- Digital marketing has become a major part of the small business world, and technology trends shape the strategies that will be most effective for reaching your target audience.
- Providing more authentic content, offering chatbot service, optimizing for voice search, making the most of social media marketing, and creating an engaging user experience are some key trends to follow in 2022.
- You'll need to thoughtfully determine which trends provide the greatest benefit to you, as well as which trends you should avoid based on your business.
- This article is for small business owners and digital marketers who want to know about major trends and what to focus their marketing efforts on in 2022.
While many principles of marketing remain the same each year, the tools businesses use to achieve marketing success vary greatly over time. Newspaper advertising was once commonplace. Now, digital advertising and artificial intelligence play critical roles in the marketing tactics of businesses.
Every year, there are more technological trends for entrepreneurs to keep an eye on. Business owners who stay ahead of the curve might even find new heights of marketing success. Here are 10 trends we believe small businesses should take advantage of in 2022:
- Authentic long-form content
- Chatbots and conversational AI
- Voice search
- Data analytics
- Social media marketing
- New areas in e-commerce
- User experience
- The metaverse
- A cookieless future
- SEO and keywords
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Let's take a deeper dive into these trends and how they can benefit your business.
1. Authentic long-form content
For small businesses that are tight on money, authentic content is a powerful marketing tool. However, you'll want to make it long-form, too. While 2021 was the year of TikTok and Instagram with their three- to five-minute reels, 2022 is seeing the pendulum swinging the other way, with 1,000- to 7,500-word articles becoming the norm.
That's true for blog posts and articles as well as for video and audio content. Sharing about topics that interest your customers is a great way to build brand awareness and customer loyalty. You can build trust by showing you care about more than just a sale.
Whether your content takes the form of a social media post, a blog or an email blast, ensure a good balance between highlighting your products and providing valuable, actionable advice.
Key takeaway: Long-form authentic marketing is a great way to boost interest and engagement among your target audience.
2. Chatbots and conversational AI
According to revenue acceleration platform Drift's State of Conversational Marketing report, almost 42% of consumers use conversational AI and chatbots for purchases. Yet most small business owners surveyed said they didn't use the technology. Chatbots and more sophisticated conversational AI can answer customers' basic questions at all hours of the day or night, even if you're focused on different tasks.
"AI-powered chatbots can be used for customer support, expanding contact strategy dramatically with a controlled message," said Joey Penick, vice president of marketing at Lumen Technologies. "These chatbots have become so lifelike that many customers don't even know the difference, but they offer the added benefit of being able to gather, analyze, and provide actionable data that can be used to improve the customer experience."
FYI: Customers respond positively to AI-powered chatbots, since they can provide quick responses 24/7.
3. Voice search
With mobile devices and voice services like Microsoft Cortana and Google Assistant increasing in popularity, voice search is one area where your small business can stand out among your competitors. If your business is online, there's an increasing chance people will find your website or content marketing materials via voice search in 2022 and beyond.
"A few years ago, we had to adapt to the growing use of mobile," said Chris Hornak, owner of Blog Hands. "And now, according to Google, mobile searches are over 50% [of searches]. Marketers will need to begin adapting to voice searches, which currently make up 20% of mobile searches, and that's expected to continue its growth similarly to how mobile has."
A simple technique you can apply in 2022 is to provide answers to questions that customers frequently have about your product on your website, according to Hornak. "Remember to be detailed and conversational with your answers."
Tip: With voice-controlled devices gaining popularity, focus your content strategy on answering consumers' common questions about your products or services.
4. Data analytics
Most brands make data analytics a priority, but marketers still have a ways to go, said Curtis Tingle, senior vice president of product for intelligent media delivery company Valassis.
"Marketers must learn how to better use the data that they collect," he said. "Customers are constantly feeding personal information to the companies they engage with – from purchase behaviors to favorite products to the best ways to reach them through advertising and marketing efforts. With this data share, customers are looking for some sort of return, whether it be in the form of more personalized advertisements or targeted coupons/deals."
Tingle's observation is important: Marketers need to do more than gather data. The data needs to be meaningful, and businesses need to use that data to improve marketing campaigns. [Related: Predictive or Prescriptive Analytics? Your Business Needs Both]
Trends in 2022 pivot around predictive data; smarter, scalable and more flexible datasets; edge computing for faster analysis; and hybrid computing that blends off-premises and on-premises cloud solutions. You're also going to see growing use of machine learning-driven solutions that include augmented analytics; engineered decision analytics; and data visualization for better decision-making, business management, and insights and automation.
Did you know? Data analytics can provide valuable information about consumer behavior, including their intentions. You should use information you gather from your website and leverage it in your marketing strategy.
5. Social media marketing
Social media will continue to be vital to successful companies' digital marketing efforts. In 2022, expect to see video, Instagram, livestreaming and podcasts dominating the list. Facebook isn't going anywhere – it's got staying power. LinkedIn will also be increasingly influential, particularly as influencers use it to magnify their voices.
Speaking of influencers, 2022 will be the year of experts who have fewer but more dedicated followers. The niche is what matters, and those who dominate the empty ocean of little to no competition will lead the way.
Key takeaway: Customers value the ability to communicate with brands on social media. The same principles apply – effective brand storytelling, creativity, a genuine interest in and connection to your followers, and consistent development of your industry expertise and skills.
6. New areas in e-commerce
Trends in e-commerce pivot around Web3 where businesses use DeFi trends to boost their profiles to new heights. "DeFi" means decentralized finance and refers to blockchain, cryptocurrency, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) – the whole new world of business conducted over the blockchain with novel opportunities for marketing.
There are technologies like the shared P2P ledger, which makes for faster, cheaper, more secure and transparent business. Blockchain offers smart contracts that verify, guarantee and enforce transactions. Of course, there is also cryptocurrency, or digital coins, that replaces physical money to attract a different type of consumer. [Related: Should Your Small Business Accept Cryptocurrency?]
New York-based Magnum Real Estate Group, for example, recently listed its three retail condos in Manhattan's Upper East Side for Bitcoin. At the same time, blockchain technology gives agents real opportunities to network and share their expertise, gaining financial reward in the process.
Brands are also using NFTs, uniquely created digital assets, as a next-generation trending way to market their products.
7. User experience
Modern customers expect an engaging, user-friendly and smooth online experience, whether that's in an e-commerce shop or perusing a website. In 2022, expect to see a greater push toward a seamless and highly engaging UX, with an emphasis on interactive, experiential, convenient and personalized experiences.
"We know that users love engaging content that speaks directly to them," said Aylon Steinhart, founder and CEO of Eclipse Foods. "Creating a marketing strategy that reels users [in] based on page experience is something that we are working toward. However, creating great content that reels in users is not the ultimate UX; it's about speed, visual stability, mobile-friendliness and safe browsing. Implementing these tactics on content marketing strategies will increase visibility and engagement."
8. The metaverse
The metaverse is today's futuristic blend of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI), culminating in a new 3D immersive experience where users blur the physical with the digital.
Examples include interactive ads like NASCAR's on interactive gaming platform Roblox. Users can create their own avatars that allow them to "feel" experiences without actually buying them. This has led to the marketing industry's newest term, "gamevertising," where marketers and brands use gaming to advertise their products. According to technology agency Wunderman Thompson, this trend of gamevertising dominates the movie and music industries.
On the retail frontier, brands also use technologies like augmented reality to create blended shopping experiences where buyers, through their avatars, can "try" on clothes, "sit" on chairs, "live" in certain geographical areas, and so forth.
Key takeaway: The metaverse is one of the most colossal marketing trends of 2022, and we're just at the beginning of its journey. It eliminates the boundaries between physical and virtual, sparking new direct-to-avatar (D2A) business models.
9. A cookieless future
The last two years came with plenty of complaints on the data collecting privacy front. To remedy the situation, Google leads the advertising technology industry with its cookieless future, slated to appear in 2023. Near the end of 2022, Google will roll out new technologies advertising the test cookie phase-out. While cookies run off customer-provided information such as personal emails, cookie alternatives will need to have troves of quality first-party data to succeed.
How does this affect businesses and advertisers or marketers? Prudent organizations will want to take note of a near future where cookies give way to cookie alternatives as customer privacy concerns and regulations like the GDPR increase.
10. SEO and keywords
SEO and keyword strategies continue to retain their edge. Google's Page Experience Algorithm is slated to launch March 2022. The SEO instrument will assess loading speed, interactivity, visual stability, and HTTPS security, among other metrics.
Google's also turning its attention to mobile using its recently launched Mobile-First Indexing (MFI) to rank mobile-friendly websites. For marketers, this means focusing on the UX on mobile devices as much as, if not more than, on websites. Meanwhile, Google's new Multitask Unified Model (MUM) instigates publishers to provide more complex answers to simple questions. MUM rewards authoritative content.
Tip: If you want to clinch the top position on Google search results, use Google Search Console, PageSpeed Insights, and Chrome User Experience Report to check the security and performance of your pages. As always, high-quality content is the key to Google's heart.
Relevance of basic marketing principles
These trends are expected to influence marketing in 2022 and beyond, but that doesn't mean you need to immediately drop what you're doing and switch to using different and more advanced technology to market your business effectively.
"The basic principles of how you market and build a brand haven't changed – despite what everyone says – in the past 10 or 15 years," said Allen Adamson, adjunct professor at New York University's Stern School of Business and co-founder of Metaforce. "What technology has done overall is magnified what was always true."
Adamson explained that while fancy new marketing tools are unveiled each year, word-of-mouth marketing still matters. Decades ago, consumers might have asked their friends where to go for the best hamburger in town. Now, Adamson says, people "ask all their friends" by performing a quick internet search and reading reviews of burger joints in the area.
Changes in technology haven't altered the core concepts of marketing, but the new technology does magnify every triumph and failure. Before, serving a bad burger to one customer might lead to the unhappy customer telling their friend not to eat there. Now, an angry Yelp review can deter hundreds of prospective customers.
Understanding new technological tools can greatly benefit your business, but if you don't understand how the technology can help you, there's no use adding new tools to the mix. Adamson, who advised companies like Marriott and HBO as the North America chairman of Landor Associates, said many companies get too caught up in the latest and greatest marketing tools.
"It's sort of like watching 8-year-olds play soccer: It's just a ball and no one is on defense," he said. "Everyone is chasing the shiny new object. No matter what technology you buy, if you don't know how to use it really well, it's not going to give you a competitive edge in the marketplace."
You might not need to act on some of the trends discussed in this article. On the other hand, adding a chatbot or using more authentic content in your current marketing strategy mix may take your business to a new level of customer engagement and financial success.
How to decide which new marketing technology to implement
Deciding which technology to implement in your operation hinges on the needs of your business and the desires of your customers. You may be better off not adopting a new marketing trend, especially if you don't understand and can't properly use the technology but are doing so only because other businesses are using it.
"While we're moving faster and faster toward a tech-dominant world, small and midsize businesses need to prioritize the technology trends that they can leverage for greater business growth," said Ryan Gould, vice president of strategy and marketing services at Elevation Marketing. "How do they do that? They need to ask the four following questions:
- Who is my audience?
- What and where are my business gaps?
- Will this technology help close my business gaps?
- Do I have the resources to sustain this technology for the long run?"
Using Gould's questions as a check can ensure you don't unnecessarily jump on board a marketing trend that isn't well suited to your business. Take note of the 2022 marketing trends, but before you act, take a good look at where your business stands.
Leah Zitter, Kiely Kuligowski and Nicole Fallon contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.