Geoffrey Ramsey, this year’s keynote speaker at DealMaker Scottsdale, breaks down current and future digital marketing trends.

“Among executives, managers, and leaders worldwide, what’s the #1 digital business mistake they make?”

This was the question that DealMaker keynote speaker Geoffrey Ramsey, the Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer at eMarketer, poised to an audience full of digital marketers at the end of his presentation.

It was a mild morning in Scottsdale, with clear skies and the right amount of warmth to spend outside in the sun without getting cooked. Despite the welcoming weather, these marketers were focused on Ramsey’s every word. And there was a lot to be said about the current and future state of digital marketing. In his one-hour keynote Ramsey started by introducing that there would be 77 slides, 192 data sources, and 573 builds. He then pulled up a picture of a seatbelt and coffee mug, Ramsey’s way of telling the marketers to buckle in and stay alert, because this was going to go fast.

Ramsey had three key areas of discussion: consumer disruption, challenges and opportunities for marketers, and what’s coming next in the world of marketing. In this keynote recap, we’re going to look at some of the trends that Ramsey discussed in each of these three areas, and provide you an answer to Ramsey’s question.

1. Consumer Disruption

The days of a family gathered around the radio are pretty much long gone. We live in an era where we’re more connected through more devices than ever before – and it’s only growing. For marketers, this could be a huge opportunity – if they know how to reach the consumer. In this first section, Ramsey discussed some key trends in consumer disruption.

Digital Media Consumption
There’s no secret that consumers spend hours every day with media. According to Ramsey, in the US 12 hours are spent with media every day. What’s significant is that, of those 12 hours, just under half (5 hours and 53 minutes) is spent with digital media. That beats out television by a significant amount of time – TV came in second with 3 hours and 58 minutes.

Ramsey breaks down this analysis even further by highlighting devices. Consumers spend 3 hours and 17 minutes, while desktops and laptops were not far behind at just over 2 hours. The convenience, accessibility, and (excuse the cheekiness) mobility of a smartphone makes them the clear winner in device usage for digital media consumption. One important thing to note: these 3-plus hours on mobile phones excludes voice-related activity, such as calls.

This is both a golden opportunity and tremendous challenge for digital marketers. On the one hand, you have a digital audience who spends almost half of their day with media engaged with digital content. They’re on mobile over half of that time, which means you could reach them from nearly anywhere. On the other hand, all this means is they’re splitting their attention by multitasking and fragmenting the way they approach their digital experiences.

Consumer’s Multitasking with Devices
Multitasking is a real challenge when it comes to reaching consumers. 178 million US internet users are accessing the internet while they’re watching TV, Ramsey shares. And these are just two of the many media devices that consumers are leveraging at once – with many devices having internet access capabilities. According to Ramsey, the average household has 13 connected devices, ranging from wearable technology and smart televisions to video game consoles and even connected cars.

A More Complex Journey
While all this is going on, Ramsey notes that the customer journey is more complicated than it was before. Ramsey says that there’s a consistent amount of discovery for customers – from new shopping channels and apps, to research opportunities for products and brands. To add another layer of difficulty onto this, customers are also leveraging mobile technology in their shopping journey, which Ramsey says is exploding and that by 2021 will account for $420 billion dollars in e-commerce sales (roughly 54%).

What does all this mean for creating disruption to reach consumers? To start, it will be difficult. Consumer behavior is a moving target in many ways, but if marketers can identify specific channels or devices, they can start to connect with consumers in the way they want to be connected to. It’s important to note that consumers don’t want to be intruded on – Ramsey mentions this when talking about how consumers prefer digital video content because it reduces or eliminates the number of commercials they receive – so the connection will have to be something authentic and somewhere the consumer wants to be advertised towards.

2. Challenges and Opportunities for Marketers

As it currently stands, $94 billion will be spent on digital ads this year, with $70 billion of that $94 focusing directly on mobile.

Marketers are ready to respond and invest where their consumers spend their time. Marketers look to spread their spending across mobile, video and rich media ($28 billion), and social ($26 billion) – all with the goal of reaching their customers in the places their customers currently are. However, Ramsey observes that all this spending and motivation will not come without challenges.

Cross-Channel Measurement and Attribution
The number one challenge US digital marketers are facing is cross-channel measurement and attribution. A staggering 74% of marketers said this, and with good reason – as consumers spread themselves further into various channels marketers could potentially reach them but will have to find more ways to properly identify what’s effective, how effective it is, and what role it played in getting that customer ultimately to convert on a purchase. That’s why, with an average of 13 connected devices per household, marketers have much more opportunity and a far greater challenge. After all, how can you expect to connect with and provide the best experience for your customers if you aren’t sure what’s working, and how it works alongside everything else?

Ramsey projects that in 2018 this need for attribution will cause the industry to start moving towards the goal of finding a “holistic audience identifier,” which Ramsey illustrates as the holy grail for marketers. He compares this need as seeing more of how the “crumbled cookie” connects into an entire, complete treat, rather than a fragmented view of different pieces. The end goal for marketers: understanding their own audience.

Data Importance
This also means marketers will be driven to take their data and bridge the gap between “priorities” and “capabilities” of what they can do. This is no small order, according to Ramsey – everyone agrees that data integration is important, but only a little more than half (58%) of marketers will be using multichannel attribution by the end of 2018.

Winning the Trust of (Younger) Customers
Earning the trust of customers is another challenge marketers are already facing and will continue to do so in the future. Shoppers, especially younger shoppers like Millennials and Generation Z, are already distrusting of ads. However, it’s not just the nature of advertisements that have these younger shoppers wary of what they’re being served – it’s where they’re getting the ads from. Ramsey observes that a majority of shoppers felt ads were “very untrustworthy” on Facebook (43% of respondents), Google (38%) and Twitter (43%), compared to the 3-5% who said ads were “very trustworthy” on these sites.

The distrust means brands will be challenged to find trusted environments where they can offer ads to consumers who find them trustworthy – which Ramsey claims will mean a need for more transparency in programmatic buying.

Attracting or Distracting?
Finally, Ramsey highlighted the challenge of attracting customers through content rather than distracting them from their usual digital experience. This, Ramsey cites, will need to come in part from personalization. Ramsey notes that personalization is worth striving for because of a greater connection to the customer, more relevance to the experience being provided, and the ability to earn more trust and loyalty.

However, if it were easy, every marketer would be doing personalization. Lack of resources and tech, data quality and silos, being able to manage the data both at scale and across marketing channels, and creating relevant and compelling offers in real time are just some of the many challenges that come with personalization, but it will only become more critical as the shift and importance of mobile continues to take place.

3. What’s Coming Next?

Thinking about the challenges of today doesn’t mean marketers shouldn’t also consider the opportunities coming within the near and distant future.

Smart Devices
One of the key trends on the horizon is the idea of smart devices. The initial excitement and potential surrounding a Google Home or Amazon Echo is palpable for marketers, but Ramsey encourages marketers to think of these devices as “an opportunity to use the data to deliver better customer service and predict customer needs.” In other words, rather than focus on trying to get the consumer to buy something through a smart device, marketers would be wise to focus on trying to give customers a better experience because of these devices.

AI
Ramsey also highlighted artificial intelligence as an expanding area of tech. Ramsey says AI “will begin to permeate all aspects of life and business” due to its ability to manage so much data from so many sources. Machine learning, natural language processing, neural networks, and deep learning were all components of discussion in this.

Voice-Assistants
In addition to smart devices, Ramsey also mentions that marketers should be looking to help enhance the customer experience through voice-enabled assistants. One of every four US internet users will likely be using a voice assistant by the end of 2018, and already one in every five to four searches are being made with them. The ease and speed will drive this trend, which means marketers will have to work towards figuring out voice search optimization according to Ramsey.

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
Finally, Ramsey talked about augmented reality and virtual reality, in particular highlighting AR’s growth in users jumping from 40 million in 2017 to a projected 54 million in 2019. Already brands are getting creative with AR – from being able to test products and show how they look, to making user experiences more friendly and accessible. VR, though more immersive, will still take more time to figure out.

This brought Ramsey to his final question: among executives, managers, and leaders worldwide, what’s the #1 digital business mistake they make?

The answer? “Lack of understanding of digital trends and impact to the company.”

During that hour, Ramsey had given every marketer an inside look at the trends shaping their consumers, their potential marketing strategies, and their future as marketers. Now, as he concluded his time on stage and marketers shuffled out to grab a morning coffee, they were already more prepared for the road ahead in digital marketing.