As we welcome a new year, it’s time to think about the trends that will define the coming 12 months. With ever evolving technology and marketing strategies driving change, 2020 is expected to bring both challenges and opportunities for those in the digital marketing space. We’ve outlined some of the key trends to harness in order to make the year ahead a success.

The decline of third-party data

We’re in the middle of a big change in online advertising. Both the GDPR and similar laws and changes to Firefox, Safari and Chrome in 2019 make sharing third-party data more and more problematic.

Because third-party data is less accessible and in the cross-hairs of regulators, properly collected first-party data is increasingly valuable. This means brands will need to leverage the information that they have collected on their customers with their consent to provide personalised offers and marketing. Good news is that retailers are in a great position to do this in a privacy-safe way. And since people are exposed to less personalisation using third-party data, automatic personalisation using first-party data will make more impact and be more effective.

Also, because ad targeting will be more challenging, the cost of each good quality lead arriving at your website is higher, and it’s more important that they don’t bounce. So “cold-start AI” is very important to marketers in order to deliver the best possible personalisation strategy. This means automatically inferring the likely interests of each visitor based on contextual, non-personal signals such as location, time-of-day and current events. For example, for a new website visitor based in Mayfair who came to your website through an online ad for a high-end product, you could highlight your high value products as those offers that are most likely to meet their interest and price point. Targeting visitors like this manually would be impossibly labour intensive, but AI can make it automatic.

Aiding the lives of marketers with AI

AI will continue to proliferate different areas of marketing in the year ahead and really start to make the lives of marketers easier. Automated testing and optimisation will become useful, and the automated creation of alternative content – as is already common for email subject line testing – will begin to be used for websites and email body content.

As the value of personalization and automation involving AI becomes clearer, I expect to see companies seek out a different skill set in their team recruitment. Automated orchestration is increasing at a greater rate than human execution of marketing tasks, and a slightly different skill set is required to fully exploit the opportunity that this technology provides to improve user experience.

The targeted, non-intrusive popover 

Not only due to data regulations such as the GDPR and CCPA, capturing website visitor data in a transparent, non-intrusive yet effective manner will continue to be a key focus in 2020. Pop-ups remain a proven way to obtain the all-important email address from a customer or to prevent them being lost to you when they leave the site, but their timing and relevance are critical to success. The ‘in-your-face’ generic form that appears the moment a consumer lands on a website drives shoppers to click the “X” button. So it’s important that this tactic is deployed in a way that is in-keeping with the broader customer experience.

The key in 2020 will be for brands to focus their popover strategy on customer behaviour and context in order to boost the subscriber base or secure the sale. Tailoring the pop-up design, timing and content based on the shopper’s lifecycle or purchase funnel stage is a great strategy to make pop-up banners work post GDPR.

Further advances in geotargeting to offer deeper consumer context

The role of geotargeting in providing deeper context to a consumer’s interests is expected to advance further in the next 12 months. The shopper’s physical location has a big influence on their behaviours and needs when engaging with your emails or online store. We have seen some great successes through targeting content based on someone’s location, for example personalising an offer around their most relevant airport or closest store.

Honing in on this further and refining the whole customer experience based on where they are, what they’ve browsed or searched for on the website and even where they are planning on being – such as their next holiday destination – will be crucial for increasing conversions and delivering a more personalised experience in 2020.

For the 12 months ahead, we expect the customer experience as a whole will be a driving force behind key marketing initiatives. Tactics that help improve this, whether through data-driven personalisation, smart data capture, geotargeting or the next generation of AI, is going to be paramount for marketing teams to remain effective at building closer relationships with customers in 2020.

Mike Austin

Mike Austin


Mike Austin is the co-founder and CEO at Fresh Relevance.