Richard Ting, EVP, Global Executive Creative Director, R/GA
The complete disintegration of traditional marketing will have occurred by 2020 while the traditional purchase funnel will be completely unrecognizable. The majority of consumers’ experience with brands will be at various stages of the purchase funnel and in most cases via their feeds and social connections. The last vestiges of brand microsites, display ads, and overpriced paid media buys will have made way for real-time social marketing campaigns and influencer-based programs. Social media will drive consumer engagement and sales for brands as brand influencers generate a disproportionate amount of earned media that influences their wide networks of friends and followers.
The disintegration of traditional marketing will be driven by three key shifts that are already happening today, but will dominate in 2020.
Big Data Drives the Personal Web
In 2020, the rise of the personal web will be complete. A consumers’ experience on the internet will be completely personalized and dictated by a number of data sets that a brand will leverage to create a 360 degree view of the consumer. A combination of social CRM, a consumers’ purchase history, a consumers’ brand interaction history, and a consumers’ interest graph provide that 360 degree view of the consumer. With this new complete view of the customer, marketers will be able to deliver more relevant, personalized, and meaningful products, services, and communications to a more targeted set of existing and prospective consumers. Additionally, all of these products, services, and communications that a brand creates will be optimized for social and for sharing into consumers’ feeds.
Big data will also allow brands to easily identify and manage which customers are positively impacting brand sentiment. As Bill Lee mentioned in his HBR article, “Marketing is Dead”, the future will bring us a new definition of Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), which is currently only based on consumers’ purchases. In the future, with the complete proliferation of social media, a customers’ CLV will have to factor in how much influence a customer has over his/her networks and how likely they would be to influence others into a transaction with a specific brand.
Brand Campaigns in Real Time
All brands will be content publishers in the future due to the rise of real-time campaigns and the importance of the feed. The large campaign planning cycles of today will die and be replaced with shorter real-time cycles. In some respects, brands will need to re-align their organizations internally and begin to function more like publishers or news agencies. In order to do this, most brands will need to create larger in-house or agency-based publishing teams. The content development process for brands will have to be geared towards producing content multiple times per day, everyday, and fed into the phlethora of social feeds for future sharing. The large campaign pushes and microsites of today will fade in their relevance. For brands, living in the feed won’t be complementary to large campaigns anymore, it will be the engine that drives and defines a brand in 2020. The feed will be ground zero for where a brand must thrive to remain relevant to its’ consumers.
Mobile Dominates. Mobile First.
It’s already happening. The rapid rise of users moving quickly to mobile is unprecedented. By 2015, there will be 788 million mobile-only Internet users and mobile browsing (for the web) will surpass desktop browsing by 2015. 
If we forecast to 2020, there could easily be more than 1 billion mobile-only internet users and mobile will become the primary internet touch point for all consumers. As a result, brands must deliver their data optimized, personalized, location aware, real-time content into consumers’ mobile devices to remain relevant. eMarketer predicts that by 2016, mobile’s share of ad spend will increase to 5.26% compared to where it currently stands at a paltry 1%.
In 2020, brands will need to look beyond just the creatively challenged display advertising that has held mobile hostage the last few years. Mobile products and services that drive utility and provide value to the consumer will lead the charge for mobile. Smart, branded content will be the fuel that drives engagement and ultimately leads consumers to a transaction or drive to retail. Mobile measurement in the future will not be about just pure awareness or engagement, but it will be about the consumer outcome, i.e., did the mobile experience push users to retail, did the mobile experience lead to a transaction, did the mobile experience push users to advocate on behalf of the brand?
What should we do now to get ready for that future?
In order to prepare for this future, brands must work quickly now to unify their customer data sets that currently exist in disparate environments like social CRM, consumers’ social graph, and consumers’ transaction history. Once this data is unified and the brand has a single view of the customer, only then can they provide more relevant and personalized brand experiences.
Brands must also start building out their publishing capabilities today internally and with their agency partners and begin defining a publishing process that can support real-time social campaigns. In addition, brands must also start to develop partnerships with content providers and begin exploring utilizing APIs that can be algorithmically tapped into to harness existing content on behalf of a brand. Consumer conversation and content about a brand is being created at a breakneck pace, how a brand leverages that to its’ advantage will be the key to its’ future.
Lastly, in order for a brand to be prepped for 2020 all brands must start developing their mobile infrastructure and develop a long-term mobile strategy that examines how the many facets of mobile like the mobile web, native apps, SMS, and mobile/retail integration will be utilized to support real-time, personalized brand experiences in the future. Overall, spending in mobile needs to be significantly bolstered as soon as possible.