10 major issues digital marketing may face in the future

Digital marketing has become the go-to advertising strategy for many businesses. The return on investment is unmatched, and it offers a unique way to interact with customers. However, despite being such a pivotal part of many businesses’ marketing strategies, digital channels face their own challenges.

Currently, digital marketing is going through a transitional period. We are noticing things occurring in the industry that suggest a time of significant change over the horizon. And change can be disastrous for a company that isn’t prepared to deal with it.

These experts from Ad Age Collective have been working with digital marketing throughout their careers and are well-poised to predict what significant issues the digital marketing sphere will be likely to encounter shortly, as well as how businesses can better prepare for these changes.

1. The collapse of third-party cookies

The collapse of third-party cookies is definitely on the top of the risk list, as it will make it much harder to track users and serve targeted ads. With most major browsers ramping up tracking prevention, advertisers and publishers will be equally affected by this change. There are no easy solutions to this problem, but multiple industry initiatives are underway to compensate for the loss. – Vishveshwar Jatain, AdPushup Inc.

2. Audiences being increasingly ad-adverse

Content-overloaded audiences are increasingly ad-adverse — 86% of viewers skip through ads and 47% utilize ad-blockers. To compete, marketers need to invest in data-driven brand integration strategies to get products directly into content efficiently, and at scale. Artificial intelligence can sort through millions of opportunities to pinpoint the best integrations for brands, helping them beat the ad-blocker curve. – Ricky Ray Butler, Branded Entertainment Network

3. Tone deaf messaging

Tone deaf messaging can become a major issue. An ad that still remains the day after a massive shooting, a pandemic or a major international movement such as BLM can not only appear tone deaf, but can also completely turn off potential customers and spark outrage. Marketers need to have a plan in place to review, pivot and pause ads immediately given the pace of the news cycle and events in the world. – Rebecca Bamberger, BAM Communications

4. Turning it into a tactic-first activity

There is a risk of digital marketing turning into a tactic-first activity. Digital marketing has in recent years become synonymous with growth hacking. The relentless push toward data and metrics ironically erodes the core essence of marketing: to be effective communicators between companies and consumers. Companies need to push back on a metrics-first approach and use methods to look at the bigger picture of their digital efforts. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

5. Brands sticking to legacy technologies

Brands and agencies mostly stick to legacy technologies and processes. Scale, personalization and omnichannel experiences (seamless experiences in every touchpoint — channel, device, format) will dictate the fate of your digital marketing (and business). Many companies are still reluctant to take the next step, and eventually it’ll boomerang. COVID-19 accelerated some aspects and there will be no turning back. – Oz Etzioni, Clinch

6. Businesses misusing guest posts

Businesses need to be very careful about misusing guest posts to build backlinks. Google has recently penalized a guest post network blog for sharing unnatural links. Make sure that you’re being thoughtful about guest posting and focus on creating great content. The backlinks will come naturally if you’re creating good content. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

7. Breaking with brand values

Breaking with brand values to be a part of the “item du jour” is a risk. Digital marketing enables quick response and an opportunity to pivot. However, doing this because everyone else is will not serve a brand well if it is inauthentic. Do not chase a message if it’s not applicable, and think before you react. All of the benefits of digital marketing flexibility could become a hindrance. – Maggie O’Neill, Peppercomm

8. Increasingly ineffective use of channels

I see several potential issues. First, more companies are migrating toward the digital platform as a “catch all” and not using channels more effectively. Second, the thought that your existing content will be easily purposed for digital. And ultimately believing that this is the only place you can spend your money. – Rich Honiball, Navy Exchange Service Command

9. The growing dominance of walled gardens

The growing dominance of walled gardens is a risk. From an advertising perspective, the millions of blooming flowers on the internet have transformed into a half a dozen giant sequoias that are sucking up all the water and casting long shadows over the digital marketing ecosystem. Ironically, privacy concerns are playing right into their hands and creating fewer avenues for advertisers. – Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)

10. Outsized focus on data over experience

The outsized focus on data over experience is a challenge that marketers face in the coming years. Myopic focus on competitors through data yields in small, incremental thinking and cost-cutting, rather than on big ideas, experience and opportunities. We need performance data; however, organizations that drive their business by dashboards rather than eyes on the horizon run the risk of crashing. – Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive