Seven tech CEOs share their insights about the direction of marketing in 2020.

Customers will lean on software vendors to ensure compliance, Gregg Johnson, CEO, Invoca

New regulations like CCPA and [the] GDPR along with increasing consumer demand for data privacy will change the way companies approach compliance in 2020. It will no longer be a checkbox for IT to tick off during the software selection process but a feature that’s front-and-center in their marketing. Software vendors will tout compliance as a service as end-users lean heavily on vendors to stay ahead of an ever-changing regulatory landscape.

AI is about to get even noisier, but 2020 isn’t the year that AI changes the world. Sudheesh Nair, CEO of ThoughtSpot  

If you thought the marketing noise around AI was loud in 2019, prepare for it to get deafening in 2020. Private companies, especially startups, will increasingly tout themselves as AI companies in a bid to capture VC dollars, regardless of what they actually offer. Similarly, we’ll see companies, especially public ones, repackage their offerings with some sort of AI spin to impress shareholders hungry for stories of digital transformation success. 2020 is shaping up to be a tough year for AI with people getting disillusioned with the distance between marketing and reality. Companies will need to continue to invest in infrastructure that can handle AI capabilities and a rash of APIs to connect data together to train and feed algorithms.

D2C companies will abandon email as their primary customer communication channel. Leore Avidar, co-founder and CEO, Lob

In 2020, direct-to-consumer (D2C) companies will see email unsubscribe rates grow toward 40% and reach all-time highs. With platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Google becoming increasingly expensive, brands are going to be forced to find alternative channels to communicate with their customers. Brands will need to reassess their marketing strategies and modernise more traditional engagement approaches to maintain customer loyalty while creating unique and meaningful ways to reach their customer base. In an era of extreme testing and personalisation, this leaves D2C brands with limited options and they must adopt new channels that create a direct relationship and drive engagement.

Retail Trend: Hyper-local, Tom Buiocchi, CEO, ServiceChannel

‘Hyper-local’ will be a trend for retail and services of all kinds. Big retailers are shifting from the mega-super-store to local outposts that look and feel more like part of the community. Location matters more and more, and with ubiquitous delivery of anything, some stores will simply go to where the shoppers are. Healthcare is no exception: expect to see more and more core medical services offered at pharmacies or even purpose-built locations. In doing this, retailers can provide shoppers with a convenient and efficient experience.

Financial governance becomes the No. 1 cloud priority, Ashish Thusoo, co-founder and CEO, Qubole

The cloud provides huge benefits for agility and speed of innovation, but enterprises have recognized that costs can spiral out of control if they are not carefully managed. Next year, we will see an even greater emphasis on financial governance in the cloud as CTOs seek to understand their cloud ROI and hold departments responsible for their cloud usage. This means there will be a focus on tools for calculating the costs of cloud storage and compute, as well as chargeback mechanisms for individual BUs and departments so they are held accountable for their usage.

2020 will unleash bold moves, in controlled steps, Brett Caine, CEO of Airship

The most successful companies run thousands, even tens of thousands, of tests and experiments a year. For Netflix, it has meant getting people to content they want to watch faster and created a US$25 billion business for Amazon when they experimented in launching Amazon Web Services (AWS). With tremendous competitive challenges in every market and mainstream recognition that customer experience matters as much as a company’s products or services, marketers will double-down on experimentation across customer engagement channels and digital properties. Rather than making big bets on large initiatives with unknown ROI, continuous testing and optimization will help break down these decisions into bite-size chunks with data validating moves along the way.

Product usage metrics will become bellwethers for the most highly-valued companies, Todd Olson, co-founder and CEO of Pendo

Product usage metrics like adoption, retention and stickiness will rank alongside financials as indicators of a digital business’s overall health and growth potential. After a year where many tech companies failed to measure up to expectations, delaying IPO filings or choosing not to file at all, numbers that can often be inflated will be checked by metrics that are easily quantifiable and able to determine whether customers are engaged and happy, or frustrated and likely to churn. The sooner investors can uncover these trends, the sooner they can invest or know when to walk away.