What to Expect in 2020

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Article Takeaways:

  • Retail in 2020
  • Competing for attention in 2020
  • TikTok and short-form video in 2020

Greater authenticity, more ethical experiences, China as a social media superpower: just a few of our global predictions for the year ahead.

“Big tech behaving badly” could well be the way commentators choose to dub the turbulent decade which is coming to an end. The iPad launched in January 2010 and Instagram arrived the same year. The Apple Watch set a new standard for wearable technology and Amazon introduced the world to its virtual assistant, Alexa.

But the way we use tech – and the way it is used against us – has changed. In 2010, the Social Network movie was released, charting Facebook’s meteoric rise. Nine years on and the platform is embroiled in scandals around data misuse, fake news and foreign interference in elections. From concerns about anti-competitive conduct to allegations of worker exploitation, Facebook’s fellow GAFA stablemates aren’t faring much better.

As the decade has progressed, digital has continued to become a dominant form of media. Access to information has exploded while trust in institutions has eroded. This year, alongside Waypoint Partners and a selection of other leading companies we are focussing on some of the ways the tide is starting to change.

From moves towards more ‘In Real Life’ experiences in shopper marketing to greater authenticity and more personalized, ethical experiences across all marketing – 2020 looks set to disrupt the recent unstoppable shift online at any cost. This is what they have to say:

Shopper marketing: Shops host brand experiences, QR codes find their cool while mixed reality transforms packaging

Kate Fenton, Founding Partner, Multiply

It’s been another excruciating year for bricks and mortar retailers with UK high street shopper numbers falling by a significant 10% in seven years. Although these trends aren’t uniformly replicated globally, even consumerist powerhouses like the US retail economy are seeing disruption and reinvention—with store closures outpacing openings across the US market this year and outmoded department stores like Macy’s and JCPenney being hit particularly hard.

But if 2019 is anything to go by, in 2020 we’ll see the fightback of enhanced IRL (In Real Life) shopping experiences continue to gain momentum. Forget cryptocurrency, the experience is currency. In the ‘pics or it didn’t happen’ era, we’ll see even traditional retailers like Boots re-imagine their in-store shopper experience, making it an Insta-friendly destination where you can enjoy a Korean face mask while grabbing a mini-mani.

If stores are transforming into temples of brand experience, then packaging is getting its own spiritual makeover. The QR code is a good example. Rising from the ashes of naffness, with the advent of QR-enabled smartphones, we’ll see it dust off its embarrassing past and prove to be actually useful. We’ll see packaging really embrace mixed reality opportunities allowing brands to overlay multiple experiences – be it education, entertainment or simply enlightenment.

We’ve recently been working with Social Enterprise UK and a range of ethical brands to encourage shoppers to buy socially responsible products. Using AR via Zappar, a host of tiny little celebrities including Michael Sheen, Sali Hughes, and Caitlin Moran popped out of packs to deliver shoppers an important message.

Brand Communication: Grabbing attention will get even harder in 2020 unless you are dramatically distinctive and brutally authentic

Jon Goulding, CEO, Atomic London

The total amount of information in the world is set to increase by a whopping 40% in 2020. As the economist, Herbert Simon, once said: “Information consumes attention, so an abundance of information creates a scarcity of attention”. That’s not great news for brands desperately competing for the average consumer’s ability to consume media which will hit a saturation point in 2020 at 9 hrs 40 mins a day.

When it comes to advertising, brands have an opportunity to break with the tendency to play it safe with their communications and be dramatically distinctive in 2020. The most successful will be those who do that across both their brand communications and activation across the whole customer journey.

The only way to do so credibly will be to fly in the face of one of 2019’s low points which were the explosion of fake news, fake politics and fake brand purposes. As well as bold and distinctive, brands must be brutally authentic if they want to build lasting value.

Social Media: The emergence of Chinese social media as a serious global force.

Tamara Littleton, CEO & Founder, The Social Element

The increasing global reach of Chinese social media and tech brands is only set to proliferate into 2020. ByteDance’s TikTok is gaining serious ground in terms of user downloads – it currently has 1 billion monthly active users –  and its 15-second video format is inspiring incredible creativity among its users, proving popular with the crucial 13-24 audience. Brands are starting to realize the lucrative potential of this platform in particular, with Walmart and ASOS advertising on this hypergrowth platform.

TikTok’s growth will continue next year and other Chinese businesses will start to impact Western consumers. Take WeChat, owned by China’s Tencent: although hugely popular in China it has so far failed to make inroads in the West. WeChat is a multi-use platform – covering retail, communications, payments, dating, and food ordering – which with some tailoring and targeted investment, could start to appeal to consumers here. As WeChat watches the prolific expansion of TikTok, expect some serious efforts to establish a presence outside of China. 2020 may well be the year when China starts to make a play for world domination of social media.

Performance Marketing: 2020 will see brands rethink personalization with a focus on trust

Anneli Ritari-Stewart, MD, iProspect

Next year, because of the new technical restrictions on cookies, brands will re-think personalization. Marketers need to look under the hood of their data collection and audience targeting engines to ensure they comply with legislation and use the right technology and measurement models.

A paradox has developed: customers expect their experiences to be relevant, but they don’t trust brands to use their data ethically. In the wake of global debates around ethical data usage, 2020 should see marketers focus on inclusive marketing to ensure they create content that truly reflects the diverse communities of their audiences. Our research shows that 93% of marketers believe that inclusive marketing is important as a moral imperative and for the business potential it represents. That is why savvy brands will rethink their audiences, “de-average” their approach by creating experiences that embrace smaller groups’ characteristics and, through personalization, create unique, authentic experiences that truly resonate with their customers.

According to our 2019 Future Focus report, 88% of marketers made “trust” their top brand priority; something which will continue into 2020 as consumer trust continues to decline. A rethink of personalization is on the horizon. Brands will look to improve customer experiences whilst complying with data and privacy requirements, with a view to building trust as well as driving business performance.

Marketing analytics: making marketing measurement more accessible to all

Stephen Hilton, Head of Analytics, BrightBlue

In recent years more and more companies, especially the larger ones, have developed and deployed measurement frameworks. As a result, business decisions in these firms are built on insight, allowing companies to operate with more confidence that they’re doing the right thing – and giving customers a better experience.

New technology, such as machine learning, means that analytics will continue to improve and become faster – and more importantly, more democratic. That is to say – not just the preserve of large corporations.

The improvements in technology that drive speed and scale for these larger companies are increasingly making these approaches accessible to smaller organizations – making them more able to grow and prosper.

This trend will accelerate the adoption of analytics across a broader range of businesses and will lead the continuing democratization of the technology to a wider, less specialist audience. Good news for these businesses and great news for consumers everywhere. 

Agencies that deliver data-led customer insight will be in high demand  

Matt Lacey, MD, Waypoint Partners

There’s a common thread to each of the predictions – customer-centricity. Over the last decade, marketing has been transitioning from a support service, to become business-critical as brands harness data in order to understand customer expectations, behaviors and create meaningful customer experiences. So why are marketing services agencies attractive targets? Because they are the solution – or at least, the winners are.

The days of landgrab M&A are behind us, which means there won’t be a home for every agency but for the best and most innovative there will be a fiercely competitive market, with more active buyer types than ever. The winning agencies will be those whose curiosity shapes what’s coming next, who adopt new technologies and who find new ways to capture, interpret and, most importantly, put this data to use.

Specialists will do well in this market as acquisition-hungry groups (Stagwell, S4 Capital, Jellyfish and so on) take on a plethora of established brands in the worlds of marketing communications, management consulting, IT services/technology and even corporate brands themselves.

With this, we’ll see a range of deal sizes but expect most activity to be at the lower and upper ends; capability bolt-ons and in-fills at the lower end and full-scale new platforms at the other.

There are lots to be optimistic about as we move into 2020 and no doubt a few surprises along the way.

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