What's next for digital marketing in 2022?
You can't go through something like a two-year-long global pandemic and not expect things to change. Especially in the digital marketing world. Then again, digital marketers live for change. Consumers' preferences are constantly shifting and evolving, technologies come and go, Google changes another algorithm and digital marketers are forced to adapt.
Now, as we shift into a COVID normal of sorts, marketers will find themselves facing two types of digital marketing trends: those propelled by the pandemic and the shifting consumer behavior, and those trends related to rising digital technologies.
Below, we’ll cover the latest digital marketing trends to give you a head-start on your competition. Take note of these digital marketing trends and consider them when outlining your digital marketing strategy and spend to set up your brand for success.
Here are the hottest digital marketing trends for 2022:
1. The rise of AI
If there's one digital marketing trend that's been on every list for the last few years, it's Artificial Intelligence (AI). This technology has been promising to change marketing for a while now, but 2022 looks to be its most promising year yet.
AI has been advancing at a rapid rate over the past year, which means it's more accessible than ever for digital marketers to use it to improve digital marketing strategies, gain valuable customer insights and maximize marketing spend for epic results.
Here are just a few of the many benefits of AI for digital marketing:
You can make data-based decisions quickly and accurately
When CRM systems, AI technology and big data technology are combined, you can maximize the collection of user information from across various platforms and gain accurate insights into target customers. This can be used to identify users’ needs so that marketers can determine the marketing strategy that will deliver the best ROI. It's powerful stuff.
For example, Unilever is using AI data centers across the globe to synthesize insights from a range of sources, including social listening, CRM, and traditional marketing research. This helped the consumer goods company discover a link between ice-cream and breakfast: there are at least 50 songs where the lyrics talk about “ice-cream for breakfast” and businesses like Dunkin' Donuts are already selling ice cream in the morning.
Unilever took this and ran with it by developing a range of cereal-flavored ice creams for the Ben & Jerry’s brand. Fruit Loop and Frozen Flakes anyone?
You are better able to visualize the customer journey
Knowing the customer journey is critical. Because if you can visualize the customer journey, you can provide the right kind of content, channels and even pricing, at the right time. You can make the customer experience smoother across multiple channels and help the customer convert with product and upgrade recommendations that better reflect them, their behaviors and their pain points.
You can drive improved personalization and recommendations to customers, which can increase their engagement, spend and loyalty. The best-known example of this is Amazon - it uses AI to show only relevant products to shoppers, based on previous searches, purchases and views.
And Amazon is not the only one:
Retail giant Alibaba opened a physical “FashionAI” store in Hong Kong to streamline the fashion retail experience through the use of AI. The store uses intelligent garment tags that detect when the item is touched as well as smart mirrors that display clothing information and suggest coordinating items.
Alibaba is also planning to integrate its bricks-and-mortar store with a virtual wardrobe web app to allow customers to see the outfits they tried on in-store.
Alibaba is directly shifting to meet consumers' expectations and elevate the customer experience. And who can blame them? According to a recent report by Retail Dive, 46% of those surveyed said positive experiences with technology give them more confidence in a particular brand, and 44% said that satisfying experiences would make them want to visit a business more frequently.
You can personalize email marketing and content
AI helps brands to personalize email marketing campaigns based on user behaviours, meaning marketers can send out emails that are triggered by certain actions. Integrate AI into your email marketing and content marketing strategies.
With machine learning, you can create and deliver hyper-relevant emails to inboxes, with subject lines, product recommendations, offers and messaging all based on a customer's behavior.
For example, specially-designed web apps can add machine-learning capabilities to your website to cluster your anonymous visitors by their metadata and behavior, and then learn how to help them engage with your site. The app can then provide personalized content recommendations for users.
Marketers will invest more in Google Ads smart bidding and advanced search strategies
With the rise of AI, Google has implemented more and more machine learning features into its advertising platform. You can now create campaigns in Google Ads whereby the search giant will do all the heavy lifting for you - in other words, Google will fine-tune your ads to get the results you want.
"Today, advertisers are applying automation to more aspects of their campaigns than ever before — from automatically assembling and selecting the best-performing creatives with responsive search ads, to finding more search queries that perform using broad match keywords, and setting the right bid for every auction by factoring in a wide range of signals that predict performance using Smart Bidding.
"In fact, we’ve seen that automation products are even better together. For example, companies that switch from phrase match keywords to broad match keywords in campaigns that use Target CPA bidding see 25% more conversions."
That's a pretty good return!
Google said that more than 80% of advertisers use automated bidding to take the guesswork out of setting bids and to achieve their performance goals.
There are five different Smart Bidding strategies, each prioritizing a specific conversion goal:
Increase number of visitors to your website
Get more conversions with your target CPA
Meet a target Return On Ad Spend (ROAS)
For example, advertisers who want to optimize ad campaigns based on return on ad spend can use Target Return on Ad Spend (Target ROAS)
Google is expanding the Target ROAS strategy to work across even more of its channels, including Discovery ads and Video action campaigns, giving more options for digital marketing strategies in 2022.
Google also introduced its AI milestones. The recent one is called the Multitask Unified Model, or more playfully - MUM.
MUM is trained across 75 different languages and many different tasks at once, which means it can develop a more comprehensive understanding of information and world knowledge than previous models.
More importantly for digital marketing, MUM is multimodal. In other words, it understands information across text and images and, in the future, is predicted to expand to more modalities like video and audio.
It will first be introduced as an update to Google Lens and will combine images and text into one search query. MUM will make Google Lens even more interactive, so not only will users be able to visual search with their phones, but they can also type specific questions related to the image.
This means two things for marketers when maximizing your marketing budget:
Optimizing image alt tags is no longer optional, otherwise you can lose valuable (and free) organic search engine traffic from bottom-of-the-funnel leads.
Geotagging images can maximize the potential of local SEO - especially for product images. Around 46% of all Google searches are local searches, so geotagging means potential customers in your area are more likely to discover your products if they searched for similar or matching products, and are in or near your local area.
Image source: Techcrunch
2. Chatbots will play a key role in customer experience
In the same bucket as AI related digital marketing trends are chatbots. Odds are, your brand is already using a virtual assistant of some sort to automate customer service processes - maybe it handles customer enquiries through the website or message chat on social media channels.
Here's the thing - the development of semantic recognition, language processing and voice conversion technology means that AI customer service is easier to use and delivers a better experience than ever.
AI chatbots enable brands to go beyond the traditional "one-to-one" form of customer service. Chatbots can deliver a "one-to-many" service, providing support to a number of customers at the same time and in different time zones. This saves money on customer contact centres and helps businesses provide an "anytime" on demand experience for customers.
AI chatbots can help brands communicate with customers through messenger applications like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Slack, which opens the door for more customer interactions.
AI chatbots can help provide a consistent, on-brand interaction.
Customers actually like chatbots - 95% of consumers believe customer service benefits from chatbots (Drift, 2018), and 69% actively prefer them because of the speed of the reply (Chatbots Magazine, 2018).
The pandemic propelled the use of chatbots in 2021, as call centres and businesses were forced to close. Chatbots helped businesses meet increased numbers of call centre enquiries, slashing wait times and improving the customer experience.
We're not saying that chatbots will replace humans in 2022 - but they will be used more to deal with low-level issues and navigate callers or users to the right place. Especially because research shows that chatbots can cut operational costs by 30%.
3. Voice search is set to soar
Did you know that voice assistants will likely be used in roughly 55% of U.S. households by 2022? Unsurprisingly, it's millennial consumers who are propelling the shift towards voice assistants powered by AI. According to PwC, almost two-thirds (65%) of 25-49-year-olds speak to their voice-enabled devices at least once a day.
With the proliferation of voice assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri, comes a shift to voice search.
This digital marketing trend is set to soar to new heights in 2022.
Take a look at the stats:
Smart speaker market size is set to exceed USD 30 billion by 2024
Voice commerce will grow to reach more than $80 billion per year by 2023 (Juniper Research)
Consumer spending via voice assistants will reach 18%.
Around half of all the searches done on Google are now done via voice.
Voice-based ad revenues are expected to reach $19 billion by 2022.
There are other indications that voice search will become more important in 2022:
Firstly, Google rolled out its BERT update in 2019, which uses the neural network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP) to better understand the search intent, not just the meaning of search queries.
As explained in the AI digital marketing trend above, now we have MUM, which according to Google is “1,000 times more powerful than BERT.”
All of this means that Google is ensuring its algorithm is more efficient at understanding conversational language. Google says its voice searches are now 95% accurate.
What does this mean for marketers?
In 2022, conversational marketing will become a focus.
This means brands should make their content more conversational. Think more FAQ and how-to content, which is optimized for long-tail keywords (like questions and phrases) rather than single keywords. Marketers need to really reevaluate which keywords are used in content and overall marketing strategy if they want to climb the voice search results.
A winning voice search strategy means paying attention to how your consumers speak, the phrases and words they use in user search queries.
When users search by voice, they tend to use a more conversational tone. So users may type “Cafe opening hours” in a text search, but are more likely to ask “What time does the cafe open?” when conducting a voice search.
Speaking of conversation marketing, Google and Amazon recently announced that their voice assistants will no longer require the user to say words such as ‘Alexa’ or ‘Google’ to start a conversation.
It's all about ensuring that interacting with voice assistants is more natural and more convenient for users, which will drive more usage. Pretty soon, voice assistants will provide even more personalized experiences for users as they become better at distinguishing individual voices and tailoring search results according to each user’s information and preferences.
Our prediction? This is one of the digital marketing trends set to hit the fast lane in 2022.
4. Mobile first marketing is non-negotiable
Consumers are using their smartphones for the majority of internet browsing - this is not new news. In fact, January 2021 statistics showed that around 90% of all internet users surfed the web on their mobile devices.
There's one very important takeaway for marketers: mobile first marketing is a non-negotiable in 2022.
Websites should be created with a mobile-first design. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about how your site displays on a desktop view or that desktop is dead. It means that when the website is designed, it should be mapped out on the smallest screen first if you want to deliver the best experience to mobile users and convert potential customers.
Important features could include:
less text-heavy content
more video content
streamlined navigation menus
Fast page loading and mobile integrative features like voice detection or camera use will also help improve conversions.
Another major benefit of mobile-first websites is that you will rank higher in the SERPs.
Having a mobile-friendly site helps in boosting the ranking signal. SEOs have known about Google’s intentions to prioritize mobile versions of websites in search (even in desktop search) since 2016. Simply put, you can expect to rank higher in the search results if your website is mobile-friendly and responsive in design.
Mobile-friendly versions of all new websites started being indexed first by default in 2019. And the rollout of the Core Web Vitals by Google in June 2021 means websites can now get a lower ranking score if they don’t abide by the prescribed, or "best", practices.
As far as new digital marketing trends go, mobile first marketing is here to stay.
5. The death of third-party cookies
Google's recent announcement means it will end cookie tracking by 2023. Third-party cookies are tracking codes placed on a web visitor's computer after being generated by another website other than your own.
For years, brands have been using cookies to track website visitors, improve the user experience, and most importantly collect data that helps them target ads to the right audiences- audiences who are more likely to convert.
Cookies are also used to help marketers learn about what visitors are checking out online when they aren't on our websites, so you can adjust your digital marketing strategy to match.
What does the end of third-party cookies mean for your digital marketing strategy?
We won't sugar coat it - this is pretty bad news, and it will require some drastic changes to digital marketing tactics.
Tracking users as they move in and out of websites is essential to many advertisers and companies. However, user privacy concerns have taken priority in the past year or so. The implementation of GDPR made consumers more aware of their online privacy and they've put pressure on giants like Google to make changes. Consumers already have the option to opt out of the third-party cookies and tracking, but digital advertising will need to adapt.
A recent survey by HubSpot revealed that:
41% of marketers believe their biggest challenge will be their inability to track the right data.
44% predict a need to increase spending by 5% to 25% to reach the same goals as 2021.
23% plan on investing in email marketing software due to Google’s new policy.
Some advertisers have started implementing first-party data or even zero-party data collection to gather information about the consumers and provide relevant advertising to drive sales online.
What is zero-party data?
Zero-party data is data that's given directly by the consumer to a brand. For example, through a survey, gamification, or good old fashioned consumer and brand interaction online.
This is where customer relationship management (CRM) tools will become vital. You'll need to upgrade your processes to make sure you are gathering and maintaining the best quality customer data.
You can also use tools like Google's Privacy Sandbox or Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) to still get the benefits of personalised and targeted ads without compromising user privacy or breaking privacy policies.
As Google explains, FLoC proposes "a new way for businesses to reach people with relevant content and ads by clustering large groups of people with similar interests. This approach effectively hides individuals “in the crowd” and uses on-device processing to keep a person’s web history private on the browser."
6. More short-form video content
A 2020 study by Wyzowl reported that people share videos at twice the rate than any other form of content, and that 84% of people were convinced to buy a product or service based on the brand’s video length.
So, what's the optimal video length?
In 2022, it's short form videos.
According to Hubspot, that could mean a video up to 2 minutes and 20 seconds on Twitter, a 60 second video on Tiktok and Triller, or a 30 second reel on Instagram.
The rise of platforms like TikTok, Reels and Vine has not only fuelled the rise of short form video but also meant they are actually getting shorter.
What is the short form video marketing trend to look out for in 2022?
Expect more user-generated content (UGC) in 2022
Consumers are 2.4 times more likely to say UGC is most authentic compared to branded content.
Marketers are 2.1 times more likely to say brand-created content is authentic compared to UGC.
Who should you pay attention to?
Consumers tend to love UGC. Research shows it influences their purchasing decisions more than brand or influencer-generated content. For the digital marketer, this is good news because it's budget friendly!
If there's one marketing trend we've seen in the last year, it's the demand for authenticity and transparency in brands. Short-form video allows you to do this pulling back the curtain on your brand and the people behind it.
Add your CEO to your social media marketing strategy - one Sprout Social study says that 7 in 10 consumers feel more connected to brands whose CEO is active on social media platforms. Of those, almost two thirds (65%) said when a CEO uses social regularly it feels like real people run the business.
More explainer or educational video marketing
How-to’s, DIYs, explainer videos - a 2020 Wyzowl report found that viewers want to see more of this educational video style from brands.
These are a great way to add value for your audience. Watching product videos makes them imagine how the product will fit into their lives, and can improve lead generation and build stronger brand loyalty - especially when your explainer videos target users at the decision-making stage of the buyer’s journey.
Think about it - you can directly address your audience’s pain points and questions, and offer solutions.
7. Micro influencer marketing is the new influencer marketing
Influencers have emerged as some of the greatest content engines of the social media world.
Valued at $9.7 billion in 2020, the market is estimated to reach $15 billion by 2022, with a near majority of marketers reporting they budget more than 20% of their spend on influencer content.
In fact, 27% of Gen Zs say following influencers is one of the main reasons they use social media, ahead of seeing content from their favourite brands.
But we're not talking about just any influencer marketing - one of the digital marketing trends is the rise of micro influencers.
Experts predict that the usage of influencer marketing will reach 72.5% in the coming year.
Macro-influencers are considered pricey and consumers are increasingly seeing them as “advertisers” rather than a trusted, reputable source of information.
On the other hand, micro-influencers have a small but loyal follower base and are seen as more authentic.
Micro influencer marketing provides organic opportunities for audience engagement via social media stories, tapping into the power of endorsements and recommendations.
Dunkin’ Donuts’ National Donut Day event is a great example of a successful influencer partnership. The donut company partnered with eight influencers to “take over” their official Snapchat account for one day and promote the event.
When the campaign ended, the brand had gained 10 time more followers, 40,000 cases of engagement, and peached over 3 million people.
With more focus on performance and ROI, influencer marketing strategies will continue to evolve in 2022.
In the future, AI will have a role to play in the rise of influencers too. The technology can be used for influencer identification, where AI can watch and assess millions of influencer videos, in ways a human can't, to help identify the best influencers for your campaigns and accurately predict how many conversations each influencer can generate. This means you would only pay for the conversions and sales that influencers produce, and reduce wasted budget.
Artificial intelligence is already helping lower the risk of influencer marketing by helping marketers to identify fake accounts or false engagement rates.
8. Social media in-feed shopping
Some social media platforms have invested heavily in their shopping capabilities in the past year. This includes allowing businesses to build shops and increase online sales within the platforms.
Social commerce buyers in the US increased by 25.2%, reaching over 80 million. That number is expected to exceed 100 million by 2023.
Which platform is dominating? No surprise that Facebook held 34% of all purchases on social media platforms in the US in 2020, though that may change in 2022 with the continuing growth of TikTok.
Now, in-feed shopping is becoming more popular. So, if a consumer sees a piece of clothing they like during a video, they can simply click and buy. Or if they're listening to beauty tips from an influencer, they can click and buy that concealer.
In other words, the social media giants are monetizing social feeds, giving a much closer link between advertising and revenue. As mature platforms, Facebook and Instagram are strategically encouraging shopping across their ecosystem. Facebook made a big push into e-commerce at the start of the pandemic introducing Facebook and Instagram Shops and providing another way for retailers to connect with their audiences.
In-stream shopping has since become a key focus for the platform, and this is expected to expand even further in 2022 with more shoppable posts, streamlined payment processes (perhaps through the development of Facebook Pay), improved product discovery and more in-stream alerts for buyable products.
Live shopping, already a key digital marketing trend in China, is set to take off. The Chinese live-commerce market is on track to be worth $423 billion by the end of 2022. Even Twitter is developing its eCommerce options to tap into the rising mobile shopping shift. It’s been testing new shop elements on its Professional Profiles, along with direct, in-stream buying from tweets.
If you're thinking about whether to invest your eCommerce dollars into Facebook vs Instagram vs Twitter or other social marketing platforms in 2022, here's a spoiler: they all have the potential to deliver a solid ROI depending on your audience and strategy.
9. The future of events is hybrid
Can you remember when all events and expos were in person? When the pandemic forced lockdowns and social distancing, events were the first thing to go. And we're not only talking about large events like concerts and sporting events - marketers faced the cancellation of all types of in-person events, from store openings to product launches and conferences.
Virtual events became the go-to for engaging customers, generating leads, and networking with industry peers.
This meant increasing spending on social media and paid ads to get the word out about the events, not to mention investing in other digital platforms helped make these events run smoothly.
So what happens now?
Consumers and marketers are torn. The impulse to gather is strong, but many consumers also realise the advantages of attending "events" from the comfort of their own home.
CNBC reports that the hesitation to gather in large groups may continue for a while, which prompts a big question: How should marketers respond?
Virtual events aren't going anywhere - according to Trends Exchange, virtual events are predicted to break the $770 billion mark by 2030. They will become a digital marketing staple.
But to meet both audiences, in 2022 marketers will need to craft hybrid events - a blend of in-person events and immersive virtual experiences for those who want to stay closer to home.
The True/False Film Fest recently launched a hybrid event for the annual documentary film festival return in 2021. Organizers moved inflatable movie screens outdoors for in-person viewers - helping them feel safe and comfortable - and offered a "Teleported" version of the festival, using virtual reality, for those who wanted to stay at home. This came complete with streaming rights to selected films and well-chosen merchandise.
10. Stay agile with the latest digital marketing trends
The landscape for marketers has certainly changed in the past year. Suddenly, marketers were forced to rethink their digital marketing strategy for the year ahead, pivoting quickly and often continuing to pivot throughout the year as things continued to evolve.
No doubt about it, 2022 will bring in some fundamental changes in the way we market to customers. The death of the cookie is a big deal to the digital advertising that many businesses have been heavily relying on. AI is a technology that is moving faster than we can predict. And that's before we consider what Google and the social media giants have up their sleeves.
What will become of the traditional remarketing tactics? What kind of new progressive web apps will help marketers to capture their audience and be ever-present? How will marketers create interactive content and win on the search engines?
As a marketer, you must continue to adapt, shift and find ways to cater to the ever-evolving demands of your consumers. To stay agile, you need the right tools and technology to support your campaigns and help you leverage the best digital marketing trends - whether that's a CRM, messaging apps or email marketing software. To prepare yourself and your business for future unpredictable times, keep these digital marketing trends in mind. Plan quickly, gather data and watch the top digital marketing trends as they continue to evolve and shift.
Over to you
If you're looking to rapidly implement one or some of the top digital marketing trends, start by ensuring you have an integrated digital marketing plan in place. That's the best way to remain competitive and leverage the latest digital marketing trends across your customer lifecycle. Start with our free digital audit. Our experts will give you an in-depth report on your current online performance, including content, SEO, PPC and social media. Best of all, you'll get 6-month multichannel game plan to ramp up your performance, results and revenue in 2022. It's completely FREE with no obligation.