Digital trends to look out for in 2022
We all have high hopes for 2022, and that the coming 12 months will afford us all more freedoms than we’ve had in the last two years.
What is clear is that things are going to be different from now on. The way that we live, work and interact with each other has been profoundly impacted by the events of recent years. From here on in, things will change. The digital landscape will inevitably play a huge part of that.
This year feels different. It feels like there’s some optimism that we can salvage a small few benefits from two years of lockdowns, and build something more positive. With technology and the evolving digital space, there’s always a tendency to fear what’s coming next, rather than see how it can fix so many problems. And it will fix many problems.
Here are some of the trends, stories and events that are likely to shape digital in 2022.
Shop Local will evolve
There was already a trend towards artisanal shops, the pandemic merely speeded up the process, as neighborhoods bought groceries, coffees and services from local businesses. Even if - as we all hope - restrictions on travel and movement are less severe this year, local will remain a focus for consumers.
Expect greater collaboration between independent businesses and delivery services, local apps selling goods from a number of local suppliers, a greater pooling of resources, hyper-local social media and in some cases, home delivery within a matter of hours. Supermarkets and even petrol stations worked with the likes of JustEat, Deliveroo and Uber Eats for fast turnaround deliveries, and Sainsbury’s ChopChop service offers one hour delivery for small baskets. With some collaborative thinking, local independent shops will offer similar.
And so is Community
Collaboration has never been more powerful or important, whether that’s local businesses working together on products or services, or huge rivals like Nike and Adidas or Sony and Microsoft coming together to enact social change. Standing alone doesn’t work any more.
Businesses need to be doing more than just selling products or services, they need to be part of their physical and digital communities. Closed Facebook groups have been the most active part of the social network in the last few years, with 2-3% higher engagement rates than “traditional” posts.
Now, more than ever, people want to feel part of something. Community-involvement isn’t a CSR strategy any more, it’s got to be part of a business’ purpose.
Flexibility on point of sale
While we may want to help local businesses, we’re even more demanding about convenience. A censuswide study showed that 39% of consumers expected next day delivery of products, while 31% expected same-day. 63% of responders to a Deloitte survey said they expect to use digital services more than pre-pandemic.
Customers want to be able to buy at their own convenience. That might be to have the in-store experience, it may be direct from the supplier, it might be via social media on their mobile. Consumers don’t want bombarded with sales messages, but want the easiest experience possible when they do choose to buy. Buzzfeed’s listicle-inspired Shopping Plus is the latest evolution of this. Make sales possible everywhere, but not sales messaging.
The NFT Boom
Whether you believe that Non-Fungible Tokens will revolutionise the worlds of art and commerce, or they’re the Emperor’s New Clothes, they’ll continue to grab headlines this year because they are so topical.
The expansion of the metaverse and another boom in cryptocurrency will no doubt drive the main news stories, but there are equally interesting developments in areas such as privacy. Kate Moss and Emily Ratajakowski have already created NFTs in a bid to “control the use of their image”, creating tokens which prove that they undisputedly own the rights to images of themselves.
This one seems inevitable. The web giants have been in front of the US Congress a number of times in recent years, answering charges ranging from data gathering to anti-trust. So far, the internet has largely been allowed to self-police, with the businesses themselves deciding to implement rules on what can or cannot be advertised, or making editorial decisions about appropriate content.
This opens up a big philosophical question. If a social media network makes editorial decisions on what content is and is not appropriate, are they a platform or a publisher? Expect this to go to the rule of law.
The Year AR Comes of Age. Maybe.
It’s been six years since Pokemon Go, and we’ve still not seen anything quite as exciting as that in the world of Augmented Reality. We were promised AR shop assistants, instant search queries through our glasses, and so much more. We’ve been promised game-changing AR for years now and it hasn’t happened.
This year might change that. Facebook, or the parent company Meta, have been one of the main drivers of AR, putting billions of dollars into research on projects such as Oculus. It’s estimated that one in five employees is now working on AR projects. The big game changer? Physical high street shops selling AR headsets. And with that comes…
What does it mean? So far the explanations have been heavily indebted to Ready Player One, The Matrix, Neal Stephenson and William Gibson. Immersive commerce is here, and brands such as Coca-Cola and Burberry are already looking at how they can bring their products into areas like gaming or immersive digital shopping. Adidas and Nike took very different approaches to their entry into the Metaverse at the end of 2021.
The concept of the metaverse suggests that we will be able to have a seamless transition between the real world and the digital world, allowing us to game, shop, chat and interact as avatars and as people. The concept is only beginning to take shape, but there’ll be huge developments in what could even be imagined for it this year. Not least because of…
We didn’t really get to see the full benefits of the 5G rollout, because we’ve hardly had any need for anything but wifi in the last two years. That will change as we get back into the world again.
The 5G rollout promised seamless high speed connectivity, drone-monitored crops, autonomous cars and surgeons who could remotely operate on patients from hundreds of miles away. These will likely happen, but the real excitement is in what we can’t yet anticipate. The current versions of applications such as Netflix, Deliveroo, Tinder, Uber and Spotify couldn’t have been comprehended before the introduction of 4G. What will even greater, faster connectivity bring?
Apologies for the acronyms. For anyone over the age of 25, or who isn’t pretending not to be, In Real Life Experiences will matter more than ever. In the fleeting opportunities we’ve had to get back to sport, gigs, theatres, clubs, busy restaurants and bars and international travel, there’s been a far greater appreciation for the day-to-day that we may have previously taken for granted. In a poll of 16,000 respondents, over half said they wanted more “human interaction” from their digital experiences.
Being in places with people will be a huge priority for most of us this year. Wherever possible, businesses should do things that make this a possibility. Digital activity needs to support and facilitate this, rather than try and replace it. There’ll be no marketing activity more powerful than a physical activation which convinces members of the public to share it digitally.
Online Sales Tax
This sounds like a boring one, but it’s important. For over a year there’s been talk of the UK government bringing in an online sales tax of around 2%. Which products this would cover is up for debate, but it would be introduced to encourage more shopping in physical shops.
Online shopping now makes up 40% of all retail purchases in the UK, and businesses such as Tesco have suggested that an online tax would help stimulate growth on the high street as well as raise revenues from online retail giants. Expect it to be part of the discussions in the spring budget. How that impacts your business remains to be seen.
Oh Clubhouse, we barely knew ye. Last year hinted at a huge 12 months for audio social media, with Clubhouse’s rapid expansion and Twitter adding Spaces. This year we’ll get LinkedIn’s audio events and an enhanced version of Facebook Audio. The former seems especially interesting for hosting round tables, discussions or even “live” podcasts.
Don’t forget the desktop…
The last decades have seen an increasing split between mobile and desktop, with around 55% of internet use on mobile. Mobile will continue to be the dominant force for overall internet use - including app use - but with less commuting and a greater blend between work and home, more activities will be done on desktop than in previous years.
While overall internet data use skews towards mobile, browsing the internet is still split evenly between mobile and desktop, and while more sales conversions may happen on mobile, the pathway to buying products on desktop is vital. The desktop/laptop experience shouldn’t be underestimated.
Digital Employee Engagement
One of the few benefits to working remotely over long periods is that we’ve completely disregarded the idea that working from home is easy. We no longer feel pressure to answer incoming emails within seconds. If you work from home two days in a row, there will no longer be eyebrows raised.
Most businesses will likely look at some kind of hybrid working model, allowing greater flexibility for employees, and a wider pool of talent for employers.
However, digital teamwork is very hard. Collaboration only really comes from working together, and can take far longer when you’re not in the same physical location. Keeping employees engaged, happy, motivated and - most importantly - collaborative will be a huge challenge. Expect an entire professional industry to spring from this.
What more can you do? We’re well beyond the Zoom quiz now. At SPEY we’ve done virtual tastings, keep fit classes, yoga, candle making, problem solving and cocktail sessions. Keeping it inventive will be a huge challenge.
2022 will be different.