Mar 1, 2022
UPDATE: Read our 2023 Digital Marketing Trends.
It can be tricky to keep up with digital marketing trends as the industry changes so fast. Plus, there are many working parts to a successful digital marketing strategy or campaign - so it’s a real challenge to keep up with every aspect.
The Covid-19 pandemic transformed the way B2B and B2C companies across sectors operated as people went online to research, review, and purchase. This transformation had a huge impact on the digital marketing sector and the roles of digital marketers. But just as marketing teams pivoted to meet the virtual demand, the reopening of societies saw slumps in web traffic and online sales.
To help marketers and digital leaders navigate this new landscape, we interviewed leading industry experts on our podcast to identify key trends in 2022. This comprehensive overview of six key sectors will help you understand developments coming down the line so you can build them into your digital marketing activities.
When you talk about social media, TikTok is a platform to consider if you’re not already using it. The rapid rise of TikTok has seen the app reach 1 billion users and counting.
TikTok has enormous engagement (U.S. users spend up to 850 hours a month on the platform) and offers individuals and brands the opportunity for their videos to go viral: no mean feat in the social media realm.
Alison Battisby, Social Media Consultant at Avocado Social sees TikTok as a platform marketers need to take seriously in 2022. “TikTok’s growth over the last year has just been phenomenal. Facebook is certainly worried because so many of TikTok’s features are beginning to filter into Facebook products.”
In terms of the platform’s revenue, TikTok was the top-earning non-game app in 2021 with more than $110 million spent by users. This just shows the earning potential of the app for marketers looking to drive sales amongst young consumers.
Influencers have also played a role in TikTok’s rise with many earning huge amounts through sponsorship deals. Battisby believes that brands are now taking notice of influencer marketing on the platform.
“For a while, TikTok was sort of met with an eye roll, and isn't that just for the kids? Now we see a lot of influencers like Gordon Ramsay and older celebrities, even Rod Stewart is on TikTok and doing very well. Brands are beginning to see they can reach a lot more people on TikTok than on Instagram or Facebook.”
It’s never been easier to find a product or service using social media. During the pandemic, brands flocked to Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok to offer customers online shops to replace their brick-and-mortar counterparts.
It’s no surprise then to see that social shopping (or social commerce) is expected to reach $1.2 trillion globally by 2025 according to an Accenture study - a growth that’s three times faster than traditional ecommerce.
2022 is set to see the experience of social shopping evolve as platforms work behind the scenes to enable customer payments without leaving social media apps, creating a seamless customer experience. Gen Z and Millennials are predicted to be the biggest spenders as they will account for 62 percent of global social ecommerce revenue by 2025.
“TikTok has partnered with Shopify, Instagram is making huge developments with their shopping area within the app, so I think social shopping is just set to become absolutely huge this year,” says Battisby. “YouTube is also looking at enhancing their shoppable tags within videos and you can shop on Pinterest.”
The key to driving engagement is for brands to put time into presenting their shop windows on Instagram. It’s no longer enough to rely on one great image, companies need to have multiple images per product and add keyword-rich descriptions. Video is also crucial as the popularity of the format - as witnessed by TikTok’s growth and Instagram’s recent transition - is exploding across all audiences.
“YouTube is going to explode in terms of investment from advertising in 2022. I feel like it's a sleeping giant, but I think that the move away from linear TV, fragmentation with subscriptions, and streaming services all means that more advertising spend is going to move to YouTube,” says Brendan Almack, Managing Director of Wolfgang Digital.
Last year YouTube’s global revenue (through its parent company Alphabet) grew to nearly $29 billion, up almost 46 percent from 2020. This level of revenue puts the social media platform on par with Netflix and is a result of the rise in more traditional TV advertisers on the channel, direct response ads, and brand advertising.
“The scope for growth or headroom for growth is absolutely huge. It's still super cheap for CPVs and the big brands aren't there, or not doing it really well. This means that everyone can eke out a competitive advantage by having a smart YouTube advertising strategy,” states Almack.
Check out our blog if you’re looking to create a YouTube channel that engages and drives traffic.
As brands clamor to engage, promote, and convert successfully online, the need for digital talent across industries is intense.
Our recent whitepaper, ‘Perpetual Evolution’, created in cooperation with The Economist Group, discovered that securing talent with the right skill set is the number one challenge that the digital marketing industry faces, while the lack of training to upskill marketers ranks seventh.
Alison Battisby, Social Media Consultant at Avocado Social believes “there’s a huge digital skills gap in that every brand out there is really looking to enhance their capability in digital marketing. But a lot of people are struggling to find the talent. One of the things that’s very much on the agenda for businesses this year is to upskill staff”.
This demand is great news for marketers but poses a challenge for many in the industry who lack digital know-how or experience in digital marketing. So what digital marketing skills will be in demand in 2022?
When you’re looking to upskill and advance your career, it’s important to match your knowledge with the skills employers are looking for. LinkedIn’s analysis of its job postings found that digital marketing and social media marketing skills are in high demand. In fact, half of the top 10 marketing jobs listed below are in the digital or media space.
Over the past decade, many workers have decided to pursue a more flexible ‘gig’ lifestyle for their professional lives. The emergence and rise of online services and apps such as Airbnb and Deliveroo have offered new ways of working for people rather than a 9 to 5 traditional job.
Even before the pandemic hit, the number of gig workers was rising. ‘The State of Independence in America’ report found that there were over 40 million gig workers across the U.S. This report predicts that this could continue to balloon with more than half of American workers being independent by 2024.
“In the workplace, you can see a greater sense of agency with people wanting to return to work on their terms. So, there's less reliance on corporate America as people have their own income sources and sense of agency,” believes Mischa McInerney, Director of Marketing at the Digital Marketing Institute (DMI).
This gig economy opens up the door for marketers with in-demand skills. More and more creative or digital marketing professionals are choosing the digital nomad route as this enables them to dictate their own working hours and have flexibility. Plus, many digital nomads make more money than they did in a traditional role.
With demand growing for digital expertise and the growth of the ‘gig economy’, it’s no wonder that companies across the globe are struggling to find and retain talent.
Órla Stack, Human Resources Director at DMI believes that employers need to be proactive in hiring and retention. “If we don't move fast and are not meeting with candidates tomorrow, we're going to lose them to other employers because they're moving quickly as well.”
“For an employer, 2022 is going to be a huge challenge. In the UK, it’s forecast that up to 60% of workers are considering changing their careers this year. For candidates, when they look at roles they’re looking outside salary and benefits. It’s about flexibility and career opportunities as well, and what employers are doing to help them grow.”
Stack believes the answer to attracting and retaining talent is to look at your Employer Value Proposition (EVP). Perks such as unlimited holidays may have been an attractive benefit a few years ago, but with hybrid and remote working, this perk has fallen down the pecking order. Companies need to refocus and figure out what employees value now.
While it has existed for a number of years, the metaverse came to the attention of marketers after Facebook changed its parent company’s name to Meta in October 2021.
This move, according to Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg is because “the metaverse is the next frontier in connecting people, just like social networking was when we got started. Over time, I hope we are seen as a metaverse company, and I want to anchor our work and our identity on what we're building towards.”
But what is the metaverse? Put simply, it’s a network of virtual worlds in 3D that people can connect through Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). Well-known gaming platforms that operate in this area already are Minecraft, Roblox, Pokemon, and Fornite, many of which are familiar to the youngest demographic of all - Generation Alpha.
As a digital channel, the metaverse is relatively new for marketing, but recent campaigns have seen brands embrace its immersive nature to advertise. For example, Roblox hosted Gucci Garden, a place where visitors could try on and buy digital Gucci products to dress their avatars. Its aim was to raise brand awareness amongst younger consumers.
So why should marketers tap into the metaverse as one of the digital marketing trends of 2022? According to eMarketer research, there will be 65 million people that use VR and 110 million using AR every month in 2023. That’s a lot of potential young customers to have in one space.
Data breaches have regularly been in the headlines in recent years with people’s data being put at risk. As our world operates more and more online, the possibility of sensitive data being hacked or leaked is a real worry for customers and brands.
Due to Artificial Intelligence (AI), data is being collected about people without their knowledge through search engine algorithms and recommendation engines. As AI evolves, it increases the ability to gather personal information and intrude on people’s privacy.
According to a Gartner study, 40% of privacy compliance technology will use AI by 2023 while global spending on privacy is expected to reach $8 billion by 2022.
“Artificial Intelligence has been around for a while, and people are beginning to use it. But I think how it intersects with privacy is going to be really important. How do you gather data, while staying within the bounds of privacy law requirements?” says Ken Fitzpatrick, CEO of the DMI.
However, there are opportunities to use AI in a way that protects privacy. Companies can use AI in their data privacy initiatives to classify sensitive data and use it to search data to identify individuals that have asked to be forgotten (a specification covered under privacy regulations like GDPR).
Blockchain technology has seen its fair share of detractors. As a technology that stores data using peer-to-peer networks, it has been linked with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. It's now the basis for another popular virtual currency - Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs).
“NFTs are really interesting. Initially, I went, oh, not another one,” says Brian Corish, Experience Architect at Accenture Interactive. “What NFTs do is a sort of signaling. Like, why would you wear a Rolex watch? Well, you're kind of signaling I'm well off, or I'm successful.”
But how are NFTs infiltrating the marketing sector as a digital marketing trend? A huge part of the metaverse, brands are using NFTs to link owners to communities or be used as a digital badge.
At the 2022 Super Bowl, the NFL gave every spectator an NFT that was unique to their row and seat to commemorate their tickets and be used as digital keepsakes.
The media giant and magic maker, Disney is actively hiring metaverse experts to connect the physical and digital worlds more closely. This will allow for “storytelling without boundaries in a Disney metaverse”. Another example is Adidas and Prada launching an art project to allow artists to contribute to a tiled canvas that will be made into an NFT and sold.
“You're starting to see: I can own this, I have this one-of-one thing and it's a digital asset. You'll see luxury brands going into the metaverse and saying, you can have this one-of-one outfit for your character,” concludes Corish.
Just as employees feel they have more choice in their pursuit of a career, consumer behaviors have also changed as a result of social media and the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s allowed people to sit back and reflect on their choices and desires. In the U.S, consumers are now feeling more adventurous, bolder, and empowered as opposed to driven, dutiful, and thrifty according to GWI’s study ‘Connecting the Dots’.
Mischa McInerney, Director of Marketing at the DMI believes that “consumers are choosing to interact with brands on their terms. What does that mean? Instead of brands going for the right message to the right audience, at the right time; it's probably going to be something like the right answer to the right question, at the right time.”
This shift of power can be a challenge to brands, but it can also be a great opportunity. Consumers are now seeking out transparency and want to know more about the ethos of a company before purchasing. Some brands are looking to tap into these new emotions and sense of purpose.
Take ‘A Brand New You’ campaign, a star-studded video created to promote Dubai as a travel destination. Featuring Zac Efron it’s all about rediscovering yourself and taking time out to be present. With over 6 million views, it has resonated with YouTube users.
In tandem with a power shift, consumers are hungry for information. They want answers to their questions and are comfortable finding that in an online space, whether it be through social media, a forum or on chat. This desire for answers has seen conversational marketing explode as a way to engage customers.
The good news is that conversational marketing done right can reap huge rewards for B2C and B2B brands. The bad news? If you’re not on top of your communications, slow to respond or have an inconsistent message, you run the risk of turning customers off and away!
Ken Fitzpatrick, CEO of the DMI believes that “customers now expect a response to their query at 2 am. They won't wait until three days later to get a response in triplicate. This sort of frictionless, conversational customer experience is going to get increasingly important.”
This drive for consumers to find information has seen messaging apps like WhatsApp become a great channel for marketers to communicate and provide customer service. This also goes for platforms such as Slack, voice-activated technologies like Alexa and social media networks Facebook Messenger and Twitter.
* This WhatsApp stat refers to 2021 during the pandemic - source
Chatbots have been around for some time but they are also seeing an increase in use by brands for customer support and have the potential to help drive retail sales, especially amongst younger generations, predicted to spend $112 billion by 2023.
Greenwashing, also known as ‘green sheen’, is when a company uses marketing and PR to mislead customers into believing their products or services are environmentally friendly.
One brand that came under fire for this was IKEA. Promoted as a beacon of sustainability, they were called out in 2020 for illegally logging in Ukraine and protected Siberian forests to create their furniture. As a result, the Forestry Stewardship Council accused them of greenwashing the timber industry.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of other examples of brands greenwashing and it’s a practice that consumers are paying attention to as they value the origin of their purchases and want transparency from brands, particularly in this post-pandemic era.
“Companies have done a lot of greenwashing, and I think they're being held accountable a little bit more,” says Mischa McInerney, Director of Marketing at the DMI. “A few years ago, if you asked what was going to be the biggest shift in environmental impact, I would have said government legislation, but I think it's probably going to be consumer-led.”
One sector that has come under huge pressure to make changes in the fashion industry as a result of decades of fast fashion and textile waste. The rise of secondhand clothing available online is growing 21 times faster than the general retail sector with brands cornering the market: such as resale site thredUp and H&M-owned & Other Stories where you can hire clothes.
Tip: When done right, brands can drive engagement by taking on social issues on social media. So, think about any causes or movements your brand cares about or relate to your product or service you can speak about on your social channels.
Marketers have known for a long time about the planned demise of the third-party cookie in 2022 (now pushed out to 2023). Google decided to move away from gathering this data due to privacy issues. The issue with third-party cookies is that the online activities of customers were being tracked without many knowing what brands were doing with their data.
A recent Pew Research Center study found that 70 percent of Americans felt that their data was less secure than it was 5 years ago and 81 percent say that the potential risks they face because of data collection outweigh the benefits.
While other providers may offer identifying information using PII (Personally Identifiable Information) graphs, Google is taking a privacy-preserving API approach, This means that advertisers using Google need to find alternative ways to identify and target customers. The answer? Marketers need to understand how to increase revenue with a first-party data strategy.
Cathal Melinn, Digital Marketing Director and eCommerce Specialist believes the answer lies in the power of email marketing. “Email addresses are the ultimate first-party data. When you have permission to use someone's email in a campaign or marketing activity, under GDPR, you can upload that onto advertising platforms like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as a de facto cookie.”
This makes maintaining and building your email marketing lists crucial in the coming months. Most importantly, devise an email marketing strategy that ties in with your marketing activities to get the most from your first-party data.
Tip: Even better, there’s zero-party data that a customer provides intentionally and proactively through preferences and purchase intentions. Check out our recent webinar to find out more.
At the end of 2020, Google Analytics announced an update to its platform. The new version aimed to help marketers “get better ROI from their long-term marketing using machine learning to automatically offer helpful insights and give an understanding of customers across devices and platforms.”
For marketers and data gurus, there are five key updates to note:
To stay up-to-date with future improvements, Cathal advises creating a new ‘Google Analytics 4’ property (previously called an App + Web property) alongside your existing properties.
Tip: If you want to get more from your data, check out our webinar on data driven marketing.
Another change in 2022 that will affect your paid search marketing efforts is the removal of Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) from Google. This change according to Google is to use automation through their ad products as companies move to use Responsive Search Ads (RSA) instead.
“Google is going to stop running expanded text ads in July 2022, so you need to start planning responsive text ads because we need to get their search history up to and in the system. Once July (2022) comes, those text ad types which were the default in Google Ads will be gone,” comments Cathal Melinn, Digital Marketing Director and eCommerce Specialist.
For brands that rely on Google ads and paid search marketing there are a number of steps you should take to plan for this change to responsive search:
Tip: If you need help with building Google ads for search marketing campaigns, just download our Google Ads Creator Template.
For many marketers, Google search is the place to be to get your content seen by customers. Securing a place on Google’s first SERP, or even better, ranking in the top spot, means that millions of eyes could potentially see your brand.
Here’s an example when typing in ‘digital marketing skills’ as to what comes up in Google search.
As a search engine, Google has a market share of nearly 92 percent, with its nearest rival being Bing at just 3 percent. There are also 3.5 billion Google searches every day, making the search engine a slam dunk of a position to be in when it comes to determining what customers see.
The problem for content marketers now is that Google no longer seems to be playing fair when it comes to ranking SEO-optimized organic content in searches.
“I think we're losing so much real estate on Google. There are more ads and Google's giving more of the search engine results pages to its own products. So, it's getting harder to rank organic content, (and) we're moving towards more branded search,” says Kate Toon, SEO and Content Expert.
But what is a branded search? It’s basically any search query that includes your brand or product name. The great thing about branded search queries is that if a customer types in your name that means they know your brand and have high intent.
Another thing to bear in mind for organic content is that there’s a growing trend of customers asking questions through Google search. So answer-based content is key and make sure you align keywords with your content (scroll down for more on that.)
In May 2020, Google announced its Core Web Vitals, a set of metrics focused on users to measure the ‘wellbeing’ of a site from a customer’s perspective.
These Core Web Vitals are now ranking signals that play a role in your digital and content marketing. Optimizing these will improve your website’s performance and usability. The three user experience metrics used are:
However, Kate Toon, SEO and Content Expert believes many marketers are not paying attention to these new metrics: to their own detriment. “I think most people haven't looked at Core Web Vitals and haven't gone into their Google search console to check how they're performing.”
The goal is to get higher Core Web Vitals scores which will become an SEO ranking factor, improve usability, and enable faster loading which is known to convert more visitors into sales.
We mentioned answer-based content earlier to help you improve your organic search. But there’s another reason to look at creating this type of SEO content - people are looking for it.
This can be seen in the rise in conversational marketing, but also the increase in voice searches which account for 20 percent of Google searches. Ultimately it’s about a more direct approach from consumers. They want information and are moving towards asking questions to get to the information quicker.
“Google is becoming less of a search engine, more of an answer engine. So understanding your audience, their pain points, answering their individual questions is important,” says Kate Toon, SEO and Content Expert.
So how can you tap into this move to answer questions in your content?
As you can see, 2022 is going to be an exciting and busy year for marketers.
The insider digital marketing trends we’ve explored (spoken about in our recent podcast) should give you insight into the developments and changes you should integrate into your digital marketing campaigns to ensure that you make the most of your activities across channels.
From dipping into the metaverse, reviewing your YouTube advertising strategy or adopting a question-based content strategy, there’s a huge amount you can do to drive engagement and revenue. So, why not get started and figure out which one you want to try first?
Whether you’re just starting out or a digital marketing expert, make 2022 the year to sharpen and polish your skills. Learn the latest and most relevant digital marketing skills with DMI’s Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing. From SEO to website optimization to analytics to PPC to social media and email marketing, you’ll learn everything you need to execute successful digital campaigns and advance your career.
Digital marketing experts consulted for this piece were: