MarTech (Virtual) 2020: Best Bits, Themes, and Top Takeaways

MarTech (Virtual) 2020: Best Bits, Themes, and Top Takeaways

2020 has been a year of adaptation and transformation — and the semi-annual MarTech Conference was no exception. Much like the marketers who have adapted to our new shared “normal” within Business; the conference planners, speakers, and attendees all embraced the change and shifted to a completely online experience. 

For marketers looking to learn more about the latest trends in marketing and technology, this is a fantastic opportunity. All the best and brightest minds in one space, no travel, and no expenses required. There was so much to take in from this year’s MarTech Conference (like CDPs and AI remain popular in tech and everyone is talking digital transformation), we’re going to recap Blueshift’s highlights and how we see the marketing landscape changing in the year ahead — and how you can get ahead of the curve with the right technology. Here’s what two of our very own Blueshifters, Vijay Chittoor and Josh Francia, had to say in their sessions at MarTech 2020.

How do CEOs and CMOs view the new “rules” of marketing?

We live in an always-on world — even more so now that we’re spending more time at home (and on our devices) as consumers. This means customers are also leaving behind more data — in fact, the average person generates 2.5 quintillion bytes per day. So marketers not only have to contend with crafting compelling messaging that’s worthy of customers’ clicks, but they also have to understand data science and analytics to get that job done.

Key Takeaway: At MarTech 2020, data and what to do with it, was a big theme. Marketers can expect data-centric solutions that put the customer first like CDPs to continue to be top of mind into 2021 and beyond.

Marketers are also increasingly involved with creating the overall customer experience which requires that traditionally “non-marketing” channels be involved in a cohesive, personalized style of omnichannel marketing. To learn more about this change you can continue your reading over at

All of this culminates in a fantastic customer experience. But that experience is reliant on the first-party data you own to deliver a seamless experience across all channels and touchpoints, with messaging and content (like recommendations) being personalized to the individual, all at scale. Sounds daunting right? While this type of customer experience isn’t going to happen overnight for brands, there are key strategic tech investments marketers can make to get there.

One of these tools at your disposal comes in the form of a SmartHub CDP. This new category is easiest to understand if we break down its name.

  • First things first, the SmartHub CDP at its core is a Customer Data Platform (but it’s a far cry from a traditional one). It can ingest and unify your first-party data (such as transaction, CRM, and browsing data) to create a Single Customer View for each customer. Marketers can access a single customer view for each customer, such as age, behavioral patterns, past purchases, and more — customer data is the “fuel” for your entire tech stack.
  • Picking up where the CDP left off, the Smart component is the “steering wheel” of the stack and it guides the rest of the platform with AI-powered real-time decisioning to deliver the best possible experience to customers in real-time.
  • The Hub is the “engine” of your stack — it routes data, triggers messages, and connects all the touchpoints of the customer journey

Let’s hear from someone who has successfully executed this transformation with the help of Blueshift’s SmartHub CDP: Houman Akhavan, CMO of

“As one of the fastest-growing automotive parts websites (with over 10 million visits a month), it’s important to offer that 1:1 experience that will set them apart. With the SmartHub CDP, they do just that — just this year alone they’ve generated over a quarter billion personalized messages through Blueshift.”

“And I really appreciate that I’m here discussing the changing rules of marketing. I believe that the data-driven marketers that truly understand the convergence of marketing and technology will be the ones that are successful in the coming years — and ultimately are the CMOs of the future.”

“We landed on Blueshift when we were having difficulties using our data, scaling, and personalizing. Additionally, we had very little insight into our marketing — so we sought out platforms like the SmartHub CDP that would help us truly understand our customers and allow us to be “customer-first”. This is so important for our customers, they’re completely unique shoppers (you shouldn’t ever market Honda parts to a Toyota fanatic). I think it goes back to the “customer is always right” but digitally, they don’t just freely give our their preferences, but we can understand them through the data they leave behind and deliver the right message, on the right channel, at the right time with the SmartHub CDP.”

Theme: In the past 5 years customers have become super-browsers, they constantly jump across different channels, but expect a seamless experience. Marketers need to embrace a customer-centric (rather than a channel-centric) approach in marketing to execute a winning customer experience.

How can AI completely revolutionize the way you communicate with customers?

Josh Francia, Chief Growth Officer of Blueshift, knows a thing or two about AI. Before coming to Blueshift Josh led marketing teams at top B2C companies such as Priceline and Gozengo, where he led the adoption of AI within marketing. Most notably, Josh oversaw the onboarding of Blueshift at Lending Tree, who now uses Blueshift’s SmartHub CDP to fuel their campaigns.

Given that Josh has experience working with AI, he’s also aware of the many stereotypes that come along with the technology — learned from movies, publications, and even just from word of mouth. Most of these assumptions are incorrect: AI is here to help marketers do more with less (and it’s already helping forward-thinking companies grow customer engagement and exceed their goals).

“The Holy Grail, or end goal, of AI Marketing is marketers being able to determine Who to target, with What message, On which channel, and at the best time they are likely to take action to increase engagement and conversions with your brand.”

AI, when fed with a solid foundation of first-party data, can help marketers get to the level of intelligence where every customer is getting personalized, unique brand experiences. But don’t feel bad if you’re far away from doing personalization at scale, in fact only 5% of marketers are personalizing at a 1:1 level today. Here are some of the major hurdles that prevent marketers from achieving their personalization goals:

  • Poor data collection and data unification
  • Inability to run complex use cases efficiently
  • Outdated tools that lack the ability to activate data

Key Takeaway: So what’s the key to making the most of your data, busting down those roadblocks, and scaling personalization? Putting AI in the hands of marketers and letting them be in full control of their customer data. 98% of marketers who use AI report significant marketing improvements

When purchasing or evaluating AI-driven vendors, it’s important to evaluate for a few key elements in a technology partner:

  1. Transparency: Avoid opaque black-box models. Models should be easy to understand and have clear inputs and outputs.
  2. Simplify Complexity: Models should be simple to set, train, and test, but handle complex business decisions.
  3. Activation: Look for systems that score and allow you to activate (or use across your marketing) seamlessly.

Theme: AI is a pretty incredible tool for marketers but it needs unified customer data to reach its full potential. That’s why platforms like the SmartHub CDP are so instrumental to a company’s success — it combines the power of the CDP with AI.

AI is a pretty hefty topic, but it no longer has to be inaccessible to marketers. In both Josh Francia’s full MarTech session and our Ultimate Guide to AI Marketing, we help marketers understand the complexities of AI and identify key ways it can be used to drive growth for brands.