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What a year 2021 has been. As humans and marketers, we navigated challenges created by COVID, privacy issues and political polarization fueled by social media. As we look towards 2022, new opportunities (like NFTs and hybrid events) and challenges (like inflation) present themselves. Building on a tradition started in 2004, the Anvil team is proud to present its 2022 digital marketing predictions and trends. For context, feel free to check out our 2021 Predictions and add your digital marketing predictions for 2022 in the comments section below.

The Metaverse will evolve from distraction to (virtual) reality for brands
While many believe Facebook’s rebrand as Meta and focus on the metaverse is a strategic distraction from bad press fueled by the Facebook Papers, we believe at Anvil that its horsepower, deep investment in the metaverse, along with additional investment by other major players like Microsoft, will inspire many brands to dabble in the virtual world in 2022. While consumers maybe a few years from caring about the metaverse, early adopters will embrace the novelty and utility. We’re hoping that the 2022 iteration of the metaverse is more than just a glorified Second Life.

Web 3.0 will become ubiquitous
Consumers’ concern over data security and creating a safer online environment to share personal data will be driving forces that fuel the growth of Web 3.0 technology in 2022. The evolution of blockchain technology in particular will provide a safer user experience (UX) for consumers, where they will feel safe sharing first-party data and know exactly how third-party platforms are using personal data. Combined with improved AI functionality, semantic metadata and 3D graphics – Web 3.0 will deliver an improved and better UX for all users. As full data transparency is on the horizon, this will accelerate the transition and put control of data back to where it belongs – the user.

Video marketing will become a vital part of any online marketing strategy
Consumers rely increasingly on the video to make decisions about the products they are buying. Video platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and TikTok feature live streams, unboxing, and testimonial product videos, which are going to gain popularity in 2022. As a result, video optimization and advertising on TikTok and YouTube will be increasingly necessary. Google has also rolled out structured markup features like clip markup which help users find important individual parts of videos, increasing the need and value of optimization for commerce. Using new and emerging markups on a brand’s most popular videos will help to improve user experience and Google’s ability to digest and index the video content.

MUM will strengthen Google’s ability to understand more complex searches
Google is always working to get users quicker, more seamless access to information. MUM, or Multitask Unified Model, uses AI to formulate an understanding of the context behind searches and will have a greater influence on search results in 2022 and beyond. Google recently demonstrated how MUM works, showing that search results would attempt to fully answer a search query with text, imagery, maps, and more. With MUM, content strategies will need to provide unprecedented depth, in order to provide searchers with all the information in a single result. The days of providing only topical information on a given webs page in order to gain organic visibility in target searches are numbered.

OTT will gain traction as ad targeting options decrease
Security and privacy demands are creating problematic limitations with third-party cookies and data tracking. Facebook, Apple, and Google Chrome are limiting data collection capabilities. Social media and search engine platforms will become much more generalized, with decreased targeting capabilities. Ad platforms will eliminate audience targeting, limiting advertisers to first-party data collection. These changes will encourage more brands to explore connected TV, podcasts, and platforms like Spotify that have their own internal marketing platform where the user controls what content they want to see. Products like Google’s smart TV and the new Roku TV are allowing viewers to stream content and enjoy gaming, utilizing click-to-buy on-screen ad placements. Smart TVs will be getting smarter with shopping from your own home with enhanced OTT streaming advertising options.

More businesses will move to DTC eCommerce
Due to the pandemic, businesses ranging from psychiatrists to car dealerships have begun marketing and selling products and services direct-to-consumers (DTC) on their websites. Companies are tired of losing profit by selling wholesale to distributors and evolving technologies have made eCommerce approachable to even the smallest business. Even larger retail chains are starting to focus more on DTC eCommerce, limiting physical store locations, retail footprints, and headcount. Brands like Nike are limiting distribution of its footwear and apparel so they can sell more direct and other brands will follow suit in 2022. The additional margins gained by DTC eCommerce sales can be reinvested in digital marketing to further increase profitable revenue. We predict brands will sell on select marketplaces (like Amazon, Walmart.com, and Target.com) to augment reach and revenues, but will still rely primarily on DTC.

More companies will offer retail media networks leveraging first-party data
With the impending loss of third-party tracking cookies in 2023, companies and marketers alike will be exploring new opportunities to reach prospective customers. Companies such as Target, Walmart. Recently, Lowe’s launched its own media network, allowing advertisers to utilize its company’s first-party data and reach customers as they shop online. As the pandemic accelerated the adoption of online shopping, we expect retailers will offer additional advertising opportunities on digital storefronts in the coming year.

Third-party cookie data will begin to sunset itself
With the anticipation of platforms eliminating third-party cookie data, marketers are forced to produce workarounds. Even though Google has pushed out its third-party data sunset date to the end of 2023, users and businesses have been preparing for the loss of critical targeting data with various workarounds, including the increasing use of first-party data. With Google failing to find a viable solution that meets everyone’s needs thus far, we predict there will be some sort of industry compromise by mid-2022, resulting in third-party data naturally sunsetting by year’s end on most popular platforms.

Influencer marketing will fuel sCommerce
Influencer marketing has gained notoriety within the digital marketing ecosystem as an essential strategy in the past few years. At Anvil, we believe the next evolution for influencers is to become the foundation for successful social media eCommerce (aka sCommerce) in 2022. In addition to important metrics such as engagement rates, influencers will be commonly compensated based on a commission structure related to conversion rates (leads or sales). With a greater focus on performance metrics, influencers will achieve a higher level of credibility with brands. Micro-influencers will rise significantly in popularity due to their accessibility to small businesses and the appeal of being able to target nuanced audiences. Retail eCommerce brands invest in direct shopping formats on popular social platforms, including TikTok.

Multicultural representation in marketing will continue to increase in importance
The digital age, accelerated by COVID-19, has created a world that is more interconnected than ever before. The term “global village” carries increased weight as even extremely remote areas see mobile device use continuing to reach saturation point. The success of international content breaking into the US mainstream has also led to an acceleration in engagement and demand for global representation. South Korea’s Squid Game on Netflix is the latest example, following the Spanish global hit Casa de Papel (Money Heist). With content publishers leading the way, brand advertisers will follow suit, developing new strategies to maximize the relevance of multicultural inclusion within marketing messaging, including messaging from the US’s own backyard.

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