While it could be argued that there is still time for surprises, 2021 has at least been more stable and less unpredictable than 2020. But a consumer base saturated with messages (and a still-challenging marketing environment) make certainty about what 2022 will bring for digital marketing strategists impossible. There are, however, certain trends we expect to predominate next year, with a decision by Google key among them.
AI’s rise will gather pace
This year, Google announced their decision to end cookie tracking in 2022. While that change may now have been delayed, its ultimate demise in 2023 will make effective ad targeting considerably more difficult. Digital marketing strategists will have to start planning how they’re going to adjust their model during 2022 if they’re going to cope with the change when it happens.
The rise of AI in digital marketing will only gather pace next year as a result. Marketing that doesn’t leverage AI already is missing out on benefits like automated reporting on web traffic, keyword recommendations for better organic searching, and even predictions of customers’ likely future purchases. It has a noticeable effect on the bottom line, too; 76% of companies that automate marketing generate ROI within a year. If you want your business to feature high up in search results, or to target your audience without tracking them, you’ll need AI.
Customers’ voices being heard
AI has spawned a number of custom tools available for everything from market intelligence to conversations, with chatbots now commonplace in B2C interactions. And increasingly, while they don’t necessarily need to speak to a human, consumers are using their voices for web searches or even to make purchases.
Already, 27% of the world’s online population are using voice searches on their mobiles. That accounts for some 18% of total spend – around $40 billion. Quite literally, hearing consumer voices will be ever-more important.
Increased multi-channel marketing strategies
Members of your target market aren’t limiting their activity to one channel. You can’t either. With so many social media channels in particular having deep market penetration and huge numbers of users, effective marketing strategies will need a presence across all the main channels. A consistent message on a wide range of media will increasingly become the norm.
More online events
Online events offer the chance not only to speak directly to your audience, but to gather data on them. In the short term, online events are not revenue drivers; they’re more about building an ongoing, longer-term relationship with customers and potential customers.
If a customer learned something from a brand-hosted event, that brand has a much better chance of being the first they think of when it comes to their next purchase decision. With hard selling becoming less and less effective, online events will begin to eat into overt advertising’s market share, as brands look to cultivate a reputation as experts or thought leaders in their sector.
Storytelling as a sales tool
Simply describing your product isn’t enough, especially in B2B marketing where the custom base is necessarily results-focused. Storytelling is another growth area in softer selling techniques, and will continue its rise as case studies on successful product implementations take the place of advertising.
Brands will tell the world if their solution increased a client’s sales by 20%, saved them money and streamlined their processes. But they’re going to do so by telling the story, not by selling it.
Games already completely dominate the downloads market. In 2020, 36% of all app downloads – some 80 billion – were games. This year an estimated $120 billion will be spent on game downloads, with 80% of mobile phone owners using them for that purpose. Those numbers are going to rise in 2022; games engage quickly and can be addictive, and their usefulness in customer engagement has not gone unnoticed. Games will appear more frequently on interactive ads, on websites, and anywhere else where brands want to engage their custom base.
Ongoing rise of CSR
The importance of a brand’s ethics to consumers is already clear from the way messages have morphed into campaigns recently, particularly from some of the multi-nationals. A study in the US showed that 40% of consumers will boycott a company for corruption or fraud, while 44% will boycott brands that mistreat animals – the top reason given.
Brands will continue to form the message that they’re authentic, they engage with the communities they work in, and care about the environment, giving consumers another reason to choose them.
You have heard this before, but it’s no less true, or important, for 2022. Inbound marketing – that is, Search Engine Marketing, blogs and content and social media – needs to speak to people one to one to pierce through the fog of messages. Effective integration of CRM and CMS for consistent, targeted brand messages will become the norm in digital marketing.
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