From data clean rooms to CTV, from tools to techniques, marketers must learn what they need to know for success in the year ahead
By Yogeeta Chainani
The only thing that’s predictable about the digital marketing landscape is the forces that inevitably shape it from year to year. Constant advancements in technology and consumer behaviors that change even faster than the technology dictate what marketers must know to stay on top of the trends. For instance, in 2023, we’ve watched artificial intelligence (AI) revolutionize how the world thinks about content creation. It will however, continue to influence how businesses reach and engage with their target audience in the new year, while voice search will require businesses to adapt their SEO strategies. Just pointing to AI as the trend to watch, however, is oversimplifying a complex technology and its role in an even more complex industry.
The digital marketing landscape, however dynamic and challenging as it is, still presents an unparalleled opportunity for brands to excel. Let’s understand the key drivers which will influence this space in 2024.
Attention on privacy will top the charts
For the past couple of years, the digital marketing conversation has been dominated by concerns about privacy and the changes companies like Apple and Google are implementing to protect user privacy. Meanwhile, European Union (EU) legislation — from GDPR to the Digital Markets Act — is changing the way marketers can interact with audiences. In India as well, the Digital Data Protection Bill (DPDP) 2023 was passed for safeguarding the privacy rights of individuals thereby regulating the processing of digital personal data in the country.
Collectively, these developments have led to both, how companies treat data, but also how users think about their digital privacy or lack thereof.
So what should marketers focus on? One thing is for sure that only those with strong and transparent user data protection measures and functionalities in place will thrive next year. Marketers will not only have to be more transparent about their data practices but will also need to focus more on data usage in targeted advertising and leverage innovative tracking tools that offer real-time compliance monitoring features, empowering marketers to proactively adjust their strategies as regulations evolve.
Renewed focus on First-party data and data clean rooms
The new focus on privacy engenders many spin-off concerns and questions. Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox already default to blocking third-party cookies. With Google moving closer to the deprecation of third-party cookies, marketers are looking for solutions. With less data available from the dominant force in digital advertising, there is a renewed focus on first-party data.
Part of the conversation around first-party information involves data clean rooms, a solution that allows brands and advertisers to upload their first-party data to a platform’s clean room and compare it to aggregated data from other sources. Rather than trading user-level data (i.e., cookie IDs, device IDs, etc.), data clean rooms prevent any user-level data from being accessed outside of the data clean room and make it possible to continue segmenting and targeting users. Marketers will need to get comfortable with working with data clean rooms in the privacy-centric future.
Even as privacy dominates the discussion, mobile marketers will increasingly depend on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to deliver highly personalized content and recommendations to users based on their preferences and behaviors.
Generative AI will take on an especially important role in ad creative- product reimagnation in new scenes along with generation of copy and design ideas, ultimately being placed in an editable template. In the space of videos, AI is already facilitating almost everything, ranging from script and audio generation, to collage clips together based on theme, to making talking avatars. In 2024 AI and ML will continue to monitor success and help marketers optimize everything from creatives to ad placement.
Rise of Connected televisions and podcast ads
Connected Televisions (CTV) and podcasts are increasingly important for any well-rounded digital marketing strategy. Propelled by India’s growing internet penetration, the 5G rollout and the ongoing OTT revolution, Smart TVs now account for nine out of every ten TV units sold in India that are now the tenth-largest market in the world. Smart-connected TV users are set to exceed 40 million by 2025 with almost 30% of screen time being dedicated to social interaction, gaming, and digital content (Source: FICCI-EY report). India with its 57.6 monthly listeners is already the third-largest podcast listening market in the world, after China and the US (Source: PwC report, Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2020–2024).
As the number of people tuning into podcasts and streaming videos continues to climb, advertisers can no longer afford to ignore these channels in the new year.
Voice search and SEO as a core part of users’ life
Voice-activated devices and assistants have slowly but surely been changing the way consumers search. As of this year, 4.2 billion voice assistants are in use, a number which will be 8.4 billion by 2024. Additionally, over 50% of adults report using voice search daily. (Source: DemandSage)
In India where for most people, mobile phones are their primary device of choice, voice is enabling their engagement with technology in their preferred local languages. As of October 2020, 60% of users in India were interacting with voice assistants on their smartphones.
Even Google is embracing a more conversational format with Magi — a search engine that embraces a more conversational format (among other changes). In 2024, companies will have to rethink their SEO strategies, ensuring their pages are optimized as much for voice search as they are for traditional text-based search.
Continued dominance of video
Video content, especially short-form and interactive videos, will continue to be a dominant format for mobile marketing as it captures users’ attention and conveys messages effectively. TikTok is no small part of this equation, but it’s not the only force behind this trend. For instance, rewarded video ads are incredibly popular with mobile game players, and are worth exploring for advertisers who have not already done so. Together with CTV marketers will have to remember that this is another important use for video ads.
Automation and optimization of ad campaigns
Over the past year, we’ve seen marketing budgets and departments getting slashed. With fewer resources to rely on, marketers must utilize automation and optimization to reduce costs and focus on strategic campaigns. The right tools can automate tedious, repetitive tasks, freeing up marketers to do more creative tasks and make better decisions about where to spend their precious ad dollars. To use technology to its best advantage, companies should consolidate their tech stacks. Using comprehensive tools that offer a complete marketing solution – rather than piecing together a variety of solutions to present interoperability challenges – is a competitive challenge and just more efficient.
Additionally, we will see foundational concepts — like app store optimization (ASO) — continue to be a focus for marketers while voice search optimization (VSO) brings new challenges and opportunities.
Summing up the year ahead
As consumers become more discerning and demanding regarding the quality of advertising, staying on top of trends is more critical than ever.
Having rigorous data privacy standards and consolidating tech stacks to provide a single source of truth is imperative to success as the ecosystem continues to evolve. To borrow from Charles Darwin, marketers must adapt or die.
(The author is Yogeeta Chainani, Co-Founder and CEO, Swaarm, and the views expressed in this article are her own)