With holiday parties in our rear-view mirror and the glut of top 10 projections and predictions for 2017 fully digested and filed away, it’s time for a look at what all these predictions and the dynamics of our market mean for marketers like us.  Specifically, which new developments in technology will help marketers focus even more clearly on the right consumer and audiences? And are the technologies needed for both marketing and the delivery of ads really separate?

2016 gave us a continued explosion of martech and adtech companies, with the growth in new solutions and companies reflecting growing innovation, despite an industry wide consolidation and an impressive increase in M&A activity.  Investment was up to $24B in the space, with growth in both adtech and martech. Although the number of separate adtech deals dropped a little, that was more than made up for with the increase in martech deals.  It’s clear that as these technologies mature, private equity firms are taking note and are even picking up their investment activity.

Julie Langley, partner at Results International, thinks this will continue.  “Looking to 2017, we expect deal activity to remain robust, driven by an ever-expanding buyer universe and the continued rapid innovation in the way we all consume media and research and make purchases.”

It’s clear that the lines between martech and adtech have blurred, fueled by acquisitions and consolidation as companies seek to provide more of the marketing tech stack to their customers. Most experts predict that 2017 will be focused on technology, and rightfully so, as new and exciting trends are exploding in video, artificial intelligence (AI), and virtual reality (VR).  But for those looking closely at the bottom line – and that group better include all of us – keeping an eye on understanding the customer becomes more and more important.  This leads me to the all-important question: Is 2017 the year we’ll figure out of to make digital marketing dollars pay off?

I believe it is.  Click here for a checklist to help you choose the right technology partners to put the consumer at the heart of your digital marketing. I see marketing in 2017 being led by these key business and technology trends:

  • Digital marketing spend will increase significantly this year, first in social channels, then email and websites, and don’t forget SEO. In September 2016, eMarketer announced that digital spend would surpass TV for the first time in history.  The growth even outpaced aggressive projections and was led by the explosion of video and mobile targeting.  Overall, digital spend is expected to approach $83B in 2017, almost 40% of all US marketing spend.
  • Martech and adtech solutions will each take on more components of the other as M&A continues to increase, following the explosion in 2016. At the heart of this movement is the search for a greater understanding of consumers and a broader reach to find them.
  • Marketers will look for unified solutions that depend on integrating consumer data across sources and channels such as first and third party or on-line and off-line, as they work to optimize the customer journey. Solutions with actual data rather than inferred will be key to identifying the right personas and segments for successful integrated marketing campaigns.
  • The agency model is changing – and marketers will continue to react to that. Programmatic media buying is disrupting the old model of revenue generation and shrinking the margins on media buys. Agencies are reacting with less emphasis on media buying and more on integrated services, data, and analytics.  This is really good news for marketers.
  • AI influence will skyrocket. It’s about more than Alexa.  According to KBS Ventures partner Jessica Peltz, venture capitalists are pouring money into AI startups.  For marketers, AI is about automating simple tasks to free up time for strategic thought and work. In Media Post recently, Cory Treffiletti from Oracle noted that in marketing AI can be broadened to something more because it can bring efficiency to data collection, basic data observation and basic activation of the insights derived from that data.

The number of solutions in the martech and adtech space is daunting.  It’s similar to Times Square, where vivid screens overlap and assault the senses with an intensity that makes it a challenge to focus on the right one.  That’s how we feel looking for the right technology stack to create and deliver effective messages to the consumer; it’s also how the consumer feels when we fail to keep an informed understanding of our target at the center of that technology.  In 2017, be prepared to take advantage of the technology advances in video, VR, with the customer in mind.  Look for solutions that base their insights on real data and can interpret that data to give you actionable insights quickly. Click here for a checklist on choosing the right technology partners to help you keep the consumer at the center of your marketing, and stay ahead of the curve.