With 2022 coming to a close, all eyes are once again focused forward. 2023 is already shaping up to be full of boundary-breaking innovation, captivating creativity, and unbridled excitement. As digital marketing experts, Rebel Interactive Group understands the importance of data and the critical role it plays to validate intentional strategy – a data-backed strategy that ultimately catapults companies, lifestyle brands, non-profit organizations, and all others to greatness. In order to challenge the status quo (as Rebels should), we’re addressing a few of the major trends for 2023 and digging deeper in search of the truth behind the trend. Should you go blindly into that trendsetting direction or step back and temper one’s expectations? Let’s find out together…
- Mankind reaches Mars before the masses colonize the Metaverse – neither of which happen in 2023
Most of us will wait to see what becomes of the Metaverse, as most projections are currently scattered like the stars in the sky.
The race for the new world is underway. Whether we’re evacuating Earth or escaping its reality, billions of dollars are on the line as brands and corporations place their bets on the next frontier. In truth, it seems both efforts have a bit longer to go than their pioneers would like us to believe, despite the early strides in finding signs of intelligent life. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezo’s Blue Origin flights in 2021 were space travel proofs-of-concept similar to Travis Scott’s Fortnite concert and the Gucci Garden Roblox activation within the Metaverse.
Now, the world waits as Relativity Space and Impulse Space plan a potential Mars launch for 2024, and SpaceX proceeds through Elon’s Twitter distractions and the FAA’s space traffic jam, targeting somewhere between 2026 and 2031. Similarly, with only 50,000 daily active users of the web3 virtual worlds (based on blockchain technology, machine learning, and artificial intelligence), most of us will wait to see what becomes of the Metaverse, as most projections are currently scattered like the stars in the sky:
- The Metaverse market is expected to be worth $800 billion by 2024
- The Metaverse market will be worth between $8T and $30T by 2030
- The global metaverse market is set to register a revenue CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of almost 50% by 2028
- 25% of people will spend an hour per day in the Metaverse by 2026
- This 2030 market share estimate comes from a forecast the Metaverse user base will be 5 Billion people by 2030
- 15% of corporate revenue is expected to come from the Metaverse in the next 5 years
As we continue to boldly go where no one has gone before and build new worlds – on Mars or in Snoopverse – there’s no doubt that people, businesses, and brands will follow. But, aside from a few more press-worthy launches drawing early majority intrigue in 2023, it’s safe to assume that outside of more useful and immersive AR/VR experiences (1.07B and 64M users, respectively in 2022), most of us will be bringing in 2024 in the real world, as you should be.
So while brands are certainly intrigued at the prospect of developing digital reward and loyalty programs directly with their customers via NFT and other tokens, any real traction for Metaverse adoption in 2023 seems likely to only happen in the B2B space. As has been widely covered, Accenture, Microsoft, Epic Games, Meta, Nvidia, and Google are all investing heavily in the Metaverse as the next virtual meeting and training ground for onboarding and upskilling employees. Looking at the numbers, 90% of executives think their current training methods need updating, which makes sense if it’s projected that 42% of the core skills required by today’s jobs are expected to change by the end of 2024. If Digital Transformation efforts have taught us anything, it’s that reskilling 1 Billion people by 2030, utilizing new platforms and technology, requires drastic shifts in training methodologies to be tested immediately.
- Curated marketplaces reinvent the department store, digitally
There is far too much noise emerging, too much congestion in our social feeds, too many brands entering the market with a SKU and a Shopify site, and too little time for brands or influencers to build new relationships with consumers before the next piece of sponsored content hits our screens.
Behold the power of the influencer. From Nano to Mega. From Ambassador to Creator. From single posts to sponsorships, partnerships, and endorsements. Marketing efforts leveraging the sphere of influence return an average of $5.20 for every $1 spent (and top-performing programs exceeding $18 in Earned Media Value). However, approximately 25% – and growing – of businesses lose money or just break even on their influencer activations. Ouch. The perceived authenticity and credibility consumers associate with influencer recommendations are in jeopardy as the number of creators has grown from 500,000 in 2019 to over 37 Million today.
These numbers simply cannot, and will not, sustain. On the lower end influencers have essentially unionized via influencer networks and have started to set new minimums for engagement. On the upper end, mega influencers and celebrities have evolved beyond seeking compensation for single posts. Taking cues from the film industry, many have deferred upfront payment for content, instead opting for equity and royalties on the back end. Savvy influencers have ditched the discount code and moved to create their own shops, managing transactions and maintaining the relationship with consumers in place of the brands they’re representing.
As long as brands continue to see a positive return, influencers will hold a key position in budget conversations from home decor to higher education. But, as their cost continues to increase and their numbers grow, will their position within the marketing strategy shift? It’s reasonable to assume, yes. There is far too much noise emerging, too much congestion in our social feeds, too many brands entering the market with a SKU and a Shopify site, and too little time for brands or influencers to build new relationships with consumers before the next piece of sponsored content hits our screens.
So what does the future look like? Well, it might be a bit nostalgic with consumers digitally (or even virtually) heading back to the “mall” and browsing the next generation of department stores – marketplaces that have been curated around specified customer segments that affiliate with a core set of influencers representing a portfolio of brands and products. In theory, it makes sense if we look to brands like REI, Net-a-Porter, Backcountry, GOAT, or even Nordstroms and Bloomingdales.
Perhaps the best example here is Backcountry and its “Gearhead” experts (doubling as consumer-facing, and readily accessible, customer support), clearly aligning with the active outdoor adventurer, curating and “endorsing” apparel and equipment from affordable to luxury, entry-level to full-send, and everything in between. This transparency provides consumers with peace of mind they can openly discover and shop the entire catalog via a library of on-site and off-site video and blog content. Backcountry loyalists continue to come back seeking unboxings, product reviews, and specification information for products that fit unique needs, know that everything inherently meets the brand’s baseline standards, and already has the stamp of approval within the community.
An expansion of these types of marketplaces seems inevitable as consumers begin to evaluate the credibility of “traditional” influencers and seek accountability for the quality of the products being recommended. This is a major shift from the “best athleisure brand” being the latest company to send creator-free leggings.
- Welcome to the party; Zero-Party Data is the new First-Party Data
The next buzzword the industry has created to keep the experts behind the wizardry curtain.
If Jay-Z were writing “30 Something” today, perhaps the hook would be a little different. A few decades removed from DoubleClick merging with Abacus Direct for $1.7B (and subsequently selling to Google for $3.1B) to get access to consumer data from its catalog sales, data acquisition is getting a revival. For years companies sought partnerships and affiliation with networks that were able to compile large amounts of data from various sources so that the aggregation of this Third-Party Data could be leveraged in sales and marketing efforts. As internet usage grew, so did the marketplace for AI and machine learning companies to effectively mine, clean, sort, and identify new ways to monetize data to create dynamic, personalized experiences for consumers.
Ultimately, the volume of data acquired, the cost associated with storing and activating it, and expanding privacy concerns of Internet users created a movement toward companies acquiring their own First Party Data. Many companies were unprepared, still trying to navigate around GDPR compliance and restricted tracking driven by users’ adjustment of device settings, to deploy data acquisition efforts.
Although the concept is relatively simple, most businesses are trailing in their investment in platforms and systems that allow them to capture customer data in a way that makes it useful. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, the systems in place are so sophisticated and took so long to stabilize, companies are struggling to effectively use them to their maximum potential. Now, enter Zero Party Data, the next buzzword the industry has created to keep the experts behind the wizardry curtain.
Let’s take a quick peek:
- First-Party Data (and Second-Party Data depending on collection): website & app interactions, purchase history, contact information, SMS, point-of-sale & CRM, call center feedback, subscription information, social media data
- Third-Party Data: demographics, financials, categorical interests, online behavior, propensities & attitudes, health information
- Zero-Party Data: loyalty program memberships, interactive quiz & survey responses, preference data, purchase intentions
As you can see, instead of adding new data points to the traditional definition of First Party Data, the concept of Zero Party Data has been created to keep businesses and brands feeling two steps behind. Nevertheless, as Google shifts from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and we see the demise of the Cookie (supposedly) in 2023, brands will be forced to take an active role in the acquisition of…data – any and all information about their customers in order to effectively develop growth strategies and future sales and marketing programs.
- Conversational Search becomes Conversational Content
Enter our brand bannermen and SEO white knights.
Content will continue to reign in 2023. And, if content is King, search should play the role of Queen. The evolution of content off-site has made brands and search engines alike look beyond title tags and meta descriptions. It’s never been intuitive to expect people to input an answer and simply return results that best match that topic. Humans inherently seek to ask questions and have potential answers qualified based on secondary criteria and variables. Until advances in Conversational AI and Natural Language Processing, and most recently Google’s evolution of Multi-Search, the ultimate reach and value of search engines has been more limited than we’ve been led to believe…unless you’ve connected the dots that every time you identify the crosswalk, storefront, stop light, or bicycle you’re actively training Google’s algorithm.
As search ranking positions got more competitive with strong Search Engine Marketing (SEO) efforts, marketing dollars shifted beyond the site and blog to alternate forms of content – brand-generated videos (unboxings, demos, reviews), User Generated Content, Podcasts, thought leadership…long form, short form, trade, social, etc. With this investment, brands are now seeking to utilize the content beyond the wall to lure people back to the kingdom. Enter our brand bannermen and SEO white knights. See what we’re doing here?
SEOs are poised to play a key role in the overarching content strategy as well as the purpose behind image tagging, post copy, video scripts, and the general creation of all things content – not just retro-optimizing website content created in a silo. This inclusion and proactivity will allow brands to bring new value to consumers by being discoverable as the best answer to user searches, thereby allowing brands to better monetize content previously lacking attribution.
- Outbound gets more automated, Inbound gets more human
2023 might be a bit of a wake-up call for those thinking unmanned automation is the answer…there is a clear void when it comes to the current automated activity and the market’s expectations for what (or should we say who) is on the other side.
With over 8,000 Martech solutions, the world is infatuated with the concept of automation. In theory, efficiency + personalization – human overhead is an ideal formula. Particularly when there’s a 10x decrease in your odds of connecting with a lead after 5 minutes and a 400% decrease in your odds of qualifying that lead after 10 minutes.
To put that into further perspective, nothing illuminates the need for precise automation execution more than examining the B2B space. Sure, we all want to capitalize on the abandoned cart, but each potential deal on the B2B side could make or break a business. In fact, businesses value each opportunity so heavily that 96% of B2B marketers have a documented Account Based Marketing strategy in place and are investing heavily (estimated 25-50% increase) in technology/software that ensures once contact is made that lead is not lost.
Beyond sophisticated CRMs, email marketing, and other automated lead nurturing efforts, the consumer space has also caught the bug, with nearly 80% of companies worldwide using chatbots as a means to engage with current and prospective customers. But, while companies seek out innovative AI-enabled chat solutions to minimize support staffing, 43% of consumers still prefer to deal with an actual person, and 34% simply use chatbots to get connected with a human faster.
It seems 2023 might be a bit of a wake-up call for those thinking unmanned automation is the answer. There is no doubt when it comes to outreach and ongoing customer engagement automation has a long list of benefits. However, there is a clear void when it comes to the current automated chat/response activity and the market’s expectations for what (or should we say who) is on the other side. Expect to see a renewed focus on the engagement strategy for those reaching out to brands and an effort to have humans manning the chatbot/CRM dashboard to ensure no consumer gets the message that no one is available to help at that moment.
- Social Media Decentralization
The motivation to test new platforms goes beyond avoiding the parental units and spammy bot accounts, it now ties into users’ interest in controlling their own experience, content, and data.
Despite the incredible growth trajectory of TikTok, this rocketship might not reach deep space…at least when it comes to continuing to grab the attention of the elusive younger GenZ market. Not to say there isn’t a profitable future for the network, but much like Vine, Snapchat, and Facebook before it – the gated palaces everyone wanted to be in, simply because everyone wasn’t there yet – once parents and brands widely adopt, and the feed is full of advertisements, the “kids” move on.
Interestingly, it’s not just the “kids” seeking escape heading into 2023. Social media users of all groups are turning to platforms like BeReal (for authenticity) and Mastodon (for decentralization), or eagerly awaiting BlueSky – currently in development by ex-Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey. The motivation to test new platforms goes beyond avoiding the parental units and spammy bot accounts, it now ties into users’ interest in controlling their own experience, content, and data.
This control is further evidenced by the expansion of “Superapps” that act as a single entry point to a broader ecosystem. Gartner estimates that 50% of the global population will be daily active users of multiple super apps by 2027. For brands and advertisers the key to access, relevance, and adoption within these platforms will be the seamlessness of the integration with other applications and providing users the ability to customize their respective experiences. Because these applications give users the ability to develop, moderate, and curate all elements from consumption to creation to sharing and engagement. It’s imperative that feature sets within brand apps are dynamic and facilitate the user’s intent, not jacking the feed to insert an ad.
- Revenue is the new Attribution
The impending Cookiepocolypse spells apparent doom for retargeting and remarketing. The world is literally crumbling into the bottom of a Chips Ahoy bag.
It’s been discussed above and likely touched on in every piece of content you’ve read recently: tracking and attribution as we knew it is coming to an end. If you’ve already migrated to GA4 you’ll notice key data points are missing. The impending Cookiepocolypse spells apparent doom for retargeting and remarketing. The world is literally crumbling into the bottom of a Chips Ahoy bag.
Many marketers are starting to turn toward what would historically be considered vanity metrics as a method to show advertising performance. Facing a tough hill to climb when convincing brands continue to dip into their budgets when ROAS feels ambiguous. But, for those who have already been prepping for Judgement Day and deployed their respective T-800 media and analytics specialists, there’s hope we’ll all avoid an extinction-level event.
It’s likely by July (or whenever GA4 is fully rolled out), much of the “missing” data will be integrated and/or will be supplemented with even more useful metrics. In the meantime (and in all practicality moving forward) you can expect to see different forms of middleware emerge to unify disparate data sources and connect the dots between campaigns and activations across various channels. Agencies will also develop deeper skillsets building dashboards for clients that minimize the amount of manual reconciliation that’s currently occurring.
Some of this uncertainty could create opportunities to open the lines of communication between brands, agencies, and other vendors. Creating a new dialogue that acknowledges all efforts from awareness to consideration to conversion has a compound effect – that not every ad or piece of content generates direct revenue, but the true measure of success is whether or not revenue is increasing at a rate in proportion to spending, sparking status meetings that discuss the business, not the particular click-through rate on an email CTA or number of likes on the latest company culture social media post.
Your truth shall set your brand free…
There’s no doubt there’s a lot to dive into when it comes to what 2023 (and beyond) holds. As with anything, what you do with the data is where the magic truly lies. Similarly, what you do with a ‘trend’ is only as valuable as the execution team you have by your side. With the excitement of innovation at our fingertips and filling our feeds, it’s okay to go head-first, but it is also encouraged to tread lightly if what’s happening around you doesn’t fully align with where you are equipped to go.