As the pandemic forced many daily interactions online, the lines between customer and provider and between commercial and social interactions began to blur. There’s likely limited chance of going back. Strategic marketing leaders should take the lead to advocate and deliver on strategies that embrace digital as the foundation of new connections with and between customers, employees, business partners, and social influencers far beyond existing relationships. To help you through the transition, this year’s crop of marketing predictions explores the consequences of digital’s ascendance on related themes such as the privacy movement, flexible workplace, employee advocacy, sales enhanced with artificial intelligence (AI), virtual influencers, and social commerce.
Early predictions about the collapse of online tracking are proving to be overblown. Roughly one-quarter of digital users would allow tracking today, and another quarter say they might allow it in certain situations.
The initial impulse customers had to opt-out of tracking is fading. There’s potential for a full reversal to “accept all” tracking from trusted brands or well-established publishers. Consumer privacy-setting behavior is being influenced by the experience that brands provide. Apps and websites that give customers a reason to opt-in will likely gain a significant revenue advantage.
Give customers compelling reasons to trust you with personal data and make it easy to change privacy behaviors and settings. To overcome data degradation, researchers suggest optimizing contextual targeting and measurement.
Regular schedules and daily routines have changed from what they were pre-pandemic for half of responding consumers. By 2022, remote and hybrid employees will likely spend 20 % more time during the day watching video content.
Ads placed in former high-demand spots during morning and evening programs may no longer reach the volume, nor the type, of customers that brands want to engage. A shift away from prime-time could be good news for marketers — especially those who’ve been priced out of prime-time spots.
Researchers suggest aligning ad strategies to take advantage of the times of day your audience is most receptive, then evaluate media plans with an emphasis on how well they can adapt to timing changes in conjunction with targeted behavior. Additionally, researchers suggest leveraging audio as a key part of messaging — audiences may still be listening even when their eyes are focused on work.
When employees share content, it often achieves a 200 % higher click-through rate than when the company shares the same content. This is at a time when trust in company-sourced information has hit an all-time low. Together, these findings point to employees having higher personal credibility with customers than the brands they represent. Organizations can leverage the personal touch to build brand trust and drive commercial outcomes using employee advocacy programs that scale the curation and distribution of brand content through social channels.
Employee advocacy programs achieve higher reach and engagement than more conventional approaches to earned and owned social media. Researchers suggest building or strengthening B2B social marketing strategies with employee-driven programs aimed at building brand recognition and trust. Additionally, researchers suggest scaling employee participation with easy-to-use platforms that optimize relevant content.
The pandemic accelerated a digital-first B2B buying trend, further blurring the boundaries between marketing and sales. Buyers and sellers now expect website transactions to overtake human-led sales by 2023, yet buyer beware: B2B customers who pursue a sales-rep-free experience are more likely to regret their purchase decisions.
Marketers can support customer self-service purchases by designing frictionless digital experiences. Marketing and sales force automation systems are likely to be increasingly integrated with other customer-facing interaction channels to facilitate seamless transitions through the buying process.
A growing share of the $14 billion marketers currently spend annually on influencers is going toward virtual influencers. These fictional characters — often crafted with input from marketing and PR agencies and created by animators — already represent brands like KFC, LG, and Renault, across industries from fashion and consumer packaged goods to manufacturing. Popular in Asia, virtual influencers are gaining traction in the U.S.
Nearly one-third of B2B and B2C organizations have included selling on social platforms as part of their digital commerce strategy — motivated by growing customer purchase activity on social channels. Younger consumers in particular are turning toward commerce options that emphasize convenience and discovery.
Social platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter are integrating and encouraging social commerce. As e-tailers vie for market share, brands should rethink the customer experience and how organizational design supports the customer journey.
Researchers suggest catering social content strategies to engage consumers who are likely to embrace social commerce, yet enhance the quality of content on social media product pages with information that addresses customer needs. Lastly, researchers suggest transparency to allay consumer concerns around data privacy.