I often peruse Quora and came across this question: What is the future of digital marketing? What will be the major changes in the coming years? I sat on it for a while, mused on it over my morning tea (Irish breakfast, anyone?), thought about it, then thought about it some more.

The reality is that it’s hard to predict a lot of upcoming changes, because technology passes so quickly. My job of digital marketing didn’t even exist 20 years ago. Sure, advertising and graphic design both did, but the core functionalities and responsibilities of my job would’ve looked completely different a few decades ago. Heck, the internet didn’t even exist to the extent that it does now, nor did social media, nor did any type of digital advertising.

By the way, did I mention that it’s practically August of 2021? I don’t know about y’all, but I pretty much blinked and March 2020-August 2021 passed by in a flash. The future will be here before we know it and

So while a lot of this may be pretty amorphous and contain a decent amount of guesswork, there are three main focuses that I think will come into digital marketing over the coming years.

1. A focus on green.

Every statistic in the book, especially when it comes to generational marketing to millennials and gen z’ers, is pointing towards green. And nope, we’re not talkin’ about money here!

Here are some of the quick facts:

That’s a whole lot of focus on sustainability and environmental efforts. Those Generation Z kids, born between 1997 to 2012, are now graduating from college and making real purchasing decisions with real money. Did I mention there are 67 million of them residing in the United States?

That’ll change but only because it’ll get more important to buyers as time goes on. Combined with millennials, this is over 150 million people who grew up hearing about recycling and sustainability efforts. The data is suggesting that everything from banking to consumable goods will start to have to be sustainably focused in order to keep up with the competition.

2. A focus on privacy.

We all heard about the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal, but in case you missed it: in July of 2019, the Federal Trade Commission fined Facebook $5 billion due to its privacy violations.

We’ve also seen the imposition of various data protection acts including the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are laws that emerged to give individuals greater power over their personal information. Both regulate organizations that collect and use data in a variety of ways. Google has also announced a plan to block third-party cookies, probably in 2023, in order to protect users while also making money off advertising.

With 72% of adults in the US using at least one social media site, there are bound to be opinions. A 2014 survey found that 91% of Americans “agree” or “strongly agree” that people have lost control over how personal information is collected and used by all kinds of entities — and that kind of attitude is only confirmed

For someone that works in marketing, I have to tell myself to take a deep breath when someone talks to me about cookies and tracking codes and website activities and how there’s all this data on each individual everywhere they go, and how it’s all being exploited for something. Because… yes, it’s being “exploited” for the profit of some company running ads, theoretically? But also… no. There is data, that a person can request be deleted in a lot of cases (or all cases with GDPR compliant institutions), and all of that data is accessible in a variety of ways. But it isn’t nearly as nefarious as it may seem to the average person who is just learning about cookies and tracking beacons.

I think the focus on privacy, as evident by the roadmap put out by Google and the privacy-related events of the last few years, especially with the social media powerhouse, Facebook, will continue to grow in importance.

3. A focus on AI.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is another one of those things that the average person probably has a mediocre at best understanding of. The acronym is used to describe machines and computers that mimic “cognitive” functions like learning and problem-solving. The discussion of AI used to be pretty contained to fields like robotics, speech and image recognition, and natural language processing. But while that was happening, it also started to be viewed as some alien-like force that’ll turn all humans into batteries for artificial life on earth.

The Github Matrix Screensaver GIF by Product Hunt - Find & Share on GIPHY
Was I really not going to put a gif from The Matrix in here? Of course not.

The reality is much less exciting. It basically means more data.

With the ability to collect data, analyze it, apply it and then learn from it, AI is transforming digital strategies. As it continues to advance, so will the ability to use it to improve digital marketing strategies and provide valuable customer insights for companies.


Brands like Amazon and Spotify are already using artificial intelligence in a lot of their efforts. One of my favorite things is the Discover Weekly Playlist that updates every Monday with 30 new songs Spotify’s AI thinks I’d like. It does that by analyzing streaming history, the “liked” artists and songs, and any playlists created by the user. All of this together means that Spotify can imitate the really cool person who used to make you mixtapes in high school.

In a lot of ways, AI has the potential to simply make life as a marketer easier. It’ll be able to recognize and analyze patterns that currently have to be found individually. Marketing strategies can be honed with even more behavioral information from different platforms. Online conversations that used to be manual can become driven by AI chatbots, saving Sales and Support teams oodles of time without sacrificing quality. Even areas like marketing content have the potential to be touched by this new age of technology.

I, for one, am excited to see what changes can come to the industry in the coming years. Cya next time!

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Sarah Augustinsky

Marketing Automation Expert and Consultant