Digital marketing got a big boost in 2021, thanks largely to the social and economic upheaval from the Covid-19 pandemic. And those opportunities and challenges that confronted the sector last year, experts say, will continue in 2022. Experts agree the pandemic pushed into hyperdrive the digital shift already well underway toward greater use of the internet and its outsized societal influence on everything from how and when we work, shop, play, even worship.
Other forces, too, had a role: maturation of digital consumers into a savvier, more demanding audience; the uncertain dynamics of the U.S. and global economies as they cope with high inflation and supply-chain disruptions; and ongoing regulatory pressures on “big tech.’’ Those, and perhaps others, will continue to pose outsized influence, experts say, in the coming year in at least these four areas.
More interactive and engaging digital technology = better customer experience
Now that most of us are accustomed to verbal exchanges with digital assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, more voice “bots’’ will continue to assist with our online quests for information and purchases. Hands-free technology like that is becoming ever more important – and practical – in this era of proliferating state laws prohibiting the use of handheld smartphones and mobile devices while at the wheel.
More voice-activated searches let marketers and their customers use longer search phrases – known as “longtail keywords” – to more quickly and efficiently gather information about brands’ products and services. Accordingly, marketers will need to shift how they approach their search-engine optimization (SEO) strategy and content marketing plan overall.
Additionally, taking a page from popular video/image-sharing platforms like TikTok and Instagram, digital marketers are increasingly turning to engaging video to share their brands’ stories with customers and vice versa. Analysts say visual storytelling will only increase in 2022 as brands match it to the text and image content to which many consumers are already accustomed.
With voice search, image-sharing, and a more conversational, tone in marketers’ messaging via their brand and social-media platforms aimed at enhancing the customer experience, marketers are seizing every opportunity to create a frictionless and relatable customer experience in 2022.
More digital = higher expectations
Eight in 10 consumers “will see the world as ALL digital,’’ generating new opportunities and pressures for online marketers, according to market researcher-advisor Forrester. That’s reflected in the nearly two-thirds of online American adults who admit to undertaking a new activity online, like viewing a religious service or participating in a virtual exercise class, Forrester says in its “Predictions 2022’’ blog.
As a result of this increasingly online world, today’s online customer now expects a response from a company in under five minutes. The reality, however, is that most companies aren’t resourced to meet this consumer expectation, which can result in a negative brand impression and overall frustration.
Successful companies and institutions, observers say, will develop strategies to rapidly serve customers in a variety of ways, whether through a dedicated social media response team, live chat, artificial intelligence (AI) or other channels.
Social media dominance = personalized expectations
Despite the public-policy turmoil confronting such dominant platforms as former Facebook, now Meta, Twitter and the global video-sharing platform TikTok, the downhill snowball that is social media will continue altering the digital-marketing landscape and being a go-to destination for nearly all target audiences.
Brand marketers can’t help but be drawn to the broad but lucrative consumer demographic who engage with social media, analysts say. Moreover, the global isolation and quarantine-in-place response to the Covid-19 pandemic has turbocharged society’s exposure to a wide array of online products and services.
That, in turn, has raised web users’ expectations that online providers of products and services will offer more than just faster checkout and complete answers to their queries, experts say. Savvy users, too, have ratcheted up pressure on marketers to deliver a memorable and more personalized customer experience. For digital marketers, this means that an investment in personalized advertising and digital technology is a must-have across all integrated platforms – from the website through the advertising platforms.
More hands in the cookie jar = changes in tracking
Driven by regulators and advocates, privacy safeguards for web users are undergoing a significant enhancement, with the steady disappearance of third-party “cookies’’. These cookies are commonly used for cross-site tracking, retargeting and ad serving.
Google Chrome, the Web’s most dominant browser, is set to limit cookies on its site by 2023. Rival browsers, Apple’s Safari and Mozilla Corp.’s Firefox, already do so. In 2022, it’s important for digital marketers to identify all first and third-party cookies being used, and have an alternative tracking plan in place.
Forrester predicts online advertisers and their hosts in 2022 will increasingly harvest their own “zero-party” and “first-party’’ data – information drawn directly from customers about who they are, their interests, where they live and work, and when and what they purchase -- for identifying and tracking users.
That means users will likely see more user polls and surveys, and other relationship-building content, experts say. The likely result is that bank, credit union, retail and other branded web sites will become even more interactive and accessible even as online marketers zero in on the most fruitful market segments.
Think Nike pitching a new shoe in U.S. regions where runners are most active, or a bank promoting auto loans to customers whose existing loans or leases are soon set to expire.
2022 is here – be ready
If 2021 taught us anything, it’s that the best laid plans should be flexible. 2022 will bring its own set of challenges and successful digital marketers will need to keep adapting. To discuss your digital marketing challenges for 2022 and beyond, contact ZAG Interactive today.