19 digital marketing predictions for 2022

In this hefty industry round-up featuring marketing leaders, industry experts, agency thought leaders, adtech and martech vendors, CMO explores what's in store for digital marketing in the post-Covid era

Digital acceleration, the metaverse, NFTs, social commerce, a connected and streaming TV explosion, the final cookies curtain call, growing criticality of first-party data and increasingly AI-driven automation are all trends that gained ground over the course of 2021. And they’re going to be instrumental to propelling digital marketing and advertising to new heights in 2022.

As the industry shakes off a second year of adapting to global pandemic conditions and an ever-more digitally savvy and socially aware consumer, it’s clear digital marketing faces another evolution in 2022. Agility, a willingness to embrace new technology and channels and strong data-driven consumer approaches will be pivotal to riding the digital marketing wave next year.

CMO has canvassed a wide array of predictions from across the industry to find out what’s on the cards for digital marketing in 2022.

1. Marketing activities adapt to suit the Covid hangover

From supply chain issues to a more socially conscious and connected consumer, the long shadow of Covid-19 continues into 2022. Kantar is one of many outfits recommending brand offerings be reshaped to suit the changed realities of consumer behaviour.

“Brands, products and services will need to meet new consumer needs for convenience, value, sustainability and innovation,” the consultancy advises. “Brands that invest in data, insights, people and marketing will flourish. The most successful will embrace the differences – diversity and complexity – of the audiences they’re seeking to reach. This presents a great opportunity to develop in this recovery period: Explore deeper segmentations and engage with communities beyond their existing audience.” 

GoDaddy Australia senior director of marketing, Suzanne Mitchell, says the global pandemic has undoubtedly been a period of reflection.

“For so many Australians, that has meant a reconsideration of what matters to them in their professional and personal lives,” she comments. “Our research told us that in the wake of the pandemic, 70 per cent of Australians believe it’s more important to pursue a career they’re passionate about. A further 45 per cent said they would consider leaving a well-paid job to follow a dream.

“And as the New Year approaches, we’ve noticed a growing sense of optimism, excitement and entrepreneurialism. As many emboldened Australians consider turning their passion into their purpose, they’re not simply looking for a product, service or software; they’re looking for a brand to be their partner, who understands their motivations, challenges and aspirations and supports them on their journey.”

This has direct bearing on how digital marketing channels and interactions are harnessed in 2022, Mitchell says. “When they embark into the 'new new’, these customers will want to work with brands that can demonstrate they are there with them,” she says.  

Tecala senior marketing specialist, Jemma Healy, agrees marketers need to fully appreciate the modern value exchange between brand and consumers. She describes this as a shift away from incentives and discounts towards an alignment of values and beliefs.  

“Only brands that act with transparency and authenticity will gain the trust to thrive into 2022, where to generate any campaign cut-through the messaging must resonate with what is meaningful to that person and their idealisms,” she warns. “It’s no longer about if the price is right, but how much a brand aligns with the social, economic and environmental beliefs.”  

2. Gen Z gains more buying power 

Alongside the near-term impact of consumer behavioural change fuelled by the pandemic is maturity of the Generation Z consumer. InMobi Marketing Solutions co-founder and CEO, Abhay Singhal, points out this digital and social native demographic have more influence on the economy and media landscape right now than many may have expected.

“They’re in their formative years with building brand loyalty and over the next four to seven years, they will begin to fully realise their earning and spending potential,” he says. “They’re going to different places to consume information; I doubt The New York Times ever thought they’d have to use TikTok to share the news. It will soon be the same for retail and politics – if you look at data, Millennials will take over with purchasing and voting power in 2024 and Gen Z will be right on their heels. They will drive how we think about products and ad formats and how we build Web 3.0.

“Both advertisers and publishers that have platforms and audiences will have to really work to deliver engaging content that provides value to the audience beyond just advertising. Content development will be bigger and more important than it used to be; brands will need money and to invest in creating content that is sticky and keeps up with the pace.” 

Read more: Menulog: The four steps we took to win over Gen Z

3. Everyone goes all-in on cookie-less  

Google may have delayed the demise of cookies to 2023, but there’s no doubt finding ways to eke off cookies for digital advertising delivery has to occur in 2022.  

33Across CEO and co-founder, Eric Wheeler, suggests publishers have as much as 80 per cent of their revenue at stake with primarily cookie-based monetisation. He spies massive amounts of innovation in first-party, contextual, deterministic and probabilistic solutions from both the buy and sell-sides to bridge the pending, massive revenue gap.

“In recent years, major browsers have forcibly placed themselves as the intermediary between publishers and consumers,” Wheeler says. “In 2022, we’ll see publishers take a portfolio approach to monetisation, with more investment in identity solutions and contextual targeting that will disintermediate the browser role from monetisation.”

For head of operations at independent media agency Half Dome, Catherine Smith, depreciation of third-party cookies and device IDs, coupled with shifts in government and private sector approaches to privacy, compromised many analytic and targeting capabilities.

“What was once critical in allowing marketers to understand touchpoints with their brand off-site, and informed the overall conversion pathway, will now create gaps in the marketing strategy,” she says. “There are still intelligent ways to navigate the new landscape, and the optimistic marketer will see opportunities to differentiate and adapt quicker than their competition.”

In 2022, we’ll see publishers take a portfolio approach to monetisation, with more investment in identity solutions and contextual targeting that will disintermediate the browser role from monetisation

Eric Wheeler, CEO, 33Across

Smith points out companies like Google are looking to plug holes in the attribution landscape via machine learning (ML)-driven attribution models.

“The harsh reality is these gaps in data availability are growing faster than the solutions,” she says. “Looking ahead to 2022 and beyond, marketers should approach measuring media performance by going back to basics. There are still a lot of great measurement tools out there. Clearly articulating the role of channels at the time of planning then ensures measurable outcomes are attached from the outset. This approach should be specific to brands’ individual objectives and ensure channels are focused on the outcomes they are looking to drive.

“On top of this, brands should be laser-focused on prioritising the collection, storage and understanding of their customer base through first-party data. While the exact future capabilities on media and measurement are still in development, there is widespread agreement that those advertisers who are prioritising first-party data now will be best placed to succeed in the future.”

4. Programmatic advertising hooks into new data sets

Improving industry inefficiencies is a key element in this transition for Wheeler. “Almost everything we know and love about today’s programmatic advertising infrastructure is tied to the cookie. That includes measurement, tracking, retargeting, frequency capping and much more, many of which accrue costs that impact publisher margins,” he explains.

“It will take some serious effort for the industry to re-engineer cookie-dependent systems to be agnostic. But in the long run, applying our learnings will improve operational margins. In addition to tackling cookie-less infrastructure, we need to automate processes to service customers and workflows to free up human capital. Just as critical is doing this in a way that does not add incremental ad-tax into the equation as cookie-less inventory is already lower-priced and undersold.”

It’s for this reason Wheeler advises marketers: “Don’t bet against the market”.

“Today, programmatic partners are fighting for a chance to monetise the same pool of Chrome inventory, creating inefficiencies and high media costs which will only continue to worsen as the cookie pool shrinks,” he warns. “On the other end of the spectrum, cookie-less inventory is a huge swath of quality impressions with little fraud that we can now reach, target and measure at a much lower eCPM since there’s little competition.

“Expect to see a major shift in market behaviour as programmatic demand moves spend to non-cookied inventory en masse. Competition and media spending will dramatically increase to reach consumers on previously unreachable browsers. Scale, efficiency and the lack of competition will be the big drivers.”

FatTail CEO and co-founder, Doug Huntington, sees DSPs gaining direct access to premium publisher inventory to fully automate deal-based transactions as a consequence of the cookie’s demise.

“Increased reliance on first-party data will drive buyers to establish high trust relationships with preferred premium suppliers,” he says. “This, combined the widely understood and long-established benefits of guaranteed fulfilment and supply path optimisation, will result in enhanced programmatic capabilities including product, price and inventory discovery at the point of sale.”

5. First-party data really is the name of the game

Third-party cookie demise is certainly the dominant force driving first-party data investment by many brands, though not the only one. Adobe vice-president of marketing APAC, Duncan Egan, sees more companies focused on first-party data unique to their company that can be used to create long-term value and sustainable competitive advantage.

“Many companies like Adobe have been talking about the value of first-party data for years. Yet, we still see few organisations with strategies on how to acquire, develop and leverage it,” he comments. In Adobe’s Future of Marketing research, only 37 per cent of Australian marketers said their organisations had a first-party data strategy.

According to Egan, the move to omnichannel management, driven by accelerated digitalisation and growth of new channels such as digital wallets, shone a spotlight on issues around first-party data architecture.

“I think brands are now realising reshaping their entire data strategy won’t happen overnight and that it requires input from multiple disciplines, from sales to marketing to operations and all the way up to the board level,” he says.  

6. Brands prioritise loyalty and experience

For AKQA APAC managing partner, Brian Vella, the benefit of having your brand online is being eclipsed by the value in owning the experience and the data.

“The desired position is to own the customer relationship and the data that goes with it, especially with the cookie-less future,” he comments. “Companies are searching for long term, lifetime value now. Ultimately, from a focus on transaction and conversion to deeper customer engagement and loyalty via inspiration and entertainment. And all this across broader, interconnected brand ecosystems.”

Cheetah Digital VP of go-to-market APAC, Billy Loizou, believes cookie-less marketing will result in fresh loyalty-driven initiatives from 2022.

“More companies are going to be focusing on creating a clear direct-to-consumer value exchange by packaging up existing benefits and creating new benefits – potentially with other brands – and marketing it as a community or loyalty initiative. This will unlock the reason for why providing your data is necessary and companies will be more transparent on why they need it,” he says.   

“We believe the answer is a loyalty initiative that has mutual value exchange. The objective of customer loyalty programs has historically been to create levers that marketers can pull to incentivise desired behaviours among consumers; namely, to increase basket size or reduce the time between transactions. But now, they are so much more than that.”

As an example, Loizou sees companies rewarding customers in-store and online on more than transactions and coming up with new and creative ways to make customers share and promote their content.

“Loyalty programs aren’t just about offering discounts and vouchers to members; they’re an extension of the brand and provide an ‘experience’ beyond the product or service that retains customers,” he says.  

7. Hyper-personalisation becomes critical  

With owned data maturity and growing consumer expectations comes even more personalisation. Sana Commerce chief marketing officer, Jeroen Kuppens, says businesses contending with less customer facetime need to show they truly understand who they are, what they need and that they are there to help.  

“In 2022, we will see this hyper-personalisation trend taking the spotlight with companies using technologies to leverage key moments in their customers’ journeys,” he says. “We will see marketers shift from targeting segmented groups towards interacting with customers based on real-time ‘micro-moments’ within customer journeys.  

“Data, analytics and predictive technologies such as AI will help deliver individual experiences that empower customers to excel in the marketplace. For example, in the face of global supply chain disruptions and commodity shortages, businesses can alert their customers when to stock up on their most frequently purchased inventory.”

SevenRooms SVP of marketing, Marybeth Sheppard, is another placing greater emphasis on personalised content in 2022. “The trend accelerated during the pandemic as more people came online and more businesses leveraged the power of data through their technology,” she says.

Acoustic SVP sales APJ, Jeremy Smart, also points to the need to collect and leverage first- and zero-party data to optimise personalised communication strategies in 2022.

“First- and zero-party data is information consumers expect marketers to collect – ensure you have the tools that enable you to effectively capture this data and turn it into meaningful insights that support the customer experience,” he says.  

8. More marketing is automated

Making this kind of marketing possible – and scalable – is more sophisticated automation. “With so many industries experiencing staff shortages, automation allows marketers to do more with less. By leveraging the power of customer data, marketers will be able to enhance personalisation through digital marketing,” Sheppard continues.

The combination of increasingly diversified audiences, multi-channel approaches, personalisation and the shrinking marketing team, all mean that without automation, you simply won’t be able to reach your target audience with timely and relevant messages

Emilie Chell, head of marketing, Circles.Life

“In turn, this will establish more meaningful connections that help businesses acquire, engage and retain customers.”

Circles.Life head of marketing, Emilie Chell, recommends all marketers build an intelligent creative engine in 2022. Marketing automation has been hyped for a few years now, but for many time-poor marketing teams it’s not a quick win so it often falls down the list of priorities,” she says.

“However, in 2022 it’s going to become an imperative. The combination of increasingly diversified audiences, multi-channel approaches, personalisation and the shrinking marketing team, all mean that without automation, you simply won’t be able to reach your target audience with timely and relevant messages. Many marketers will see performance slipping across multiple, over-crowded channels with their agencies recommending more personalised, targeted messages. You simply won’t get there without automation.”  

Helping teams become more data-led and adaptive are tools that turn prescriptive analytics into “prescriptive guidance”, Sisense chief product and marketing officer, Ashley Kramer, says.

“AI combined with automation will finally make this possible by dynamically combining relevant data and alerting knowledge workers to take action, in advance, before an event occurs,” he says. “Customer service reps, for example, will be notified to reach out to potentially angry customers before they even call in. Sales leaders will react immediately to dips in revenue pipeline coverage due to upstream activities without waiting until the end of the quarter. Retail managers can optimise inventory before items sell out by combining more than just sales data, such as purchasing patterns of other items, external market trends, and even competing promotional campaigns.

“Prescriptive analytics will finally evolve from telling us just where the numbers are going, to helping us make smarter, proactive decisions.”  

9. Culture of analytics flourishes

As organisations harness tools and AI to drive revenue growth and improve efficiencies, marketers will need to embrace what Kramer labels a ‘culture of analytics’.  

“In 2022, organisations will redefine what it means to build a ‘culture of analytics’ and change the paradigm by bringing insights in a more digestible way, turning to methods and solutions like embedded analytics that won’t require them to learn new skills or invest additional time,” he says.

EmploymentHero CMO, Tasman Page, points to enhanced insights function within marketing as part of this analytics approach.

“An insights function allows marketing to empathise with the customer and to create experiences and content more relevant that proves we know what we are talking about,” he says. “It allows us to drive business strategy when combined with results from performance. Rather than just looking at consumer behaviour, we can understand the customers that aren’t buying and put some real meat on the bone.

“A combination of analytics platforms and survey-based insights will help us better understand and predict consumer needs. We have surveyed thousands of potential customers in 2021. We plan to double down on this next year as it helps us make decisions faster, create relevant content and own the news cycle.”

Yet as technology and data use grows, Circles.Life’s Chell warns marketers not to strive for the next “big win” but optimise for marginal gains.

“For many business leaders, this is a change from the ‘turn on the tap’ mentality that used to come with marketing budgets,” she says. “This means your team are experts in testing, learning and optimising. In addition, it ensures your process for ‘go-to-market’ has time built in to refine frequently. Set and forget, often the model for many media agencies, will no longer cut it.”

10. Privacy regulation and security heats up

With first-party data use continuing to soar, privacy concerns escalate. Security Centric head of marketing and sales operations, Jill Taylor, is dubbing 2022 ‘The age of privacy’ for digital marketing.

“We saw this shift begin as Apple updates implemented a host of privacy changes for both iOS and the Safari browser, including an update which allows you to hide your email address and the ability to use private Wi-Fi addresses,” she says. “While the security person in me applauds this, the marketing part knows that these changes greatly affect important digital marketing analytics functions including campaign measurement and attribution tracking.

“I doubt we’ve seen the last of these increased privacy updates from social platforms and technology companies.”

Jill Taylor, head of marketing and sales operations, Security Centric

“Further to privacy updates, Facebook Advertising is making changes that include a reduced ability to target audiences and instead having advertisers use broad targeting, custom and lookalike audiences to reach potential customers.”

In response, digital marketers will need to shift from relying heavily on tool-based tracking and targeting methods, Taylor says. “Marketers will need an increased focus on implementing strategic segmentation, targeting and nurturing based upon their existing customer and contact lists,” she advises. “I doubt we’ve seen the last of these increased privacy updates from social platforms and technology companies.”

In Adobe’s research, 45 per cent of marketers said recent changes in data protection regulations and privacy laws had motivated their organisations to consider creating long-term value from the data they own. On top of this, extensive privacy reforms are being canvassed in Australia, including the introduction of a statutory tort of privacy and increased regulation of adtech to bring Australia closer in line with GDPR.

“2022 will no doubt bring plenty of robust discussion about the outlook of privacy regulation in Australia, in particular the issues surrounding targeted advertising, personalised content and role of online identifiers,” Adobe’s Egan says. “At the same time, there is growing concern among consumers about how and why their personal data is being used. These combined forces will likely have a significant impact on media and marketing businesses operating in Australia.

“As the primary drivers of customer experiences, the responsibility will fall to marketers to help their organisations navigate the complexity of regulatory and compliance issues, to sustain long-term commercial momentum and customer trust. A first-party data strategy is critical to achieve this.”

Index Exchange regional managing director of APAC, Adele Wieser, sees tighter governmental regulations that define and bolster user data rights triggering fresh tech solutions that put user privacy and trust at their core.

“This is a positive step, as change opens up opportunities for innovation. Delivering a true multichannel and multiscreen experience while keeping privacy concerns at bay is the biggest opportunity for marketers. It’s equally a chance to help put greater emphasis on user trust across our industry,” she says.

Read more: Explainer: What marketers need to know about Australia's proposed privacy law changes

Up next: 9 more digital marketing predictions for 2022

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