It’s that time again to plan your Q1 digital marketing strategy. If you’re like most marketers, you’re scrambling around for new ideas and strategies to build dynamic experiences for your customers.

While 2020 didn’t go the way many business owners expected, the challenges brought new opportunities, especially in e-commerce and online marketing. Businesses also discovered fresh approaches for digital marketing strategies and campaigns. For instance, a department store in China shifted its focus to social commerce to maintain revenue during the lockdowns.

As we enter 2022, we’ll continue to see businesses adopt new digital marketing strategies. Which should you incorporate into your marketing campaigns? That’s what we’ll find out today.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • The importance of digital marketing trends to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs)
  • The eight digital marketing trends you need to know for 2022

Why Are Digital Marketing Trends Important to SMBs?

Digital-Marketing Trends to SMBs
Source: Pexels

What worked a decade ago doesn’t work today. What worked yesterday isn’t guaranteed to work tomorrow. So, it’s critical to stay on top of the trends to understand:

  • How consumers shop: Market trends identify gaps in your strategy or highlight opportunities you’re overlooking
  • How to stay ahead of and beat the competition: Knowing what’s happening in the consumer market gives you a competitive advantage
  • How to remain relevant to your target audience: Don’t assume — use digital marketing trends to speak your customer’s language and tailor your messaging, products, and services to what they want
  • How to respond to market changes: With the right information, you can save the time and resources needed to design and implement relevant strategies and campaigns

What Is the Future of Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is the tool that saved countless businesses from shutting down in 2020. Companies responded to new consumer habits with innovative ideas and strategies, like curbside pickup and home deliveries.

Others adopted strictly virtual strategies to cater to online shoppers. For instance, Jeep offers an augmented reality (AR) experience for its consumers with 3D car models. This strategy addresses the question of how potential buyers can make purchasing decisions without seeing products up close.

3D car models
Source: Engadget

By scanning a quick response (QR) code on their phones, Jeep consumers can experience the 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe through an AR model sitting in their driveway. They can see what the car looks like in different colors or angles, and even see the interior with incredible details.

“I think companies may eventually shift some of their focus to augmented and virtual reality. That’s because Facebook, who turned Meta, is refocusing its mission just for this. They’re truly a leader in this stuff on how consumers have, are, and will experience the world.” — Audrey Truitt, Digital Marketing Manager, Virtudesk

The 8 Digital Marketing Trends You Need to Know for 2022

Are you still working on your digital marketing strategy? Then, here’s a look at some of the trends experts are saying to watch for in 2022.

1. A Cookieless World

For years, brands used cookies to:

  • Track website visitors
  • Collect data for targeted marketing
  • Learn what users look for online
  • Improve user experiences

Unfortunately, the cookie’s about to crumble, and it’s not coming back.

Today’s consumer wants greater control over their data. So, in response to consumer concerns, Google announced its ending cookie tracking on Chrome browsers by early 2022. While this move causes concern and looks grim for businesses, it doesn’t mean your marketing tactics or processes are obsolete.

Here’s how you can adapt to the changes:

  • Survey your customers to gather first-party data
  • Vet solutions or software that help you transition away from the third-party cookie
  • Use Google’s Privacy Sandbox or Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) for better consumer targeting and personalization without infringing on their privacy
  • Revitalize older strategies like hypertargeted ads or contextual advertising

2. Increase in Hybrid Experiences

Thanks to the rise in remote work and social distancing, hybrid experiences are now commonplace. In-person events are too costly for the host and attendees, and they require a significant amount of energy to organize and implement.

As customers feel comfortable gathering in-person again, they may favor businesses that use a combination of in-person and virtual components. Marketers face a choice: Return to events in physical locations or stay virtual and appease consumers who prefer such events.

Will hybrid events be short-lived, or will they feature in digital marketing strategies for years to come?

“Hybrid events won’t last. Many B2B [business-to-business] marketers will continue to try hybrid events in the coming year to serve the individuals who feel comfortable meeting in person and those who prefer attending functions from home. Although this solution appeases both groups, digital experiences don’t replace the energy and effectiveness of in-person interactions.

In addition, generating meaningful leads from virtual events as a sponsor is virtually impossible. So attracting enough sponsors to cover the cost of the event may become difficult and prevent hybrid events from becoming the new normal. While in-person events might not be immediately possible, marketers should consider sponsoring or engaging in smaller networking groups rather than hybrid events.” — Brittani Dinsmore, Head of Marketing, Moz 

3. Voice, Visual, and Zero-click Searches

Voice search continues to be the preference for mobile users. So, in 2022, we’ll continue seeing a shift in SEO towards question-focused terms.

Let’s not forget visual search — users are uploading images to get information about items via search tools like Google Lens and Pinterest Lens. If they search for a product image, it returns similar products and where to buy them.

These two trends alone demonstrate the importance of structuring our content properly. For example, using product visuals and writing Q&A style, but more in-depth. This way, you appeal to both search engines and users.

You may even lock in a zero-click search position, such as the answer box or featured snippet. By the way, zero-click searches grew by almost 65% in 2020. Getting to position zero has some worried because it reduces your clicks and traffic. But it’s better to be here, than the #1 position that receives little to no attention.

The more zero positions you get on relevant topics, the more familiar users become with your site. Additionally, the more you’ll appear as an authority in your niche.

Google Search

How can you leverage these searches?

  • Choose keywords based on questions people ask voice-activated digital assistants
  • Use high-quality images and descriptive keywords
  • Create more informative content for voice searches

Update your page titles to show searchers what they’ll get when they visit your site

4. Reliance on Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming businesses worldwide. The global AI software market — natural language processing, machine learning (ML), and robotic process automation — is predicted to reach around $126 billion by 2025.

In 2022, we may see more companies integrating AI-powered features in their digital marketing strategies, like SEO and social media marketing.

Businesses also use AI technology to:

  • Create forecasts and predictions
  • Plan digital strategies to gain and keep customers
  • Provide automated responses to customer queries
  • Streamline digital marketing operations
  • Automate SEO tasks and get real-time feedback on website traffic, links, and keywords
  • Identify influencers by assessing their videos faster and more efficiently

5. Virtual Assistants and Chatbots

AI’s close cousin — virtual assistants (VA) and chatbots — will become popular thanks to voice search shopping and consumer spending via voice assistants. Not already using VAs and chatbots to automate social media queries or email marketing responses?

Here’s why you should:

  • They provide personalized and enjoyable experiences, which increase customer interactions
  • AI-powered chatbots have a distinct personality that livens the customer experience
  • Chatbots can respond to customers’ queries (and even process sales) without human intervention

Do you want to increase customer interactions with your brand online? Integrate VAs and chatbots into your digital marketing strategy.

6. Marketing Automation

Marketing automation eliminates repetitive and mundane digital tasks, so you can focus on higher-level and strategic tasks.

For instance, you can automate workflows, data research and compilation, social media management, and email marketing to subscribers who don’t open your emails regularly.

7. Inclusive Advertising

You may build products for everyone, but is this reflected in your brand marketing? Inclusive advertising goes beyond creative representation and ensures your campaigns accommodate everybody.

Google evolved its creative process to ensure all its campaigns have inclusive reach. For instance, they committed 15% of their top-tier brand campaign spend to culturally relevant media to reach and engage Black and Latinx audiences. By Q4 2020, they surpassed this goal, reaching 18% of these communities.

How did Google achieve such success?

Investing in channels that reach audiences where they are

Google used YouTube to drive reach and then expanded its multicultural buys to include more minority-owned businesses.

Bravity Live
Source: Twitter

Aligning brand campaigns with cultural moments and passion points

Google reached more people around their passion points like the Latin Grammys and Black History Month through media sponsorship and bespoke media buys.

Building a more inclusive user journey

Google pushes for more relevant and optimized experiences, especially in their ad creatives. They do this by localizing search ads and campaign landing pages for better discoverability.

Honoring local and regional nuances

Showing different races in an ad doesn’t mean it speaks to its intended audience. Addressing the nuances of each group is vital to connect with people of diverse backgrounds.

Authentically reflecting the different backgrounds in the diverse consumer population can help you:

  • Create more inclusive advertising
  • Reach more customers
  • Grow your business

8. Mobile-first Marketing

Mobile devices generated 54.8% of global website traffic in the first quarter of 2021. In 2022, create and implement mobile marketing strategies, including responsive web designs to adapt to smaller screens and mobile-friendly content.

Desktop usage isn’t dead, though. Keep optimizing your site displays for responsiveness but prioritize mobile-first marketing to deliver the best experience to mobile users.

Use less text-heavy content, streamlined and touchscreen-friendly navigation menus, and other features tailored to mobile users. By doing so, you can achieve:

  • Improved ranking on search engine results pages
  • Fast page loading
  • Improved user experiences
  • Better conversion rates

Change the Way You Market in 2022

While we don’t know what impact 2022 will bring, one thing’s for sure: consumers will keep demanding more from businesses.

So the sooner you adopt these future digital marketing trends, the better. Then, keep experimenting, measuring, and applying new technologies to see what works for your business and target audience.