TFM logo for blog on the TFM 2023 conference and the future of digital marketing

In our current marketing climate, with the imminent sunsetting of third-party cookies, the need to adapt to a market that increasingly prioritises the personal approach is paramount. To stay ahead of the curve, we marketers need to constantly be in the know of what the future of digital marketing holds. One way to do so is by attending conferences and events.

I recently had the privilege of attending the Technology for Marketing 2023 Conference. Held at ExCel London, it brought together thought leaders and other professionals like myself to ponder the future of marketing, through a plethora of talks and interviews. In this article, I will share the key insights and trends that emerged from the conference, giving you a glimpse into what the future holds for marketing in 2023 and beyond.

Key Insights from the Conference

The conference showcased various talks by businesses that embraced change and saw significant growth as a result. Personally, it served as a wake-up call – I, like every other marketing professional, need to constantly learn and adapt to the ebbs and flows of the industry.
So, like a dedicated student on her first day of lectures, I diligently sat in the first row and filled my notebook to the brim. Here are my key insights.

AI is no longer optional, but a necessity

The importance of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in marketing strategies is hardly news by this point. From industry giants like MailChimp to remarkable figures like Flavilla Fongang, none of the speakers at the expo failed to remind us of it.

Chatbots, personalised content recommendations, and automated email marketing campaigns were highlighted as some of the areas where AI is already making a significant impact. As it continues to evolve, it’s expected to revolutionise the way marketers target and engage with their audience.

In their talk on supercharging MarTech, industry thought leaders Oli Barrett, Flavia Colombo, Nick Dormon, Flavilla Fongang, Jake Mason and Michelle Hastings discussed the misplaced fear surrounding AI in the future of digital marketing. The consensus was that, as more businesses adopt this novel technology, the ones who don’t will drastically fall behind. However, far from being a do-all tool that will replace all of us, AI needs the necessary foundation (that is, a strong strategy) to provide any meaningful value.

Echo Founder and Managing Director Nick Dormon also drew attention to its current limitations: in branding, where differentiation is the key to success, having a large language model generating content from a catalogue of pre-existing data will hardly do the job. In this scenario, the value of the brand professional will shift from execution to briefing. AI will replace the doing, allowing us humans more time to strategise.

Exploring underutilised channels with conversational marketing

Another trend that piqued my interest was that of conversational marketing, a concept many e-commerce enthusiasts will be familiar with, but which is hardly discussed in the B2B space.

In their talk, MessageBird drew our attention to the underutilised potential of WhatsApp as a customer engagement channel. With 56 million users in the UK alone, WhatsApp offers a natural and convenient way for customers to interact with businesses. Even though chatbots have had a bad reputation in the past due to the lack of personalised interaction, connecting them to an omnichannel ecosystem will enhance the human touch.

This left many to ponder whether, in a few years, accessing products or services will just be a matter of texting our friendly bot assistant as we would a friend. In the overall discussion on personalisation that permeated every talk at the event, conversational marketing only seemed like the next natural step.

Not personalised, but personal

Coming back to the talk on supercharging MarTech, something Nick Dormon said stuck with me: with personalisation now the norm, marketing needs to transcend the personalised and achieve the personal. Combined with Apteco introducing the idea of individualisation in their talk, we can see the trend of one-on-one personal connections emerge through mass-marketing automation.

Indeed, with 73% of customers now expecting companies to understand their individual needs, the consensus among the speakers was that businesses need to deliver highly targeted and personalised marketing messages at scale to compete. By analysing customer data and behaviour, AI-powered tools once again come to the rescue, automating the delivery of dynamic content made to cater to each visitor’s preferences. While emphasising the importance of leveraging data to create tailored material, some speakers also cautioned against the impact of hyper-personalisation on brand trust, as a lack of transparency around data collection can be unnerving for many.

And, with the looming threat of a cookieless future, the way we leverage our data to target and deliver catered experiences will have to change.

The Cookie Apocalypse

With rising concerns around privacy, the retraction of third-party data cookies has been accelerated by regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the United States.

Among all talks, the imminent threat of imprecise cookieless targeting hung heavy in the air. It was the proverbial elephant in the (theatre) room – and many made sure to address it. While the future is uncertain, one thing is clear: businesses need to act now rather than later to survive. As of yet, there is no definite solution, although many place their hope in their first-party data.

A first-party data strategy refers to how an organisation collects, manages, analyses, and utilises data directly obtained from its own customers or users. By leveraging data collected from first-hand interactions and engagements, they can continue to drive business decisions, enhance customer experiences, and personalise marketing efforts. In this context, the marketing funnel needs re-examining to accommodate the shift. Equally, companies need to re-evaluate their AdTech and choose new solutions that don’t rely on third-party data cookies as soon as possible, to allow time for onboarding and efficient adoption in their practices.

A scarcity of quality website sessions

As an SEO content writer myself, it should come as no surprise that I found the talk about the rising value of website sessions by Leadoo the most engaging. They posit that the increasing number of website sessions now may not necessarily translate into improved quality in user engagement. Several factors contribute to this shift.

Firstly, the prevalence of zero-click searches, as reported by sources like SparkToro and SemRush, raises concerns about users finding answers without clicking through to websites. Additionally, the integration of AI into search engines will alter the way search results are presented, moving away from traditional clickable results. This will reduce the incentive for users to access SERP links.

Secondly, the intensifying competition in search, marked by a doubling in global search ad spend annually since 2017, creates an inflationary effect, making it harder for websites to gain visibility. On top of everything, the impending cookie-less future will limit granular targeting, impacting the effectiveness of interest-based tailoring of content. All these have been resulting in the rising cost of backlinks, as editorial outlets now recognise their value.

In this context, it’s essential to acknowledge that merely assessing website traffic on a month-to-month basis is a short-term approach with limited impact, as traffic does not guarantee conversions. In fact, the average conversion rate for website sessions remains low at 2%, implying that 98% of visitors exit without taking any meaningful action. To address this issue, Leadoo proposes a strategic shift towards optimising the website’s front end for conversions. Embracing a conversion-focused perspective rather than solely prioritising traffic is essential. It involves implementing dynamic content and conversational technologies like chatbots and AI assistants to enhance user interactions and drive more meaningful engagement.

Other emerging trends for 2023

One of the trends discussed was the increasing popularity of influencer marketing. Influencers have become a powerful force in the digital marketing landscape, with consumers placing high trust in their recommendations (again, pivoting the conversation towards the human touch). A talk by influencer Em Clarkson reminded us of the importance of building authentic partnerships that resonate with our target audience.

Another advertising trend that was emphasised at the conference was the rise of video marketing. With the growing popularity of platforms like YouTube and TikTok, video has become one of the most effective ways to capture attention and engage with consumers. Flavia Colombo (EMEA North Leader at HubSpot) even deemed the personalisation of such content one of the most exciting next steps in the future of MarTech. She also briefly alluded to the integration of AR and VR in marketing campaigns. As these technologies provide immersive experiences, they can enhance brand engagement and drive customer loyalty.

Lastly, another trend predicted for 2023, this time by ScoreApp CMO Jake Mason, is the rise of voice search. With the increasing adoption of smart speakers and voice assistants, people are relying more on voice commands to search for information and make purchasing decisions. Thus, marketers need to optimise their content and websites for voice search to ensure they remain visible to this growing audience.

Conclusion: Embracing the future of digital marketing in 2023 and beyond

The Technology for Marketing Conference proved to us marketers that we need to embrace change and continuously adapt to the shifting needs and preferences of our audience. By investing in continuous learning, exploring new technologies, and leveraging the power of data, we can stay ahead of competition and drive meaningful results for our businesses.

At Dusted, we always have one eye on the future of MarTech and indeed modern marketing best practice, tracking emerging trends and how they can be pragmatically implemented in a joined-up strategy. We work with some of the most ambitious and game-changing businesses in the world and deliver solutions that walk the fine line between human connection and technical innovation.

As a specialist brand activation and digital marketing consultancy, we offer a plethora of resources to help you hone your strategies wherever you are on the adoption curve, helping diverse teams  implement change that delivers actual results. If you want to dive deeper into marketing and brand-related topics, make sure to check out these articles:

And if you require expert help and guidance tailored to your business’s needs, don’t hesitate to reach out. Get in touch now to book a call.