The way businesses and their customers interact has forever changed. Digital adoption has been the main headline for marketers in 2020 and 2021, and it’s likely to be a significant driver of change in 2022 as well.
Nonetheless, there are a few marketing trends that are worth singling out based on how much they could change the way marketers reach their customers. Here are five of the most important marketing trends to prepare for in 2022.
1. Hybrid and Virtual Events Are Here to Stay
If you switched from in-person events to webinars, virtual conferences, and other digital programs during the pandemic, you may already be onto this trend. Hybrid and virtual events took off when everyone was stuck at home, but evidence suggests they are here to stay.
That’s because digital events are much more accessible than in-person events—they’re more affordable too. With a virtual event, you can invite participants from anywhere in the world, potentially reaching a much wider audience. Meanwhile, hybrid events enable people far away to interact with an in-person event, blending the best of both worlds.
What To Do
If events are an important part of your marketing repertoire, it’s time to stop thinking of hybrid and virtual events as a stopgap measure necessary for the pandemic. Plan your 2022 event schedule with digital events in mind.
If your customers like variety, don’t be afraid to mix and match virtual, hybrid, and exclusive in-person events on your schedule.
2. Voice Search Will Become Much More Common
The global smart speaker market has grown substantially in recent years. It was estimated at $7.1 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow by 17.1% to $15.6 billion by 2025. Most people now own a smartphone, and most of the latest smartphones are capable of voice-based search capabilities.
What does that mean for marketers? It means there will be more voice search activity than ever before. According to the Search Engine Journal, 55% of consumers already engage in voice search to ask questions on smartphones and 39.4% of U.S. internet users operate a voice assistant at least once per month.
Voice search works differently than regular search because it tends to be more conversational. Voice searchers also typically ask questions instead of simply typing in keywords into a search engine. That means any websites that are optimized to attract these queries will be in better shape to get voice search traffic than others.
What To Do
Chances are that your website is already optimized for long- and short-tailed keywords. If you’re interested in capturing voice search traffic, consider adjusting your pages based on common conversations surrounding your company’s main topics. You can also create new ones.
You should also consider creating a dedicated FAQ section on your website or building out more pages that answer frequently asked questions. If possible, build a public knowledge base for your customers, so they can access pertinent information easily through voice.
3. Marketing Technologies Will Be Fully Integrated
One of marketers’ biggest challenges over the past few years has been integrating the technologies they need to keep up with customer expectations. Not long ago, many companies discovered that they’d assembled a hodgepodge of marketing tools, none of which communicated with the other.
Thanks to partnerships between app-makers and innovative developments by CRM companies like HubSpot and Salesforce, the age of marketing data silos may soon be over. Tomorrow’s marketers won’t have to worry as much—if at all—about data integrations because all their systems will be able to work in concert.
This isn’t to say that reaching this point won’t take some investment. Many marketers are still working with legacy implementations, so they’ll need to take bold steps in the coming months to resolve any challenges to their data operations.
What To Do
Conduct a complete audit of your marketing and data technologies to identify any gaps or barriers that are limiting your ability to use data across the organization. Any system that isn’t communicating with your others or with your central database is a potential issue.
If you need to update your tools, focus on solutions that boast a significant number of third-party integrations. Work with a marketing technology partner to make your implementation process go as smoothly as possible.
4. AI Will Become a Standard for Customer Service
Many companies adopted automation tools for their customer service programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the most promising applications has been the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to either augment or facilitate customer service interactions.
Chatbots are perhaps the most widely recognized application of AI in customer service, but other applications are becoming popular as well. AI bots can now be used as customer service agents in many instances. When integrated into the business, bots can handle basic tasks, engage in troubleshooting, or interact directly with customers to answer frequently asked questions.
This allows companies with large customer bases to help more customers at a time, at any time.
Naturally, the use of AI must be balanced with human customer service agents. But keep in mind that many customers prefer self-service. According to Forrester, “If done properly, [self-service] allows you to digitally engage with your customers to empower them with answers and advice that deepening their engagement with the brand—positively influencing their satisfaction, retention, and advocacy.
What To Do
If you haven’t done so already, begin piloting an AI program for your customer service function. Many third-party AI providers can provide turn-key solutions.
5. Say Goodbye to Third-Party Cookies
Like Safari and Firefox before it, Google is planning to block third-party cookies in its Chrome browser. Although the anticipated change has been delayed until 2023, it’s still something you should prepare for if you’re still dependent on third-party cookies for advertising.
Third-party cookies are created by domains that aren’t a part of the website the user is visiting. They are commonly used for online ad-serving, cross-site tracking, and retargeting. They allow marketers to track users or their devices as they visit other websites.
In the past, cookies have been immensely useful to advertisers for their ability to gather data on customer activity and help marketers develop customer targeting profiles. They’ve been a must-have for companies using third-party digital advertising services that service personalized ads to users on multiple channels, such as news sites and social media sites.
First-party cookies, meanwhile, will stay a part of the Google and Google Chrome experience. That’s because they are still vital to establishing a relationship between a user and the websites they frequent. For example, first-party cookies are the reason some websites allow you to stay logged in even after you’ve left them and recognize you when you come back.
Google Chrome says it’s making this move to protect user privacy. However, the change also strengthens Google’s hold over its digital advertising space. About 80% of advertisers rely on third-party cookies, and since Google Chrome is such a widely used browser, it could mean a serious depreciation of the value of paid advertising from firms outside of Google.
What To Do
If you’re currently relying on third-party cookies for a substantial amount of your advertising and re-targeting, you may want to switch to an advertising model that leverages first-party cookies. This may require you to connect with web publishers directly to advertise on their sites, for example. A marketing agency may be able to help in this area.
You can also focus on other ways to reach your clients and customers. Content marketing, social media marketing, and other organic campaigns may be a good alternative. They could even help you generate more lasting relationships with your customers.
Get Ready for the Latest Marketing Trends
These are just a taste of the changes that are coming in 2022 and beyond. If you’re ready to engage with the latest marketing trends, contact us at Aptitude 8 to find out how we can help.