2021 has been an interesting year for marketing as more and more businesses – large and small – have turned to digital to reach new audiences and navigate a new normal where digital media consumption has increased. Retailers, in particular, had to adapt and prioritize their digital strategies to avoid falling behind in a fiercely competitive and rapidly changing environment.
Here are my predictions for five important digital marketing trends for South African retailers to watch in 2022:
The Rise and Rise of the Hybrid Digital Marketing Team
In the past, many businesses have taken one of two approaches to their digital marketing – an in-house team or outsourced to an agency. Both of these approaches have their own challenges.
In-house marketing teams can be expensive and creativity can sometimes be stifled. The reality of working with an agency is that your resources are shared and knowledge of your specific business and industry can take time to come to fruition.
This year I expect to see the rise of the hybrid approach more deliberately, which will see South African businesses have an individual or small team working directly with the agency to drive their digital marketing strategy. I believe this approach presents the perfect setup to foster the right balance between creativity, affordability, and an understanding of the complexities of the business and industry in question.
The hybrid model is powerful for retail, where lead times are often immediate. Internal teams are able to implement them quickly and efficiently where changes are needed, under the creative direction of the agency.
Omnichannel customer experience
“Omnicalnal” has been a buzzword for a few years when it comes to customer experience, but it hasn’t necessarily fully come to fruition locally through channels such as digital marketing.
More and more SA companies will prioritize using their customer data to create a single view of their customer that allows them to market to them in the best way possible – as digital marketing continues to take hold as an essential part of the consumer’s buying journey. In retail, for example, brands that are unaware of their customers’ in-store behavior across digital channels, or vice versa, run the risk of losing market share and retaining customers almost overnight. the following day.
Great marketing gives the customer a personal and seamless experience – and that’s what omnichannel means.
The TikTok trend
2021 has seen the rise and rise of TikTok as a platform, and it continues to expand, grow and evolve, making it difficult for brands to figure out how to establish their presence on the platform. . I believe most local brands haven’t figured out how to do this the right way yet, but that should change this year.
Content is king on this platform and needs to feel native to the platform and original and entertaining to the audience, while effectively communicating brand messages – this can be a difficult balance to strike. I think more brands will strategize around the best ways to use the platform – whether that’s through influencers or brand presence – and prioritize their investment in that regard.
In the world of retail, content and influencer work should mostly champion a product rather than a brand itself. It can often be difficult to find the balance between being authentic to the creator and creating conversation and excitement for a product. This year, retailers will need to work alongside content creators to create unique and innovative ways to do just that.
Monetize digital efforts
In South Africa in particular, many brands are still using their digital channels to build brand awareness and have yet to figure out how to monetize and track the success of their digital approach. For any business that is serious about succeeding in the digital age, that’s going to have to change this year.
Businesses need to be aware of their social media efforts. Google, for example, contributes to their overall presence and ultimately their sales. Digital marketers need to track the entire customer journey and have a detailed understanding of how each individual channel contributes to e-commerce conversions. This is essential to ensure that the investment in digital marketing is directed towards obtaining optimal results.
Another important aspect is about relationships with influencers and finding new ways to track and monetize those relationships with brands without it coming at the cost of originality.
For retail brands with a diverse product line, it’s important to understand which channels work best for which categories – a one-size-fits-all approach won’t do in 2022. Each platform has a unique audience profile, and retailers need to ensure their spend aligns with the right categories and products, for better results.
The growing use of dark social channels
Finally, it’s important for brands and businesses to pay attention to channels where the user journey is encrypted, such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. There is certainly a growing trend locally where brands are investing in building WhatsApp chatbots, but these are being used as customer experience channels rather than a marketing and community building platform.
This year, I expect that to change, as brands look for new and innovative ways to reach their audience.
In conclusion, customer centricity is king in 2022 – and digital marketing is driving it in many ways. For retailers, having synchronicity between marketing, product, supply chain, and e-commerce or brick-and-mortar stores is essential to ensure customers are presented with the products, services, and experiences they expect. they desire and expect.
While it’s certainly important for brands and businesses to keep up to date with the latest trends, it’s important to realize that there will always be a new trend on the rise. Rather than trying to follow it all or make assumptions about what consumers might want, companies need to critically interrogate which are most aligned with their customers’ needs and wants and use them to create and drive their strategies for 2022 and beyond.