Like virtually every industry these days, emergent technology is disrupting the digital marketing landscape. This isn’t a new story. Marketing automation has been present for years. But recent advances in AI-powered automation and data analysis tools have transformed job functions up and down the industry and unlocked previously unimaginable capabilities. Things are starting to move fast.
And unlike in more labor-intensive industries, AI-powered changes have largely been a boon for marketers and the brands they support. According to a December 2021 survey by Salesforce Research, 89% of automation users feel more satisfied in their jobs and nearly as many feel better about their organizations since they began using these tools. Fewer than one in five worry that automation will replace their jobs and about three in four say AI helps them get work done faster.
If you feel like you haven’t quite kept pace with recent trends in this space, or you fear you’re losing your edge against more nimble competitors, there’s still time to catch up. Here’s what you need to know about the AI-powered trends driving digital marketing in 2023 and beyond.
These 5 Emerging Tech Trends Are Transforming Digital Marketing
Each of these trends is already having a significant impact on digital marketers’ work. Plus, the people and brands they work for. That impact is only set to grow in the near future.
1. PPC Marketing Automation for More Relevant In-Search Ads
PPC marketing has always been automated to some extent, but the toolkit PPC marketers use is quickly growing more powerful and less human-centric. The space took a major leap forward in 2021 and 2022 with Google’s release and subsequent updates of Performance Max, a cross-platform solution that knits together (largely automated) campaigns in YouTube, Search, Discover, Gmail, Maps, and other channels.
According to Optmyzr, which offers automation and analysis solutions that complement Google’s PPC suite, “[t]he future of humans in PPC will be about data quality and amplifying that which computers are unable to simulate, such as creativity and nuanced decision-making.” For the foreseeable future, this will be particularly important for marketers and brands that use Performance Max, which has a reputation with some for its limited visibility and often confusing outputs.
2. Email Marketing Automation to Keep Leads “Warm”
Like PPC marketing, email marketing has long benefited from increasingly sophisticated automation solutions. Gone are the days of sending out generic email blasts and praying even a tiny fraction of recipients clicked through.
Today, email marketing is all about personalization and user journeys. That wouldn’t be possible without AI-powered tools that recognize and capitalize on useful patterns faster than humans can. These tools enable channel-specific email funnels, where (for example) funnels beginning with LinkedIn or Pinterest sign-ups each look different than website-originated journeys.
They also deepen the sometimes-standoffish relationship between sales and marketing, with (for example) automated “schedule a call with our sales team” emails and third-party calendar integrations that nudge prospects through the early stages of the funnel. AI-powered tools are integral here: Solutions like ACT! use machine learning to score leads and generate flows that, based on mountains of available data, are more likely to convert.
3. Landing Page Automation for Better Personalization and Targeting
Truly personalized, individualized marketing is still some ways off, but it’s coming. And AI-generated, semi-personalized landing pages already play a big role.
This role will only grow in the future. Many marketers do have reservations about going all-in on AI-generated content, but Google itself has made clear that it doesn’t automatically penalize such content. The same quality, helpfulness, and anti-spam standards apply. This means that as long as the end result passes those tests, the risk is low. Yes, humans will edit and curate AI-generated landing pages (and other AI-generated marketing content) for a while yet, but less and less over time.
4. AI Content Generation for More Efficient Social Media Marketing
Another area where AI-generated content is poised to transform marketing is social media. It is a resource-intensive channel that produces wildly divergent outcomes. Many brands spend years plugging away on social in the unrealized hopes of going viral and changing everything, burning embarrassing sums along the way. Others get lucky with surprisingly little effort. Still, others do enough to justify the investment without really breaking through.
Automated social content, especially video, and animation skews the odds in marketers’ favor. It costs less to produce even after accounting for human editing and curation. Plus, it can be more creative or “unexpected” than human creators. Statistically, the combination of lower production costs and higher “creative volatility” increases the chances of both transformational viral events and incremental performance improvements.
5. AI-Powered Chatbots for Better Lead Management (And Support)
Marketers’ jobs don’t end when a prospect converts or even when the sale is finally done. A holistic approach to marketing requires ongoing support for current and former customers. This is true even for relatively transactional businesses where the average order value is low and most customers don’t repeat. Customers talk, and in a world where frank opinions freely transit social media channels and product review pages, it only takes a few bad experiences to harm a brand.
Not too long ago, all customer support functions relied on human labor, either directly or one step removed. AI-powered chatbots now handle basic support in many settings. Expect them to continue to replace human CSRs for more complex tickets as well. They’re increasingly important for presale support as well, doing valuable work to keep leads warm while human marketers work on higher-value strategic tasks.
Digital Marketing Automation Is Just Getting Started
Each of these digital marketing trends qualifies as a significant step forward. Some are even more impactful. They’re legitimate leaps. If you could bring a first-generational marketer forward in time from the late 1990s, you’d likely amaze and maybe even scare them with what’s possible.
Now imagine, if you dare, what the digital marketing landscape will look like 25 years from now. Will we even recognize it as such? How much influence will humans retain over tactics and strategy? Will humans be involved at all?
The point is that, yes, digital marketing has become increasingly automated since the early days of the public internet. The pace has accelerated in the past few years thanks in part to accelerating improvements in AI. Yet we’re still early in the arc of marketing automation. We can’t even imagine what’s coming over the horizon.
We can control how we respond to it, however. And in a near future where fewer human marketers will carry ever-greater workloads, it’s important to stay as far ahead of the curve as, er, humanly possible.