With the fourth wall good and thoroughly broken by the headline of this blog, let’s get real: for the past two years, changes in digital marketing have been happening faster than we can write about them. That’s to be expected when the whole world is upside down. So, when the time came around to speculate about upcoming digital marketing trends, it felt false-hearted to do it the way we always have.
That’s why we’re trying something new.
This won’t be another list of trends carefully curated and researched by one person. Instead, we’ve opened the floor to various experienced voices from our team to point out what they think the significant changes will be within their areas of expertise. Call it a virtual round table, if you will.
By doing this, we’re hoping to offer something more valuable than your average gaze into the digital crystal ball. These are insights from people deeply embedded within the various corners of the digital marketing landscape. They’re eager to share what their instincts tell them about the industry’s fate based on what they witness daily.
Let’s find out what they had to say.
Hindsight is 2021
Before we look ahead, let’s take a beat and assess the year that was. Here’s a roundup of some of the most prominent digital marketing trends of 2021.
2021 was the year that video marketing became non-negotiable, a trend that had been in the making since 2020. According to a survey by Wyzowl, 84% of people made the decision to buy after watching a video. Platforms that are video-based like YouTube are skyrocketing in popularity because consumers have always been visual creatures and find it easier to watch than to read.
Christopher Brown, Head of Strategy, explains why this is happening specifically right now:
“During the lockdown, we all saw a huge increase in the number of videos on social media. Instagram reported a 70% increase in video views at the very beginning of lockdown in 2020, and I don’t even need to mention the explosion of TikTok. This rise of “social entertainment” means online users’ brains are now rewired to stop and look at a video because they are what inspired an emotive response from us for almost two years of our lives. That means marketers had to fight fire with fire and start making their own videos to still get noticed. An image, and even less so, a text post, are now totally overlooked in favour of video. Alluding to the point made above by my amazing colleague, people don’t want to read and learn about your products by themselves when someone else can tell it to them in some more fun, exciting or emotional way.”
You may have heard someone describe the times we live in as a “post-truth society”. Between fake news and deep fakes, it’s getting harder to discern what’s real and what’s not. This has eroded public trust in information, including marketing messaging. A third of global consumers surveyed by Morning Consult claim that they would switch to a competitor if a brand they trusted did something to break that trust.
Thomas Henry, Head of Consulting, unpacks why brand trust is more important than ever:
“The foundation for any positive relationship will always be trust, and this is highlighted in a brand-customer relationship. In a world of fake news, conspiracy theories and flat out lies, it is crucial for brands to use every possible touchpoint in the customer experience journey to solidify trust. Consumers have all the tools now to educate themselves and will research your marketing claims. If it is true, they will buy and you’ll have a lifetime customer. If not, well, you are wasting media budget and advertising effort to push away buyers. Consumers are laughing at messages like ‘New and Improved’ – be truthful with your audience, and you'll earn the trust necessary for lasting brand loyalty.”
Speaking of reputation, a crucial part of managing it has been social listening. Is the sentiment towards your brand positive or negative? In 2021, we saw a shift in social listening where brands that performed the best were the ones who paid attention to what their customers said about them.
Lindi van Aswegen, our community manager, elaborates:
“Understanding how others experience your brand is crucial in forming an authentic relationship with the public to maintain the brand’s collective efforts towards effective marketing. Social listening helps us tune into customers’ desires and specific pain points to accurately address the needs of each persona that exists within the audience. As a community manager, it is imperative to keep an eye on all feedback and align communication with your client’s views to represent your brand in the best way possible. The key to connecting is deeply rooted in our understanding of customer needs and views.”
Live chat for customer service
Customer service has been under a microscope since the pandemic began. How would businesses continue to keep their customers engaged when in-person conversations were limited? Would we rely on good old-fashioned email or turn to chatbots? It turns out that the answer was live chat. eDigital’s Customer Service Benchmark, which surveyed 2000 consumers, found that 73% preferred live chat as their customer service channel of choice.
Cuan Humphries, Digital Solutions and Sales Manager, has a compelling theory:
“Live chat sits in the sweet spot between talking to a human over the phone and dealing with an automated chatbot. Since there is the benefit of rapid response and resolution regarding customer queries, it facilitates ease-of-use and mitigates the friction we have come to expect from many pure self-service channels. Research has shown that most millennials and Gen Zers prefer texting to calls or email, so live chat should continue to grow as a customer service channel with younger customers having an increased share of voice within the market.”
What’s next for digital marketing in 2022
Now that we’ve covered 2021, let’s predict what the future holds for digital marketing in 2022. Here are the main predictions and speculations about how digital marketing will transform in the upcoming year.
Google Optimize is an online optimisation tool that allows you to test websites for the best conversion rate. It has a free version and an enterprise version (called Google Optimize 360) and is an easy-to-use testing platform that allows users to run A/B testing, multivariate testing and split URL testing. What’s promising about Google Optimize is the price and its native integration with Google’s existing products.
Riaan Pietersen, Head of Development, tells us more:
“Google has always been known to make cutting-edge technology available to the masses, and they’ve done it once again with Google Optimize. Major marketing effort optimisation is now available within more modest marketing budgets. If you are already using Google Analytics for your usage tracking, you can now harness that data in the continuous optimisation process and apply it to your website experience to improve your bottom line.”
Social platform diversification
The Big Five social platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube) have been a reliable matrix to stick to for most marketers. But it’s becoming clear that other social platforms have marketing value too and should not be neglected when crafting social strategies. Almost 60% of the consumers that Global World Index surveyed said they use TikTok to find information about products they intend to buy. Who knows what hot leads could be hiding in plain sight on platforms like Snapchat and Clubhouse.
Christine van Zyl, Head of Content, shares her thoughts on the subject:
“I think many marketers are still sceptical of video-sharing apps. But where the audience goes, we have to follow, especially if you’re targeting Gen Z. And with TikTok releasing its business platform in mid-2021, there’s guidance on creating ads, budget setting, reaching your target audience and dissecting campaign data. Successfully connecting with the TikTok audience is about understanding what really makes them tick (pardon the pun) and then tapping into user-generated content to create brand awareness for you. Follow the TikTok Business strapline: Don’t make ads. Make TikToks.”
Inside Design defines a design system as a “collection of reusable components, guided by clear standards, that can be assembled together to build any number of applications.” Design systems help brands hard-code consistency into their digital products while making them quick and easy to adapt. Not only does this strengthen your brand’s visual identity, but it also saves time (which saves money).
Werner Fourie, Head of Design, expands on why design systems will revolutionise design:
“Design systems have been around for a couple of years now and are still evolving to this day. At the moment, it can be quite the task to set one up for a mammoth brand, but it will save anyone so much hassle working either on existing or new projects using this type of system. We need to keep in mind that the days of redesigning from scratch or trying to reinvent the wheel are long gone, and it’s now all about your detailed executions around set foundations. It’s like opening up a picnic basket and just putting that beautiful sandwich together, no need to make the bread and scuffling around in the dirt for lettuce. Once set up, you’ll have more time to have fun and for your creative juices to flow!”
Consider the following statistics uncovered by Absolunet: one in four business owners are selling through Facebook, 40% of merchants use social media to generate sales, and 30% of consumers say they would buy through social media. There’s clearly an opportunity for businesses to boost their sales through social commerce. Marketers who don’t capitalise on this might lose out in 2022.
Jackie Stierlin, Chief Strategy Officer, explains why social commerce gets a thumbs-up:
“The relative ease of social commerce is the first draw point for brands. Coupled with the power of social proof, it is a potent sales tool for all businesses that offer products online. Customers are just a few clicks away, and it has never been easier to have a two-way conversation with your client about your product or brand. Enabling brands to adapt sales strategies to better leverage these social commerce channels can only maximise their performance in the new year.”
All the minds that lent their expertise to this trend forecast can’t wait to start putting their insights into action for your brand. Get in touch with us so we can give you a digital head start for 2022.