Digital consumer interaction challenges to anticipate heading into a new year
Both the B2C marketing landscape and the playbook are set to look very different in 2022. The challenges and pitfalls in the industry—as well as the strengths and advantages—have evolved in step with the massive changes that have taken marketing by storm over the last several years. The bottom line is that consumers can expect marketing to look very different in this new year.
While business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing has historically encompassed everything from building customer loyalty to creating a personalized experience to generating grassroots movements (among other elements), these practices have had to transform in recent months in order to fit into the new norm. Yes, it’s true that these activities will remain fundamental in modern marketing initiatives, but they now have to better align with the technological landscape as well as with the shifts and changes that continue to take place within the consumer marketplace.
Furthermore, while the move toward increased digitization has been trending for quite some time now, the digitization push escalated exponentially during recent public health and safety concerns. This rush is now transforming consumer marketing into a more advanced discipline. In fact, throughout the pandemic, several key trends have been observed in the data, including:
- Increased online shopping
- Greater support for local and independent businesses
- Increased marketing that highlights ethical and charitable contributions
- Omnichannel marketing as the new normal
- Brands getting better at incorporating consumer feedback into their customer experience
- Consumers wanting to balance the ease of welcoming brands into their homes while also prioritizing privacy
Needless to say, the last 18 months have been marked by rapid and intense change for consumer marketing. In the aftermath of these changes, it appears that the marketing landscape will continue to be impacted as we look into 2022 and the new year ahead.
Consider the fact that we will likely see new technologies that support automation as well as the further refinement of data. Successful marketing efforts will also require fresh ideas for helping consumer products stand out—but with a new approach. One thing is certain in this market: Consumers want less direct interaction, as only 20-30% of buyers are willing to personally interact with representatives. However, consumers still want more personalized digital interaction, including relevant and informative content.
With this in mind, let’s first take a look at some of the key pitfalls—or challenges—that we may need to anticipate as we transition fully into 2022.
Key B2C Marketing Challenges
- Keeping Pace with Technology: Technology has evolved rapidly, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced an ongoing digital revolution. The ways in which companies, employees, and consumers access marketing has shifted tremendously, and the pace of change shows no sign of slowing down. B2C marketers have to continue their digital evolution to stay ahead of the game and offer more for their consumers.
- Taking the Time to Do Market Research Right: Market research is essential in consumer marketing. It drives everything from segmenting audiences to personalizing content. In reality, taking the time to get the research right means that you will ultimately generate more effective content than if you were using incomplete research and data sets.
Farissa Knox, founder of RLM Marketing, emphasizes the balance needed to adequately meet this challenge. “The truth of the matter is that not everyone is going to get it right, because some will be too concerned with being first instead of being on time. What I mean is this: If we don’t stop and take time to research—to truly evaluate what the data is telling us—before jumping into creativity and production, then our efforts just won’t be as accurate as they could be. Incorporating the latest research will take slightly more time, but the results will be epic.”
- Diversification: Diversification in marketing is essential in order for consumer products to thrive. As it has in years past, however, diversification will continue to pose a formidable challenge for many B2C marketers in 2022—although omnichannel marketing certainly remains the key to the future.
Knox also addresses the need for diversification: “One bit of advice I would give B2C brands for the new year is to be prepared to diversify. Whatever B2C businesses were doing to gain new business/new customers before can’t be the sole strategy now. It can be a part of it, but additional ingredients will be needed. A solid new business sales strategy, combined with paid search and organic SEO with a sound content strategy must be part of the new mix. The more strategically businesses can diversify, the closer they will come to being back to past growth numbers—and then to growth even beyond the good old days.”
While 2022 is shaping up to be a year of continued challenge and change for marketers, relying on some familiar elements can provide a number of advantages.
Strong B2C Advantages in 2022
- Rely on Proven Methods as well as New Ideas: While diversification is important, we also know that certain methods enhance visibility more than others. We know this because we have troves of data to support this premise. For instance, SEO optimization, content creation, personalization of the customer experience, and website refinement are all strong tools in every B2C marketer’s arsenal—and this likely won’t change in 2022. Fortunately, many marketers excel in these areas and can leverage experience here to maintain visibility, which will be essential in the coming year.
- Data Remains Crucial: Another key factor that will not change in the next year is the relative importance of data. Data is at the heart of all marketing activities. It informs strategy, development, and delivery of appropriate campaigns that resonate with a brand’s target audience. Luckily, B2C marketers are historically very adept at working with data and using it to their advantage to reach their typical consumer with an effective message.
Knox also highlights the continued importance of data: “Research is now sexy again. There has been so much change in how brands are behaving that businesses have needed to shift their product offerings and services, and they recognize that there is no room for guessing at it. The marketplace is forcing the data to be the decision-maker on next steps. Clearly, data will define all aspects of B2C marketing in the upcoming year.”
- Innovation and Agility Will Drive Growth: Unfortunately, the pandemic forced many businesses, including marketing companies and professionals, to close up shop. Those who could not keep up with the dramatic shifts in the market and in operations failed to adapt and, as a result, cannot function in the current market. While this is tragic for many businesses, the conditions ensured that only the professionals who excelled at strategic innovation and operational agility remained. There is simply no room for the mediocre to thrive any longer.
But Knox sees a silver lining in this cloud: “It’s an exciting time for strategic, creative-thinking marketing professionals because everything is in play. It’s the wild west, and we get to create what will be the norm for the next decade or so. Whether it relates to privacy, how we represent folds within marketing content, or the things we create to move the needle, it’s truly a time of renaissance.”
Knox is spot on. With the market transformation we have seen, these times are akin to a rebirth of the industry—and that metamorphosis will continue to drive imagination and innovation in the months and years ahead.
The coming year will surely be one of continuing change and evolution. As such, B2C marketers must be ready to address the challenges outlined above, as well as leverage all the available advantages that can help them remain relevant and effective in the marketplace, both today and in the future.