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15 Martech Trends for 2021

After the disaster that was 2020, the team here at NEON are looking forward to the year ahead.  We asked our team of consultants, along with many of our partners and peers what they thought would be a key trend in 2021. Here's our pick of the top 15 that we see influencing the year to come.  

1. User adoption is still paramount when it comes to martech success

"Many martech business cases, seeking investment, assume high level of adoption to achieve the projected return on investment. The reality is that very little ROI is realised until a critical mass (70%+) of users have adopted the software. Therefore in 2021 I predict that there will be an increase in the investment brands are making in software implementation activity, to ensure user adoption levels are high."

Paul Mildren - NEON Consulting

2. Brands will take martech reporting & analysis in-house

"The continued rise of in-house data analysis teams and skills coupled with open architecture of many martech products; it's becoming easier than ever before for clients to build their own dashboards across their martech stack. Availability of tools like Tableau, PowerBI, Amazon and Google, make analytics more accessible than ever before."

Sam Yates - NEON Consulting

3. Talent remains the most important thing

"In business, new tech facilitates enhanced capability, but new talent facilitates enhanced purpose. Progressive businesses understand that the pursuit of innovation and value, must mean embracing new technologies, ideas and practices, together. The shockwave of 2020 has seen many businesses accelerate their digital transformation simultaneously – thereby homogenising capability. All tech products have unique features, but they remain available to all. Each industry and sector have however, developed and nurtured their own exemplar practices over many years. Understanding how to attract, integrate and retain the custodians of these into your business for 2021, remains a critical strategy in fending off commoditization."

Tim Dixon - Beagle Talent

4. Brands will strive for greater visibility of their production spend

"As the content ecosystem becomes more and more fragmented, Brands are struggling to track their production spend in a meaningful way. As production is decoupled from the AOR or brought in house, Brands are looking for transparency into their spend across all suppliers, by region, by brand and by media channel. Martech is the solution. With a central repository that can collect the data, regardless of who originates the production, Brands can track and analyse their spend to identify opportunities and drive efficiencies."

Clare Randall - Clare Randall Consulting

5. Increase in client mandates for agencies to use client martech stacks

"Over the past 5 years it has been common for clients to use agency led tech solutions, as clients continue to take greater control over their martech stacks in 2021, we are going to see further mandates from clients for agencies to work and operate within the clients defined martech stack. This means clients will get greater control of their technology choices, be incentivised to create deeper integrations and operate within an agency agnostic martech stack."

Sophie Milone - NEON Consulting

6. The cost of content creation will continue to fall

"Fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic will mean a reduction across production budgets. The appetite & demand from brands to create hyper-personalised content is bigger than ever, and it will be an exciting challenge to see how the industry reacts. Robust production strategies and tech-powered production will be vital in overcoming those challenges. Agencies, production partners and brands are going to have to create new and innovative ways of capturing content & create assets that can live over the whole campaign lifecycle."

Phil Conway - Splash Worldwide

7. The need for a martech strategy and roadmap will become clear

"Following the explosion of martech tools over the past ten years, more and more businesses are now familiar with managing day to day elements of their marketing workflow using technology. However, brands desires to keep up with the latest tools, has in many cases, led to organisations having a fragmented suite of tools that operate in a stand-alone fashion, with limited integration. As businesses understanding of martech matures we start to see the importance of having a specific martech strategy and plan. Whilst implementing technology solutions will help solve individual process issues or inefficiencies, having a strategic plan and vision for an integrated, optimised martech stack will become the key differentiator for tech savvy organisations."

Paul Mildren - NEON Consulting

8. Mobile Augmented Reality (MAR) will propel digital first retail experiences

"As consumers adopt a “digital first” mindset, galvanized by virtual interactions and long-distance relationships, retailers are increasing their investment in immersive brand experiences, as consumers “virtually” try before they buy. As augmented reality moves us all from a physical to a virtual space, companies are investing in their content platforms to create and manage AR content seamlessly. Solutions including Augment, Contentful and ContentStack are helping bring mixed reality to the forefront of retail innovation."

Anil Noorani - TKM Consultants

9. Investment in systems integrations will continue to rise

"With increasing maturity of martech stacks, organisations are turning their focus to deeper integrations as the fastest route to driving efficiencies within their marketing operations teams. This is driving increased demand for technical skillsets, which is being serviced by systems integrators. Procurement teams are seeking greater emphasis from potential vendors over their interoperability capabilities."

Sam Yates - NEON Consulting

10. Brands will acknowledge they can’t fully automate language

"With AI having found its way into the translation industry, the use of machine translation tools is now very apparent in our everyday lives. Despite the technological advances and the time and cost savings offered, brands will never be able to fully replace the human talent when localising a global campaign. By attempting to do so, all the cultural nuances, wordplays and other language techniques which create an effective message for the target market, will be lost. Whilst brands will embrace language tech, I predict we will see an acknowledgement that humans are still very much required."

Elpida Fragkaki - Splash Worldwide

11. The humanisation of B2B marketing will rise significantly 

"In 2020 many B2B companies were caught off guard by global events. How should software, transport or manufacturing companies change their marketing during Covid-19? How should they engage with BLM? The most successful companies toned down sales messaging and humanised their social feeds. Some took bold stances and were accused of ‘virtue signalling’. Others got it right. Whatever the industry, expect to see B2B companies being more responsive and sensitive in 2021."

Luke Brynley-Jones - OST Marketing;

12. Access to existing content is more important than ever

"The disruption caused by COVID-19 throughout 2020 has highlighted to many brands the importance of having a centralised asset management solution. With both marketing and creative teams being segmented and working from home, being able to collaborate and produce assets became much more challenging. This coupled with the cut in many marketing budgets meant brands were forced to reuse assets more readily. Historically many brands relied on agency partners to store assets after their creation, with teams calling on these agencies to resupply content as required. However, if 2020 has taught marketing teams anything, it's that having easy, free and quick access to existing content is key to facilitating responsive campaigns even in the most challenging of times."

Sophie Milone - NEON Consulting

13. Brands will begin to understand their martech maturity levels

"The concept of martech maturity relates to a brand or individuals' ability to benchmark their marketing tech stacks and truly understand the tools, impact and effectiveness of the solutions they have in place. Implementing any martech tool will provide benefits, however having a suite of integrated, well adopted tools, that complement your marketing processes is the real target. Being able to review your current tech landscape and understand the level of maturity within your model, can really help define and prioritise your next step on the martech journey. Working with martech consultancies and experts will really help brands to establish their maturity level and set out a clear path to move to the next level."

Paul Mildren - NEON Consulting

14. Understanding how to use data more effectively, will lead to a competitive edge

"The size of digital data generated every day is unimaginable, as are the number of ways it can be used. It is like quantum mechanics; it needs an open mind and a lean approach to understand that data is not a static fact, but more a changing situation, and one must make the most of it at a particular moment. Businesses that can integrate, interpret and augment data, streaming from a diverse range of sources will be the true visionaries in the digitalised world."

Dessi Georgieva - NEON Consulting

15. The “No Code” in-house creative revolution will take off

"The power to create and still be on-brand, with absolutely no graphic design background, has never been easier (or cheaper). With “no code” design tools, including online products such Canva or print and digital templating tools built straight into your marketing technologies, you could bring at least >50% of your content creation in-house and allow your teams to design visually impactful, easily modified and repurposed content for all of your channels."

Kristina Huddart - Huddard Consulting Ltd