Marketing technology predictions 2021: 350 CMOs on holistic digital marketing

By John Koetsier December 21, 2020

2021 is about the death of hype in marketing technology.

Maybe, because 2020 is when everything became all too real.

For about five years now I’ve done semi-regular annual reports on CMO strategy. Usually, these are at the end of one year, looking forward to the next. I ask marketing leaders: what are the big technology changes that will impact marketing and drive initiatives for the coming year? Often, the answers include hype technologies: augmented reality. Artificial intelligence. Influencer marketing. They’re frequently insightful, as in 2018 when 200 CMOs identified actionable data as a core priority for 2019. Or when, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, marketers said 2020 was a year to shift and to serve.

The hype answers aren’t necessarily wrong.

And, human nature being what it is, hype probably isn’t going anywhere. But what CMOs are excited about this year is markedly different from years prior.

Asking 350 CMOs: what’s the next big trend in marketing?

As every CMO will tell you after a few beers, no single technology is going to reinvent marketing. 2020 has been a year unlike any other in history where we further digitized almost all aspects of our work, entertainment, shopping, relationships … essentially, our lives. Our work is a Zoom call. Our grocery store is an app. Our movie theaters are Disney+ and Netflix. Our mall is Amazon. Our entertainment is Angry Birds. Our coffee with friends is Facebook. Our news is online …

And as our lives have become increasingly digital, so has marketing.

And what this annus horribilis has taught us is that a holistic and integrated focus on digital marketing is the key to unlocking connection in 2021. Digital marketing is not new. But too often it has been applied haphazardly.

For 2021, that’s about to change, CMOs say.

“Fusion is the new ecosystem,” says Suzanne Kounkel, Chief Marketing Officer for Deloitte. “Fusion is the art of bringing together new business partnerships, customer insights, and digital platforms to create ecosystems that more holistically address human needs.”


“We’ve learned during this pandemic that we can communicate over digital platforms better than we thought,” says Penry Price, VP of Marketing at LinkedIn.

It’s not about AR, but it includes AR. It’s also not about VR, but could include VR. It’s not all about AI, but artificial intelligence plays a big role. Influencer marketing isn’t a silver bullet that will let you drop all other channels. Video is huge, no doubt, but it’s not all you need. Big data is important. Podcasts are a rising medium. Voice interaction and voice search are important. Email marketing will seemingly never stop being huge. SEO and search is incredibly important. Newsletters are seeing a resurgence. Social media is the fabric of our digital lives. ABM is significant. User-generated content still matters.

But the biggest lesson for 2021?

The magic of marketing materializes when the science of marketing matures.

It’s not about one or two or three hype cycle technologies. It’s about welding meaningful core technologies together to grow a holistic digital marketing strategy. Let’s be realistic: there’s always going to be some spot-welding here or there. But the tighter the connection and the more stable the core — data that forms a single source of marketing truth — the better.

The goal: better marketing, sure. Consistent marketing, absolutely. But ultimately: strong and lasting customer relationships.

All of this goes hand-in-hand with complete organizational digital transformation. And 2020 has provided the organization-wide burning platform to make it a priority.

“Finally, all the sacred cows are dead,” says Openpath CMO Kieran Hannon. “Now meaningful customer-centric digital transformation can accelerate.”

The three horsemen of modern digital marketing

When I ask marketing leaders for their input on the future of marketing, I don’t give them a survey or ask them to pick from a series of pre-selected choices. I ask for free-form responses, and then I do the dirty work of data science: consolidating what for 2020 turned out to be 17,870 words and 112,752 characters of unstructured data into insight.

(There’s a reason why data scientists are sometimes called data janitors.)

The big question: where is marketing technology going?

If you look closely at the chart headlining this report, you see 12 different sets of answers. Those are derived from 791 distinct responses from the 350 CMOs and marketing leaders who replied: many gave multiple insights. But really, there’s a number of converging supersets of answers. Three, in fact.

And those are the supertrends: the big picture focus points for marketing leaders. I’ve added all the subtrends together, which is why the numbers below are higher than 350:

One is how: digital transformation.

The second, empathy, is a combo-pack of both what and why.

The third is odd bits and pieces that should really get subsumed into number one.

One: digital transformation

To form the digital transformation supertrend, I combined answers in six different categories. Here are the categories, along with the percentage of responses that fit into each. (Responses total more than 100%, because many CMOs and marketing leaders offered multiple answers.)

  • 76%: Holistic digital marketing
  • 22%: Consumer shift
  • 22%: Digital commerce
  • 18%: AI
  • 9%: Influencer marketing
  • 3%: Location-based marketing

We’ve been talking about digital transformation for more than a decade, and its roots literally extend to the 1940s. There’s a reason for that: many organizations have been able to skate past the hard work of making every process smart, digital, and connected.

COVID-19 changed all of that.

Not only did Coronavirus accelerate e-commerce by four to six years in just a few months, it forced us to recognize the need for change. What executives couldn’t force themselves to do, consumers essentially mandated: they voted with their dollars.

“Consumers are setting trends which are followed by the brands,” says Andrei Vasilescu, CEO of DontPayFull. “Consumers all over the world have ignored every single preset trend.”


“With significant changes to the economy and the way people live and work, what has been successful in the past may no longer be relevant for the new reality of 2021,” says Carly Brantz, CMO at DigitalOcean.

And don’t assume that this is temporary. Sure, we now have multiple vaccines, but they won’t instantly be administered to the entire population. Some parts of the population will actively avoid them, and others will wait in line for months, and still more will retain the habits they’ve learned in the last year.

“A large part of this shift will be permanent as consumers have incorporated new behaviors into their altered lifestyles,” says Michel Wedel, PepsiCo Chair in Consumer Science at the University of Maryland.

While I’ve combined answers here, some key sub-themes emerged. They include:

  1. Data
    Data is useless if it’s not actionable. Today, in fact, it might even be a liability. (See “privacy” in the next section.)
  2. Automation
    If fusion is the new ecosystem, brands need a way of bringing together all their experience and inputs. Automation is one big driver of that.
  3. Owned channels
    Without investing in owned channels like email, apps, Slack channels, push notifications, or others, brands risk having to cross a toll gate every time they want to communicate with their customers.
  4. Content and Video
    Video is clearly huge: TikTok, YouTube, Zoom, streaming entertainment … it’s where we spend our time. Brands are creating more content than ever before, and video is a big part of that.
  5. Omnichannel
    It’s an old buzzword but it still has meaning. If your customers get your email and visit your site and buy your product and have your app … can you serve them wherever they happen to contact you?

What’s become imminently clear based on the insights of hundreds of marketing professionals is that in some ways, 2020 was the practice run. 2021 will be the real deal: if you don’t have your digital marketing transformation down pat in the coming year, you are going to be in serious trouble.

With that said, there’s not a single path. There’s a lot of uncertainty ahead, and that means marketers need to be agile and plan for multiple scenarios, with a tech stack that lends itself to rapid shifts as needed.

“This is an extremely uncertain period of time, and CMOs shouldn’t have one roadmap – they should have multiple,” says Abhay Singhal, co-founder and CEO, InMobi Marketing Cloud.


“2020 has ushered in the era of the Agile Marketer,” says Carly Brantz, CMO, DigitalOcean. “We have all seen the need to pivot and adapt to rapidly changing social and commercial dynamics this year. It’s the marketers who can rapidly adapt, recognize opportunities, and execute quickly who are driving growth and momentum for their brands.”


“Fear and anxiety ruled consumers this year, which had an immediate impact on purchasing decisions,” says Hetal Thaker Patel, EVP for SmartAudio Insights and Analytics at iHeartMedia. “At iHeartMedia, we recalibrated what we call the three C’s, which are consumers, clients, and core offerings. As consumer and client needs change, we adjust our core offerings. Willingness to pivot quickly and swiftly is a trend we can expect to see bleed into 2021.”

Two: empathy

The second supertrend is composed of three combinations of answers that I’ve summed up in one word: empathy. Here are those three categories, along with the percentage of respondents who mentioned something in each of them.

  • 25%: Empathic brand story
  • 21%: Privacy
  • 19%: Cause-based marketing

If there’s one thing we learned about marketing in 2020, it’s that brands need to meet people where they are. And over the past year, we’ve all been in some pretty dark places.

“Empathy … coming off of a year like 2020, we know every consumer has more to their story,” says Joanna Milliken, head of SAP Marketing Cloud at SAP. “They aren’t shopping for a mountain bike or the right flour for a sourdough starter, they are looking for solace in a confusing and unpredictable world.”


“It is without a doubt crucial to recognize how COVID-19 has ushered in a strong sense of empathy as a driving force within the marketing industry,” says Tristan Dion Chen, CMO of University Credit Union. “It would not be surprising to see that empathy will continue as one of the big trends in 2021.”


“Ohana – Hawaiian for family – has been at the core of our values,” says Andrea Pirrotti-Dranchak, Chief Marketing and Development Officer at Office Evolution. “We drew upon the power of our Ohana in 2020, wrapping our arms virtually around our member base, franchisees and team members … to provide hope, security and inspiration. Brands that can truly connect by tapping into what really matters for its target audience will come out on top in 2021.”


“2021 will call on brands to authentically infuse empathy and emotion into their brand strategy, and I cannot think of a more appropriate time to build those emotional connections with customers and cultivate relationships,” says Jennifer Chase, SVP and Head of Marketing at SAS. “A brand strategy with heart and humanity will inevitably lead to stronger emotional customer connections, especially when customers recognize that a brand aligns with their values — in good or bad times.”

That empathy can connect with cause-based marketing, which we’ve had more than enough reason to engage in during 2020. Only 19% of marketers mentioned this, however, and that’s likely due to the almost unprecedented fracturing of so many communities over politics, health, and economic issues. Brands that have the courage to take a stand and the willingness to pay the price if it backfires, however, have something to offer.

“Consumers are in a search of their beacon of hope … something they can truly stand behind,” says Natasa Djukanovic, CMO at Domain.ME. “What does this mean? Brands need to prove their values with actions.

One of the reasons why less than a fifth of marketers selected cause-based marketing as a key driver in 2021 is fear. As Sara Spivey, CMO at Braze notes, some brands are choosing to be apolitical and explicitly take no stance on social or political issues. No matter which direction brands take, Spivey says however, they’ll need to stay committed to their decision and communicate it clearly to employees. While also understanding the potential risks or gains, of course.

Though many issues were polarizing in 2020 and might continue to be partisan in 2021, some have both wide applicability and acceptance levels.

“A quarter of consumers said that they would drop a brand if they were polluting the environment,” says Sara Spivey, CMO at Braze.


“With the craziness of this year, companies will continue to create diverse visuals and inclusive messaging,” says Michelle Ngome, President of the African-American Marketing Association. “While brand authenticity remains true, the commitment to diversity and inclusion will remain at the forefront with brands hoping to reach new audiences.”

The core reason I’ve included privacy in this supertrend is that for many marketers, consumer privacy steps are a reflection of what they want for themselves. And, for many, what they’ve seen and are worried about in major documentaries like The Social Dilemma. Privacy came to the forefront in 2020 not just because of data collection policies and use in social media, but also because Apple, one of the most powerful companies in mobile, decided to make its Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) explicitly opt-in. In the past, it’s simply been a silent and default bit of shared data for most people. Plus, of course, California approved Proposition 24 by a 56% to 44% margin, expanding the state’s consumer data privacy laws.

“2021 will mark the beginning of a significant shift in the tug of war between consumer privacy and advertising,” says Jalal Nasir, CEO of Pixalate. “Advertisers will begin to employ ‘Compliance Officers’ and special attention will be given to where app publishers are located, what kind of consumer data is collected, and how that data is used as part of the digital ad supply chain.”


“Organizations will need to ask themselves: do we really need to know someone’s mother’s maiden name?” says Stephen Cavey, cofounder of Ground Labs. “What types of form fields are on marketing materials? Do you need all of it? What personal data fields are you marking compulsory for your customers to complete and which are optional, and why? If you don’t need it, why are you collecting it?”

And that will have an impact on how brands market and connect with both prospects and customers. Earned and owned channels will get even more important — especially owned — because brands don’t have to depend on third parties to access their customers, and they can keep any shared data in a private first-party relationship. That means channels like apps and email (yes, still email!) are crucial for marketers.

“A major trend in 2021 is a shift towards owned channels,” says Ruben Ugarte,
author of the upcoming book Data Mirage: Why Companies Fail to Actually Use Their Data. “Privacy regulations and political pressure will keep limiting the data that companies can get from Google/Facebook/Apple.”


Three: everything else

The third supertrend is really a conglomeration of just about everything else that people mentioned. And most of it, as I mentioned before, really belongs in the first: digital transformation.

So when CMOs mentioned AI or big data or account-based marketing, they generally did so in context of a broader marketing strategy. And when the leading edge talked about augmented reality and virtual reality, live video on social media, podcasts, or influencer marketing, they generally didn’t hype it as the one and only strategy, or the silver bullet that solves everything.

You still have, of course, the direct mail vendor who says that a return to old school marketing is the big trend of 2021. Or the location-based marketing vendor who, in defiance of a global pandemic that might not be over anytime soon, says location based marketing is where it’s at. Or the PR reps who isolate public relations as the next big thing, and my personal favorite, the otpimistic event organizers who are wistfully prognosticating that in-person events will be back big time, baby, in 2021.

But most marketers are consistent: getting all their digital ducks in a row is the key to success in 2021.

The only answer that some might consider hype-based that survived solo is AI. As mentioned above, I grouped that in with digital transformation since it’s so key to making sense of the data that brands collect, personalizing messaging to customers, and reacting at internet speed.

“Brands will use AI to solve customer problems in real time,” says Dee Anna McPherson, CMO at Invoca. “AI, machine learning, and automation enable brands to answer questions before they’re asked or to serve up solutions the minute the customer calls.”

So now what: 4 paths forward

If the three supertrends are digital transformation, empathy, and everything else, what’s the path forward for a brand? Based on the 17,870 words and 112,752 characters of insights from marketers, here’s what I’m seeing.

  1. Change will continue; agility is not optional
    I won’t belabor this point: it’s obvious to all who are paying attention. COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on the global economy. While we’re starting to see a glimmer of hope on the horizon in nations that have gone through hard shutdowns and emerged out the other side, or in vaccines that are extremely promising, virtually no-one expects to flip a switch in 2021 and return to the good old days of 2019. Therefore: smart brands will be light-footed and quick to adjust to change.
  2. Death of hype
    When everything gets incredibly real, like in a global pandemic that shuts down millions of businesses and impacts nearly every human being on the planet, most of us drop two things: the sacred cows that we hold so dear, and the hype trends that promise so much but must be integrated into a holistic long-term strategy to really deliver on their promise. Smart brands will get their data houses in order, building a foundation on which they can build any necessary infrastructure for digital marketing.
  3. Brands need global digital transformation
    If you can’t make data-driven decisions quickly, you lose agility and flexibility. If you can’t harness data to make real-time customer-facing decisions, you can’t serve clients quickly. If you don’t know how customers are using or abandoning your products, or can’t bring that data into your marketing systems of engagement, you’re losing more customers than you should and you’re mis-messaging others. If marketing is digital but product or service or support or sales is analog and disconnected, your Ferrari has a Model-T under the hood.
  4. Empathy is critical
    Getting the data right is table stakes. Getting the digital infrastructure in place is foundational. But putting the wrong messaging through very sophisticated pipes doesn’t magically transform it into gold. The science of marketing matters. The art of marketing is probably even more important, because the tool must be aimed. It must be employed. And it must drive the right direction. In 2021, brands that win will build empathic, connected, insightful stories that inspire.

And … so many great quotes!

There were just too many great quotes to leave on the cutting room floor. Here, in alphabetical order based on the trends I categorized them into, are some of the best quotes the survey yielded.

AI for customer experience

Dee Anna McPherson, CMO at Invoca
“Brands will use AI to solve customer problems in real time: Today, customers expect brands to understand who they are. In fact, according to a recent survey by Accenture, 87% of consumers say it’s important to buy from a brand or retailer that understands their real self. Knowing who the customer is, if they’ve shopped with you before, and serving up the right information is, frankly, becoming table stakes. Looking forward to 2021, I expect — and hope — we see brands take this intel to the next level. Brands can also use this data to solve customer problems in real time. AI, machine learning, and automation enable brands to answer questions before they’re asked or to serve up solutions the minute the customer calls. Imagine if a sales rep could see that a promotion code wasn’t applied to an order and have the refund ready to go before they answered a customer call; or if a service rep knew a customer dropped off the website and picked up the phone to call when there was a breakdown in the purchase processing. That’s future-proofing the customer experience.”

Richard Jones, CMO of Cheetah Digital
“If Content is King, then Context is the Queen of the marketing chess board. Having a more detailed understanding of your customer, from zero-party based interests to a more detailed view on customer interactions makes next generation personalization all the rage. Applying machine learning and analytics to your personalization strategy will allow marketers to drive efficiency, effectiveness, automation, and optimization.”

Juliette Rizkallah, CMO at SailPoint
“Standard marketing models will begin to emulate more aggressive and digitally focused B2C marketing approaches, where companies leverage a variety of digital touchpoints to target an individual buyer. B2B marketing will need to adjust the B2C approaches to handle the multi-personae account buying committee and will leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to measure the progression of accounts along the top of the funnel.”

Cause-based marketing

Kristin McHugh, VP of Brand Development at Verizon
“With all of the uncertainties and stresses brought on throughout 2020, there was a need for brands to be truthful and helpful in their marketing. I think you’ll see even more of that in 2021, with brands doubling down on not only messaging around being forces for good, but taking actions tied to responsible business. You’ll also continue to see emerging technologies like 5G take center stage when it comes to both virtual and in-person events and the creation of content that will have a huge impact on the industry.”

Jennifer Lawrence, Vice President at Vye
“It is critically important to understand the pain, problems, and challenges your audiences face and directly address those problems and clearly offer solutions.”

Kent Lewis, President & Founder at Anvil
“Racial inequality protests in 2020 inspired us to change our own behaviors and advise our clients on content strategy. We predict brands will make significant efforts to clean up business practices and adjust messaging to appeal to enlightened consumers that care deeply about a company’s purpose and commitment to social and environmental sustainability. Research has shown that ethical businesses will be more successful in the long-term, so we expect to see many businesses to join in the movement in 2021.”

Consumer shift requires marketing shift

Leena Iyar, Chief Brand Officer at Moxtra
“The reality is that on-demand service isn’t going away post-pandemic.”

Susan Vobejda, CMO at The Trade Desk
“2020 has ushered in the era of the Agile Marketer. We have all seen the need to pivot and adapt to rapidly changing social and commercial dynamics this year. It’s the marketers who can rapidly adapt, recognize opportunities, and execute quickly who are driving growth and momentum for their brands. We see this among our clients every day as The Trade Desk’s media buying capability helps brands initiate campaigns quickly and optimize in real time. The successful marketing leader of the future will have a broad range of skills that can be relied upon when change and agility are needed, including an understanding of data activation, media, and technology and the power of storytelling. My advice to marketers in 2021 is to break out of your comfort zone …”

Norman Guadagno, CMO at Acoustic
“As consumers have had so much of their trust eroded in all types of media, marketers will continue a shift to become more reliable sources of truth.”

Michael Stahl, CMO at SERVPRO
“The past year has both amplified and accelerated getting the customer what they want, when they want it and by what means [they want it].”

Alexis Sheehy, Director of Growth at MediaCrossing
“Agile Marketing is not simply going to be a buzzword. 2020 taught us the necessity of having a marketing organization that can quickly pivot, test and evaluate all aspects of strategy from messaging to platform engagement. We are entering the new era of agility in marketing, meaning, marketers must take a page from the technology space to adopt a framework that prioritizes innovation, optimization and fluid execution.”

Krista Neher, CEO of Boot Camp Digital
“Agile becomes mandatory … agile working is about being more flexible and reacting quickly. Brands are starting to realize that long-term planning and post-mortem analysis don’t translate into maximizing results in digital. The marketplace is more dynamic, and brands that aren’t able to quickly respond to data and changes will lose market share to more responsive competitors. Agile working allows businesses to respond quickly – and invest more in what is working while limiting investments in what isn’t working.”

Holistic digital commerce

Andy Mecs, Vice President of Marketing and Innovation at StarKist
“Brands will shift a larger percentage of marketing budgets to digital and e-commerce. Advertising will become more personalized and focus not only on demographics and psychographics, but also in purchasing behavior. Inflation will be significant, as retailers need to offset COVID-related costs and infrastructure investments to establish greater e-commerce presence.”

Brian Roizen, Cofounder of Feedonomics
“We’re seeing major brands move away from retailers and adopt a direct-to-consumer approach. Nike has been trending this way already, but the pandemic forced them to make a big push. Lots of businesses saw the benefit of having a strong eCommerce presence this year, whereas others with no online presence suddenly found themselves without a revenue stream.”

Matt Erickson, Marketing Director at National Positions
“With so many more customers becoming accustomed to new levels of ecommerce access to their products — from selection and discovery to delivery and pick-up options — many will continue to embrace these changes. Brands that can provide more friction-free ways for customers to use ecommerce purchasing avenues are likely to see a very fruitful 2021.”

John McCrea, CMO at
“Given how the pandemic has super-charged e-commerce in 2020, every brand, including brick-and-mortar ones, is under pressure to up their ‘digital game.’ But I predict 2021 will be a year of great opportunity …”

Nitzan Shaer, Co-founder and CEO of WEVO
“Millions of people that have rarely shopped online are now doing their groceries, banking, entertainment, apparel, transportation and all other forms of shopping online.”

Myles Kleeger, President and Chief Customer Officer, Braze
“This year, retail was flipped on its head. Now, e-commerce is the leading star, with physical experiences relegated to a supporting cast role. This will only accelerate in 2021 and beyond. In fact, 83% of consumers said that they planned to shop online as much or more as during the height of the pandemic. The desire for a physical shopping experience will never fully go away, but the majority of today’s customers prioritize shopping from brands that provide an easy-to-use, on-demand experience from the comfort of their homes. The retailers that will emerge as winners will continue to lead with personalized digital shopping experiences, while reimagining how physical shopping experiences can supplement a digital offering.”

Holistic digital marketing

Patrick Kehoe, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer at Coalfire
“Digital, digital, digital. We know it’s the imperative for 2021 and beyond.”

Paul French, CMO at Axway
“The next big trend is uncovering the value locked up in your martech stack.”

Suzanne Kounkel, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP and chief marketing officer, Deloitte US
“Fusion is the new ecosystem … fusion is the art of bringing together new business partnerships, customer insights, and digital platforms to create ecosystems that more holistically address human needs. While partnerships were important ingredients to growth before the pandemic, an overwhelming majority of C-suite executives (78%) agreed that new relationships forged during COVID-19 will continue to be part of a long-term strategy after the pandemic subsides. And although executives are still operating with a defensive mindset – 42% of respondents are looking at digital investments as a way to improve efficiency while very few (17%) are looking to grow revenues — through pioneering partnerships that address customer needs beyond what their organization does today, companies can establish a new, proactive mindset focused on growth, differentiation and disruption.”

Cynthia Gumbert, CMO at SmartBear
“In 2021, customer experience means the quality of digital, app, and mobile experience. Whether your app works to expectations or not will make or break many companies more than ever. Accelerated Digital Transformation will quickly become that was so 2020, where every business scrambled to become digital- and mobile-first. That’s quickly becoming old news, and the biggest thing differentiating businesses is how well these digital experiences now operate for their customers. This is everything from how quickly a page loads, to how easy is the purchase experience, to how well businesses handle support if something goes wrong. This end-to-end quality is not a given, without a purposeful strategy to get there.”

Shawn Rogers, VP Analytics Strategy and Corporate Marketing at TIBCO
“If all companies have equal access to modern marketing automation systems, how do you out-market your competition? The strategy for 2021 needs to be an alignment of all platforms and initiatives, and in many cases, an increased focus on centralizing and utilizing the data each of these programs is producing to better drive execution. Just having the newest tool isn’t the answer either — it’s a challenge to bring the data together in a way that drives innovation. Better utilization of data to drive automated interactions, automate decisions, and influence propensity models is the key to competitive differentiation. Your data is yours; and that makes it unique and highly valuable.”

Marcy Massura, EVP of Marketing Consulting Services at Hotwire
“2020 took several tools out of the marketers’ toolbox — no live events, no tradeshows and no “lets meet over coffee” to drive MQLs. We’re seeing a huge and rapid shift to move those dollars to digital marketing to drive demand. Additionally, the infamous practice of cold calling to prospects has gone dry as employees moved home. Now, Social Selling has been pushed to the front of many sales programs — driving an even greater need for brands and their executives to have buttoned up social platforms and associated social content. Sales and marketing teams will continue to invest in digital and quickly move from a ‘test and see’ state in 2021 as they focus in on which new programs and tactics implemented this year continue to help them reach their goals.”

Scott Anderson, CMO, Intermedia
“Digital marketing is, of course, nothing new but in 2020 when most of the world sheltered in place, the already ubiquitous internet gained even higher reach as a marketing channel. With so many continuing to self-isolate at home, expect to see a similar trend in 2021. This year eCommerce increased 44.5% from 2019 while US brick and mortar retail square footage dropped by 60%. The indicator for marketers is clear – a much larger proportion of our audience is living online and we’ll see that reflected by commensurate shifts in marketing investments in 2021.”

Claire Brunner, Partner at Enilon
“Moving into 2021 all marketing teams will have digital transformation on their mind. This stems from all of the changes that have occurred to every single one of us during the pandemic, and will continue into next year.”

Penry Price, VP of Marketing Solutions at LinkedIn
“Industry conferences will be online-offline hybrids in 2021 and years after, serving people who don’t want to travel away from home as well as those who wish to attend in person. We’ve learned during this pandemic that we can communicate over digital platforms better than we thought. Whether it’s been colleagues and clients working from home, friends and family socializing during off-hours or public figures chatting it up, this once-in-a-century pandemic has inadvertently proven live video can achieve intimacy even when we cannot be together. And companies that have hosted large events in the past can be much more cost-effective and achieve better ROI because digital entails less overhead.”

Amy Vale, CMO at Dosh
“Marketers must be ready to delight the ‘new’ post-pandemic customer. Shopping behavior was forced to change because of the pandemic, but once it’s over (and it will be over at some point) habits will not return to the same ‘normal.’ The pandemic accelerated on-demand consumer expectations, with merchants of all sizes expanding options for delivery and curbside pickup, online grocery finally surged, and months at home reinforced that there’s nothing wrong with browsing warm, cozy clothes in the summer. In 2021, marketers need to throw out their old playbook and develop ways of building customer loyalty, taking into consideration the surge in digital-first businesses and how that impacts consumer expectations.”


Jalal Nasir, CEO of Pixalate
“As consumer privacy protection laws like California Prop 24 are passed, 2021 will mark the beginning of a significant shift in the tug of war between consumer privacy and advertising. Advertisers will begin to employ ‘Compliance Officers’ and special attention will be given to where app publishers are located, what kind of consumer data is collected, and how that data is used as part of the digital ad supply chain.”

Bill Magnuson, co-founder and CEO, Braze
“Privacy has been absent from any meaningful discussion this year, and big initiatives like Apple’s guidance on kids’ apps have been postponed. However, we will see a refocus on privacy in 2021 that will bring attention back to the customer. Apple and Google will drive industry-wide privacy change that results in more companies being stricter with what data they collect, less reliance on cookies and identifiers, and a call for IDFA and AAID to be removed completely from any apps that involve children or wellness. While Apple has implemented some restrictions in an effort to protect children, these additional changes could help set a new industry-wide standard for putting consumer data privacy first.”

Brian Jackson, Research Director at Info-Tech Research Group
“Consumer privacy has become more scrutinized and the advertising industry is facing pressure from regulators to earn meaningful consent before scraping data, cookies have been crunched. As marketers face a world without cookies in 2021, suddenly what was once an ‘opt-out’ system has become ‘opt-in.’ Several of the most-used browsers, including Google Chrome, have adopted a new “do not track” policy that prevents cookies from being stored on users’ computers by default. Since most consumers never change the default settings, it will become increasingly harder to track them with cookies. Expect companies like Facebook and Google to find ways to keep you signed in to their web services, as that is one highly effective way to track you across the web. Also expect other digital players that are reliant on advertising revenue to push their users to sign in more often.”

Viral Bajaria, CTO and Co-founder at 6sense
“We’re quickly approaching Google’s decision to phase out third-party cookies, and I believe many brands will scramble to accommodate the changes in 2021. We’ll continue witnessing the rise of “opt-in” pop-ups, but I predict that brands adjusting to the end of cookies will operate from two sides of a spectrum. Some brands will present a “known profile” to prospects, seeking confirmation of their data insights, while others will lockout prospects unless they provide their identity. One method involves transparency and accountability, while the other is likely too forceful to be beneficial and accurate. Brands that win will embrace the former.”

Michael Schoen, SVP/GM, Marketing Solutions at Neustar
“In 2021, we still start to see a seismic shift in marketers starting to leverage differential privacy algorithms as a way to provide highly accurate multi-touch attribution without requiring individual-level advertising impression data. Advances in privacy like this are needed because traditional privacy safeguards, such as anonymization (the removal of identifiable attributes, such as names, addresses, social security numbers) have been found to be ineffective. Furthermore, this advanced data science approach ensures brands can measure advertising performance across closed media platforms in a privacy-centric way without relying on third-party cookies and MAIDs.”

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