Data Will Continue to Be a Driving Force into an Uncertain 2021

Needless to say, as the pandemic unfolded around the world, companies had to pivot their business models and consumers had to re-prioritize how they engaged with their favorite brands. These seismic shifts introduced many unanticipated changes for marketers still tasked with promoting their organization’s products and services under a darkening cloud.

“Marketing in uncertain times” became their mantra.

While the coronavirus drove many of the marketing and data trends we saw in 2020, there were several others that unfolded—ones which we discussed here on the “Elemental Knowledge” blog throughout the year:

While the good news of COVID-19 vaccines will help jettison us into the new year with renewed hope, the stark reality is that marketers will still need to navigate an uncertain 2021 where the economy probably won’t find its footing until mid-year and businesses such as restaurants and brick-and-mortar retailers as well as those in the travel and hospitality industry will struggle to stay above water.

While it remains difficult to predict what exactly the immediate future holds for marketers, here’s what we foresee—for now—in 2021:

The Democratization of Omni-Channel Commerce Will―Finally―Occur: Every retailer will need to be able to sell online. The democratization of this capability will come from key tech companies that will become more of a monopoly/oligopoly. Therefore, many key marketing capabilities will see tremendous improvements such as targeting the right shopper through massive amounts of new information being fed to algorithms.

More Companies Will Scale the Wall: More medium- to large-sized non-walled garden companies will have the same benefits that come from hyper-targeting capabilities that only walled garden companies (Google, Facebook, Netflix, etc.) have enjoyed until now, due to more data being available on consumer patterns generated from digital commerce, and further sharing of data through data clean rooms. Data clean rooms will become the norm rather than the exception as companies will try to cobble together clean data to get deeper insights on consumers (IP addresses, HEM technology, etc.).

Data Privacy? Yep. Will Be an Even Bigger Deal: Consumers will demand―and be given―more and more control over what data they share and how it’s used. However, with the COVID hangover more than likely lingering well into the new year, we’ll see more consumers with fewer negative reactions to being hyper-targeted with marketing and advertising messages. Ad targeting will begin to deliver on value to both marketers and consumers.

IP Data is Going to Skyrocket in Value: Considering all of the privacy discussions in the market today, especially around the demise of cookies, the data that is non-invasively gleaned from an IP address will become more relevant than ever. It’s a proven technology that will be used for a variety of business applications outside of ad targeting, including but not limited to legal/regulatory compliance, network routing, analytics and fraud/security.

We expect 2021 to continue to be a bit of a roller-coaster ride: formidable in terms of the pandemic’s impacts continuing to wear on both businesses and consumers alike, but exciting in terms of seeing light at the end of the tunnel where our economies gradually open back up and return to some semblance of normal. The most agile marketers will evolve to take advantage of the opportunities ahead of them—using data, technology, new processes and analytics in tandem to create value for their organizations.

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