My predictions for marketing automation trends 2023

Fluido’s Marketing Automation Practice Lead, Milla Hallanoro, looks into the year ahead. What are the current trends in the marketplace?

There are some distinctive trends I have seen in the market recently. These are fading of third-party cookies and increasing focus on first-party data, actions to ensure GDPR compliance, investments in building a solid basis for efficient use of both online and offline data, and focus on building and retaining trust and loyalty among customers.

Each year, Salesforce summarises marketing automation insights, challenges and priorities in its State of Marketing report. As highlighted in the report, companies are seeing it both as a high priority and a challenge to improve the usage of marketing tools and technologies.

Marketing automation takes work. I have seen many companies realise that they need to invest also in educating people to use the tools and building the right processes and practices that enable their efficient usage. They also need to ensure that the most precious “fuel” for marketing automation, the data, is up-to-date and accessible. Using data smartly and responsibly is one cornerstone of building customer trust and loyalty.

Focus on building customer loyalty and retention

In 2023 the turbulent times are not gone. People are worried about a recession, economic situation and other global insecurities fueled by the conflict. Many of us are waiting for how the future will evolve. Many have also become very price sensitive because of the increasing cost of living. However, targeting with discounts and sales campaigns can lead to challenges by eating companies’ margins, and this tactic is not necessarily contributing to customer loyalty.

MarketingWeek stated in its review of 2022 that many companies are shifting their focus from pure performance marketing to building and protecting their brand. Performance marketing can generate short-term results and increase the traffic on companies’ websites and ecommerce. Still, it does not necessarily have any effect on increasing loyalty which many companies consider especially important during these times.

Forrester predicted at the end of 2022 that customer health would be one of the top priorities for B2B companies, meaning protecting the revenue from existing customers instead of acquiring new ones. It is not something new that existing customers generate the most significant part of the revenue for companies, but it is predicted to be even more critical now. Thus, leveraging and finding upsell and cross-sell opportunities to retain and grow existing customers is in focus.

According to Forrester, marketing should focus more on opportunities when it comes to demand marketing rather than focusing only on lead generation and acquisition. We often see B2B companies using marketing automation technologies to build sophisticated lead nurturing programs to provide warmer marketing-qualified leads to sales. At the same time, much less effort is put into supporting sales in finding cross-sell and upsell opportunities. The challenge with individual leads is that they do not typically make the buying decision alone.

Data transparency and compliance remain a priority

Companies are seeing the importance of first-party data, especially after Google announced it to phase out 3rd party cookies in Chrome by 2024. Companies are also exact regarding following the GDPR rules and requirements. We recently saw how Microsoft was sanctioned to pay a 60 million euro fine for not following the GDPR data privacy law when using cookies to track their website visitors’ behaviour. And it wasn’t the cookies themselves that led to the fine, but the process made it more difficult for the visitors to deny the cookies than accept them.

Companies put a lot of effort in asking customers their consent, and that it’s stored and updated correctly and compliantly. It is not only because of the potential fines but also because customers have become more and more conscious about their rights. There are better ways to build loyalty or increase sales than targeting customers unwilling to receive marketing content.

Companies need to focus on first-party (and zero-party) data

When 3rd party cookies fade away, companies need to focus on collecting first-party data through their data sources. I have seen more and more discussion and planning around the first-party data strategies throughout 2022.

Also, from a marketing technology perspective, there has been increasing interest in customer data platforms which focus on how the data can be made more harmonised, comprehensive, accessible and actionable for marketers. Data quality is also causing concerns from a GDPR perspective, e.g. how to ensure compliance if there are duplicate or not up-to-date profiles. Again one additional reason towards the interest in Customer Data Platforms.

As we have seen, Salesforce has put a lot of effort into developing its Customer Data Platform in 2022 and will continue to do that in 2023.

The most significant announcement in 2022 was made in Dreamforce when Salesforce published the next-generation data platform Genie, probably the greatest innovation in the company’s history. Genie enables the use of data across all Salesforce Customer 360 products (Sales, Service etc.), not only Marketing Cloud; thus it goes beyond the existing Salesforce Customer Data Platform and marketing use cases. Genie can ingest and store data in real time and combine that with data stored in Salesforce.

A shift in the usage of marketing channels

Email has traditionally been the easiest and most common channel to get started within marketing automation. The pandemic triggered the shift towards digital and online business. Even if the post covid period has shown an increase in in-store sales and onsite events, the increased focus on digital channels has remained.

With changes in Data Privacy regulations, companies have started to rethink their marketing tactics. According to the State of Marketing report (8th edition) by Salesforce, about half of marketers have increased their investment in paid social, mobile marketing, and web experiences.

We cannot still ignore the importance of in-store experiences. Advertisingweek included in its MarTech & AdTech predictions for 2023 that companies could increase their investments to improve the in-person shopping experience. However, online and offline experiences have their role, which depends on the company and industry. Companies need to be able to track the interaction between these two worlds, online and offline, to provide the best experience and relevant content for their customers. If the customer buys a specific product in-store, they should not anymore receive advertisements about the same product online. There needs to be a solution and a plan for how to integrate the data from all customer touchpoints.

My recommendations to focus on 2023

Getting the data right should be one of the core focus areas for marketers and organisations. Bad data quality, incomprehensive data or difficulty using data will become a more prominent problem with more data sources and data. It also means educating marketers about the data: how they can use data in segmentation and personalisation, what data is available etc.

Correct data is an essential enabler for actions that aim towards customer loyalty, another critical objective in current times. It is widespread for marketing and communications to focus on specific phases like building awareness, conversion or customer onboarding. But how about keeping existing customers engaged and ensuring that they continue buying? I suggest looking into the holistic customer life cycle and analysing if any gaps in it could be filled by including activities that build towards customer satisfaction and loyalty.

A great way to get forward with technology development and investment is to start defining and calculating business cases that justify investment decisions. Suppose there is a clear indication that new technology could provide improvements in segmentation and targeting that generate a remarkable increase in revenue, time savings or decrease in costs. In that case, it is a good starting point for an investment decision.

Milla Hallanoro

Marketing Automation Practice Lead

Milla has over ten years of experience in marketing management both from B2B and B2C sectors. Her expertise is built around marketing automation, digital marketing and marketing leadership, one of her strengths being comprehensive understanding of the role of marketing as a part of the overall business. Milla is greatly inspired by the endless possibilities digitalization continues to bring for businesses and for the way they do marketing.

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