For mobile marketing, 2018 holds the promise of inflection points — moments in which the business of digital advertising will significantly change. Major new contenders for advertising dollars are emerging. Shopping narratives are becoming increasingly nuanced and complex. And the very concept of the mobile device is shifting. The smartphone-based user experiences that the industry has known since the rise of the device are in flux yet again.
What it all comes down to is that the next 12 months will be a critical time for brands, publishers and every marketing partner that works to create meaningful consumer moments in the mobile space. Focusing on change, the following six factors will be key to successful marketing in the year to come.
1. The ‘Amazon Effect’ will challenge the duopoly.
Amazon is officially a “thing to watch” in terms of marketing and advertising impacts in 2018. The company has a programmatic ad product that is predicted to generate $1 billion for the company this year alone. If Amazon does begin an all-out advertising push, it stands to unify an unprecedented spectrum of first-party data, the kind it’s gathered across categories for years. This could create what amounts to a “total wallet perspective” that even Google and Facebook will be hard-pressed to match.
2. Programmatic direct will surge.
Brand-safety concerns are driving advertisers from open exchanges to programmatic direct. Direct deals were predicted to represent 56% of programmatic display spending by 2017’s end. Bottom line: No marketer, brand or publisher can overlook the impact of programmatic direct as the new year begins. It’s here to stay and it’s carving out a larger percentage of allocations.
3. Omnichannel will continue to drive consumer narratives.
Online sales are growing at almost 10% annually, and online retail will account for nearly 20% of total sales in 2025, more than 30% in 2030, and about 50% in 2035. Still, brands can’t ignore the allure of physical retail experiences. Seventy percent of Gen Z consumers in the U.S. tag brick-and-mortar options as their preferred shopping channel. Whether it’s in-store shopping or online browsing by web and app — or some combination therein — success for marketing and brand strategies in 2018 means driving sales to whatever channel happens to be the consumer’s preferred option.
4. Emerging user interfaces will put pressure on mobile definitions.
As MediaMath President Mike Lamb puts it, the “ambient computing environment” is upon us. In 2018, we’ll see this unfold in terms of in-home devices — Alexa, Echo, HomePod, Google Home and so on (voice-speaker usage was expected to grow nearly 130% in 2017). At the same time, other elements of IoT will advance the concept of mobile engagements. Categories such as smart luggage and other engagement-capable objects will add to the ways our industry can interact with shoppers.
5. Single-vendor data partnerships will intensify market-share competition.
Organizations will be even more selective in how they spend on data partnerships. eMarketer reports that among U.S. publishers, more than 60% now work with just one third-party data partner. That suggests that marketers must strive harder than ever in 2018 to prove the difference and unique value of their data-management, analytics and insights solutions. Earning a place in the one-partner ecosystem will take more than scale and exchanges — it will take innovation and a renewed focus on the very underpinnings of how we envision positive brand outcomes.
6. IT budgets will shift to marketing as advertiser CMOs protect media spend.
In recent years, CMOs have grappled with both martech and adtech investments. That’s because so much of the incremental cost of tapping into the value of these technologies was drawn from media budgets. Especially among legacy brands, finding extra money to spend on data — along with boosting the technology stacks and skill sets needed to leverage progress from data — has created challenges for third-party partners. The good news is that traditional IT budgets, for some businesses, are moving away from traditional homes in the CIO/CTO ecosystem and into the CMO’s jurisdiction. The implication? Media spend can remain intact while other advances are funded by the bucket that should have been supplying them the whole time — the IT bucket. Smart marketers will push to accelerate this transition in 2018.
New competitors in established hierarchies, the advancing forces of automation and omnichannel experiences and the very nature of how we define and partner around the tech that drives mobile marketing are all factors that will change and prompt growth in our industry in 2018. Every brand, marketer and publisher will need to pivot to meet these changes. The long-term story of marketing in the digital space will turn on them going forward.