Let’s face it, the marketing technology ecosystem is harder to navigate than ever before. As marketing clouds continue to expand, new technologies achieve mainstream adoption, and marketers double down on customer insights and personalization, the fast-paced martech space has become just as convoluted as it is critical to brands’ customer engagement success. In December, B2C marketing analysts Joe Stanhope and Rusty Warner and B2B marketing analyst Lori Wizdo hosted the second annual martech roundtable webinar to help marketers make informed decisions against the backdrop of these exciting and disruptive trends in marketing technology.

Let’s look back at the major 2019 predictions we made in December 2018. How did we do?

  • Marketing will become a component of customer experience (CX). We predicted that the integration of customer experience and marketing was coming in 2019, and that did start to play out in earnest. While it’s hard to tell the full story yet because it’s a long-term trend, marketers are starting to see the value of CX in both the B2B and B2C spheres. Marketers are seeking more channels, touchpoints, and devices to support customer engagement strategies. And we saw more evidence of progress from vendors in the most recent round of Forrester Wave™ evaluations on marketing technology, where numerous technology suppliers are positioning marketing in a CX context and making progress on integrations to connect marketing and CX systems. We expect the co-mingling of marketing and CX to continue through 2020 and beyond, but it’s important not to conflate great CX with marketing’s purpose. We’d like to see marketers expand their vision of customer experience to include the concept of value realization.
  • Artificial intelligence in marketing approaches the mainstream. Although the hype around AI in marketing outran actual delivery and results in 2018, we recommended that brands should evaluate and pilot AI technologies in the short term. 2019 was a good year for AI in marketing because the noise started to settle down to a manageable level that aligns more realistically with expectations. 2019 was a less dramatic year for AI but in many ways far more productive and practical. Vendors shipped more legitimate AI-based functionality, and buyers are starting to adopt it. In particular, leveraging AI techniques for personalization and content management is a great starting point — and some newer capabilities are coming online for orchestration and data management, as well as AI-powered marketing assistants that we’re optimistic to see more of in 2020.
  • The marketing resource management (MRM) space heats up. We called out MRM as an underrated technology investment in 2018 because managing marketing operations and processes has never been more important. The planning, budgeting, and project management tools in MRM technologies help companies keep pace with the customer. We expected MRM to accelerate in 2019, and that came to fruition, with interest from marketing technology buyers in MRM skyrocketing to the highest level in years. For 2020, we see the trend continuing and consider MRM to be a high growth category because marketers need planning, budgeting, and project management tools that will enable them to be more agile to help them keep pace with customer expectations in the face of uncertain economic conditions and highly competitive markets. The MRM and AI trends also dovetail together, as robotic process automation will increasingly provide support for repetitive tasks, scenario evaluation, content management, and capacity planning.

What martech trends will Forrester be monitoring in 2020?

  • The impact of public clouds on marketing technology. The adoption of public cloud platforms such as Google Cloud Platform and Amazon Web Services signals a major shift in how firms provision, develop, and manage technology, including martech. The trend has the potential to level the playing field, giving any firm practical access to world-class computing power. We’ll want to see how much marketing technology migrates to public clouds, the degree to which it streamlines firms’ marketing processes and costs, and whether it encourages technically adept marketing technology teams to develop more of their own tech to create unique and strategically differentiated marketing technology capabilities.
  • Marketing automation adoption. For B2B marketers, we’ll be watching how marketing automation adoption unfolds in different industries. B2B marketing automation is just reaching the “early majority” stage of market maturity. But adoption is likely to vary across industries due to differences in acquisition focus, the relative dominance of sales or business development, and digital maturity. Additionally, the path of marketing automation adoption may increasingly originate through the sales channel, yet marketing will still be called upon to lead that effort and engineer the engagement strategy.
  • Customer data management. Customer data management remains one of the biggest challenges for marketers because data is so critical for generating customer insights, personalizing experiences, and executing across touchpoints and devices. We’re going to monitor how the data management capabilities of martech vendors are evolving to address these requirements. This shift is happening across multiple marketing technology categories, most notably large marketing suites, cross-channel campaign management, and real-time interaction management. It will also be interesting to see how the customer data platform movement develops to align with enterprise customer data management.
  • Content generation. As marketers personalize customer experiences, they need more granular content that martech systems can dynamically assemble to meet individual customer expectations. And that means the way marketers approach content creation needs to evolve — a lot more content, a lot more versions of content, more atomic content, and faster turns or refreshes of content. We’re going to be watching to see how marketers advance their content capabilities with MRM and the convergence of content hubs, digital asset management, web content management systems, content marketing, knowledge management, and other content-related technologies, including content intelligence and content performance management tools.

We expect 2020 to be an interesting and consequential year for marketing technology. And we’d love to hear whether 2019 met your expectations and what you’re watching for in 2020. Please contact us to request an inquiry to discuss these topics further.

This is the first blog post in a three-piece series recapping the December 2019 martech roundtable. Be sure to read part 2 on Lori Wizdo’s Forrester blog and part 3 on Rusty Warner’s Forrester blog.