Heather is passionate about helping companies deliver marketing that is hyper-relevant to the customer and drives profit for the business. As an experienced strategist with 20 years developing integrated marketing strategies across a range of industries, she advocates a data-driven approach to marketing.

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5 Marketing Trends you Shouldn’t Ignore in 2020

With 2019 behind us, it’s time for our annual trends to watch post. For 2020, we’ve decided that there are enough folks talking about AI, automation, and voice search. These are all worthwhile trends in themselves and ones that we’ll be watching this year, but we’ve decided to focus on trends that may be less sexy but can have big implications for marketers in the year ahead. So let’s dive into a few areas that we think you should pay attention to in 2020!

Dice with the numbers 2020

It’s All About The Customer (seriously)

How long have we been saying it’s about the customer? The old sayings have it right: “The customer is always right. Customer service shouldn’t be a department, it should be the entire company. Good customer service costs less than bad customer service.” Never has it been more important to put the customer at the center of your business. Understanding the customer journey and ensuring that the touchpoints along the way are relevant, customized, and useful is critical.

Gartner has predicted that by 2020, poor customer experiences will destroy 30% of digital business projects. PWC found that the attributes most valued by customers in their customer experience were efficiency, convenience, knowledgeable/friendly service, and easy payment options. Positive experiences are especially important influencers to purchase in healthcare (78%), banking (75%), restaurants (74%), and hotels (74%). The fact is that consumers aren’t comparing you to others in your industry, their expectations on their experience have been shaped by exceptional experiences they’ve had regardless of industry. Casper changed the mattress industry with its direct-to-consumer model online but then took the experience to the next level with nap rooms where customers could try before they buy (read more about this here). Amazon has changed retail expectations dramatically, especially around paying for shipping and speed of delivery, Fairmont led Forrester’s annual Customer Experience index, in part due to their adoption of sustainable practices including eco-friendly amenities and LEED certified buildings and Trader Joe’s lets you return pretty much anything, for any reason. 


Legislation around the world is rapidly trying to catch up to the realities of a constantly-changing digital landscape. This increasing focus on privacy means that marketers that are focused on consent and transparency will win with consumers. The California Consumer Privacy Act, widely regarded as one of the most restrictive pieces of privacy legislation globally, officially took effect on January 1. Essentially, businesses must disclose the information they collect, for what purpose, and any third parties they share that data with. They are also required to delete consumer data if a consumer makes a request, and consumers can opt-out of their data being sold to third parties. 

It will be interesting to see how this, and other privacy legislation, like GDPR, impacts legislation development here in Canada. The Canadian government is currently proposing amendments to existing privacy legislation to balance the needs of consumers to have meaningful control of their data with the needs of businesses to deliver relevant content and encourage innovation. Unfortunately small and medium-sized businesses are often affected the most due to the costs of compliance and a lack of knowledge of evolving privacy legislation. IAB Canada has been working with industry and the government to ensure that the needs of all stakeholders are represented.

There is concern that some third parties may use consumer data for nefarious purposes, so businesses that use first-party data to reach consumers can mitigate some of the risk of proposed legislation. In the year ahead, we’ll also see advertisers attempt to mitigate some of this risk by advertising outside the walled gardens of Google and Facebook, or relying less on third-party programmatic data and more on the acquisition of their own first-party (customer and behavioural) data. 

Some food for thought: will 2020 be the year of a privacy breach so large that consumers are willing to forgo convenience and content for increased privacy? 

Insights, Not Data

Forbes found that the last two years have generated 90% of the worlds’ data. Increased smartphone use, (the average user is on their phone 2 hours, 51 minutes/day), increase in global internet users (~4.4B users), the rise of the internet of things (IoT), the number of wearables, plus many many more factors have all contributed to us being data-rich, but insights poor. 

Many organizations invested heavily in martech in 2019 to help them collect data. In 2020, we’re going to see a much greater focus on organizing data. One of the biggest challenges that companies have is integrating data from different sources, so needs are shifting to leveraging meaningful insights from that data to make actionable decisions. 

Of course, this increase in data has driven some fantastic advantages to marketers, one being the ability to understand how online activity is driving offline behaviour. More media companies are recognizing this and we’ve seen more investment in foot traffic attribution or store visits technology. The technology is still in its infancy, relying on location services on mobile devices, dwell times, and extrapolating that data to determine if a visit took place. Offline media companies are investing in ways to quantify their channels making it possible to know if someone saw a billboard and ended up in a store.

In the year ahead, we’re expecting continued investment in refining both the technology and various attribution models so that marketers can understand how their offline media investment is driving in-store traffic. Savvy retailers are pairing up this data with sales data and other customer data to understand how media is impacting sales.

Finally, with all of this data, we’ve seen more clients interested in predictive marketing – evaluating large amounts of data to discover patterns and estimate results. Who wouldn’t want to know what might happen to your sales if you made an adjustment to your pricing? 

The Continued Rise of Ecommerce Advertising

While the numbers for Q4 haven’t been released yet, ecommerce channel spending saw an increase of 54% YoY for Q3 and it continues to grow faster than both search and social channels. If we look at Amazon alone, the retail giant is expected to bring in $38 billion USD in ad revenue by 2023. Currently, Amazon is the third largest digital ad supplier in the US behind Google and Facebook. While Amazon advertising isn’t the marketplace for everyone, for many retailers it’s a key channel to consider as more consumer shopping shifts online.

For retailers that are not leveraging ecommerce ads, we’re anticipating the continued strong performance of Google’s Smart Shopping product, Pinterest’s new “Shop the Look” ads, and Instagram shopping ads.

People Still Matter

Finally, with all of these trends based on technology, many of them AI-driven, it’s tempting to think that technology will replace marketers. While we do expect the marketing skillset will change, there will continue to be demand for individuals that have strong knowledge in the areas of analytics, ad platforms, CX and martech to name a few. We have seen a trend towards brands shifting some of their marketing activity in-house, but supplementing that shift with experts in areas where specialized knowledge is required.  Given the importance of measurement and analytics, the integration of data sources into a usable format, and the need for easy-to-understand insights, we’re safe from the robots (for now)!

What trends are you anticipating in 2020? Will it be data integration and organization? Or testing out new channels and formats? Whatever your goals, we’re always happy to help. Drop us a line and let’s chat