The best news of digital marketers

For digital marketers, 2016 was a year of innovation and change. And while some of the most prominent challenges were familiar, there were brand new hurdles that seemed to emerge daily. So, what were the most critical ones?

Related: How to Stay Ahead With Digital Marketing

As marketers close out the year and consider strategies for 2017, here’s a look back at five of the biggest obstacles they faced over the last year.

 

1. Ad fraud is still a big problem.

The United States has one of the worst ad fraud rates in the world. This year, the rates will cost the industry more than $7 billion in advertising spend — up, once again, from the previous year (in this case, 2015). For comparison, other countries like Australia, France, Germany and the United Kingdom all have better rates.

On the bright side, as the problem has grown, so has awareness among advertisers. This has led to supply-side changes, with publishers eliminating high-risk and potentially fraudulent inventory. We’re also seeing more industrywide standards and incentives in place this year than there were two years ago.

For instance, the IAB has put in place a Traffic of Good Intent Task Force, designed to combat ad fraud and offer recommendations and best practices. And, this past summer, the Trustworthy Accountability Group launched an anti-fraud certification program.

Together, these things are turning the tide — albeit slowly. As fraud lingers, however, marketers might look at other channels that have more inherent engagement and audience buy-in — such as mobile apps and email — as a means for launching launch campaigns.

 

2. Marketers are stuck on data collection.

Today, more than 92 percent of marketers collect information on customers or prospects. Data-driven marketing is the industry standard. But we’re still stuck in idle, focusing on data collection. Most marketers are just learning how to crawl when it comes to making data actionable at scale; and 2016 didn’t see much progress in that direction.

When it comes to data implementation, an alarming number of marketers still lack the internal experience — either at the functional or operational level — to be successful. This is why, according to a report from IDG Connect and Avention, more than 40 percent of marketers can’t draw insights from harvested data.

This will hopefully change as marketing tools offer more self-service, automating data analysis and implementation. And others will offer machine-learning capabilities to drive immediate applications of customer data.

 

3. Marketing software is too hard to use.

During this past year, 2016, technology’s ease of use has become a much bigger focus for the marketing industry. This is because of the complexity in the customer journey. Scott Brinker, the CTO of ion interactive, said it best when he characterized the funnel as “hundreds of touchpoints” that are “aching to be addressed every month.”

As the customer journey has grown more complicated, with more touchpoints and data, software supporting marketers needs to be simplified. Companies that do that will optimize adoption and support ROI.

Related: Tailor Your Digital Marketing to the Customer Experience

Marketing software shouldn’t be a rite of passage. To navigate the complexity of the modern customer journey, it must be built for ease of use, with intuitive UIs and functionality. This has been the focus of many software providers this year. Advertisers, agencies and marketers want more platform simplicity from vendors.