10 must-known marketing analytics trends for 2020

We’ve discussed how marketing analytics will change over the next few years with Jim Sterne, Damion Brown, Tim Wilson, Christopher Penn, Mary Owusu, Nancy Harhut, Laura Patterson, Anjana Aggarwal, and Simo Ahava.

The main trends we’ve heard about present solutions to today’s pain points. Other trends reflect the hopes of analysts and marketers. Let’s see what some of the top minds in the industry predict for 2020.

Here’s a short list of the topics we’ve prepared for you:

Global analytics trends

Forecast for the analytics domain

The young, cross-disciplinary field of analytics will become more mature in 2020, growing both in terms of the quantity and variety of technologies. This year, most companies will shift from an all-in-one analytics tool like Google Analytics to more complicated instruments: ETL systems, customer data platforms, Google BigQuery + Data Studio, etc.

I’m certain marketing analytics will continue to shift away from single-vendor approaches (e. g. Google Analytics) to a more holistic data pipeline, meaning data engineers are going to be ever more in demand. — Simo Ahava

Simo Ahava

Companies are interested in saving money by choosing the simplest combination of tools that presents the required feature set. A growing level of data science knowledge among analysts and marketers will decrease the total amount spent on technologies as specialists choose tools that solve their precise tasks. Simple problems can be fixed by the team alone using programming languages.

Increasing number of marketing analytics tools

In 2020, we’ll meet even more types of tools for marketing analytics, and the martech universe will expand. Choose wisely.

If you have a tool already in the toolkit that can do the job and do it well then maybe you don’t need to spend money on a new shiny toy. The key is to have the right tools that will help you perform your work effectively and efficiently and to know how to use these properly. — Laura Patterson

The most technology-stuffed parts of new tools will be marked as automated AI, or “AI for AI.” Think of tools like AutoML and Auto AI. These tools will do hardcore analysis of your data, handling even the hardest modeling processes for you.

Growing importance of data ethics, access, and security

Privacy-driven design is not only a fancy new term. It’s a strict demand of GDPR and a complicated requirement for the business intelligence set-up stage, since you have to be ready to disclose to your customers how your “data machine” works and show what happens with their data.

I guess the one big problem, the one gigantic elephant in the room, is that we see news stories about election tampering and populism and ad targeting, and we’re all disgusted, but at the end of the day, web analytics is part of the same thing that gives rise to all that horrible stuff. — Damion Brown

Damion Brown

AI and ML adoption

The hype about AI and ML technologies has reached its zenith in marketing analytics. Now, companies will start to calmly work with AI and ML to build those technologies into their analytics.

Despite my earlier thoughts about needing to really focus on the basics before diving into data science and machine learning, I think we will continue to see more and more companies putting machine learning to effective use. — Tim Wilson

Tim Wilson

Misunderstanding of what it means to be data-driven

Here are a few characteristics of companies who can’t call themselves data-driven:

  • They collect, merge, and store data but make decisions based on gut feelings, experience, and habits.
  • They avoid expensive or statistically loaded analytics processes or cut corners with their analytics on purpose to get any results.
  • They pick data that confirms the hypothesis and call it analytics.

Be sure that you don’t repeat these or other mistakes that can hold your company back from being data-driven in 2020.

It’s a very common problem that a company loves data or says they do but they only use it to confirm their own opinions or they use it badly. — Jim Sterne

Jim Sterne

Trends in marketing analytics skills

Growing demand for technical skills among marketers

Technical skills are more important than ever for marketers. They will influence the results of communication, what tools marketers use, and how successful and efficient they are in their everyday work. The world has fallen in love with data, so marketers are becoming analysts, and analysts are becoming data scientists.

I believe that greater collaboration between data scientists and behavioral scientists is coming soon. Data scientists will reveal who should be targeted with what message at what time and place. — Nancy Harhut

Nancy Harhut

Mixing of marketer and analyst roles in practice

In 2020, we have to admit that marketers who dream of being creative and conducting experiments all the time are too expensive for companies. The market has shifted the spotlight to specialists who mix analytical and creative skills in a balanced manner.

When I go to conferences and I talk to people who are younger, in their early 20s, new in their career, they still have no quantitative skills. They still have that, for lack of a better term, arts and crafts mindset, which is great. You need that right brain creativity. Absolutely. But you also need the left brain. You need a whole brain marketer. — Christopher Penn

Christopher Penn

Unique opinions of specialists

Christopher Penn on the skills gap between specialists coming from universities and the demands of employers:

Google Analytics has been on the market since 2005. So at this point, you should know that these [analytics tools] are strategic priorities for your career and have those capabilities. And I would say we’re going to continue running into this problem in marketing analytics for a long time to come because the folks who are brand-new out of university still don’t have those capabilities.

I think probably one of the most important things that companies are going to need to do is change how they hire. The reason you don’t have good people coming out of school with skills in statistics and data science as a standard — even if there are exceptions to every rule — is because you have professors at these schools who are, you know, in their later years of their career who also don’t have those skills and don’t know how to teach them. And the marketplace doesn’t demand them.

If the marketplace demanded them and said, Hey, even to be a marketing coordinator for this company, you have to have Statistics 101. You have to be able to distinguish between a mean, median, and mode. If the marketplace demanded it, guess what? The hiring pipeline and the people coming out of school would have to adapt if they wanted to have jobs. It’s not a big deal right now, but it will be as we move into the next recession, which is coming.

Tim Wilson on tracking challenges, customer data platforms, and digital analytics diversity in 2020:

I suspect there will be a lot of hand-wringing and discussion in 2020 about how we capture digital behavior. GDPR really brought issues of privacy to the forefront from a philosophical and regulatory perspective (and CCPA is now following on that in the US). But it was really the second half of 2019 when browsers started making updates that got really aggressive when it comes to cookie blocking and expiration (ITP, ETP, etc.).

Angst is already rippling through the digital analytics and digital marketing industry, among the people who understand how much we’ve come to rely on cookies. I suspect that anxiety to grow and spread in 2020, and we’ll spend a good portion of the year digging into technical solutions to work around the tracking challenges these changes present.

I don’t think that will be particularly productive, as any workaround will then, presumably, be shut down pretty quickly by additional browser updates. It’s going to require a more fundamental reckoning with the underlying contract between brands and consumers when it comes to privacy and tracking and what is acceptable and when before this all really gets resolved. I’d be shocked if we managed to make it that far in 2020!

A prediction that’s been getting made every year for the past few years continues to come true each year and will come true again in 2020: an increasing focus on integrated data across organizations’ different platforms.

Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) are rapidly evolving from a newfangled idea to a crowded solution space, and I don’t think any large or enterprise organization will be able to avoid having a very conscious “build vs buy” discussion in 2020 when it comes to better integrating customer data in a way that enables more advanced analytics, including the application of machine learning techniques, and operationalization.

I hope — but don’t know that I can predict with confidence, unfortunately — that we reach a tipping point when it comes to diversity in the analytics industry. While there have been huge strides over the past five years to bring awareness and change on that front (especially with gender diversity), we still have a long way to go before a diversity-oriented initiative or post doesn’t invite an aggressively negative response from a vocal contingent of white men.

While it will be hard to quantify, I hope 2020 will be a year where those reactions start to diminish, or at least get drowned out and seen as completely unacceptable.

Damion Brown on two instruments replacing Google Analytics, a new tool that blends creativity and logic, and ethical challenges of 2020:

I’ve never been one for predictions, especially around this time of year, but I expect that in 2020 more and more people will find the Google Analytics interface limiting and will move more of their analysis to BigQuery and Data Studio. With those two tools, you can pretty much roll your own analytics tool and never need to use the Google Analytics interface again. Imagine the time saved waiting for the interface to load!

I expect Google Analytics App+Web will see some pretty exciting updates as it gets its game face on. A lot of people in the analytics industry are going to see themselves getting their hands dirty in 2020 with reimplementing and reimagining the entire data structure of customer websites. It’s going to be exciting, especially for those of us that love analytics so much because it blends left-brain and right-brain creativity and logic.

Meanwhile, privacy and ethical analytics are going to continue to cause more of a stir. We might not have another Cambridge Analytica next year, but I expect that general awareness of how much web users are being tracked, and by whom, will lead to more people being protective about their privacy. That’s unquestionably a good thing, and we should absolutely encourage it, but it’s going to mean more and more challenges for the industry to figure out how to stay ahead.

Like every other year we’ve all been doing analytics, 2020 will be a fun one. And as long as it’s fun, nothing else really matters, does it?