Two hands around a crystal ball.

Oban’s 22 predictions for 2022

To kick off 2022, we asked our team of digital marketing experts in the UK plus our Local In-Market Experts around the world to predict what the year has in store for us. Here’s what Oban thinks will be the big international marketing trends this year.


#1: More UK businesses will seek out international growth opportunities

Post Brexit and post Covid, we expect to see more UK businesses take steps to expand internationally. This is a UK government ambition, set out in the recent policy paper ‘Made in the UK, Sold to the World’. Traditionally, the UK’s biggest overseas markets have been the US and Europe, but things are changing: rapid growth in the Indo-Pacific region means economic power is shifting eastwards. Moreover, as the world economy becomes more services-oriented, the UK’s specialist sectors are well-placed to capitalise.


#2: A cookie-less world means a race to obtain first party data

With cookies on the way out – blocked by popular browsers, reflecting a consumer desire for privacy – brands face two key challenges:

  • Understanding their current reliance on third-party cookies
  • Creating new data infrastructure so they can pivot to first party data collection

Brands need to offer value in exchange for first party data. One way to achieve this is through designing customer experiences which become richer as more complete data profiles are built – perhaps through loyalty programmes, AI web assistants or gamification.

In the short term, without third party cookies, prospecting and retargeting will become less personalised. This will involve re-imagining how companies use analytics and targeting. Tech giants are already proposing shifting the focus from individuals to cohorts – i.e. groups of people with similar interests or profiles – giving marketers a way to target ads to groups without requiring details of individual users.


#3: Consumer journeys will become rollercoasters

The trend for customer journeys to become more complex and fragmented will only intensify. With numerous touchpoints and channels, brands need to have a strong understanding of customers to track their journeys and offer personalised service and recommendations. One of the biggest brand challenges is providing a consistent and seamless experience across all channels. Customers can often have a different experience depending on whether they interact with a company in store versus online or if they talk to a contact centre employee versus a chatbot.


#4: Increased automation will mean more paid search innovation

Automation within paid search is not new but it will take off in 2022. Automated personalisation for users within search ads will become more widespread, as will the continued growth of automated bid strategies and auto-apply suggestions. Smart bidding uses machine learning to optimise campaigns and budget allocation, improving conversion rates by optimising ads based on user behaviour.

We don’t expect to see automation replace account managers. Just as there are wrong ways to manage accounts manually, there are also wrong ways to use the automated tools provided by Google and others. Knowing what tools are available and how best to deploy them for each market is key to success.


#5: Virtual and hybrid events are here to stay

Covid saw a big shift from real-world to virtual events. Recent research from LinkedIn, based on interviews with 1,800 marketers with responsibility for events across 13 countries, showed that 85% have held a virtual event in the last year and 28% said that between 91 and 100% of their events are now virtual. In the near future, event marketers expect that 40% of events will be virtual, 36% will be in-person, and 24% will be hybrid.

There are benefits to virtual events. These include making it easier for organisers to secure guest speakers and experts from around the world, opening up the experience to more people in an inclusive way with closed caption and transcription technology, and generating content that often has a longer shelf-live than in-person gatherings. Virtual events are also kinder to the environment, reducing the amount of travelling required as well as the single-use plastics and other collateral often found at live events.


#6: Google’s MUM update will have big implications for multilingual websites

Google’s MUM update – Multitask Unified Model – is an AI model designed to use machine learning to revolutionise how Google understands search queries and online content, and how it delivers search results to users. The update has big implications for multilingual websites, since Google will now be language agnostic, searching in 75 languages – because it recognises that the best result may not be in the searcher’s own language. Read Oban’s explainer on what it all means.


#7: Marketers will invest more in short-form video

The massive success of TikTok has led platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, Google, LinkedIn and Pinterest to expand their own short form video offerings. A HubSpot survey found that over half of marketers who use short form video plan to increase their investment in this medium in 2022. As a result, we expect to see more brand shorts this year – product teasers, product explainers, behind-the-scenes, influencer collaborations and user-generated content – useful for both B2C and B2B.


#8: Marketers will invest more in audio content

Partly driven by the pandemic – with people stuck at home and perhaps searching for an alternative to long-form videos after spending hours on Zoom – audio content has increased in popularity. 2020 saw the much-hyped launch of Clubhouse, and it’s believed that over 28 million adults in the UK listen to a podcast every week. We expect both streaming audio and podcasts to be a big growth area in 2022. (Did you know? Oban has a podcast too which you can listen to here.)


#9: Remote working is here to stay

Post-pandemic, remote working will endure. That’s not to say that face-to-face office working is a thing of the past, but the idea of being based in the office from 9 til 5, Mondays to Fridays is probably over. Companies will adjust to a mix of office, remote and hybrid working.

By not being restricted to a geographic area, companies now have access to a larger talent pool. It also means that companies will need to attract talent based on how good they are, rather than where they are located – i.e. the benefits of a Soho office are less appealing to remote workers who might only visit occasionally. Some nation states are doing their best to attract international talent by offering digital nomad visas – Barbados being an enticing option for those looking for perpetual sunshine.


#10: Audience personas will become more granular

In 2022, we expect to see a trend towards more detailed audience personas. These will extend beyond basic details such as demographic interests and likes and dislikes to include more task-specific information such as:

  • Images of interfaces a particular target audience uses frequently
  • Colour palettes they tend to prefer
  • Examples of ads they click on
  • Examples of websites they use both for work and entertainment

Marketers are increasingly looking at personality, decision-making styles, goals, and other psychologically-based information. Often, finding this information will fall to the paid search team, although AI and machine learning are becoming more accurate. Remember also that audience personas will vary by country, so tailoring them to each market is essential.


#11: Natural language processing will continue to refine

Natural language processing – i.e. the field of artificial intelligence which attempts to understand languages the way humans do – has been a big trend in recent years. Google – most obviously with its MUM update – keeps refining its algorithm to improve its natural language processing, so it can understand complex user intent and provide more accurate and related answers in response.

In 2022, we will see more applications of NLP – for example, in customer service tasks like routing support tickets, more interactive chat bots and automatic product tagging. More brands will use it to monitor sentiment on social media. The gap between English and non-English NLP models remains but will start to close with the development of more multilingual models.


#12: There will be more multi-platform integrated campaigns

Social platforms like Facebook and Twitter have been making changes to support cross-channel content sharing, including Messenger API for Instagram, a click-to-chat button on Instagram linking to WhatsApp, and previews of Instagram posts embedded into Tweets. These updates will continue to roll out, and brands should keep them on the radar to maximise impressions and engagement on the channels where their target audiences are most active.

The ability to produce digital assets rapidly (for example, video and audio production) will enable more companies to develop fully integrated campaigns. This is already the case for larger companies, but we are likely to see medium size businesses develop better processes and launch more regular campaigns in 2022.


#13: More brands will try to find purpose beyond profit

Issues like climate change and pronounced social shifts means brands increasingly feel they need to respond and show civic responsibility. However, consumers who care about social justice or sustainability need to see more than just a hashtag or token donation – they want to see meaningful action. This year, we will see more brands trying to define a purpose beyond profit. That said, there is evidence to suggest that in many categories, price and quality remain more important purchase drivers than brand purpose – and brands should also bear in mind that their purpose might be interpreted differently and not always how they intend across cultures. Use Local In-Market Experts to advise you.


#14: More brands will emphasise diversity and inclusion

In recent years, brands have focused on more inclusive advertising. But customers, who are increasingly diverse, expect brands to follow through on their promises. A Deloitte survey of 11,500 global customers found that younger customers especially (aged between 18 and 25) took notice of inclusive advertising when making purchase decisions.

Diversity means reflecting multiracial and LQBTQ identities, as well as showing sensitivity to cultural and linguistic nuances. But it also means thinking of other groups too – for example, the World Health Organisation estimates that 15% of people globally live with a disability –not a group you often see represented within advertising.

Diversity and inclusion mean different things across cultures, so check with a Local In-Market Expert in your target market when planning your campaigns. To be truly representative, you need to understand the multiple identities that matter to people in your target markets and get hyper-local with your efforts.


#15: The West will start to pick up on live stream shopping

Live stream shopping is a relatively new concept in the Western world, but in China, it’s common and extremely popular. In the first half of 2020, one third of China’s internet users — roughly 309 million people — tuned in to a live streaming shopping session.

The West has been slower to catch on, but the pandemic has brought new attention to shoppable livestreaming because it offers the ability for discovery, browsing, sharing opinions and experiences with friends while still protecting hygiene and safety that consumers now care more about. In the US, Amazon Live is Amazon’s system for brands to build their own shoppable live streams. We predict we will see Western brands start to embrace live stream shopping in 2022 – proponents say that once customers try it, they keep coming back because it’s a better way to shop online.


#16: TikTok will surpass 1.5 billion users

This prediction is fairly safe – lots of people are making it. Given the rise of short form video, TikTok’s cultural relevance continues to grow. This is partly because organic reach and engagement on older social media platforms are declining, so marketers are looking to different platforms to generate impact. (For example, the average organic reach for a Facebook post is now about 5.2% and engagement rate is 0.25%).

TikTok has announced TikTok TV, partnering with Smart TV brands to bring the short-form video experience to a living room near you. Brands can take advantage by creating their own branded TikTok challenges or through collaborating with creators and influencers to create sponsored videos.


#17: Average order value for online B2B transactions will continue to rise

B2B buyers are now more comfortable completing sizeable transactions fully online. According to McKinsey:

  • 70% of B2B decision-makers are willing to spend over $50,000 using remote or self service
  • 27% are willing to spend over $500,000

We expect this trend to continue in 2022, with online average order values for B2B products rising further. The B2B digital transformation unleashed by Covid continues, and B2B decision-makers are getting younger. You can read our tips for international B2B lead generation here.


#18: We will see more attempts to create super apps

The biggest social media companies will continue to try to become super apps – that is, apps that do it all and therefore monopolise the user’s time. Whilst they started mainly as ways for friends and family to keep in touch or be entertained, social networks – such as Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok etc – will become increasingly important ways consumers shop, bank and entertain themselves.

Outside the West, super apps which do it all already exist. For example, China’s WeChat is a messaging app which essentially acts as a platform for facilitating online life in general. WeChat claims its functions are similar to WhatsApp, Skype, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Apple Pay and more – combined within one single app. The app even allows you to file for divorce if you so choose. Other super app examples include Russia’s Yandex Go and Indonesia’s Gojek.

We predict Western apps will continue to add more features as they attempt to become indispensable to consumers’ lives, removing the need to have multiple apps for different purposes.


#19: Brands will do their utmost to escape analysis paralysis

With a plethora of digital marketing tools available and ever-growing data collection, there is a business risk of deploying eclectic tactics without a clear understanding of impact. One of the essential elements to master in the upcoming year is the ability to define with accuracy level of effort and level of impact. As technology and data use grows, marketers are better off optimising for marginal gains than striving for the next big win. We predict we will see more brands seriously grapple with a renewed focus on level of effort/cost vs level of impact in 2022.


#20: Agencies will have wider client-side conversations

Digital marketing has always been multi-disciplinary but in the past, some agencies and clients have worked in siloes. That approach is increasingly unsustainable. For example, SEO cuts across multiple disciplines such as conversion rate optimisation, user experience and content marketing. Project success requires tight integration both agency and client side. The pandemic – with its emphasis on remote working and distributed teams – has helped clients to see and treat their agencies as an extension of their internal team – and we expect to see more of this in 2022.


#21: Buy Now, Pay Later will continue to boom as an international payment method

International e-commerce retailers know that ensuring you provide the preferred online payment options in your target markets is essential to conversion. In recent years, Buy Now, Pay Later has increased in popularity and we expect to see that continue in 2022. It’s forecast that by 2026, over 1.5 billion consumers will spend over $995 billion through BNPL. You can read Oban’s guide to the rise of Buy Now, Pay Later here.


#22: Oban’s book will become a bestseller

Haven’t you heard? Oban published a book last year. It’s called Going Global and it’s all about how to improve your digital marketing performance in any market on the planet. We are a bit biased, but we think it’s essential reading for any business with international growth ambitions. It’s available to buy on Amazon here.

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If you’re planning an international marketing campaign in 2022, Oban can help. To find out how, please get in touch. Follow us on LinkedIn for regular digital marketing updates.

Oban International is the digital marketing agency specialising in international expansion. Our LIME (Local In-Market Expert) Network provides up to date cultural input and insights from over 80 markets around the world, helping clients realise the best marketing opportunities and avoid the costliest mistakes.

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