The 7 biggest problems online marketers will face in the next 5 years

Technology has made it an exciting time to be in marketing. But for all the advancements we've seen, we're still going to face some major hurdles as we move into the next era of marcom.

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Credit: ©IDG Communications, Inc. Photo contributed by Matthew Mikaelian

It’s an exciting time to be a marketer. Technologies are rolling out faster and faster, we have access to amounts of data previous generations couldn’t have possibly predicted, and we can communicate in some breathtaking ways with our customers. But for all these advancements and for all our potential to grow, we’re still going to face some major hurdles as we cross the threshold into the next era of communications and technology.

Projecting paths of technological development is difficult and somewhat unreliable, but based on our existing trends, I can imagine these seven problems arising in the not-too-distant future:

1. Working around AI

he AI revolution in marketing has already begun. Simple AI programs, like digital assistants are starting to shape the ways that users interact with digital devices, but on a grander scale, tech companies are working on ways to use AI and machine learning to update their own systems. As an example, Google’s RankBrain algorithm is currently working to update Google’s search algorithm on its own, based on its experiences and evaluations. A fuller deployment of self-updating systems would lead to a world where technology adapts extraordinarily quickly and in strange, unpredictable ways, leaving marketers scrambling to remain relevant.

2. Blurring the line between digital and reality

In a similar vein, the lines between the digital world and real world are starting to blur. The simple introduction of the QR code several years ago, now seen as ugly and almost archaic, was enough for people to start questioning how our digital lives would begin to intersect with our real ones. Now, with virtual reality becoming more popular, those lines are becoming even blurrier. Users are starting to crave more immersive, interactive experiences, and marketers will have to pivot to provide a hybridized experience that meets their expectations.

3. Riding the tide of organic social media

Organic visibility on social media is in a state of perpetual decline. While companies like Facebook have written this off as mere adjustments to favor overall user experience, the writing on the wall is that social media platforms are doing more to increase profits, and that means funneling more businesses to paid advertising programs over organic reach campaigns. Though it’s unlikely that organic social marketing will outright disappear anytime soon, most businesses will soon have to face a threshold of coughing up extra money for social advertising or bailing from the strategy altogether.

4. Delivering personalized experiences

Users are becoming pickier and needier as more diverse forms of content and interactive experience become the norm. Think of how this has affected your own life; can you remember a time before your Google account gave you personalized search results, or when retargeting advertisements were creepy and inexplicable? The world is slowly becoming more personalized, catered to the individual, and marketers will have a hard time delivering those personalized experiences.

5. Using big data correctly

We have access to more data than we know what to do with—literally. Everyone in the marketing community seems excited at the prospect of getting practically any information you ever wanted about your customers and business operations. There’s still one problem, however; data can only give you answers to the questions you ask of it. It can’t generate conclusions or insights on its own. Collectively, we’re still novices when it comes to data analysis, yet we have more available data than ever before. The result of that dissonance is misuse and misappropriation of that data—a trend that may continue until we find better ways to handle this new influx of information.

6. Settling into a new kind of Internet

Thanks to mobile devices, universal WiFi, and a handful of other technologies, we’re starting to enter a new age of Internet experiences. The lines between apps and websites are starting to blur with features like app streaming, and users are growing used to accessing online content instantaneously, from anywhere. It’s feasible that traditional websites and search engines are starting to die out in favor of new interfaces and forms of content, and marketers will need to change everything they know about website building and SEO if they want to settle into this new mode of communication and exchange.

7. Keeping up

This is kind of a recurring theme throughout this article, but it also serves as a standalone challenge. The biggest thing to worry about isn’t what changes lie ahead for the marketing world, but rather how fast those changes are going to develop. Technology evolves on an exponential scale, but most of us are linear learners, taking extra time to adapt to our new environments and struggling to integrate new systems. It’s going to become even more imperative that marketers figure out a way to keep up as the pace escalates further—which is easier said than done.

If you’re going to remain relevant as an online marketer, you’ll need to find a way to proactively identify and compensate for these almost-certain problems. Few can be solved with the simple adoption of a new process or strategy, but all of them can be feasibly managed if you’re adequately prepared for them. Since we don’t know exactly what’s in store for us in the coming years, the best way to prepare is to simply remain vigilant, keeping an eye on these technologies as they develop and remaining flexible in your adoption and execution of formal strategies.

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