Customer-obsessed marketing

US Digital Marketing Spend Will Near $120 Billion By 2021

Shar VanBoskirk
Vice President, Principal Analyst
January 24, 2017

Hot off the press: Forrester’s US Digital Marketing Forecast 2016 To 2021.  I’m proud to say that Forrester has been sizing spend on online and digital media for nearly twenty years.  My colleague Jim Nail launched this research in 1998, and I have been authoring our forecast reports since 2004.  Good thing neither Jim nor I has aged a day!  This time, the key finding from our research is that over the next five years, marketers will invest in quality over quantity.  What does this mean specifically for digital marketing budgets?

  • US digital marketing spend will near $120 billion by 2021.  Investment in paid search, display advertising, social media advertising, online video advertising and email marketing will pace to 46% of all advertising in five years.
  • Working budgets will give ground to non-working ones.  Overall, digital marketing is pacing at a healthy 11% compound annual growth rate between now and 2021.  But this is not the experimental “spend on anything to see what works” investment that we saw between 2008-2012.  Marketers are more mature now with capable measurement practices. This means they will spend judiciously on just what works for their goals.  And many are dialing back pure digital advertising investment, prioritizing instead non-working investments in data, technology and customer experience.
  • Millennial buying power will drive increased spend.  Total digital investment is growing even with budgets shifting away from volume and toward value.  A bullish economy contributes to this.  But the headline here is that Millennials – consumers between 18 and 35 years old – have settled into a high-spending life stage as they establish careers, homes and families.  This is now the largest living generation; it spends collectively $600 billion a year.  Brands will grow digital investment in order to connect with these digital natives.
  • Online video will see the most upward mobility.  Big and small advertisers alike love the reach and targetability of online video.  Spend on online video is up 114% since 2014.  Brand advertisers like that online video extends their TV and web reach with marginal incremental costs.  Mom and Pop shops feel it gives them a TV-like advertising presence but more affordably than traditional television ads.

Are you seeing similar investment patterns at your own firm?  What is your digital marketing budget for 2017?  How have you planned the right level of spend for your goals?  I’d love to hear how our forecast resonates with the growth you expect for your own digital and non-digital marketing investments.

Related Forrester Content (For clients or purchase)

On-Demand Webinar: Digital Marketing In The US, 2016 To 2021
US Digital Marketing Forecast: 2016 To 2021
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