These 5 marketing tech trends will be huge in 2016

marketing plan

It’s been an exciting year for marketing tech. The space is maturing rapidly and money continues to flow in from the investment community. And if 2015 was good, 2016 will be even better as the space continues to evolve and mature.

Here are some of the key ways we believe marketing tech will evolve during the next year.


Marketers are getting used to the reality that consumers expect them to know a lot about who they are, what they like, and how they want to engage with ads and brands. There’s an almost infinite number of data points that can be drawn from to create a fuller picture of each consumer.

In 2016, marketers will keep learning how to draw on the right types of information to understand consumers, without crossing the line and knowing too much. Many will start with their own customer-relationship management databases, then add more and more data to fill in gaps. They’ll also be challenged — from a technical perspective — to manage all the various data sets.

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More than 97 percent of a typical business-to-consumer site’s audience is anonymous. For business-to-business sites, that number varies between 57 percent and 90 percent. Yet personalization only starts when the visitor shares an email address, signs up for an account, or has a trackable IP address. The reality is, web personalization is hard, especially at the top of the funnel.

Traditionally, the companies that personalize at the top of the online-marketing funnel have needed big budgets and dedicated resources in marketing and engineering to tackle this challenge, said VB Insight analyst Andrew Jones. A recent report by VB Insight found that personalization is on the rise even in small- and micro-businesses. The key driver has been the number of vendors that have emerged to solve real-time personalization challenges.

Mobile marketing automation

In just eight years, smartphones have taken over the world. In the past 3.5 years, smartphone media consumption has surpassed that of television. Mobile commerce jumped 123 percent in the first quarter of this year. These trends will continue into 2016.

Many marketers still have no clear mobile strategy, but that will change markedly over the next year as they continue to search for the right strategies and technologies to reach mobile consumers. And not just any customers. They’ll be figuring out how to attract the kinds of customers who will keep paying dividends across a long and loyal relationship.

Mobile Video

There are plenty of reasons why watching videos on 5-inch screens is becoming so popular — ubiquitous mobile-device usage and better broadband coverage. Users now spend around 86 percent of their time in applications, which means that in-app video ads will increasingly take a larger share of total ad spend.

Companies like AppLovin and AppsFlyer will likely continue doing well, as they offer to help place the right video in the right app with the right message.

Industry consolidation

If ad tech is a subset of marketing tech, it could be that some of the thousands of small ad-tech firms will be acquired by larger marketing-tech companies. Marketing automation and ad tech are still very young, but over the next year some believe we will start seeing the consolidation people have long been predicting.

We are also likely to see the continued growth of large marketing platforms from Adobe and Salesforce. Many believe these marketing clouds will continue to address more of the critical marketing-tech functions, and they’ll do this by acquiring smaller marketing-tech companies.

In time, there’s a good chance we’ll see two or three marketing clouds start to separate themselves from the pack in terms of growth and strength. And as those players vacuum up more new business, some smaller companies that only offer niche services may be challenged to survive, making an acquisition a more attractive exit.

A new focus on creative

Apple started a big controversy this year when it announced that its new iOS 9 would permit ad blockers. As people access more content on their mobile devices, and as much of that content is served onto iPhones and iPads, this is a threatening development for mobile advertisers.

Advertisers may not be able to overcome that threat without making tough changes to their ads. The fear is that if consumers are blocking mobile ads, publishers that run them will see less revenue and will struggle to survive.

“How do we balance the right of the publisher to get paid with the right of the consumer not to get stalked and hounded?” Bob Knorpp of The CoolBeans Group asked, cutting right to the core issue of the ad-blocking debate.

During 2016, the advertising industry will be putting more money and brainpower into creating ads that people don’t want to block. Right now, a quarter of all mobile users employ some type of ad blocker in their mobile browser.

I expect the above trends will be some of the major themes in marketing tech over the next year. We’ll have another look at the same issues at this time next year to see how things have progressed.

33% of all programmatic ad impressions on mobile could be fake

Ad fraud

A new study out today says a surprising proportion of programmatic mobile ad impressions — 34 percent to be exact — is at risk of being fraudulent.

Programmatic mobile ads are those served from an exchange to a network of publisher sites based on various kinds of targeting data, usually in real time.

The study, conducted by mobile ad tech company AppLift and security company Forensiq, found that 22 percent of the total number of impressions studied were “suspect” for being fraudulent, while 12 percent of the total were at “high risk” of being fraudulent.

AppLift and Forensiq studied bid requests on ad impressions running through the AppLift’s DataLift ad buy platform from September 21 through October 19 to come up with the results.

“Through our technology, we listen to the impressions and analyze the bid requests from the exchanges,” wrote AppLift’s Thomas Sommer in an email to VentureBeat. “The bid requests comes with different parameters from users seeing the ad, which are dependent on things like: device, time of day, phone model, etc.”

The ad industry’s main trade group, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, recently released a study saying that ad fraud, in its various forms, is costing the industry $8.2 billion a year in the U.S. alone. About $1.3 billion of that comes from mobile ad fraud, it said.

eMarketer predicts that mobile programmatic media buying will reach $20.45 billion by 2017. With that much money being spent, the idea that so many impressions could be bogus is of grave concern.

The study found that traffic from campaigns run on a CPC (cost per click) basis is three times less likely to be fraudulent than for CPM (cost per thousand) campaigns. And traffic from campaigns run on a CPI basis is 10 times less likely to be fraudulent than for CPM campaigns.

The researchers also believe that fraud risk goes way up on impressions that happen at night.

Hat tip: AdWeek

Google AdWords now helps businesses optimize for high-value site visitors


Google today announced a new program called Smart Goals that’s designed to help businesses optimize their AdWords campaigns to attract site visitors who might actually purchase something.

The program uses machine learning and Google Analytics data to help businesses recognize such site visitors who are likely buyers, then helps them optimize their AdWords campaigns to attract more of them.

Here’s how the nerds at Google explain the science:

“To generate Smart Goals, we apply machine learning across thousands of websites that use Google Analytics and have opted in to share anonymized conversion data,” software engineer Abishek Sethi and product manager Joan Arensman wrote in a blog post Thursday. “From this information, we can distill dozens of key factors that correlate with likelihood to convert: things like session duration, pages per session, location, device and browser.”

There’s now a Smart Goals report in the Conversions section of Google Analytics. The metrics in it show the engagement level of Smart Goals visits compared to other visits which, according to Sethi and Arensman, can help businesses see how effective the program will be before starting to use it.

To help you see how Smart Goals perform before you activate them, we’ve built a Smart Goals report in the “Conversions” section of Google Analytics. The behavior metrics in this report indicate the engagement level of Smart Goals visits compared to other visits, helping you evaluate Smart Goals before you activate the feature.

The Smart Goals can then be imported into AdWords to be used as an AdWords conversion, the blog post explained: “Once you’ve defined a conversion in AdWords, you’re able to optimize for it.”

Smart Goals can be imported into AdWords to be used as an AdWords conversion.  Once you’ve defined a conversion in AdWords, you’re able to optimize for it.

Google believes that many small businesses that use AdWords don’t have the mechanisms to measure when and how it’s working well.

If you’re an AdWords user and want to turn on the Smart Goals function, you can find full instructions in Google’s blog post.

Zuckerberg’s support of Muslims on Facebook gives Trump the middle finger

Donald Trump

Mark Zuckerberg said in a post today that Muslims would always be welcome on Facebook, seemingly adding his own voice to the backlash against presidential candidate Donald Trump, who recently proposed that the U.S. close its borders to Muslims.

“I want to add my voice in support of Muslims in our community and around the world,” Zuckerberg writes in the brief post. “After the Paris attacks and hate this week, I can only imagine the fear Muslims feel that they will be persecuted for the actions of others.”

He continues:

“As a Jew, my parents taught me that we must stand up against attacks on all communities. Even if an attack isn’t against you today, in time attacks on freedom for anyone will hurt everyone.

If you’re a Muslim in this community, as the leader of Facebook I want you to know that you are always welcome here and that we will fight to protect your rights and create a peaceful and safe environment for you.

Having a child can radically change one’s perspective on life, and many of Zuckerberg’s recent statements indeed seem to have a new tone to them. From the statement today:

“Having a child has given us so much hope, but the hate of some can make it easy to succumb to cynicism. We must not lose hope. As long as we stand together and see the good in each other, we can build a better world for all people.”

While many in the media tried to find signs of bad intentions in Zuckerberg’s recent announcement that he would sell off 99 percent of his Facebook stock, they largely failed.

Trump lit off a storm of criticism with his suggestion to close the borders to Muslims during a campaign speech. Rebukes from Democrats and media were swift and loud. His comments drew rebukes from even the most far-right players, including Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and even former vice president Dick Cheney.

Cheney: “I think this whole notion that somehow we can just say no more Muslims, just ban a whole religion, goes against everything we stand for and believe in,” said the ex-VP on a conservative radio show Monday. “I mean, religious freedom has been a very important part of our history and where we came from,” Cheney said. “A lot of people, my ancestors got here, because they were Puritans.”

At the same time, some have questioned whether or not Facebook and other Internet companies have done enough to prevent terror organizations from using their platforms for communication and coordination.

Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton recently called on Facebook and others for help in shutting down the social networking activities of terror groups.

Trim unearths and cancels those online subscriptions you forgot about

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 4.22.35 PM

I’ve been less than perfect when it comes to keeping track of the numerous services and sites I pay for every month.

I suspect I’m not alone. In fact, I think many of these auto-rebill sites benefit from the fact that people simply forget that they signed up.

A new service called Trim rifles through your bank account activity, locates the monthly repeating charges you’re paying, then offers to cancel them for you.

I tried out the service, then checked the results against a review of my bank account. The company says it checks back three months.

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And Trim did pretty well. It found all of the memberships that bill at the same time every month.  It made one error — one non-recurring charge appeared in the results.

To get started with the service I signed up at the company’s website, providing information including my bank account username and password, and my phone number. A few minutes later Trim text messaged me a list of recurring account charges. To cancel one you text back the word “cancel” and the name of the account.

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 5.13.21 PM

Some people will be uncomfortable forking over bank account credentials to a startup company. But the founders assure users that that information is kept safe and secure.

“These credentials never touch our servers, nor are they stored by us in any way,” the company explains at its website. “Your credentials are sent through Intuit or Plaid to your bank or credit card provider, which sends back an encrypted token to us.”

The company says the credit bureaus (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax) are guilty of offering the most cancelled and most predatory subscription service. “It costs $10-20 a month, most people don’t know they have it, and it’s a huge pain for us to cancel,” Trim COO and co-founder Daniel Petkevich said in an email.

As with many startups, the idea for Trim grew from a personal experience. “We had the idea for Trim after looking at our own credit card bills,” Petkevich said. “Thomas (co-founder and CEO Thomas Smyth) had subscriptions to Hulu and Vimeo, neither of which he used.”

Petkevich and Smyth say they’ve raised $100,000 in angel funding from a group of investors that includes Yee Lee (Vouch), Peter Christodoulo (Francisco Partners), and Arjun Schutte, and Kathleen Utecht (Core Innovation Capital).

Apple reportedly suspends plans to offer an Apple TV video subscription package

Apple TV HBO Now

Apple has reportedly “suspended” plans to offer its own video subscription package along with Apple TV.

The company will instead use the Apple TV app store as a place where media companies can sell content directly to consumers, says a report Tuesday from Bloomberg, citing a single unnamed source.

The company was, not surprisingly, unable to reach deals with video content owners to offer a modest video package for $30 to $40 per month.

Video content owners like Viacom, CNN, NFL and the networks are notoriously tough negotiators when it comes to licensing fees. Apple no doubt sought to negotiate favorable terms based on its platform’s huge potential reach. This worked beautifully with music, and the video owners are determined not to strike the same deal.

The Bloomberg report says Apple hasn’t completely given up on the idea of selling a content package, but it isn’t likely to happen soon.

One Medical raises $65M from J.P. Morgan, others, to sustain market growth

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 10.29.09 AM

The tech-driven primary care provider One Medical Group said it’s raised another $65 million chunk to help it continue to grow its membership and technology.

The funding round was led by J.P. Morgan Asset Management, with participation from some other new, but unnamed, investors. Existing investors Benchmark, Google Ventures, Oak Investment Partners, Redmile Group, and Maverick Capital also participated in the round.

The company has had a big year, adding 80,000 new patients. It’s also added more than 100 new enterprise clients since announcing the enterprise program in early 2014. In all, One Medical now contracts with more than 150 enterprises, including big names like Adobe, Airbnb, GoDaddy, and Lyft.

One Medical said it will use the new money to continue adding patients, office locations, and enterprise partners. It’ll also continue building out its mobile technology platform, adding video physician consults to the appointment booking, prescription renewal, messaging, and digital dermatology features it already offers.

“By using technology and a patient-centered approach, we’re able to care for individuals and populations more thoughtfully, while also lowering total health care costs,” One Medical founder and CEO Dr. Tom Lee said in a statement.

The group now has offices in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

What Facebook Live Video could mean for marketers


Facebook today announced its entry into the growing world of live video, and this could eventually have big implications for marketers.

Facebook is just now starting to roll out Live Video to millions of regular users, after letting users with verified accounts (many of them celebrities) try it out first.

So right now brands aren’t involved but they very well might be in the latter part of 2016. Facebook is likely to spend the next year tweaking and stabilizing the feature, paying close attention to how many people use it, how often, and for how long. The feature is baked into the main Facebook mobile, not broken off into a separate app like Messenger, and this should increase user uptake.

Facebook could open Live Video to brands by extending the feature to Pages.

Brands are already using Periscope and Meerkat as new way of telling their stories to a younger, mobile crowd. Several of these brands displayed their live video work in a panel at ad tech last month.

But so far many of these live streaming services seem like one-to-many mass broadcasting. Sure viewers can make comments, but the interaction is pretty much limited to that, while engagement tracking and targeting functionality just isn’t there yet. That’s why Facebook’s (predictable) entry into the space could end up being a game changer.

Facebook has some of the best data scientists in the world. It also has lots of existing systems for fine segmentation and audience targeting, as well as analytics engines to gauge engagement and performance.

This is the kind of thing that Facebook may be able to bring to the branding side of live video — something that platforms with less experience with marketers might not be able to offer.

Facebook also has a huge reach, and to a much more varied audience. The research says that mobile users spend 82 percent of their time in apps, and the Facebook app is the one in which users spend the most time.

In August, Periscope said it had picked up 10 million users in four and a half months. My guess is that Facebook could pick up live video users even faster.

Google’s Penguin search algorithm change won’t happen this year after all

Google search

Many businesses have been fretting about a forthcoming tweak to Google’s search algorithm called Google Penguin, but it turns out the change won’t be happening until next year.

Google had indicated earlier that the change, which could radically change how businesses show up in search results, would occur over a period of time in late 2015. But Search Engine Land has just learned that the update will not be released until next year.

Developing . . . 


Snapchat’s new deep-linking feature could unlock the platform for publishers

Snapchat Stories.

Snapchat said it will allow its publisher partners (like CNN and Vice) to post links on social media that go directly to specific pieces of the publisher’s content within the ephemeral messaging app.

It’s an important development for publishers and brands for a couple of reasons. For one thing, Snapchat was, in its early days, a relatively closed space; publishers hadn’t been able to easily drive traffic back into their Snapchat content from other places. This could mark a move away from that.

Snapchat founder and CEO Evan Speigel

Above: Snapchat co-founder and CEO Evan Speigel

Image Credit: Sean Ludwig/VentureBeat

Second, Snapchat has so far been used mainly by big, well-monied (mostly media) brands to spray content at the millennial crowd. The ability to target the content to specific users, and to measure engagement, has been lacking in the platform. The deep-linking functionality at least lets publishers measure engagement with their Snapchat content by tracking the number and type of people who click the deep links.

The development could present an opportunity for brand advertisers, said Resolution Media’s Shana Pereira: “Brands who are partnering with the Discover partners to advertise within the Discover section could use this opportunity to discuss how to make the most of the capability of driving traffic back to the partner’s Discover content on the days in which their ads are serving.”

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But it all depends on whether Snapchat’s publisher partners use the deep links. “It will be interesting to see if Discover partners actually do this, as they spend a significant amount of time and resources building traffic to their owned assets,” Pereira said.

What appears on its face to be a convenience for publishers may be more about Snapchat’s need to push up ad revenues. Snapchat has massive reach: The app has 100 million active daily users, 63 percent of whom are between the ages of 18 and 34. Snapchat also has a very high valuation, but has yet to prove its real earning potential.

“It appears that this is another of many tests that they are doing to better appeal to traditional advertisers and increase ad revenue,” said Evan Wray of Swyft Media, a marketing agency that helps brands communicate over a large number of digital platforms.

“Deep linking is a strategy that many messaging apps are already employing for content consumption, and has been pioneered by the likes of Facebook,” Wray said. “As brand interactions on mobile continue to evolve, seamless movement across apps will be key, and deep linking is a great way to do this.”

However, Wray believes that social and messaging functions will increasingly be combined (along with lots of other things, like payments) inside single apps. So deep linking across platforms may become less and less important. Time will tell.