer, many advertisers are still using single touch attribution models such as last or first click.

Being unable to connect the dots across the platforms and then use this data to adjust bid and budget strategies across the platforms leads to a wide range of problems for brands, including:

  • Lack of clarity on the relative value each ad platform brings

  • Double-counting of conversions across platforms

  • Significant inefficiencies - paying twice for the same conversion

  • Not knowing the right marketing mix

We’ve seen brands such as Better achieve radical improvements in their return on ad spend within a very short space of time after implementing cross-platform ad optimisation.The key steps to get started are to:

  1. Establish a single source of truth with multi-touch attribution

  2. Automate cross-platform ad optimisation based on this de-duplicated data

  3. Optimise ad spend across platforms based on your marketing funnel

We expect this topic to become even hotter in 2020 due to the growing prevalence of ad platforms such as Amazon and Snapchat. The more silos, the greater the requirement to align investment.

Dynamic Creative Optimisation
Dynamic optimisation of creatives is a service increasingly offered by the big ad platforms and their partner ecosystems. We see a plethora of services across the programmatic landscape providing the capability to construct creative on the fly based on the behaviours and propensities of specific consumer profiles. Consumers are demanding a more personalised engagement from brands and this dynamic approach to creative goes a significant way towards optimising ads based on individuals’ tastes and preferences.

Facebook’s Dynamic Creative toolkit is a good example of how this process works. Here you can combine your creative assets to deliver an optimised and performance-driven ad experience to your audience. You load up various ad components (title, body, image, call to action and creative asset (image and video). Facebook then runs a limited test against selected targeted audiences, collects data from each and determines which mix produces the best performance. 

In the broader world, creatives (tiktoks, gifs and stories) have become expressions of individual identity and uniqueness. Creativity is democratising as a result, giving any user the ability to be a creator. Creatives are a core part of any successful ad campaign and a key way to cut through the noise. Dynamic Creative Optimisation brings a scientific approach to the creative process, which will no doubt help creatives with decision-making.

Offline Attribution 
The era of omnichannel is truly upon us. More than half (53%) of today’s consumers start their purchase journey online, rather than in store. In-store purchases very often follow an omnichannel journey. We call this ROPO (Research Online Purchase Offline) and understanding the impact of digital on offline consumer behaviours is critical. 

Working with one specific UK omnichannel brand in 2019, we were able to determine that one-third of their directly measurable digital advertising impact was in-store. Not understanding what aspects of your marketing mix is impacting on significant portions of your sales is a major gap for marketers. Having this data at not only demonstrates the value of digital marketing to the retail channel, but helps to inform advertising investment decisions at a granular level.

Increasingly, omnichannel marketers are finding more and more ways to close the loop with offline, whether it is retail or call centre. Some brands are closing the loop with customer interviews and surveys. However, the big ad platforms now also enable marketers to automatically close the loop for store visits, purchases or both. 

Clever solutions such as those offered by local firms such as yReceipts and Fidel UK have led the way in this area for Facebook and Google, bringing more certainty and streamlining to the process. The next step which we consider will become a priority in 2020 and beyond is using this offline attribution data to automatically adjust the ad strategies across these platforms. 

Automation took a step forward in 2019 and has increasingly become vital for marketers as they seek to scale their capabilities. 2020 is likely to see further step changes as the accessibility of these types of marketing solutions improves and consumers become ever more comfortable with engaging brands through these tools. 

Written by

Brendan Hughes

CEO, Bionic Universal Marketing


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