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Marketing Trends: Experts Weigh in on What To Expect in 2020

Chris Kolmar
by Chris Kolmar
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Now that we’ve turned the page on another exciting year in the world of marketing and business, we should look ahead at what we can expect in marketing for this year. Key components are upcoming marketing trends, as well as insights into how business and marketing majors can get ahead when they begin their careers.

For consumers, marketing evolution can be memorable. For companies, new technology means opportunities to reach Americans in new and creative ways. And for future marketing leaders just now enter the workforce, it’s time to use everything you’ve ever learned – data analytics, customer insights, creative use of technology, and good ol’ fashioned one-on-one communication.

We talked to marketing professors at several universities to get their opinion on where the world of marketing is heading, as well as how young marketers entering the world of marketing can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.

Our Panel Of Experts

Dr. Mark Wolters
University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign
Philippe Duverger, PhD
Towson University
Sengun (Shen) Yeniyurt, Ph.D.
Rutgers Business School
Jeffrey P. Radighieri, Ph.D.
Texas Woman’s University
Michael F. Walsh, PhD
West Virginia University
Soonkwan Hong, PhD
College of Business, Michigan Tech
Donna M. Wiencek
Western Illinois University
Nancy Tag
The City College of New York

Dr. Mark Wolters

Dr. Mark Wolters

University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign
College of Business
Associate Teaching Professor of Business Administration
Academic Director Marketing Major

Question 1: In your opinion, what are the biggest trends we’ll see in the world of marketing in 2020?

I think we will see more outreach from brands on a one on one level with clients. The ability of bots and databases combined to come up with tailored content for customers is becoming incredible.

Question 2: What type of skills will young marketers need when they enter the workforce in the coming years?

Having spoken with recruiters and former students who have been in the workforce for a few years there are some consistent themes I have heard. One is that students need to learn more soft skills. How to speak with customers, how to present professionally, how to handle a conference call. These little things make a big difference in how people perceive new hires in the workplace. Not making simple mistakes change you from looking like a kid who just graduated college to a young professional who is ready to take on more responsibility in the workplace. Another area that is important for new marketers to focus on is data analytics. Companies collect so much information on clients and potential clients, but if you are not able to analyze, decipher, and make sense of the data you collect is not very helpful. So, having data analytics training is a hard skill that can be put to use in most marketing firms day one.

Question 3: How do you envision technology impacting marketing in the next 5 years?

One future technology I foresee is more integration between online retail and streaming services. Think product placement in NetFlix or Disney+ shows where customers can click on an item in the show and have the option to buy it right then and there. This would make impulse buying even more treacherous for those of us who like our one click shopping and binge watching. Could you say no to Baby Yoda gear?

Philippe Duverger, PhD

Philippe Duverger, PhD

Towson University
Professor and Director of the Master in Marketing Intelligence Marketing

Question 1: In your opinion, what are the biggest trends we’ll see in the world of marketing in 2020?

The continued need for Digital marketers. Employees need to know, not only how to use the different “Apps” but also the back-end i.e., the marketing side for them. For instance Facebook Ads, Linkedin Ads or direct marketing. In addition knowing at least one of the many platforms such as Marketo, Hubspot or Salesforce is important.

Finally data visualization (eg, Tableau) and dashboard creation with limited SQL query is needed. On the other hand, sales skills (including soft skills, negotiation) are needed as well.

Question 2: What type of skills will young marketers need when they enter the workforce in the coming years?

Students should be experts in Excel and know how to generate pivot tables. They should know SQL query, R or Python basic, as well as Tableau. They should know at least one “App Ad platform” and at least one CRM – a direct marketing and inbound platform. Soft Skills are very important – interpersonal skills, negotiations, conflict resolution, team management. I think curiosity, grit, and critical thinking are all needed.

Question 3: How do you envision technology impacting marketing in the next 5 years?

More automation of processes (eg, direct mail, SMS, voice recognition). A better AI, making intrusive targeting possible via home electronics. Virtual Reality will make the interface between online retailers and consumers at home. And I can see a better international collaboration via computer driven seamless translation.

Sengun (Shen) Yeniyurt, Ph.D.

Sengun (Shen) Yeniyurt, Ph.D.

Rutgers Business School
Vice Chair and Dean’s Research Professor, Marketing Department

Question 1: In your opinion, what are the biggest trends we’ll see in the world of marketing in 2020?

The big shift towards digital marketing and marketing analytics continues; the list of new skills necessary to succeed continues to get longer. While branding and product innovation management remain important marketing processes, omni channels and direct-to-consumer marketing continue to reshape the marketing landscape.

The integration of Artificial Intelligence and real time marketing analytics in marketing processes/decision making is a strong trend among top consumer brands. Also, we see the strong signs of these new developments trickling into the business-to-business markets where companies have to carefully establish and manage their relationships with corporate clients.

Question 2: What type of skills will young marketers need when they enter the workforce in the coming years?

The list of the skills needed to succeed in today’s marketing domain is getting longer by the minute and currently include the following: customer journey analytics, big data analytics, Python and R programming, machine learning, and digital marketing strategy.

New platforms and technologies emerge every day and candidates who are familiar with these new developments will have a significant advantage on the job market. While traditional skills such as marketing strategy, branding and product management are still important, candidates need to expand their skill set to better position themselves in an increasingly digital and data-dominated world.

Question 3: How do you envision technology impacting marketing in the next 5 years?

We see a very fast moving environment in which digitization, data science and artificial intelligence are changing the business environment and our lives in fundamental ways. We already see applications of real time analytics, voice analytics, artificial intelligence and augmented reality across a wide variety of industries, products and services–the competition in this domain is getting very intense.

Examples include artificial intelligence driven shopping platforms and website content, real time optimized and nano targeted advertising, voice bots and chatbots to name a few. The race for a better customer experience and a more efficient and effective marketing function, coupled with advances in technology is only going to accelerate these trends.

J. Ian Norris, PhD, MBA

J. Ian Norris, PhD, MBA

Berea College
Associate Professor of Marketing , Chair of Psychology

Question 1: In your opinion, what are the biggest trends we’ll see in the world of marketing in 2020?

Most of these trends are longer-term technological trends that are becoming more prevalent, which I will address in the last prompt. A couple of things that definitely come to mind in the near term are Influencer marketing, personalization, and evolutionary advertising. The top social media influencers on social media sites like Instagram command much higher prices for product mentions and endorsements than just about any traditional advertising media short of the Super Bowl. This is convergent with another trend in marketing–the importance of personal branding. Social media has allowed ordinary people to become brands, and to leverage those brands to take advantage of large on-demand social media audiences. Companies used to build brands for products; in the social media age the brands often come first, and products can be built around them.

Social media allows for the increased personalization of targeted ads–as the targeting algorithms get better, the targeting is more precise, the ads are more relevant, less disruptive, and the return on investment is much greater. Relatedly, advertising algorithms are becoming “evolutionary” meaning that ad platforms like Facebook’s can “select’ ads that are most successful in real time, and increasingly show only the most successful ads to more and more people.”

Question 2: What type of skills will young marketers need when they enter the workforce in the coming years?

Increasingly marketers will need a balanced blend of hard and soft skills. For a long time the emphasis was on data, and there is still a strong and growing need for statistical and programming skills. By the same token, the signal to noise ratio is lower than ever, and it is harder and harder to break through with a message. That means personalization and relevance are critical.

Change is happening faster than ever; entrepreneurs and small businesses can compete in well-established companies with limited resources and disrupt entire industries. Soft skills such as creative insight, flexible thinking and open-mindedness are critical in this environment. Finally, marketing has become increasingly sophisticated in terms of understanding human behavior–I think a deep understanding of consumer psychology is a critical asset that bridges the hard and soft skills a successful marketer will need.

Question 3: How do you envision technology impacting marketing in the next 5 years?

As algorithms get better, ads will become better and better targeted and increasingly relevant to consumers. Micro-targeting will become truly personalized marketing. While ad platforms such as Google and Facebook have been perfecting this for years, much of the data on which these ad platforms are built rely on search data. I read recently that half of all Google searches are voice searches now. It is not clear the online ad environment is optimized for this.

Longer-term, virtual reality offers product and promotion opportunities we are only barely beginning to see. Real estate agencies are using virtual reality home tours to sell homes. What other products and services could capitalize on this technology? Tourism is one obvious application, but what about clothing and shoe retailers? We will be able to try on new clothes before purchase without leaving the house. Combined with 3D printing technology and drone delivery services, our own living rooms might become product showrooms and manufacturing facilities for some products.

Jeffrey P. Radighieri, Ph.D.

Jeffrey P. Radighieri, Ph.D.

Texas Woman’s University
Associate Professor of Marketing

Question 1: In your opinion, what are the biggest trends we’ll see in the world of marketing in 2020?

You will find many resources on the Internet quoting a wide variety of talking points on the evolution of marketing. However, I think marketing will continue to evolve on the data analytics front.

Analytics has been a hot topic for awhile now, and as companies increase their ability to collect an immense amount of marketing data, it puts pressure on the laggards to catch up. Instead of being a novel marketing function only performed by larger firms, it is evolving toward a minimum standard for companies of all sizes.

Companies that utilize data analytics have a better understanding of their customers and the market, and can be more efficient in their marketing activities. Those who do not are at a competitive disadvantage. And data analytic applications are becoming cheaper and more user friendly, making analytics feasible for any company.

Michael F. Walsh, PhD

Michael F. Walsh, PhD

West Virginia University
Department Chair & Associate Professor of Marketing
John Chambers College of Business and Economics

Question 1: In your opinion, what are the biggest trends we’ll see in the world of marketing in 2020?

In two words, consumer empowerment. The marketer is no longer in control of the consumer or even their brand. Consumers are in the drivers seat in terms of the consumer brand relationship. This has fundamentally changed the job and the role of the marketer.

Question 2: What type of skills will young marketers need when they enter the workforce in the coming years?

Thanks to technology, we are drowning in data. John Wanamaker, the famed retailer was credited with the statement, “Half of my advertising budget is wasted, the problem is I don’t know which half.” Today, we have the capability to know which half of an advertising budget is wasted. Young marketers must be comfortable in a data rich environment and have the knowledge and tools to tease insights out of the plethora of data.

Question 3: How do you envision technology impacting marketing in the next 5 years?

Today, the increasing challenge of marketing is mastering the burgeoning world of technology from the Internet of Things (IoT) to wearable technology to analytical tools needed to analyze tremendous amounts of data. I think the biggest impact this technology will have is on decision making and lead time. We live in a “just in time” world of marketing planning.

The notion of developing a yearly marketing plan and faithfully executing that plan is so 20th century! Forget about a yearly marketing plan, how about a marketing plan to cover sales this afternoon? Today, the marketer must be able to process tremendous data inputs and turn that data into actionable plans in real time with no real lead time. Markets have become so dynamic. Look at the airline industry. Pricing for airfares changes literally by the minute. This is the world that marketing must operate in.

Soonkwan Hong, PhD

Soonkwan Hong, PhD

College of Business, Michigan Tech
Associate Professor of Marketing

Question 1: In your opinion, what are the biggest trends we’ll see in the world of marketing in 2020?

I think the few trends that need more attention from marketers would be hyper-proactive environmentalism, transhumanism, and extreme customization. The discourses and ideas around environmental concerns will manifest into small bits and pieces of daily practices that a marketer can offer to customers who want to pursue a sustainable lifestyle. Traditional boundaries of human capabilities will continuously be challenged and extended with AI and biotech (i.e., Neuralink). Marketers will be allowed to access customers’ personal information (biological, psychological, cultural, social, political, etc.) to an unprecedented level in order to enhance the overall customer experience through innovative subscription models.

Question 2: What type of skills will young marketers need when they enter the workforce in the coming years?

It is more about an attitude or stance than the skills that they need. Young marketers must develop and heighten their tolerance to diverse issues (aforementioned) that the market has not encountered yet. I think we are about to witness another turn in the talent market where generalists with a specific skill set are sought after.

Question 3: How do you envision technology impacting marketing in the next 5 years?

There will be a lot of pushback on the new technologies being developed and used from various groups of individuals and from different fields. Until recent times, technology was never a double-edged sword, but it became one due to different concerns, namely privacy issues and loss of humanity. I think the current state of technological development has already surpassed the ability of most marketers and consumers to make proper uses of them. Marketers’ role in the future will be to write compelling stories about technology that can enrich one’s life. In other words, technology will redefine the conventional role of marketing.

Donna M. Wiencek

Donna M. Wiencek

Western Illinois University
Assistant Professor of Marketing
School of Management and Marketing

Question 1: In your opinion, what are the biggest trends we’ll see in the world of marketing in 2020?

To be successful in 2020 and beyond, companies must focus on:

  • Customer Data Platforms: Companies must have a deeper understanding of consumer preferences to uncover marketing channels that enhance engagement, provide solutions and growth potential.
  • Real-Time Marketing: As companies continue to build upon and use their consumer and customer data platforms, marketing automation and personalization is used in a unified way to manage relevance across the customer journey.
  • Conversational Marketing: Companies engage with and promote their products and services to consumers and customers in real-time, on their own terms via their devices, platforms and time schedules.
  • Video Marketing: Consumers find videos more engaging and informative; they provide an interactive experience that aids in confident online purchase decisions.
  • Artificial Intelligence: AI enables companies to sustain or obtain a competitive advantage. AI will be used by new entrants, incumbent competitors, and suppliers who will offer AI-driven products and services. As consumers and customers use AI, they will ask for AI offerings. Focus will be on communication, product recommendations, content creation, email personalization, and e-commerce transactions.

Question 2: What type of skills will young marketers need when they enter the workforce in the coming years?

As we look ahead to the workplace in 2030, the following skills will be essential for individuals to have or obtain:

  • Complex Problem-Solving: A need to have mental flexibility and the ability to think outside the box.
  • Critical Thinking: Make decisions through logic and reasoning.
  • Creativity: Ability to utilize and apply new technological advancements to create new products and services.
  • People Management: Educate, manage, motivate, and align individuals to project work based on knowledge and skills.
  • Coordinating with Others: Ability to engage and work with people; adjust to various personality types and be an effective leader.
  • Emotional Intelligence: Manage behavior, navigate social complexities and make personal decisions that achieve positive results.
  • Judgement and Decision-Making: Ability to calculate and analyze data to make informed decisions.
  • Service Orientation: Understand current and future consumer needs and provide or create solutions.
  • Cognitive Flexibility: Multi-tasking with an emphasis on creativity, logical reasoning and problem solving.
  • Adaptability: Project based work will change ongoing. It will be imperative for individuals to adapt to new situations, programs (data pull using dashboards) and people (team based projects).
  • Social Intelligence: As technology and smart environments evolve, individuals will need to adapt to a new way of communicating and interacting with people.
  • New Media Literacy: Ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create content that is engaging and persuasive.
  • Virtual Collaboration: As Augmented and Virtual Reality become more ingrained in our lives, individuals will need to adopt to using virtual environments and information to make informed and beneficial decisions for themselves and others.

Question 3: How do you envision technology impacting marketing in the next 5 years?

The digital world will blend with the real world. Digital transformation will continue to evolve and improve digital capabilities and skills, integrating ‘always-on’ digital marketing activities with brand and product marketing initiatives. Hololens will enable individuals to visualize work and share ideas in more immersive ways.

There will be new ways to collaborate, teach, learn, and bring new ideas to life at any given time. The five senses will play a critical role on how we convey emotions and interact with smart environments. We will have the ability to imagine through infinity and have a window of communication beyond the physical world. Interface without gaps between humans and technology, and obtain immediate results that can be shared between devices seamlessly. Wearable displays will continue to evolve and become more flexible and fashionable over time. Sensors and device-to-device integration, utilizing touch, will be prominent in product offerings across industries.

Nancy Tag

Nancy Tag

The City College of New York
Professor and Program Director,
Branding and Integrated Communications

Question 1: In your opinion, what are the biggest trends we’ll see in the world of marketing in 2020?

In my opinion, one of the biggest trends in the world of marketing is the integrated narrative. In an ecosystem that’s getting ever more complex, the industry needs to manage audience relationships in a way that provides tangible meaning, trust, and value.

To do this, I’m seeing some marketing and communications professionals trying to more mindfully take a big picture, integrated approach to solving problems and producing consumer-centric experiences and brand narratives that are substantively and immersively authentic. Another trend that I’m hoping emerges more forcefully: purpose-driven marketing becoming more absorbed into standard practices and not as an “add-on” that feels contrived.

Question 2: What type of skills will young marketers need when they enter the workforce in the coming years?

These days, professionals need to think of their talents a “bucket of skills” that “play well with each other” rather than as a narrowly defined skillset. That way, professionals can continue to evolve as they move through the industry by acquiring new interests/expertise/skills that build upon existing knowledge as a way to invent whole new roles for themselves that we can’t even imagine today.

Marketers need to be nimble and have an “always learning” mindset. My master’s program in Branding + Integrated Communications at City College graduates “T-shaped” talent where students have broad-based understanding of the industry combined with discipline depth. Finally, the industry moves forward so quickly; it’s important to include time to reflect on the effectiveness and value of our processes, output, and purpose.

Question 3: How do you envision technology impacting marketing in the next 5 years?

The speed of innovation makes predicting the impact of future technology super challenging. Therefore, developing a process for how we absorb, reject, regulate and make sense of that ever-changing technology becomes paramount. Technological innovation can undermine an integrated approach to marketing because each technology not only creates new rules and disruptions, but produces its own set of specialists who don’t always see the forest for the trees. As an industry, we need to figure out how to address the tech churn more conscientious and systematically.

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