In 2022, the ongoing global pandemic has continued to accelerate the uptake of digital and cloud technology in every business function, with marketing certainly being no exception. Of course, marketers have always been keen early adopters of any new tech trend – from big data analytics to social media and artificial intelligence (AI), it’s often been in marketing departments that we’ve first seen them being put to work and generating results.
The coming year will be no different in this regard. Marketers will continue to deploy technological solutions in order to adapt to our increasingly online and digital way of life. Brands and organizations will adapt to the challenges of measuring and reacting to changes in consumer behavior across an ever-growing number of channels – with extended reality and metaverse, in particular, growing in popularity. There will also be some unique challenges – significantly, this includes the end of cookies that’s due to take place in 2022. To cope with this, marketers will have more tools than ever at their disposal, powered by increasingly sophisticated AI and analytics.
So here’s my overview of what I predict will be the most important trends in marketing in 2022.
Artificial Intelligence-driven marketing solutions
AI has been a part of marketing for a good while now – just look at Facebook or Google advertising or any of the thousands of other services that use smart algorithms to serve up advertising to potential customers. In 2022 we can expect to see a growth in the use of natural language processing (NLP) solutions designed to create marketing copy that will pull in an audience, as well as identify where products and services are being discussed on social media. Chatbots will become more sophisticated, and continue to graduate from offering simple customer service advice to interacting with prospective new customers in a marketing role.
AI and machine learning will increasingly be used to deliver the "360-degree" customer view that marketers have long strived for in an automated and targeted fashion. As more and more marketers come to trust and understand the value that AI brings to marketing processes, the amount of value it drives will continue to grow.
Overall, the most valuable AI use cases will continue to be those concerned with making sense of the huge explosion in the amount of data available to organizations today. A big part of this will certainly be customer data, but organizations will increasingly look towards third-party and external data sources in order to find insights that will help bring products and services to market. Increasingly, marketers will look to data-driven storytellers and storytelling to make sense of these insights, which are simply too complex to be efficiently conveyed through traditional dashboards and visualizations.
Mixed reality and the metaverse
It’s fair to say that marketers haven’t quite made up their minds about how to tackle the metaverse yet. The grand idea of interconnected, persistent digital realities where every aspect of our lives can be played out online is still a little way off. It’s a different story, however, for some of its fundamental building blocks, such as extended reality – which encompasses virtual, augmented, and mixed reality (VR/AR/MR). These technologies will certainly play a key role when the time of the metaverse does come to pass, but they are already being heavily co-opted into marketing strategies and initiatives. In 2022 it’s possible we will start to see them being deployed in more connected ways as individual metaverse visions such as Meta’s Horizon start to come together.
AR, in particular, will continue to play a strong role in many marketing strategies, thanks to the ability it gives us to try out virtual representations of real products, from clothing to home furnishing, in real-world environments. Not only does this potentially reduce rates of return by allowing customers to see how products will look in their homes, it also provides more immersive and experiential digital shopping experiences, which is proven to drive brand engagement and loyalty.
But VR, too, could come into its own as a marketing tool in 2022, with the increasing availability of affordable headset technology. This will make virtual product showrooms and even shopping malls a possibility for brands looking to demonstrate their products in more immersive ways. In real estate marketing. it will increasingly be used to let potential buyers tour and view properties they are interested in. And new technology such as haptic feedback devices that allow users to “feel” in VR even offer the chance to get “hands-on” with products in ways that were not previously possible.
Of course, the metaverse itself is likely to provide plenty of opportunities for marketers once it gets off the ground – with sponsorship opportunities at virtual events likely to generate plenty of revenue, and we are likely to see this beginning to happen during 2022.
Micro-moments and hyper-personalization
Micro-moments are selling opportunities that may last just a few seconds that can now be identified by brands thanks to the increasingly sophisticated tools available for measuring and predicting customer behavior.
Developing the ability to spot and respond to these moments with personalized marketing approaches will be a key priority for many marketers in 2022. Today, consumers expect brands to understand and respond to their needs as individuals, providing them with something that’s unique to them at the time and place that they need it. An example is when a company like Expedia or TripAdvisor is able to identify when a potential customer has arrived in a new city and provide them with hotel or restaurant recommendations.
Technology, including AI and machine learning, can be used to identify these moments at scale and make personalized approaches directing consumers towards goods or services. One example is the machine learning technology developed by Exit Bee, which uses behavioral recognition algorithms to identify when users are disengaging with content and are likely to be open to receiving targeted advertising material.
Life after cookies
The age of the cookie – code embedded onto our computers by websites in order to track our behavior – is coming to an end, thanks to the growing awareness of online privacy issues. By the end of 2022, Chrome will join other popular browsers, including Firefox and Opera, in withdrawing support for “third party” cookies. This means that the search for alternative methods of tracking and understanding user behavior is likely to be a core preoccupation for marketers in the coming year.
No one exactly knows what these alternatives will look like yet – Google has proposed an API-based system it calls Federated Learning of Cohorts which groups users together based on similar interests. However, concerns have been raised that it doesn't really provide any meaningful improvements to user privacy, so this is up in the air at the moment!
According to Hubspot, 44% of marketers have said that this change will result in a need to significantly increase spending in order to achieve the same results in 2022 as they did in 2021. It is certainly likely to result in many ad-supported websites that make money by serving their visitors with targeted advertising needing to re-think their business model. An important element is likely to be a shift in focus toward first-party data-gathering rather than relying on third-party data provided by cookies. Above all, the withdrawal of the ability to rely on third-party cookies to measure user behavior is an important reminder to marketers not to become too reliant on any one digital technology or tool. While the digital domain is under the control of Silicon Valley and its tech giants, elements of infrastructure that we’ve long taken for granted are liable to be withdrawn at any time!
For the first time ever, the CES 2022 was a hybrid event, with attendees able to either visit in person or without leaving their homes. This is set to be a strong trend throughout the year and most likely well beyond, as companies realize the benefits of allowing attendance from anywhere in the world go further than simply responding to the pandemic!
With 20% of marketing budgets typically going on events, this is going to be an important trend for marketers to be aware of. Hybrid events can take many forms, but at their most basic, they simply involve replicating or giving access to event content such as presentations, keynotes, performances, or networking opportunities remotely. At their more complex, it can involve deploying technology like VR or AR to allow a remote audience to explore and interact with an event as if they were there on the ground or to allow in-person attendees to engage with digital or virtual elements.
Event marketers that can use technology to create hybrid experiences will find they are able to get the best of both worlds – combining the relationship-building and in-person experience that live events enable with the accessibility and convenience of digital channels. A fast-growing market offering solutions as-a-service in this space means organizations of all sizes will have the chance to follow the lead of events like CES in 2022 by going hybrid.