Technology has affected much of the way we interact today. As I’ve talked about before, it plays a significant role in the changes seen in buyer behavior and consumer expectations about brands. Luckily for marketers, though, technology isn’t just shaping the field we play in, it’s also creating new areas of opportunity within the game.
This is where marketing technology comes in with all of its capabilities for streamlining, automating, personalizing, precisely measuring, and more. If you’re still wondering what exactly marketing technology is, though, you’re not alone. While the term itself is relatively clear, the scope that it covers is vast and oftentimes confusing. When it comes to marketing technology, its major categories include: advertising & promotion, content & experience, social & relationships, commerce & sales, data, and management.
The State of Marketing Technology Yesterday
Within each of these categories, the sheer number of marketing technology companies seems almost infinite. Considering all of these options, it’s easy to assume that marketers everywhere must be reveling in these new and glittering opportunities. In 2014, though, the Harvard Business Review found that despite the fact that there were over 1,000 companies selling marketing technologies at the time, the adoption rate was extremely low, with only 2 out of 9 marketers using one of the marketing technology platforms counted in the study. Of course, two years is practically a lifetime in the world of marketing technology and the landscape has surely changed since then.
The State of Marketing Technology Today
In 2016, the story is much different—at least in terms of the amount of marketing technology options. If you’re in the mood to feel extremely overwhelmed, check out this infographic from ChiefMartec that visually displays the current marketing landscape.
In this one infographic, there are around 3,500 marketing technology companies represented. Unless you’re a fan of stress-inducing, cluttered graphs that are incomprehensible to the naked eye, this probably isn’t the most visually appealing infographic you’ve ever seen. The significance of this image is not just the fact that it’s overwhelming and filled to the figurative brim, though. The significance is that it is more overwhelming than ever, by a substantial margin.
In fact, ChiefMartec has been making this same infographic since 2011. In 2011, this infographic had only 150 companies. Here’s how the numbers break down for each year:
- 2011: ~150
- 2012: ~350
- 2014: ~1,000
- 2015: ~2,000
- 2016: ~3,500
That’s a 2,233% increase from 2011 to 2016. While Harvard’s research on adoption rate is from 2014, 2015 research from Econsultancy shows that many marketers are still struggling to get on board with marketing technology. Why, you ask? I’m placing my bets on a word that I’ve been using throughout this article—overwhelmed. Marketers are already so overwhelmed that just doing their jobs is taxing, much less keeping up with the 2,233% increase in marketing technology.
The upside of the incredibly overwhelming amount of options is that it increases the possibilities of your finding a tool that seems almost custom made for your needs. While many platforms have similar capabilities—at least in comparison to tools in the same category—they also tend to have small differences around the edges, which can make each of them perfectly suited for a respective small handful of marketers. If you have the time and/or patience to sift through these options, you’ll likely be able to build a marketing technology stack that will perfectly serve your needs.
This whole situation is somewhat ironic, though. With the addition of just a few marketing technologies—and just the right marketing technologies—the workload of the average marketer would become exponentially freer. Thanks to the time saved from automation and project management and the resources that result from accurate ROI tracking, marketing technology can allow marketers to get out of their everyday tasks and focus their efforts on creating winning strategies and assets.
Looking Into the Crystal Ball: Marketing Technology in 2020
With adoption rates likely remaining low for the time being and the number of marketing technology companies projected to increase, marketing technology simply needs to reach a tipping point. That tipping point will likely be reached in the next few years as the supply of marketing technology hits its peak. Either demand/adoption has to increase or supply has to decrease, it’s Economics 101. Given the fact that the growth of marketing technology companies shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, marketers will be able to continue to take advantage of the plethora of options that perfectly fit their needs for at least a few more years.
When the marketing technology space does reach its tipping point, though, it’s likely that there will be a mass consolidation of companies and technologies. Options will become more limited and growth will remain stagnant. This isn’t necessarily a doomsday prediction for marketing technology—think of it as free market Darwinism. Marketing technology is a relatively new phenomenon, so the opportunities are substantial and lots of companies are throwing themselves into the ring. The strongest ones will come out victorious while the weaker ones either adapt, join forces with the stronger companies, or drop out of the race altogether.
As for the strains of marketing technology that will make it through this marketing technology fight to the death, I see opportunities for success in areas of Account Based Marketing technology, Programmatic Advertising technology, and Marketing Automation technology. All of these technologies relate back to the qualities of scalable, personalized communications, which are already considered the future of marketing.
Hopefully the end product will be a marketing technology landscape that is slightly less overwhelming while still maintaining enough variety to satisfy a large pool of diverse marketers.
Conclusion: What About 20 Years from Now?
20 years is a long way off. Think about the state of marketing technology 20 years ago and you’ll realize there wasn’t much there. So, it’s difficult to really know exactly where marketing technology will be in 2036. If there’s anything that I’ve learned about marketing, though, it’s the importance of keeping an eye on the future, even if you don’t know what to expect.
Will we live in a world of perfect and precise information? Will we be able to communicate personally with each and every member of our audience in real time? Will consumers and buyers gain even more control over the marketing messages they choose to consume? Will all marketing technology be consolidated into one marketing technology platform, complete with artificial intelligence?
All of these questions have been positioned as predictions by one marketing expert or another. Even the sharpest marketing minds can’t be sure about the direction changes will take. But we can be sure that there will be changes. While the answer to “Where will we be in 20 years?” may not be conclusive right now, it can be said with certainty that anticipation of these change will be the key to success.
Did you like this post? Let us know why (or why not) in the comments. In the meantime, check out our blog How to Close the Marketing Skills Gap to find out why adopting marketing technology is useless without the talent necessary to make the most of them.