2020 saw a rise in B2C marketing tech budgets with marketers backing AI and zero-party data for 2021 success


New research into the state of play for 250 U.K. business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing leaders  has revealed that over half of brands surveyed saw a rise in their marketing technology budget in 2020.

Businesses are focused on using these expanded resources to deliver for a market radically altered by COVID-19. The top concern from marketing leaders for 2021 was the growing demand for convenience and safety, more than twice the second biggest concern – the acceleration of e-commerce.

In the new year, brands are preparing to bounce back from the challenges of 2020 with a more mature, tech-driven approach to build meaningful connections with customers. Sixty-one percent of respondents pointed to increased new customer acquisition as their top business priority in 2021, followed by improved data management, optimised marketing automation workflows and better mapping of the customer lifecycle.

These priorities translate into an ambitious expansion of businesses’ martech stack in 2021. Artificial intelligence is one particularly attractive option for brands. The overwhelming majority (88%) of U.K. marketing leaders said that AI was a key part of their 2021 marketing strategy, and that they planned to develop their in-house AI capabilities in the new year. Technological advancement in AI is transforming the ways brands interact with customers; Iterable recently launched its Brand Affinity intelligent personalization solution, offering marketers the ability to harness the power of AI to build real emotional connections with consumers.

Jeffrey Vocell, Director of Product Marketing at Iterable, said: “Marketers can leverage AI to better measure customer sentiment and curate more meaningful experiences. For example, most marketers currently use queries of never-ending customer signals or sift through billions of rows of engagement data to build a personalised brand experience. With AI, like Brand Affinity from Iterable, marketers can automatically calculate and classify sentiment to transform customer engagement at scale.”

Personalised messaging

With many customers stuck at home and using mobile devices in record numbers, U.K. marketers utilised a range of different messaging channels to keep their audience engaged. Eighty-three percent of brands used email this year, 38% more than the next most popular messaging channel: SMS.

However, the new year brings new approaches to marketing communications. Over the next 12 months, Iterable’s research highlighted a predicted 4% rise in use of mobile push notifications, 15% increase for use of the in-app channel and 23% rise for web push notifications.

Given this trend, brands are expanding their mobile and in-app channel messaging capabilities. By the end of 2021, 92% of U.K. B2C brands plan to have a mobile app – 66% businesses currently have an app in place and 26% plan to build one in 2021. Brands are also keen to ramp up their use of data to enhance their offering to customers.  Next year, 78% of U.K. marketing leaders expect to use zero-party data more (defined as information customers freely and intentionally provide to a brand) to personalise messaging experiences.

Vocell concluded: “With marketers heavily investing in zero-party data and elevating the importance of mobile, 2021 will solidify mobile apps as a marketing standard as companies aim to create a truly personalised customer experience based on data of what consumers really want.”