It is the best of times.
With the longest U.S. economic growth span on record, one might think the wheels may be about to come off of the economy — and marketing spend along with it. Not so, says Bruce Biegel, senior marketing partner at The Winterberry Group, during his Direct Marketing Club of New York annual presentation, “The Outlook for Data Driven Advertising & Marketing 2020.”
Sure, there is caution. The Great Recession displaced many — and served to accelerate digital disruption from retail to finance to certainly marketing, forever. Perhaps businesses have never felt safe, sound, and secure ever since. One might call it “wise agitation.” And it really has been consumer spending that has served as the primary driver of growth, particularly in 2019.
Not the R Word …
Outside of business caution and flat earnings, where are the signs of another recession? They are hard to find.
Inflation and wage growth are hardly sputtering — even as the nation’s unemployment rates are at record lows. Trade rows and impeachment proceedings only appear to buoy the stock market. Even inside the world of marketing, privacy restrictions have not diminished the luster of data deployed for marketing and insight. And with the Olympics and a General Election this year, it should be times aplenty for many media channels, agencies, data providers, and tech companies — as these events are traditional hallmarks of spending.
So who are some of the winners in the current marketing and media environment?
… But plenty of D, Even Still
D, as in Direct: Biegel noted that “Buy Direct” is creating continuous rise and sale in DTC [direct to consumer] brands. The subscription economy is booming and traditional distribution channels — read, retail — continue with a “D” of their own, “disintermediation.”
“The five-year growth (through 2019) of DTC retail is four times that of the retail market revenues — 7.64% growth vs. 1.78%,” he reports.
That doesn’t translate to digital-first success, however, as such approaches are not scaling as rising costs in paid social, for example, are inhibiting customer acquisition.
D, as in Digital: Online media spending overall grew by 19.1% in 2019 — compared with a 5.9% decline in offline media spending for the same year. Among all digital media categories in 2019, paid search grabbed the largest share — followed by display and paid social. Yet search spending “only” grew by 13.2%, compared to 21% growth for display, and 23% growth for paid social. For 2020, online media spending will continue to climb — reaching $166.4 billion in spending, while offline media will reverse its decline and post a 2.3% climb this year (remember, Olympics and Elections) to $223.1 billion.
D, as in Data: Data spending also posted healthful growth in 2019 — up by 5% — with another 6.2% growth expected in 2020. Is data working harder for marketers — as in, increasing marketing efficiency? Possibly. Spending on offline data dropped 5.5% in 2019 — while spending on email data and analytics posted 22.4% growth, and spending on digital media data and analytics (other than email) grew by 14.4%. Yet businesses are wholly satisfied with their own level of “data-centricity.” Biegel says, “Organizations are slightly more ‘data-centric’ this year than when asked in 2017 — on the whole, industry data-centricity is not progressing as envisioned.”
What’s Driving Data Strategy at Businesses?
Beigel reports three primary facilitators:
- A desire to deliver better customer experiences;
- Heightened regulatory compliance requirements and need to honor consumer preferences; and,
- Increased demand to better leverage both first- and third-party data assets.
With a data-for-marketing marketplace in the United States now valued — both offline and online —- at $23 billion, those are three very important drivers that marketing professionals needs to get right. Or else our C-suite credibility may be diminished.
Artificial intelligence also has benefited from this reverence for data. Beigel reports that $11 billion has been invested globally in AI in the past five years — with 80% of marketers seeing AI “revolutionize” marketing in the next five years. Much of this investment is set on drawing insights from both structured and unstructured data sources.
And Where Are There Lingering Concerns?
Besides enterprise command of data assets, which could go either superbly or not, there are other concerns — both macro and micro, Biegel reports.
U.S. economic growth will likely slow to 1.9%, with global growth at pronounced risk. Corporate earnings may disappoint — leading to tightened purse strings. Tariffs may be reduced – nation by nation, region by region — but to what immediate impact? In short, Biegel says, “Limited tailwinds indicate that growth must be earned or bought.”
Among offline media there will be pockets of growth — outdoor, shopper marketing, linear and addressable TV — though direct mail will only squeak growth, with radio, newspaper, and magazines continuing their declines (even as their digital counterparts grow).
Search, display, and social will continue to dominate online media spend — but less mature channels, such as influencer marketing, digital video, and OTT [over-the-top] streaming, and digital audio will post rapid growth from much smaller bases. That portends good times for online data — but is it all rosy?
For example, are customer acquisition and retention costs, though, declining in these channels? It may be that media inflation will eat into marketing efficiency, particularly if “targeting” data gets less precise and, as a result, relevance gets more elusive. Privacy restrictions, while well-meaning, are not always implemented in such a way that serve best consumers. Still, only 16% of businesses have reduced their spending and reliance on certain kinds of data as a result of new and potential data privacy regulations, Biegel reports.
So, come December 2020, will all of these predictions and concerns bear out? That’s one of the reasons I attend Bruce Biegel’s Annual Outlook at DMCNY each year. As great a prognosticator as he is and as on-target as his business, data, and economic models are — he’s always close enough to the market to say where struggles remain, where the work of data-driven marketing is hard, where hiccups happen, and the like. These are all of the many micro and macro reasons that any best of times can go awry.
His January 2020 predictions are now in the books — and we will all be back again in January 2021 — barring any hiccups.