Agencies are the backbone of the digital marketing world. Everyone knows that outsourcing your digital marketing to an agency saves businesses time, money, and frustration. How will agencies continue to adapt in an increasingly digital world? Here are my predictions for 2021 and beyond. I will dive specifically into what this upcoming year will look like for agencies and the digital space, as well as the continued relationship between agencies and businesses.
If you’re a business owner who works with agencies, these are things to look for in an agency or things to follow up or address with your current agencies. If you’re an agency owner, maybe these are things you’ve thought about when it comes to the future of digital, when it comes to the future of marketing, advertising, branding, etc. These are my predictions for 2021 and beyond. This is what we’re going to see more of and the changes we’re going to see going forward.
Changes in the agency realm
What changes can we expect to see in the agency realm? Data will be the biggest change in the agency realm. This is no longer a debatable topic. Data is the new valuable commodity, maybe the most valuable commodity. Peter Sondergaard of Gartner Research, who once said, “Information is the oil of the 21st century, and analytics is the combustion engine.” I think that data and information, going forward, if not already, will become the most valuable commodity. What does that ultimately mean for agencies and businesses working with agencies going forward? Data and analytics will take center stage when it comes to strategy and implementing marketing campaigns and advertising campaigns. Agencies must prove that they are experienced and comfortable around data analytics information. But more importantly, what the data and information mean for a client. I want to dive into a short little snippet here by Information Week. This is data shared by Gartner Research, and these are some of their predictions we’re trying to any one as it relates to data and information.
Decline of the Dashboard
Gartner Research emphasized, what they titled, the “Decline of the Dashboard”. And this really caught my attention because a lot of agencies do this, right? They’ll say, “Well, we have a dashboard. Look at all these cool KPIs we share. You will get it once a week, once a month, every other quarter. We can edit it according to what you look for.” That’s not going to be good enough, I think, going forward. Let me read this paragraph again.
From Information Week, “Data stories, not dashboards, will become the most widespread way of consuming analytics by 2025 and 75% of these stories will be automatically generated using augmented analytic techniques, AI, and machine learning. AIs and machine learning techniques are making their way into business intelligence platforms and dashboards. Users currently have to do a lot of manual work to dive into further insights, but these data stories provide the insights without requiring the user to perform their own analysis.” (Watch my previous video or read last week’s article which dove into AIs and machine learning specifically!)
That’s huge. Leveraging the power of AI as it becomes exponentially better will be important for agencies and businesses to capitalize on. We have seen major growth and progress in the AI/machine learning sector because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021 you’re going to see softwares and tools leveraging A.I. and machine learning in these dashboards, data, and analytics to create data stories.
Data is Valuable + Must be Protected
So, OK, we’ve got this data. We’ve got these analytics. We’ve got a data story. So what are we going to do about it? What does it mean? The first step is recognition of how valuable this data and information is. It’s going to become increasingly more important for these agencies to treat it with respect and know how to use it. Businesses are going to become more cognizant of how the end user views their data. You’re seeing a lot of these movements toward data and user privacy. For example, all the new browsers that are coming out that protect people’s data. Apple leverages user data privacy as one of their big marketing approaches. This will pay off big as people become more aware of their personal information data and how valuable it is. Agencies understanding that data is a valuable commodity, knowing how to use it, being comfortable around it, and then knowing how to treat it with respect and be transparent and not abuse this knowledge. This is a power that businesses are going to appreciate, because at the end of the day, the end user is going to appreciate it.
Online Advertising Will Be More Commoditized
Online marketing and advertising platforms, channels, and tools are going to become more and more commoditized. Look at Facebook ads, for example, when those first came out in the late 2000s. Look at Google, PPC. For those who were in those platforms in the early days, you will be the first to acknowledge how much those have changed between then and now. SEO, for example, building a website. These tools were almost impossible for anyone without very specialized background and expertise in those areas. Now, and you can feel free to debate me on this topic, they’re becoming so much easier to manage, optimize, and improve.
I bump into a lot of small business owners, mom and pop shops, who are, in my opinion, running pretty phenomenal online ad campaigns. I mean, I’ve seen some pretty amazing things that small business owners are able to create on PPC – Google, Bing, Facebook, Instagram ads, you name it. This is a result of these platforms becoming more user friendly on the back end. The platforms themselves have made it easier, therefore opening up their reach.
As younger audiences are moving into leadership roles and opening their own businesses, of course, they’re familiar with these platforms and tools. They grew up on social media and digital marketing. Naturally there is a little bit of a learning curve, but these tools will become more commoditized as a result.
Agencies Need to Emphasize and Hire for Creativity and Strategy
What does this mean for agencies and companies working with agencies? There’s going to be added emphasis in value on two things. Number one, creativity. Number two, strategy. I think those are the two elements that will probably be the last, if ever, to be commoditized. That’s the human element. I know it sounds cheesy, but that’s what I cannot duplicate. It’s hard to create a SaaS product that replicates human creativity and strategy. We have the tools to automatically harvest data and create stories or dashboards displaying the data, but what do we do with this dashboard? What is the strategy behind the numbers? We know how to create and run online ads, but how do we decide which ad to run? And when? How do we position ourselves on those ads? What colors and designs attract certain demographics? What phrases are specific to buyers in this geographic region?
If you’re working with an agency or you are an agency, there should be extra emphasis on creativity and strategy. Even if you’re an agency who works specifically in Asia or Facebook Ads, and that’s all you do, think about highlighting the benefit of your creative spin on those Facebook ads or the nicheness of your Asian market. Creativity is hard to teach, and it’s hard to duplicate.
Online and Offline Data
Agencies would be wise to start to position themselves around connecting online and offline data. Digital marketers and digital agencies have long boasted about the ability to track a lot of what they do because it’s digital. Connecting online and offline data is going to be huge. This is a great quote from Tech Native IO, “When you take a closer look at the gap, it leaves in a digital marketing operation, it’s pretty huge. After all, most customer activity still happens offline. In fact, 90% of retail sales take place offline. So if they haven’t connected the data living in their CRM email and point of sale systems to online, then marketers are making important decisions with incomplete, imperfect data and they’re missing out on a huge chunk of the action.”
Marketers are getting really good at connecting some of these points, and that’s another article we can dive into, but I think agencies that are comfortable with the connection or making predictions between online and offline data are very powerful and well-positioned going forward. As our lives become more integrated with the Internet, or just digital, the data that used to be considered offline will become more measurable. One of the things that I think is going to bridge that gap is what’s called the “Internet of Things”. What is the “Internet of Things”? Let me give you a few examples:
- Connected appliances, think Smart Fridges
- Smart home security systems
- Wearable health monitors
- Wireless inventory trackers
- Ultra high speed wireless Internet
- Cyber security scanners
- Logistics and shipping container tracking
These are digital tools, online Internet connected tools, that are integrated and embedded with real world things that we use each and every day.
If you are an agency or a business working with an agency going into 2021, these are things both groups should start to explore and become more comfortable with because they’re going to become very important in 2021 and beyond.
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Today’s article comes from a previously recorded video. Check out the video here!