Cameron Prockiw is the founder of Vovia and has helped top companies around the world use the internet more effectively for over 20 years. Cam also enjoys traveling, experiencing different cultures, and learning new things.

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10 Digital Marketing Trends To Watch in 2022

It’s time again for our annual trends to watch post, so let’s dive into a few digital marketing trends that we think you should keep an eye on in 2022!

Digital marketing trends 2022 image

Social Commerce

The ability to purchase items you see directly within social media platforms is proving to be very effective, decreasing the friction for impulse shoppers. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest have all recently introduced the ability to purchase directly from posts without ever leaving the platform. Meanwhile, other platforms like Snapchat and Tiktok are partnering with Shopify to provide a somewhat similar experience. In fact, Shopify provides a streamlined checkout experience across nearly all social platforms (not quite the same as not leaving the platform, but still very quick and easy to use). We expect this trend to take a big step forward in 2022 and become a big driver of online sales. 

Live Shopping

Live shopping is a trend that is already big in Asia (accounting for over 10% of online sales in China!) and is in the process of coming to North America. In a world where YouTube and Instagram stars have become influencers, the ability for them to directly sell products directly to their audiences makes a lot of sense. It may be a direct approach, demonstrating and promoting products (like an updated version of the Home Shopping Network or QVC) or a less direct approach where you can buy the jacket or skirt that just happened to be worn by the influencer you’re watching while they’re singing a song, pulling a prank, or doing whatever it is that they do. A fun example is Petco’s doggie fashion show and pet adoption event that was held on Facebook. The 22-minute show attracted nearly 1 million viewers, generated sales that were double the cost of putting on the event, and all of the canine models were also adopted. A win-win!

VR and AR Ads

As VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) gain steam, there will be more and more opportunities to place advertisements and marketing experiences within these realms. The move towards a Metaverse is also part of this trend, with many like Facebook believing that the next version of the internet will be accessed through these platforms.

Meta (formerly Facebook) had tested offering ads in some Oculus titles in mid-2021, but our prediction is that this will be rolled out and more widely available in 2022. Let’s just hope that it’s done tastefully and isn’t taken to seizure-inducing limits, like in Ready Player One. Meanwhile, other platforms like gaming platform Unity are working on immersive experiences for brands. And leading the pack so far, Roblox (a platform with 43 million daily active users) already offers both sponsored experiences and ads to promote them. We expect a wider variety of these ad executions in 2022.

QR Codes

Here’s an old idea that may finally get its day. While QR codes have been around since the mid ’90s, they’ve never gained much traction in North America due to slower wireless internet speeds and a lack of understanding of how to use them. But since the pandemic hit, all that has changed and QR codes have gone mainstream. Where will that lead us as marketers in 2022?  We think there will be a lot of uses for QR codes in advertising to extend the reach of the ad and offer the user a deeper experience. Looking to Asia, where QR codes have been used in marketing more extensively, we see examples of including QR codes in ads that link to a site with more information about a product, a video about the product, a special offer, the opportunity to buy it online, link to a call/text message/email for more information, add a reminder to your calendar, or even provide directions to a store or restaurant via your maps app. With so many options, it’s time to get creative in how you use QR codes.

Messaging Apps

Messaging apps such as Messenger, WhatsApp, Signal, and Discord have become incredibly popular drawing hundreds of millions of users each, but all remain essentially ad-free. We suspect that will change soon, perhaps in 2022. It’s just a matter of time until one of these platforms starts monetizing its user base and then once that happens, it’s likely to become the norm. In the meantime, brands are getting onto messaging apps and interacting with potential customers and supporting existing ones there, providing marketing opportunities that aren’t reliant on ads.

5G and Satellite internet

Most people have probably heard of 5G and are aware that it provides much faster internet speeds, but the other trend people aren’t talking about as much is Satellite Internet which is doing the same thing for rural communities and hard-to-service locations. Both are in the early stages of being rolled out and what this will mean for advertisers is not yet clear. But we can speculate that faster internet speeds will make interactive and immersive experiences more widely available and should also be a boon to e-commerce, which can still be painfully slow on mobile at times. It will also enable IoT (internet of things) applications, which we can expect to be leveraged in all sorts of creative ways. One interesting proof of concept we noticed recently is a solution for measuring foot traffic and dwell time in an “observation zone” in front of an OOH ad, and possibly also capturing mobile MAC addresses, which could be used to link OOH to a digital attribution solution.

In addition, by providing fast internet connections to hard-to-service locations, we can expect that the amount of internet usage in those communities will increase and the total number of internet users may increase as well. This may in fact open up a whole new set of audiences for marketers. Personally, I know some people who live on farms and have never had reliable internet who say that Satellite Internet is a game-changer for them.

Reaction to blocking of 3rd party cookies

This is not new to 2022 as we’ve been dealing with this since Apple blocked 3rd party cookies on iOS in March of 2021. However, this is still one of the biggest challenges facing digital marketers in 2022 as the race is still on to find a good alternative to 3rd party cookies. This should further intensify as we approach Chrome’s agreed date to follow suit and block 3rd party cookies in 2023. By blocking 3rd party cookies, Apple has severely hindered the ability to target specific audiences and remarket to specific users who use Apple devices. Ad platforms and tech vendors are working on a number of different approaches to dealing with these cookies being blocked including using alternative identifiers, opt-in tracking, user identity graphs, and shared data pools.

In 2022, we expect that one or two of these solutions will come to the forefront and gain wider acceptance and for any solutions going forward to be scrutinized in order to ensure individual privacy is not hindered. The current leading alternatives look to be Google’s Privacy Sandbox, Unified ID 2.0 (an amalgamation of solutions which had been developed by The Trade Desk, LiveRamp, and IdentityLink), and SWAN (backed by a number of different ad tech companies including OpenX), but this could change quickly as advertisers will turn to whichever solution proves to be the most effective. But in the meantime, there will continue to be a focus on making use of 1st party data instead, establishing data partnerships, and a return to lower-tech solutions (such as focusing placements on content themes rather than user tracking, as well as a return to media mix modelling and brand studies). Econsultancy recently performed a survey of the top alternatives being currently used or considered by marketers. 

An increase in walled gardens

Another byproduct of the blocking of 3rd party cookies is the even greater dominance of walled gardens. Walled gardens are closed ecosystems, where you have to use their ad technology (or proprietary DSP) to buy ads on their platform, use their DMP for targeting, and the platform controls all of the campaign performance data. Think Facebook, Google and Amazon as the main examples of walled gardens. While the majority of the ad tech industry is reliant on 3rd party cookies for targeting and tracking (and are becoming increasingly ineffective without this data), this is not the case for walled gardens. Walled gardens are able to maintain good user data based on logged-in users and build detailed profiles based upon user actions within their platform. 

Aside from the big 3 taking an even bigger part of the advertising pie (they currently account for 64% of all digital ad spend), what will this mean for marketers?  We’re seeing a rise in other platforms building their own walled gardens including social media and online communities (e.g. Snapchat, TikTok, and Reddit), niche marketplaces (e.g. Etsy, Wish, and Houzz), and subscription sites (e.g. New York Times, The Globe and Mail, and Spotify). In addition to all of these well-known names, there are a whole host of niche sites in each area that are building their own walled gardens.

As a result, we expect this to challenge marketers – as the platforms become even more fragmented, we’ll have to deal with each of these platforms directly, rather than buying programmatically. This will make omnichannel buying more difficult, multi-touch attribution very difficult (if not impossible), cross-platform targeting difficult (if not impossible), and is resulting in far less transparency.

AI-powered everything

Artificial Intelligence is already here in a big way and we’ve been talking about it for years now, including this post from 2018, so this isn’t really a new one on our list. But I’ve included it again this year and I think this trend will go into overdrive in 2022. This technology is still in its infancy and is being rolled out in all sorts of ways including smart targeting, smart bidding, creative testing, personalization, and intelligent analytics. There are even completely new cross-channel ad units.

What we’re seeing is that AI continues to improve performance by taking over a lot of the heavy lifting of optimizing campaign performance. AI can also consider many more data points when making decisions (AI can consider hundreds of data points, whereas a human can only reasonably consider a handful at one time), so in the right circumstances, AI will outperform a human optimizing. However, this is still not always nor usually the case, so it’s important to know how and when to make use of AI in order to get the most out of it.

Blockchain and Crypto 

Like AI, blockchain technology is being built into all sorts of solutions across many industries and use cases. Advertising is no different and we expect to see lots of blockchain solutions coming out soon as the technology has now matured enough to be useful in real-world applications. Some ideas of how blockchain could be used in advertising are to improve the accuracy of tracking, improve privacy through better anonymity, verify ad impressions/clicks/etc., and reduce click fraud.

In addition, there is a movement toward paying users a slice of advertising revenue which may help address user’s privacy concerns as the user is in control (they can opt-in or out) and perhaps could be given even more granular control over which companies/brands they’re willing to share their information with. Brave Browser is a good example of someone doing this already, paying users a slice of their advertising revenue to use their browser. Payments are made in BAT (Basic Attention Tokens), which is a crypto token that might one day be spent just like cash, but for now, you have to convert it into cash or another crypto coin in order to spend it. But like most crypto, BATs have also appreciated a lot, so it could be good to just HOLD (keep) them. In fact, BAT has gone from a price of $0.21 CAD to a current price of over $1.00 CAD in just the past 4 years. 

What digital marketing trends are you anticipating in 2022? Do any of these provide opportunities for your organization? Whatever your goals, we’re always happy to help. Drop us a line and let’s chat.