For marketers, 2016 was a year of innovation and change. But some of the most prominent challenges and trends were familiar, while new ones kept emerging. Here’s a look at five of the most critical from the past year.
Ad Fraud is Still a Big Problem
The U.S. has one of the worst ad fraud rates in the world. This year, it’ll cost the industry more than $7 billion in ad dollars – up, once again, from 2015. For comparison, Australia, France, Germany and the UK all have better rates. On the bright side, as the problem has grown, so has awareness among advertisers. This has led to supply-side changes, with publishers eliminating high-risk, potentially fraudulent inventory. We’re also seeing more industry-wide standards and incentives in place this year than there were two years ago. Together, these things are turning the tide – albeit slowly. As fraud lingers, however, marketers might look at other channels that have more inherent engagement and audience buy-in – such as mobile apps and email – to launch campaigns.
Marketers are Stuck on Data Collection
Today, more than 92% of marketers collect information on customers or prospects. Data-driven marketing is the industry standard. But we’re still stuck in idle focusing on data collection. Most marketers are just learning how to crawl when it comes to making data actionable at scale, and 2016 didn’t see much progress in that direction. When it comes to data implementation, an alarming number of marketers still lack the internal experience – either at the functional or operational level – to be successful. This will change as marketing tools become more self-service. Others will offer machine-learning capabilities to drive immediate applications of the customer data.
Marketing Software is too Hard to Use
In 2016, technology’s ease-of-use has become a much bigger focus for the marketing industry. As the customer journey has grown more complicated – with more touchpoints and data – software supporting marketers needs to be simplified. This will optimize adoption and support ROI. Marketing software shouldn’t be a rite of passage. To navigate the complexity of the modern customer journey, it must be built for ease of use, with intuitive UIs and functionality. This has been the focus of many software providers this year. Advertisers, agencies and marketers want more platform simplicity from vendors.
A Spotlight on Geo-spatial Data
2016 was the year of Pokémon Go. And, despite a fade down the stretch, its overall popularity – 55 million users in its first month out – makes one thing very clear: location-based data is still the key to understanding customer context as mobile become the dominant screen. From traditional channels like email to more bleeding-edge platforms like AR, VR and 360-degree video, location data powers insights on how to best engage customers in a more personalized way through mobile. 2016 will go down as the year most advertisers realized just how critical geo-spatial data, in a post-mobile environment, will be for the future.
Open Platforms that Speak to Each Other
More than 50% of marketers are using five to 10 technology platforms. Another 30% use 11 to 16. Even as vendor consolidation occurs in the market; it will take years for these platforms to truly unify. The key, in the interim, is openness and technology agnosticism. Programmatic platforms, marketing automation services, and other solutions need to be able to talk to each other, with two-way connections. These technologies need to be open and integration-ready with more and more services. Increasingly, integrations are a determinative factor when marketers choose vendors. It’s simply a necessity given the way they operate today. Services that are closed systems won’t stand a chance.
This past year, the marketing industry experienced numerous challenges relating to fraud, data, and the many available technology platforms. It’s up to advertisers to determine the best strategies for handling these challenges in 2017.