The Top Digital Trends To Watch In 2022

The world is more digital now than ever before and that’s sure to last in 2022. 

Ninety percent of Americans say the internet has been essential to them during the pandemic. Indeed, basic everyday tasks such as buying groceries, connecting with family, and conducting business have been upended to rely on digital media. The pandemic ignited and expedited digital adoption, the aftermath of which will continue to percolate across all industries for years to come — and marketing is no exception. 

The biggest brand victories and failures won’t be won or lost on traditional commercials. They’ll happen on TikTok, Instagram, eSports, and smart speakers. The recommendations consumers trust most won’t come from celebrities on infomercials. They’ll be from nano-influencer on Stories, Reels, and Shorts. 

The savviest brands, employers, and users will navigate 2022 using a ‘digital first’ mentality with a focus on monitoring and activating these key trends:   

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality   

Virtual and augmented reality were growing trends before the pandemic but quarantine, remote work, and the lasting purgatory between pre-and-post pandemic life accelerated adoption. Need further convincing? The parent company of the world’s largest social network, Facebook, recently changed its name to Meta. That’s short for the metaverse, a virtual world where people socialize, work, and play.  Just this week, Meta launched Horizon Worlds, a free app for socializing in virtual reality, available to users ages 18 and up in the U.S. and Canada. 

The metaverse isn’t a new concept, nor is it distinct to Facebook. Back in March, Microsoft announced Mesh, a new mixed-reality platform that allows people in different places to collaborate and share holographic experiences across devices. 

Virtual and augmented reality trends extend beyond Big Tech. Consumer brands such as Sephora and Warby Parker adopted augmented reality years ago to make online shopping more experiential and efficient. But Facebook’s big bet on the metaverse gives it new weight and momentum. So, will 2022 be the year B2B marketers crack the meta nut? 

Voice Search 

Smart speakers saw record growth in 2020, with over 150 million units sold globally. Voice search is poised to continue to grow in the coming years. Why? The biggest reasons are intuitive: it’s easy and hands-free. 71 percent of consumers favor voice-searching to type-searching. Voice shopping is projected to reach $40 billion in 2022 and by 2024, there are projected to be 8.4 billion voice devices across the globe. 

There are admittedly technological limitations with voice search, which relies on Natural Language Processing but even so, Google’s speech recognition has a 95% accuracy rate for English searches. Google Voice Search also offers massive global scale, supporting more than 100 languages. 

Consumer brands, such as Domino’s, have been active in this space for some time. Back in 2016, Domino’s launched its skill on Amazon Echo, which enables users to order delivery via Echo. 

The next phase of winning in voice search will transcend beyond basic speaker skills and into all digital content. In 2022, companies and brands who optimize their websites and content for voice search will drive more traffic to their site and increase their SEO ranking. 

eSports 

By the end of 2021, the global eSports audience is projected to reach 474 million users, with revenues of nearly $1.1 billion. eSports are on the rise but still in their nascent stage, which means a massive opportunity for those who get it right.   

Verizon is well-known for being cutting edge in their digital marketing – and eSports is no exception. In 2020, Verizon became an official partner of League of Legends regional league and earlier this year, Verizon and video game developer Riot Games expanded this partnership with Verizon becoming a partner across League of Legend’s three annual global events.   

With evolving pandemic-related regulations on in-person sporting events and large venues, 2022 could be the year eSports adoption and sponsorships go mainstream. 

Digital Payment 

The more time users spend on digital, the more money they spend on digital. Person-to-person payments had promising growth pre-pandemic and COVID-19 ignited and expedited this trajectory. 

In 2020, PayPal volume payment growth was up a record 31% and that’s not slowing any time soon. PayPal projects a similar increase, of about 30%, in 2021. And it’s not just PayPal, payments and social media continue to converge through the rise of other platforms such as Venmo and Zelle. In Q3 2021, Zelle processed $127 billion on 466 million transactions.   

Major corporations, small businesses, and everyday users are relying more on digital payments for everything from buying a car to reimbursing a friend for lunch. 

Micro-Videos 

The rise of TikTok during the pandemic was widely reported. In Q1 2020, TIkTok received 315 million downloads – that’s more quarterly downloads than any app in history but whether TikTok maintains dominance on the micro-video market remains to be seen. Afterall, Instagram usurped Snapchat in Stories – so will the platform eclipse TikTok in Reels? Time will tell but early metrics are promising. 87% of Gen-Z TikTok users agree that Reels is very similar to TikTok. Reels also receive 22% more engagement than regular video content. 

Instagram Reels isn’t the only micro-video format poised for growth in 2022. Take YouTube Shorts, a short-form video experience launched by Google in 2020, for example. The biggest case for YouTube Shorts is their institutional userbase: every month, 2 billion viewers visit YouTube.  

Brands who capitalize on this micro-video trend – and seemingly algorithmically favored format — will win in 2022. 

Nano-Influencer Marketing 

By the end of 2021, influencer marketing is projected to reach $13.8 billion but not all influencers influence equally. Studies show that nano-influencers, those with fewer than 5,000 followers drive the highest engagement rate, followed next by micro-influencers, users with 5,000-20,000 followers. In fact, users with over 1 million followers drive the lowest engagement rate. That’s why 77% of marketers would rather work with micro-influencers than celebrities. 

Another perk of nano and micro-influencers is their smaller following typically makes them more affordable. Micro-influencers can activate more targeted, niche audiences and are often considered more authentic and trustworthy by their followers. 

To-date, influencer marketing has been most effective for brands targeting Gen-Z but as Gen-Z ages and Millennials, Gen-X, and Boomers all spend more time online, there could be a white space for brands to sway more demographics via influencer marketing. 

Privacy Regulation 

So, what won’t grow in 2022? Third-party cookies usage. 

This year, Google announced Chrome will phase out support for third-party cookies by 2023. Apple launched a pop-up on iPhones that asks users for permission to be tracked by apps and Facebook announced its engineers are working on a workaround to serve relevant ads to users without leveraging personal data. 

As Big Tech rolls out these new privacy restrictions, more platforms and regulation are expected to follow suit and the implications could pose serious limitations for advertisers.   

As platforms, formats, regulations, and the pandemic continue to evolve, adaptability will remain the greatest asset for brands, employers, and users looking to build an effective and resilient digital strategy in 2022.

This article was written by Katy Finneran from Forbes and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com

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Dima Volovik

EVP of Product and Engineering

Dima Volovik is the EVP of Product and Engineering at Trax Retail — Shopkick.

Dima Volovik is the accomplished product and engineering leader who led teams to deliver innovative and commercially successful e-commerce products, marketplaces, and enterprise solutions for Amazon, Comcast, Fandango, and Universal Music. Before joining Trax, Dima was the Director at Amazon, where he led product development and Engineering for Amazon Appstore and Amazon Prime Video, CTO at Fandango, and Paciolan, head of technology at Golf Channel/Golf Now, and Global VP of Direct to Consumer Technology at Universal Music Group. Dima’s expertise includes developing consumer products, marketplaces, and enterprise solutions.

Dima grew up in Baku, Azerbaijan, where he received his MS in Electrical Engineering from Azerbaijan Oil Academy, and he currently resides in Los Angeles, California, with his family.