Technology’s ever-increasing capabilities and array of online tools continue to change the way marketers reach and engage with consumers. Digitization started to influence the practice of direct marketing as far back as the mid- to late 1990s. Virtual communities and online ordering emerged as alternatives to in-person focus groups and direct mail catalogs.
Now it’s social media, search engine algorithms, and AI-driven tech that are at the forefront of marketers’ minds. But to carry out cutting-edge and winning strategies, marketing professionals have to look ahead. Emerging trends and technology changes directly impact how and whether content reaches an audience.
With 2022 on the horizon, marketers are already adjusting their budgets and planning to take advantage of what’s to come. While some of these developments appear tech-driven, many are surfacing due to consumer preferences and expectations. Here’s a preview of three digital marketing trends companies can expect over the next year.
1. Virtual and Hybrid Events
Virtual events are expected to continue into 2022, even as pandemic-related restrictions subside. When virtual events became one of the only practical ways to connect in real time, more people realized their convenience. With a virtual conference platform, it’s easier to bring everyone interested in the content and presentations together.
Keynote speakers and attendees no longer have to make travel arrangements, saving time and expenses. Marketers can still gather a database of leads through online registrations and instant feedback on different sessions. Individuals who register to attend virtual conferences and digital events can decide what they want to learn at the moment. They can seamlessly enter and leave presentations and networking or breakout rooms without having to navigate crowds.
The features of conference platforms also make it possible for companies to host hybrid events. These events, including workshops and lunch and learns, give attendees more flexibility. Those who can participate in person can engage onsite while other individuals attend via livestream or an online broadcast. Recording capabilities allow those who can’t do either to still get the information they need.
As comfort levels regarding in-person attendance rebound slowly, the twin desires for flexibility and safety continue to drive digital events. A 2021 survey of marketing professionals revealed that 40% would attend hybrid events, accessing some components in person and some virtually. Although learning sessions and gathering information are well-received in the digital realm, networking is perceived as more difficult. Despite these complications, however, 38% of professionals would only attend events virtually.
2. Voice Search Technology
Consumers are using voice assistants on their smart devices more than ever. Around 44% of internet users rely on voice assistants, and 135.6 million individuals in the U.S. will use them by 2022. The increased adoption of voice assistant technology is changing the way people search for information. They’re starting to shift away from typing a few keywords into a search engine on a browser. Instead, consumers are speaking entire sentences and phrases into a smart device.
Voice assistant technology provides the masses with more convenience, as it’s hands-free. Plus, you don’t have to know or remember things like Boolean search methods. For many, it’s easier to speak their thoughts than to try to shorten and adapt them to a search engine.
However, the increased use of voice search capabilities is changing the way marketers write content. Rather than researching and incorporating keyword phrases, they’re crafting content around complete sentences, long-tail keywords, and questions. Using a traditional web browser, someone might type in “car dealerships near me.” With a voice search, those keywords become “Where is the nearest car dealership?”
While this doesn’t mean content marketers are abandoning traditional keyword phrases altogether, it does make their job more comprehensive. Content teams have to evaluate the viability of additional keywords and find ways to organically integrate them into their writing. Marketers also have to think more like a consumer, determining what questions they would ask a voice assistant when searching.
3. Mobile-Friendly Designs
Mobile devices have reached nearly every sector of the U.S. economy, including K-12 and higher education. The days of using a desktop at home, school, or the office are becoming rarer. Mobile devices, such as tablets, allow for as much productivity and information access without being tethered to a desk.
Consumers can load coupons on their store loyalty cards when they notice a good deal in the aisle. Educators can move around the class and project the day’s lesson onto a whiteboard at the front of the room. And travelers no longer have to worry about finding enough space for a full-sized laptop.
Marketers need to respond to these shifts in consumer technology use by increasingly designing for mobile. This includes creating apps and app-related content and considering how marketing content on websites and in emails displays on smartphones and tablets. Without website and email template designs that adjust to smaller screens, content becomes difficult to read. It can look disjointed, with pieces of text cut off mid-sentence, too much white space, and images that don’t load properly.
Responsive website and template designs will no longer be optional, as more than information sharing will determine a company’s success. Revenue will be lost if leads and customers can’t make purchases or access account information through a mobile device. Consumers will wonder whether your company is reputable and savvy enough to handle their needs.
Poor customer experiences and negative word-of-mouth could end up damaging your reputation for the foreseeable future. Adapting to customers’ use of mobile too late means it’s going to be harder to overcome unfavorable perceptions. Consumers expect apps and digital content that are readable and load quickly on any device.
Technology has reshaped the way the world connects, including how organizations reach and nurture an audience. Digital outreach strategies have become part of omnichannel experiences for consumers who engage with companies online and offline. Shifts in the ways individuals can find and interact with brands online are occurring partly because new technologies are available.
However, it’s the willingness of consumers to use those technologies and abandon previous forms that determines the success of marketers’ efforts. The conveniences tech enables will increase the widespread adoption of marketing tactics that align with them. As a result, companies will prioritize virtual events and content created for voice assistants and mobile screens in 2022.