DMEXCO 2020: Constant evolution of a digital-first world
This year’s DMEXCO showed one thing hasn’t changed; the major industry event is still a vital forum for connection and collaboration between publishers, marketers, agencies, and ad tech vendors. But there were key differences too, aside from the new all-digital format.
Focus centred heavily on how COVID-19 has reshaped not only digital marketing, but also the world as we know it. The future has become increasingly changeable – and how industry players can adapt to these circumstances was at the forefront of discussion.
Core highlights included conversations around advancing diversity and inclusion, innovating for digital transformation, and responding to the digital-first consumer. Key to all these, however, was the central theme – attitude.
The mindset of the future: Optimistic, supportive and sustainable
The global pandemic has affected everyone, from new entrants in digital marketing to industry veterans in C-suite positions. It has unified many and shifted business outlooks toward people: internal workforces and external consumers alike. This comes hand in hand with the growing CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) movement, where more brands and businesses are recognising their impact in society and beginning to onboard responsible approaches to commerce. From environmental sustainability to ethical working practices, businesses have renewed their focus on building an optimistic, forward-thinking attitude and a clear brand purpose.
Reimagining how digital marketing operates is essential to surviving in the new climate. Businesses must reflect the values of their customers, but no one in the industry needs reminding about the dynamic nature of consumer views and behaviours. As a result, there is no endpoint when it comes to having a supportive attitude; only continuous adaptation and progression. In the coming year, we may therefore see the industry further reorient itself around offering more genuine value; whether that’s through digital experiences for consumers, flexible technologies for clients, or professional development for peers.
Everyone needs to address diversity and inclusion
The push for greater diversity within digital marketing was a salient issue. New talent needs more pathways into the industry and part of that will mean ensuring acquisition is aimed at attracting the brightest minds from all walks of life. By organising new networking events and building relationships with educational bodies, businesses from all sectors can open doors for the next generation of marketing experts. Those who view difference and diversity as an opportunity will be the ones who retain this expertise going forward.
Alongside this introspective approach, digital marketers need to ensure brands are taking a stand publicly and engaging in diversity discussions. Research shows 66% of consumers want to see more brands join forces to tackle social issues, but many businesses are reluctant to take this step due to fear of backlash. Digital activism can indeed be a rough sea to navigate, but one takeaway from DMEXCO’s sessions on diversity was that creating the space for dialogue is a valuable contribution.
2020 is the year for digital champions
In addition to the social developments of the industry, how businesses operate and the technology they use is advancing. Digital transformation was a phrase on the lips of many experts this year, with COVID-19 bringing the future of technology even sooner than anticipated. Typically, legacy companies have been slower to adjust to digitisation and as a result, there is an uptick in start-ups and SMEs rising to the forefront.
Prior to the pandemic, sustainable footwear brand, Allbirds had sophisticated omnichannel operations that delivered a frictionless experience, whether online or offline. Following the decline in footfall post-lockdown, this allowed Allbirds to rapidly pivot their business toward a digital-first approach, due to its unified inventory and logistics. The brand redeployed its in-store staff for fulfilling online purchases, while customers’ shopping experience went uninterrupted, despite the surge in demand. New tools and new thinking enabled the company to react quickly to market changes.
Translating digitisation into the consumer experience
By digitising both internal operations and marketing efforts, businesses will be better positioned to reach and engage the new, digital-first consumer. Some brands at DMEXCO reported consistent, holiday-level traffic surges almost every day in 2020, highlighting the need for future-proofed, scalable technology. COVID-19 has rapidly accelerated the evolution of consumer touchpoints, but it has also increased opportunities for digitally savvy marketers.
Brands are now exploring innovative ways to reach, connect, and build relationships with customer bases, as well as adding more value to their products and experiences. For example, streaming has reinvented how people interact with events and exhibitions – take a look at the V&A’s ‘Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk’ exhibition, which transitioned from physical to virtual with a five-part curator tour on YouTube. Through tailoring content to digital platforms and channels, brands have been able to transform their offerings for today’s consumer.
DMEXCO has made it apparent that, for digital marketing, 2020 has been a year to inspire unprecedented levels of progress. Already a fast-paced industry by reputation, digital marketing is turning down fresh, exciting avenues to continue driving success. Although the pandemic has introduced new considerations, it has also brought a renewed focus on previous issues and challenges. Moving forward, however, it seems the industry is optimistic about its ability to resolve, rebuild, and innovate for the future.