Previously, we discussed most of the main marketing trends in 2022: from the death of email to data privacy and quality user experience for everyone. In each of the articles, we emphasized the main element of successful digital marketing that many often forget about — people. Each year, brands release similar blog posts about relevant trends without focusing on users, although it's people who set these trends. That's why in this article, we're going to discuss relevant tendencies that really concern your audience: the impact of the pandemic, personalization trends, and user engagement.
How the COVID-19 Pandemic Changed Marketing Forever
This elephant has been in the room for quite some time now, so we can't avoid the pandemic issue. The virus seriously affected our daily lives, no matter how hard we tried to beat it.
We're lucky that the pandemic happened now: if it had happened 5 years ago, we wouldn't be ready. It made people understand that things like video conferences are convenient and it's always good to have such an option.
It's unlikely that we'll return to life before the pandemic, and now brands have to play by the new rules. It's not only about large corporations like Microsoft, Apple, or Google, but also about small and medium-sized businesses. They haven't just understood the importance of the shift to online, they've come to believe in it.
How Shopping Habits Changed
People's habits and worldviews are different now: you can stay home and order anything you want online. Hungry? Order food delivery. Nothing new to read? Order a book in an online marketplace or buy an online version and download it in a few seconds.
An advanced user would say "I've already been using all these features before the pandemic!". However, today everyone knows how convenient online shopping is. For instance, my parents had never bought anything in online marketplaces before 2020. They used to spend much time in shopping malls but today, they order almost everything online: coffee, clothes, shoes, beauty products, and auto parts. They wouldn't want to return to their old habits: why deny oneself convenience?
People won't go back. Humanity evolves and strives to solve problems: a better life, better products, a better service, better everything. It doesn't mean we'll go fully online in 2022, but there's been a clear shift in buying habits.
How the Pandemic Changed the Market
Thinking that all these changes resulted only in the shift to online would be wrong. Society has been changing. The market has been changing. Those who failed to adjust to the new reality had to quit (according to the research published on ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, the number of active business owners in the U.S. has dropped from 15 to 11.7 million over 2 months — from February to April 2020). As Darwin said, "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one more responsive to change."
The pandemic has passed the following sentence upon all the fossilized old-timers: change your business or go to pieces.
On the other hand, the pandemic has caused the market to grow. Due to increased cash flows, we'll see the increased human resources flow which means more new talents and fresh ideas that will drastically change the marketing world. Also, many experts have seen that they don't have to work for agencies or go to the office — instead, they can use their expertise to consult or develop marketing strategies without going out. Our ways to communicate have changed as well.
It's high time to update your automations, to check whether the things you just set up and forgot about are doing their job correctly.
Of course, this influenced all spheres of our life, including marketing. Although changes are often accompanied by stress, humanity should move forward without panicking. Everyone should do their job trying to achieve their goals. If you understand that your goals don't match with your clients', be brave enough to leave them. Yes, that's how simple it is.
Let's summarize how all these changes will influence marketing:
- The market has grown thanks to the growth in demand: more people have started using digital services, so companies gather more client data.
- There are more people in the market now: employees as well as clients. Focus on them: teach the newbies how to work in the new reality and show your clients all the advantages of the digital world. The pandemic has changed very much, but people should remain your priority.
Personalization Trends 2022: How Marketers Define Personalization, and How to Approach It
Personalization is an evergreen trend: the marketing community talks about it every year but today it's more important than ever. We're talking about user engagement and the new rules of it.
What is personalization? Digital marketing experts define this term differently:
For me, personalization is the ability to gather data and manage it. Only people can do it, not an algorithm or software. However, this topic has not been studied well yet, so personalization is not our number one priority right now.
We tend to treat personalization as an objective, while it's a strategy or even a tactic. In reality, the objective is to enhance the customer experience, and personalization is one of the tactics used to achieve it.
Personalization is not just about addressing a person by their first name, like, Hey, Joe. It's about Hey, Joe from Canada, who is a fan of sci-fi, who likes to buy these particular shoes with a yellow star pattern and doesn't like celebrating Christmas.
How can we define personalization? Well, it's a means of finding an effective approach to each person, an ability to look at your clients and see unique personalities. It's an objective view on your audience and an effort you put in to boost user engagement and create a feeling that you care. However, it's not that simple from the technical point of view, and there are several obstacles that prevent us from following personalization trends.
It's easier for most of the companies to just gather the base, send them emails and just reset everything. Personalization can become a thing in the future when algorithms will do the work and set everything the way everyone will like.
It's easy to talk about personalization trends when you have less than 50 people in your database, but what if you have a hundred, a thousand, or ten thousand of them? Here we could get discouraged and say that it's the end of the discussion, we have to wait for the technologies to develop and Skynet to be born. However, the situation is not that hopeless.
As marketers, we should be the managers of our customers' journey and designate the rules and the boundaries for the technology.
Instead of waiting for the time when technologies will replace us, people should learn to use these technologies and build strategies. We need professionals who will share their knowledge and expertise.
Working as a marketer means working with people which means personalization in one form or another. Perhaps, personalization has always been a part of our work, and we just never called it a trend?
Dynamic content is a form of personalization. Segmentation is a form of personalization. Life-cycle marketing is that you are delivering relevant content based on the user's action and that's also personalization.
The advantages of personalization trends are obvious:
- Fostering customer loyalty through being attentive to their needs.
- Increasing conversion rate: users convert more eagerly if they don't have to spend time looking for necessary products. The system does it for them.
- Increasing average order value: personalization allows you to cross-sell and provide post-sale services offering products from related categories.
- Improving communication quality: when you have a profound understanding of your target audience, it is easier for you to cater to the needs and interests of every segment. Personalization also makes the process of receiving relevant feedback more effective.
However, you have to do some hard work to get these advantages and some marketers believe that it's not worth the effort. To dig deeper, personalization is more about LTV while KPIs of most in-house teams are formed based on the monthly income. It means that it is way easier for marketers to suck the life out of the existing subscriber base and get a bonus from the boss than to bother with tricky coding, tactics, segmentation, and other stuff to win new clients.
Any type of personalization is a battle between good and evil. I'm glad that evil doesn't even have a chance.
Everyone has their own vision of personalization, as it's a broad concept. It's like the Wild Wild West where you can do anything you want (or almost anything). We're still learning and there is no black and white in the field. Marketing is always about testing and learning. In our job, there is no "silver bullet": you can't choose a practice and say it will work every time. Practices labeled as the best ones are not always the most effective ones.
Don't let yourself harden. Don't stop seeing real people behind subscribers.
Personalization isn't about technology. Personalization is about how we treat people, from both sides of the fence.
UGC: How Useful It Can Be
In the second part of our series, we mentioned that people trust each other when it comes to looking for opinions. That's why using UGC (User Generated Content) and user reviews as one of its types is only logical. People share their experience with a product or service, brands include positive reviews in promotional campaigns. Marketers use positive feedback to spice up marketing communication strategies. None of it will change, but testimonials need to be authentic to maintain trust.
Authenticity is the key in UGC. You must be honest with the users in order to not only preserve but also improve your image.
Yes, it's that simple. You need to be honest with your customers. The moment people suspect you of faking good reviews, they may feel cheated and even betrayed. It's way harder to earn trust than money, but you can lose it in a second.
You can stop us here and say "Screw the reviews, it's playing with fire! What if people start review bombing us because of some stupid little thing?" This is a completely wrong way to look at it: people like to be seen and they want their voices to be heard. Remember that your business runs thanks to your clients and their reviews shouldn't be treated as an attack. This is just a feedback tool.
Of course, you can face backlash for making a mistake, like a bad product or a poorly-thought-out PR campaign. Still, depriving your customers of their voice is as foolish as closing your ears and screaming "la-la-la, I can't hear what you're trying to say!"
You can't get rid of this mechanism as most buyers check the product/service reviews. Reviews allow the audience to express their opinion and see what others think about it. Engagement at its finest.
Apart from being a feedback tool, reviews are also free advertising. There is a risk of becoming obsessed with a sickeningly familiar concept "happy customer, happy life", but the business eventually boils down to it.
A person is happy to see a review from someone just like them. The problem is that we often treat brands as abstract and soulless entities, forgetting there are real people who have feelings behind these brands. It's like "yay, at least one human face in this land of robots". Companies that don't let people see a human face in a brand basically bite the hand that feeds them.
After all these insights into the importance of reviews and personalization trends, you might have a question "How do we manage all this?" The answer is quite simple: trust is built through transparency.
User-generated content can be a good thing to build trust if you are honest with the audience. People feel it. There should be a way to prove that this or that review was written by a real person.
How do you convince people that the reviews are written by real clients?
In the End, It All Comes Back to (Being) People
We wanted to end not only this article with this phrase but the whole series. It may sound rather trite as if it was taken from an Allen Carr book or a Tony Robbins speech, but sometimes it is good to repeat such fundamental truths.
You can use a special tool or widget (captcha comes to mind) or ask your clients to leave their reviews on a third-party platform (some collect feedback on Facebook and place it on their website linking to the original source). Yes, this is tedious work, but this will allow you to build trust and it's totally worth it.
Being afraid of review bombing, just like the desire to buy positive reviews, shouldn't stop you from leveraging user engagement. UGC, just like any other tool, needs to be used and it can be effective once you know your way around it. So stop shrugging it off like an annoying fly and remember to maintain balance (or you'll start losing clients).
You would think that we twined anthropocentrism into the narration intentionally, tricking the speakers into talking about it, but we didn't. To tell you the truth, our initial plan was to release only one article, but we got so many answers and heard so many opinions that we decided to make a four-part interview series. It was when I was going through the answers when I realized that one idea was mentioned by everyone — your business is defined by people. Every tool and feature should be used only if it works for your audience. This is what we wanted to communicate to you.
All we wanted to do was to create something that would remind all marketing specialists that trends come and go, but people are what really matters. Our job is about constant communication with people, so don't forget that it is people who bring profit and you need to focus on them. You'll ask "After all these years?", and we'll say "Always".