It’s clear that the biggest challenge facing businesses in 2020 is Covid-19, and picking up the pieces in its wake. But even before the current pandemic, 2020 was shaping up to pose businesses and brands a number of significant challenges that have the potential to change the digital landscape forever.

If anything, Covid-19 has made digital even more important than it was before; out-of-home (OOH) advertising has been hugely impacted, and there are serious questions to be asked about whether it should ever return to its full strength as consumers become ever more digitally-focussed. You’ve likely read the words ‘digital transformation’ everywhere over recent weeks.

As such, the challenges facing digital in 2020 won’t simply go away as a result of Covid-19. Indeed, you may find that those who are able to offer effective solutions to the digital hazards of 2020 emerge from lock-down in a position to capitalize on their hard work.

Navigating the Digital Hazards of 2020

Waning of the Website

The orthodoxy in digital marketing is to get users to your website, where you can better convey your message and control your brand image. However, some marketers are concerned that platforms like Facebook and Google are increasingly looking for ways to keep traffic on their platforms.

Already in the US, just under 50% of Google searches do not result in a click, and of those that do 12% go to a website owned by Alphabet (Google). Facebook, Google and others have all started to introduce lead generation ads, encouraging users to stay on their platforms and not go to the advertiser’s website.

Amazon’s Storefronts offer an alternative to a website, where customers can see product lines, deals and more without ever venturing near the seller’s website. This could pose a threat to the control a business has over the way a brand is perceived, and ultimately on its bottom line.

Navigating the Hazard

Exploiting the opportunity. By keeping traffic on the platforms the user journey is much reduced, making a conversion more likely. That means capitalising on lead gen ads, and exploiting the opportunity instead of fighting against it. You can read our guide to Google Lead Gen Ads here…

Another benefit of using lead gen ads and Storefronts is they help avoid issues of website speed. Site speed has the potential to damage conversion rate, and sidestepping that issue entirely could work well for you. For more information on the importance of site speed, click here...

Brand Awareness. Because a user won’t have the opportunity to explore a website and get a feel for a brand, upper-funnel activity that conveys the essence of a brand becomes ever more important. DV360, Amazon DSP and YouTube are all excellent ways of generating Brand Awareness and leaving a user with the desired impression of your brand.

The Cookie Has Crumbled

Google recently revealed its plans to prohibit 3rd party cookies, joining Firefox and Safari in blocking these mainstays of digital marketing.

The problem? Microsoft, Facebook and other advertisers all use 3rd party cookies for cross-site tracking, retargeting and serving advertising - with Google Chrome boasting 64% of the browser market, the decision to block 3rd party cookies by Google could pose a significant challenge to any business marketing online.

Navigating the Hazard

Google plans to phase out 3rd party cookies by 2022, so there is plenty of time to prepare. It is important to work with Google’s aim “to make the web more private and secure for users, while also supporting publishers'', and not against it.

Looking at options like fingerprinting are invasive and could damage your brand. Google has obvious incentives in ensuring advertisers can advertise effectively, so becoming more invasive is both morally questionable and unnecessarily risky. You can read more about Google’s plans for 3rd party cookies here...

Political Pinch

Criticism of Facebook, Google and Amazon has been growing since the US presidential elections of 2016, but 2020 looks like the year the debate of data and tech companies will really come to the fore.

Shoshana Zuboff’s hugely influential book “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” has articulated many people’s concerns and led to a broad change in the approach of policymakers to the big tech companies.

Most of the Democratic presidential candidates expressed their concerns with tech companies, with Elizabeth Warren’s notorious call to “break them up”. But even less liberal front runner, Joe Biden, has made critical comments.

In the UK, the Conservatives have floated the idea of a tech tax and there are even interesting ideas such as turning data into a national resource and creating a sovereign wealth fund from its profits floating around.

All these have clear implications for digital marketing, be it through increased cost, increased competition between platforms or changes to the way advertisers can advertise.

Navigating the Hazard

We have already looked at Google’s plan to block 3rd party cookies as a reaction to this political pinch, but how can other businesses navigate this hazard?

Obviously, there is no way most businesses can influence political decisions, but brands should position themselves to better cope with their consequences. Having a genuine ethical standpoint for your business has been proven to strengthen brand image and increase the amount people are willing to pay for your product and service.

This takes the sting out of possible negative association of tech companies, and will position your brand well to both distance itself from concerns if nothing changes, and gaining first-mover advantage if it does.

Diversifying your digital marketing is also an effective way of navigating these political hazards; utilising multiple channels minimises the risk posed by external forces by not putting all your eggs in the one basket. Using multiple channels also has the secondary benefit of allowing you to use each platform to their strengths.

Automation Armageddon

Okay so ‘Automation Armageddon’ is an exaggeration, but it caught your attention after things got a bit political. This hazard isn’t what you think anyway; automation itself isn’t the threat, it's the complacency surrounding it.

Some see automation as a silver bullet that magically produces perfect results and, after a fairly shaky start, it is fair to say automation is incredibly effective. But it is also crucial to avoid complacency.

Automation and machine learning have been used by marketers for some time now - they aren’t that new, especially when it comes to Google. This means competitors are probably also utilising automation and machine learning throughout their campaigns. If you aren’t, your business may get quickly outclassed as 2020 wears on.

Navigating the Hazard

It’s crucial to understand how to get the most out of automation and machine learning to make sure you’re not left behind. And this point has already been covered comprehensively in our Google Ads Automation guide here...

Final thoughts

Even before Covid-19, the digital landscape for 2020 was looking interesting and challenging. Now it undoubtedly is. But while a global crisis is domination, it hasn’t entirely swept away the digital challenges facing your business.

Our hope is that armed with the knowledge above, your business will both emerge from the current crisis stronger, and be able to capitalise better on change once things return to some semblance of normality.

As ever, if you have any questions about the digital hazards discussed above, or anything else advertising, conversion or analytics, just get in touch and let us know...