The digital marketing landscape has been increasingly dynamic, to put it mildly. Pandemic-related restrictions and data security/privacy regulations made hundreds of companies the reexamine old strategies and platforms for ad placements, but what should savvy marketer look forward to next year? Together with VlogBox team, I’ve painted a picture.
Influencer marketing: more inclusive and data-driven
Data from mid-2020 — assembled by the PR, creative services and digital marketing agency Matter Communications — revealed that surveyed consumers trusted influencer information more than info offered by brands alone, and further that social distancing and other pandemic restrictions have accelerated that trend, as social media users engage with influencers more often. The survey also indicated that more than half of Gen Z members and millennials consider the opinions of social media influencers while making a purchasing decision.
It’s small surprise, then, that most influencers now view themselves as entrepreneurs. A so-called “creator economy” has emerged, featuring more than 50 million independent content makers, and that new sector has reached the $1.3 billion mark in investment in 2021, according to a July-published New Yorker article. There are also clear indications that influencer marketing is becoming more polished, and professional: As more brand ambassadors view it as an actual job, they’ve become more selective and cautious about the products endorsed.
A key factor to consider is that the majority of influencers are driven by inclusivity nowadays; consumers keep a close eye on opinion leaders and brands to see whether they embody diverse and inclusive cultures. Marketing campaigns that contain inclusive messaging, such as #ShareTheMicNow, have sparked increasing interest, so businesses that expect successful collaboration with influencers would be well advised to develop or accentuate their inclusive components.
Influencer marketing on social media can be a terrific way to target a specific demographic, but finding the right influencer and measuring ROI can be a tricky proposition.
Related: It’s Time to Redefine the Influencer
Mobile marketing, and the rise of social shopping
One would expect to see a slight decline in mobile usage due to the pandemic outbreak: after all, people have various devices at their disposal at home. However, recent data from Statista have indicated that’s not the case: 70% of surveyed users, it stated, use mobile devices more than ever. A parallel dynamic is that expectations of a seamless mobile commerce experience are also higher than ever, and a frictionless and touchless shopping experience on social media is expected to be a shift point soon. One possible consequence of this could be the rise of “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) apps like Klarna. At the same time, brands like Walmart and Kroger have introduced “buy online, pick up in-store” (BOPIS) apps, which were in part responsible for the latter company reporting a stunning 92% increase in sales over just the first quarter of 2020.
The appearance of 5G opens up additional possibilities as far as mobile marketing is concerned. For starters, live commerce is gaining momentum, with China leading the way here. Alibaba’s Taobao Live made an astonishing $7.5 billion in ecommerce transactions in just 30 minutes during Singles’ Day (November 11) in 2020. Meanwhile, reporting from TechCrunch indicated that no less than 37% of online shoppers in China (or 265 million people) made purchases on livestreams in 2019, and that the industry is projected to generate $60 billion by the end of 2021. The combination of an instant shopping experience with an audience reaction via chat function clearly results in better audience engagement, and such social shopping will only amplify. As Walmart and Facebook hosted their live streaming events this year, it would be safe to assume that Western companies will attempt to keep up with their Chinese counterparts.
CTV advertising on the rise
Current connected TV (or CTV) viewing figures have far exceeded pre-Covid-19 levels. Despite strong streaming and “over-the-top” (OTT) viewing numbers over the last ten years, people have started taking advantage of CTVs as they spend more time at home. The CTV industry is far from being homogeneous, however: Roku tops the list, followed by Amazon, Samsung, Apple and Vizio. Even with such network diversity, Roku is the obvious choice for most programmatic ads (49% of the CTV market), with Amazon in second but still significantly behind (9%).
One possible reason why viewers show interest in CTVs is the availability of many emerging entertainment and streaming services. Launched in 2019, Disney+ alone hit 54 million subscribers worldwide in less than half of that year. (It took Netflix several years to achieve similar results.) After exceeding even its most optimistic forecasts, the company began producing no fewer than 57 new Disney+ shows in 2021.
As 15% of U.S. viewers canceled their cable subscriptions last year (a number predicted to double when 2021 figures are tallied), CTV is on course to get even great audience exposure. Video streaming undoubtedly leads the way, but gaming shows vast potential, accounting for nearly 20% of all apps present on Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV. Connected TV advertising is proving to be more effective than traditional TV advertising, too, as CTV viewers are 42% more likely to buy advertised products as a result of ads, according to ExchangeWire.
Facebook is still king, but will Snapchat see another breakthrough?
As reported by SproutSocial, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are the top three media platforms ecommerce consumers use to stay in touch with brands. But will they stay that way, given that, for example, TikTok is growing faster than any other social media network? Certainly, Facebook remains by far the largest social media network on the planet, and, despite a steady organic decline over some years, it still has a relatively low $7.19 cost per mille (CPM) compared to its counterparts. Facebook will continue to hold a special place in millions of marketers’ toolkits as well, although Apple’s iOS 14 update will likely force it to consider allocating some of its advertising budgets elsewhere.
Snapchat shows indications of continued growth, though slightly lopsided (its number of users in the U.S. exceeds UK, French, Indian and Mexican users combined). In terms of demographics, the average Snapchat user is 15 to 25 years old, and the company has recently made moves to reinforce itself with Gen Z users, adding AR features and Snap games to the platform. 2022 is expected to mark the first time Snapchat will bring fierce competition to Instagram.
Although Twitch is generally regarded as a streaming platform, it does sport some social media features, such as a streaming chat. While live video is among the most valuable content formats, this platform, which was initially popular among the e-sport-oriented audience, now has virtually any kind of content to offer its 44 million-and-counting Gen Z users, including music, lifestyle and even cooking.
Product placement becomes programmatic
According to Bloomberg, product placements on video streaming will top $23 billion in 2021. What makes that such an effective advertising strategy? Unlike typical ads, this placement can’t be skipped or muted: it is indistinguishable from original content.
Numerous studies confirmed that it also improves brand awareness and creates a positive attitude towards products advertised. However, placements can drive negative connotations if they are made too obvious, so subtlety is the key, and predisposition towards a certain product matters a lot, particularly when viewers lack general information. Product placement also needs to be increasingly performance-measurable, so marketers can accurately predict ROI, and another shift around the corner might be the introduction of a programmatic approach to product placements on CTVs and OTT devices.
Gaming and audio
The video-gaming advertising market consists of mobile, computing and console segments, with projected revenue of $4.2 billion worldwide in 2021. Despite this evident market potential, publishers look cautiously when integrating ads into games, not least because it’s been reported that failing to provide an immersive advertising experience can disrupt the gaming process, potentially leading to a risk of damage to high-value gaming IPs.
Virtual reality (VR) technology in the gaming market is predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 32.75% between 2021-2026, and the gaming and entertainment industry seems like a natural fit for VR. The retail sector will likely be among the early adopters of augmented reality (AR) tech, too, given that 70% of customers have indicated a desire for a “try it before I buy it” experience. AR and VR have comparatively limited advertising capabilities as of now, but there will likely be a primetime for such tools.
Finally, there is the audio advertising sector, which has been around since the advent of radio in the early 20th century. In 2021, this market has been mainly limited to music streaming and podcasts, with a projected volume of $3.177 billion. Recently, Spotify launched its first-ever B2B audio campaign that proved to be more immersive and engaging than traditional radio and TV, and such audio advertising shows clear signs of maturity, as it’s a solid alternative to radio ads.
In 2022, advertising will be driven by inclusivity and broader targeting of millennial and Gen Z audiences. At the same time, customers will demand an even better and more immersive shopping experience, while marketers will turn their gaze even more towards programmatic media buying. Social media will still be dominated by Facebook but Snapchat will have something extra to offer.