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11 Key Martech Trends for 2021

Today you're going to see 11 of the most important martech trends in 2021. Including many that are set to continue to grow into 2025 and beyond.

So if you want to see what's coming around the corner in the marketing technology space, you should get a ton of value from this post.

1. Podcast Tech Takes Off

According to Edison Research, 33% of American adults listen to podcasts on a regular basis.

(A number that has been increasing each year)

And we're starting to see a slew of martech products specifically for podcasts.

For example, searches for "podcast hosting" have increased by 84% over the last 5 years.

And brands like Anchor.fm (founded by Spotify) are seeing serious growth.

anchor.fm chart
Anchor.fm searches over 5 years.

That said, a podcast needs more than hosting to function. A professional podcast also needs a high-quality microphone, editing software and more.

In the podcast mic space, the Blue Microphone USB Mic has taken off in this relatively small (but growing) space.

blut yeti mics search growth chart
Searches for "blue microphones yeti" over the last five years.

And podcast editing software Descript is looking to become the de-facto software for editing podcast episode audio.

There are also a number of "podcast kits" on Amazon that attempt to deliver all of the equipment someone would need to start a podcast from scratch.

podcast kit on amazon.com
Podcast kits contain the basic equipment needed start their first podcast.

2. More Influencer Marketing Platforms Enter the Marketplace

65% of businesses plan to increase their influencer marketing budget, according to a survey conducted by BigCommerce.

Despite influencer marketing being "the next big thing", it remains a very labor-intensive process to pull off. For influencer marketing to work, a brand needs to: find influencers in their space. Filter out those with a minimum (or maximum) number of followers. Reach out one-by-one to each influencer. Negotiate rates and terms. Then, track the results.

So it's no wonder that a slew of influencer marketing platforms are entering the market.

These platforms attempt to take a lot of the legwork out of finding and contacting influencers.

For example, Sparktoro is software designed to help brands quickly identify the exact YouTube channels, podcasts and personal brands that their audience follows.

sparktoro search results page
Sparktoro's software finds influencers that a specific audience follows. 

And Upfluence is more of a database of 3M+ influencers that you can search and sort through. Along with email outreach features that allow you to contact influencers within the platform itself.

search growth for the upfluence brand
Search growth for Upfluence has increased by 192% in 5 years.

3. Increased Demand for Social Media Scheduling Tools

Dozens of social media scheduling tools have launched over the last few years.

In fact, this is one martech trend that doesn't get a lot of attention. Likely because these scheduling tools aren't likely to break the $1B mark. Or go public.

Despite that, many social media scheduling tools are growing (in terms of users and revenue) super quickly. And like many SaaS products, can have potentially high profit margins.

To be clear: this space isn't new. The Twitter scheduling tool Buffer launched way back in 2010. What's new is that this new batch of scheduling tools have advanced features (like the ability to automatically recycle previous posts). They also support newer formats, like Instagram Stories.

One of the fastest-growing brands in this space is Later.com.

google search growth for later.com
Search growth for the social media tool "Later" over the last 5 years.

Like many of the top social scheduling tools, Later.com is geared towards agencies and pros. Not people just starting out (although they do offer a limited free plan).

4. Chatbots Continue to See Growth

There's been a ton of hype around chatbots over the last few years.

And largely for good reason: a number of chatbot companies are growing rapidly.

For example: ManyChat.

search volume growth for manychat
Google searches for ManyChat are up 17% over the last 2 years.

ManyChat has raised $23M to date. And recently acquired customer attribution tool, Converlytics. Which suggests that there's still room for growth in this space.

While most chatbots are associated with complicated machine learning and AI capabilities, there's also demand for simple chatbot tools.

An example of an "accessible chatbot" tool is Landbot. Unlike most chatbots, Landbot uses a relatively simple decision-tree system. According to the company, this makes setting up a chatbot more "intuitive" than its AI-focsued competitors.

5. New Software Makes Video More Accessible

According to Animoto, businesses cite expense and lack of time as their two main obstacles for creating video content.

And a number of SaaS companies have recently launched to help solve those exact problems.

One example of software attempting to make video creation  a bit easier is Artgrid.

artgrid search growth
Largely due to a massive social ads campaign, searches for Artgrid.io have exploded.

Artgrid is a library of tens of thousands of stock video clips that can be used for YouTube videos, Facebook ads or social video campaigns.

In fact, YouTube itself is attempting to lower the bar for creating professional videos. Their recently-expanded YouTube Studio has a fairly robust video editing platform.

YouTube Studio search volume growth over time
Searches for video editing tool YouTube Studio have increased more than 200% in the last year.

There's also Viddyoze. This is similar to Artgrid. Except they focus more on stock animations vs real-life footage.

Viddyoze also has editing features built into the platform. Which, again, is designed to make video creation a bit more accessible. In this case, by making it so users don't need to learn how to use a separate piece of video editing software (like Adobe After Effects).

6. Businesses Opt For Niche Email Service Providers

One of the most surprising trends in the marketing technology space is the slew of email service providers (ESPs) seeing rapid growth.

The email service provider industry literally started in the 1990s.

So why is the space growing in 2021? Largely due to the growing number of niche email service providers entering the market.

Instead of "one size fits all" tool (like Mailchimp), these niche email marketing platforms tend to focus on one key feature, like newsletter design or simplicity.

For example, Substack separates itself from the Mailchimps of the world by focusing on a relatively niche use-case: people that have a list of paid newsletter subscribers.

substack searches over time
Search growth for Substack.

Substack's pricing model is also unique. Instead of charging a monthly fee, Substack takes a cut of revenue from each customer. In exchange, users can get started for free. And the platform takes care of sending, billing and other tasks required to run a paid newsletter.

Mailbrew is a bootstrapped app that has stepped up to remedy this. It’s essentially “Twitter (and everything else) over email”.

[chart]
Searches for “Mailbrew” since 2016.

Users pay $5 per month to receive the top tweets from people they follow. But they get all of this content in email newsletter format.

You can also receive the latest YouTube videos from specific channels, the top threads in particular subreddits and so on. And all of this can be personalized to your specific needs in terms of frequency and format.

Mailbrew has had rapid growth, with shoutouts from several big names in the space.

And you can even see examples of people actively pointing followers to Mailbrew’s paid service, to get them to subscribe for email updates of their tweets.

But you could argue that this business model is backwards. Usually, it’s businesses who pay to reach an audience. Not the consumer. They pay with attention and clicks.

There’s a huge gap here for someone to offer Mailbrew’s service but charge the content creator for distribution instead.

SendFox is an ESP that has already jumped on this trend. They target content creators like YouTubers, who often neglect email promotion.

sendfox searches-min.png
SendFox” searches over 2-year span.

But now with SendFox, they can automatically create email updates featuring links to their top videos and posts.

The initial traffic boost from the email list can even help customers rank better on YouTube (and other platforms).

Over the next decade, content creators will likely consolidate their audiences on a property they own: email. And their success will no longer be subject to platform algorithms, but instead be more reliant on email deliverability.

We can see a specialized email service moving to the forefront in the paid advertising space too.

Email ads have long been the wild west of paid acquisition.

But this is set to change as companies like Paved bring Facebook level demographic targeting and automation to email.

Paved’s automated marketplace allows advertisers to automatically reach predefined user profiles across many separate newsletters all at once.

When combined with email’s reach and engagement, this format of ad deliverability could begin to outperform other channels.

Email is coming back to front and center stage. Both for businesses looking to reclaim their own audience. And to cut through the noise to reach new audiences with more effective advertising.

7. Ad Campaign Automation Becomes The Norm

Automated advertising campaign management is changing the face of online ads.

Specifically, things like automated bidding and programmatic ads mean that certain aspects of running an ad campaign can be handled with AI.

searches for programmatic ads since 2016
Search volume for the term "programmatic ads" over time. Despite spikes and troughs, searches are up over 5 years.

To be clear: a human still needs to manage the campaign. And to develop ad creatives, write copy and calculate ROI.

But a good chunk of ad management, from split testing to finding the right target audience on Facebook, is becoming automated.

8. Brands Double Down On Personalization

According to HubSpot, personalization is the #1 way that marketers improve their email marketing performance.

That's because, when done right, rationalization can dramatically improve customer experience. Increase conversions. And more.

In fact, searches for "marketing automation" have increased by 73% over the last 5 years. And show no signs of slowing down.

marketing automation search growth chart
Marketing automation remains a hot topic in the marketing world.

The early days of personalization were dominated by bulky, complicated software suites, like Ontraport.

Today, many more accessible tools have personalization features.

For example, the popular ESP ConvertKit has a number of basic personalization options. But its price point, branding and ease of use make it clear that ConvertKit is geared towards single-person businesses over enterprise customers.

convertkit search growth chart
ConvertKit has light marketing automation features.

9. Demand For SEO Software Continues to Grow

Like email service providers, SEO software is far from a brand new category.

Despite that, the space continues to see steady growth.

For example, Ahrefs is slowly becoming one of the market leaders in the space (based on search volume growth and purported revenue numbers).

ahrefs search growth
Interest in SEO software suite Ahrefs is steadily increasing.

Mangools is in the same category as Ahrefs. However, Mangools is largely competing on price rather than trying to replicate the features of a full-blown SEO software suite.

Either way, both of these tools represent a growing interest in search engine optimization as a whole. Especially for SEO martech that serves a specific niche.

A great example of this kind of niche SEO tool demand is "Shopify SEO".

shopify SEO search growth
Searches for "Shopify SEO" are rising.

While those searches don't all represent demand for tools (some of these searches are people looking for information). But it does show that marketers are increasingly seeking out niche tools that are designed specifically for their needs (this is also known as "vertical SaaS").

10. SMS marketing goes mainstream

The U.S. SMS marketing industry is forecasted to grow to $12.6 billion in 2025, up from $3.5 billion in 2018 (CAGR of 20%+).

us sms marketing size-min.png
Chart of the SMS marketing industry's growth.

According to Gartner, as of 2016, the average SMS text message open rate was as high as 98%. That’s 4 times the average open rate of emails, which is 21.33%.

One of the leaders in SMS marketing is Twilio. The company offers a full cloud communications platform, including not only API-based SMS marketing functions, but also email, phone calls, chatbots and more.

Twilio also owns 2FA app Authy and recently acquired Segment, a customer data platform.

Twilio chart-min.png
Searches for Twilio over time.

An emerging competitor is Netherlands-based MessageBird, which also supports voice, WhatsApp and other platforms.

MessageBird raised a $200M Series C last month, giving it a $3B valuation. The company is backed by Spark Capital, Accel, Y Combinator and others.

Messagebird chart-min.png
MessageBird’s search interest in the last 5 years.

Bandwidth is another major player.

Founded in 1999, Bandwidth didn’t start off as a rocketship like Twilio and MessageBird. But its customers now include Google, Microsoft and Zoom. The company has a market cap of $3.9B as of this writing.

Vonage was also founded decades ago, in 2001. It boasts customers like Domino’s, DHL and Allstate. And has a market cap of $2.5B.

Another all-purpose cloud communications platform is Telnyx. Its service is used by Slack, Philips and Talkdesk.

Telnyx chart-min.png
Searches for Telnyx are growing consistently.

Some email marketing companies have also started offering basic SMS marketing functionality. Omnisend and Sendinblue support SMS natively, while Campaign Monitor, Drip and ConvertKit offer integrations with SMS service providers.

Omnisend chart-min.png
Omnisend’s search volume over 5 years.

Other services focus more strongly on SMS and other mobile messaging.

Like OpenMarket, which supports RCS: a new SMS protocol for Android devices. (The company is owned by Amdocs, a $7.6B market cap communications multinational.)

Or Tatango, with customers including Sony Music, Ace Hardware and TBS.

As well as SimpleTexting, Textedly, SlickText, VoxDirect, Amazon Pinpoint, EZ Texting, Avochato, Textlocal, TextAnywhere and Text Marketer.

And some SMS services are built for specific purposes or industries.

Yotpo, Attentive and Emotive are made for ecommerce sites.

Yotpo raised $75M a few months ago and expects their ARR to reach $100M in 2021.

While Attentive raised both a Series C and a Series D this year, bringing its total funding to $394M and its valuation to $2.2B.

Emotive is the smallest of the three: its Series A earlier this year brought its funding-to-date to $8.2M.

Postscript and SMS Live are more specifically for Shopify stores. Postscript raised a $4.5M seed round last December.

SMSDrift works only with Saleforce’s Pardot.

RunGopher, ManyChat and Mobile Monkey specialize in interactive chatbots (including on Facebook Messenger).

And Textline is for customer service and sales teams. Its customers include Lyft, Farmers Insurance Group and Tuft & Needle.

textline chart-min.png
Searches for Textline are growing fast.

While not strictly for marketing purposes, Textel and Red Oxygen are also interesting corporate SMS services.

Textel is geared toward contact centers and just raised a $4M Series A this month.

While Red Oxygen is designed for organizations’ internal communications. It’s used by Yamaha, Siemens and Hyatt.

11. More Single-Feature Martech Products Launch

According to data from The Chief Marketing Technologist, the number of martech products has increased by 67.2% since 2017.

Others, like Canva (which is valued at $6B), have stood out thanks to smart accessibility and ease of use.

But there are a slew of martech companies that are growing thanks to a relatively simple approach: focusing on a single core feature.

AgencyAnalytics generates client reports for agencies.

Influence Grid is a tool for finding influencers on TikTok.

And Wavve turns podcast episodes into audio clips for sharing on Twitter.

This doesn’t even include the thousands of developers that are rushing to get their apps added to Shopify’s burgeoning app store.

shopify apps chart-min.png
Searches for “Shopify apps” over time.

But perhaps the best example of this metatrend is the skyrocketing email service provider, ConvertKit.

Convertkit chart-min.png
Searches for "ConvertKit" since 2017.

When ConvertKit launched in 2013, the email marketing space was dominated by a few major players that catered to small businesses. Along with others, like Ontraport, that were more focused on enterprise customers.

ConvertKit was able to get traction in the space by catering to a relatively small niche: professional bloggers. ConvertKit’s branding, sales copy and the tool itself was engineered for the needs of this small yet significant group.

(They’ve since broadened slightly to appeal to “creators”.)

Flash forward to today, and they’re at around $2M MRR.

This trend even applies to marketing services.

For example, searches for “SaaS SEO” have increased by 733% over the last 5 years. And we’re seeing a number of SaaS-specific SEO and content marketing services cropping up to meet the demand.

Conclusion

That's it for our list of important trends in the martech space.

From automation to podcast editing, the martech space is one of the fastest-moving on the planet.

Hopefully this post helped you get ahead of the curve to see what's coming next in the world of marketing technology.

Last Updated: 
April 8, 2021
Josh Howarth
Co-founder of Exploding Topics.

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