As the business world welcomes 2023, marketing innovations and digital marketing trends in particular are again in the spotlight. The recent pandemic has had quite an impact on marketing budgets, reducing them to a low record of 6.4% of company revenue in 2021, from 11% in the previous year, according to Gartner’s Annual CMO Spend Survey.
This means companies need to be more creative with their marketing strategies. Brands need to invest heavily in new and innovative ways to connect with their audience, while keeping their budget low. Fortunately, while advertising budgets are struggling, digital ads are gaining attention.
As anticipated, global ad spending decreased by 4.2% in 2020, to a total of $569 billion, according to Forbes. Still, the descending trend applied only to the traditional media, its share of $233 billion representing 18% less than 2019, while digital marketing went up by 8%, reaching $336 billion. Thus, in 2020, digital ads amounted to 59% of all global ad spending.
It also helps that this particular trend has really caught up in third-world countries, like the ones in South America. Last year, for instance, two of the countries with the fastest growing digital advertising markets, globally, were Colombia, with 11.2%, followed by Chile, with 5.9%.
The question for today’s businesses is this: Where should they focus their advertising budgets in the digital landscape? Based on what we’ve seen in the last year, here are some key trends to consider leveraging in 2023 and beyond.
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1. Local Targeting
The marketing industry has been influenced by two real estate trends, that will still have a say in the near future: second-tier cities and the blooming crib economy. On the one hand, people looking more and more to move out of the big cities, into the so called “second-tier” ones will result in an increasing need to localize. On the other hand, marketing strategies will have to adapt to the “work from home” new reality.
With Second-Tier Cities as a popular choice, localization becomes crucial. COVID-19 has been the nudge people needed to move out from the overcrowded, noisy large cities to the quiet, charmful life of white-picket fence houses in the countryside. Even if before the pandemic there was a visible shift from the great cities to second-tier locations, the process has been significantly rushed by the widespread of this epidemia, especially in the cities. Therefore, the demand for residential properties rose, which lead to a record increase in house sales in the United States of 24.7% in 2020.
In terms of advertising, brands will need to adapt their marketing and communication strategies to the new locations, in order to assimilate the changes of the target audience. Fresh placement and pricing plans must be considered, as studies show that two-thirds of the consumers prefer neighborhood stores. Building a highly localized paid campaign hence becomes critical. Our paid search experts can help brands navigate local targeting and localized audience segmentation to leverage the trend and get the best ROAS.
The crib economy
The pandemic has placed a laser focus on the importance of online shopping, home deliveries, virtual work and more. As people tried to be safe, they discovered that staying in and working from home is not only easier, but also more practical. Recent statistics have clearly pointed out a higher work productivity.
Thanks to its many advantages, forecasts indicate that remote work will be the main trend in the next years. And that fast growing crib economy is a trend marketing companies ought to take into account, as homes will become a larger point of sale.
2. Flywheel vs. Funnel
The funnel model was the go-to strategy for years in marketing, but it has finally come to an end, as it was focused on attracting one-time customers, rather than creating a brand loyalty.
The flywheel marketing model aims to keep customers happy and make them loyal to the brand, by engaging them to return after each purchase. It encourages companies to use customer-focused strategies, such as blogs, personalized content, in-person activities etc. The flywheel model becomes most successful when you increase the force of areas with the biggest impact. These are strategies and marketing campaigns you implement, such as inbound marketing, paid advertising, a freemium model, frictionless selling, a customer referral program, and more. Adapting your paid media campaigns to fit the flywheel and give it force is something our marketing experts can help with.
The flywheel can also support expanding the customer base. Word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing remains, even today, the most efficient method in doing so and flywheel technique converts customers into brand advocates. Satisfied consumers will most likely promote a brand’s products and / or services by themselves, to their friends, family or colleagues.
Companies can also leverage various new paid advertising strategies to accelerate the visibility of user-generated content, reviews, and more. There are even options to turn customers into affiliates or advocates for a business with referral-based marketing.
3. Machine Learning
An important trend to consider in marketing, and paid media especially, is machine learning, with many options provided in Google Ads. In spite of being mostly used as an external service, it can be helpful for all types of businesses in implementing and enhancing marketing strategies.
Recently, many Google Services have been upgraded to “Smart” services. Their main objective is to support companies navigate through the complexities of ad targeting, in order to maximize their ROI, meanwhile preserving Google's ad revenue. However, certain such applications should be accessed carefully, since they tend to overstep their role, like Smart Goals in Analytics, which estimates by itself what a good result of a marketing campaign would be, instead of allowing you to decide.
Although the smart features have been developed to make Google Ads less complicated to the small businesses, they offer lower insight and less control over marketing campaigns. Our paid search experts can help leverage these tools so that you can benefit from the insights without losing control over the campaigns.
An update Google introduced this year is Smart Bidding, which helps running bids for large product inventories on Google Shopping. Precis agency explains in this article how the smart service works and, in addition, suggests pragmatic ways to achieve a highly efficient inventory. Another article, from White Shark Media, shows more analysis techniques for machine learning that marketers need to understand and learn.
Machine learning, predilection modeling and other AI solutions are great marketing channels for every company, because marketing technology delivers value at each stage within the customer journey.
4. Ad Optimization
More than two-thirds of the digital ad budget is assigned to Google and Facebook, which means that optimizing the content on these two platforms is a priority for consumer brands. And yet studies show that no more than 9% of the marketers can correctly predict the effect of a 10% change in marketing spend.
Companies must start leveraging new, more effective ways of optimizing their ads to suit a specific audience. Fortunately, Google Ads has already begun rolling out new features to help companies target specific audiences. Audience targeting solutions allow companies to specify things like age group, household income, and preferences. You can even set ad preferences to exclude audiences that might not be relevant to your product or service.
Google Ads also allows advertisers to layer audiences on top of each other, allowing them to use more specific strategies for keyword and demographic targeting. These extremely relevant ads can significantly increase growth while providing companies with deeper insights into their customers.
On social media, a range of targeting tools is already available, alongside solutions for reporting and audience insights that can help companies generate better results.
In the last two years, due to the pandemic, social networks have grown in both content and users. Statistics reported that 520 million new users have joined social media in the first half of 2021, which translates to an increase of 13.1%, or, in other words, an average of 16½ new users every second. This spike in network adoption definitely makes social media a marketing trend to watch for in the coming year. It’s one of the best tools to raise brand awareness.
In an assessment of social media trends, Global Web Index stressed its power on purchase intent. In certain age groups, influencers play a major role in consumer behavior: 27% of Gen Z's are present on social media to follow influencers and are consequently exposed to the influencers’ favorite brands. Their report also shows that Facebook and Instagram are not the only platforms to thrive. Network adoption has diversified, with large numbers of users for TikTok, Snapchat, Twitter and Pinterest. This emphasizes the importance of consumer brands’ presence on these media channel. At Growth Collective, our paid media experts leverage an omni-channel approach that helps brands increase visibility and dominate all channels.
5. Third-party Cookies Alternatives
While marketing strategies based on third-party cookies targeting may still be used until 2023, according to a new announcement from Google, marketers still need to search for replacement tools. The need for alternatives resides in higher levels of privacy and data control demands coming from the customers, demands that must be met in order to achieve brand satisfaction and loyalty.
Marketers could opt for collecting and using first-party data, seeing that first-party cookies have a foreseeable future. Another alternative is trying to obtain personalized consumer targeting without invading user privacy, relying on existing tools such as Google's Privacy Sandbox or FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts). No matter the chosen method - CRM tools, interactive content or surveys - looking for alternatives to 3rd party cookies is certainly a strategy to consider.
Google has also started investing in the new “Ads Data Hub,” which will provide marketers with more comprehensive reporting and measurement tools to help them understand the effectiveness of their ads across multiple screens. Though there will be limitations to this hub, it should provide companies with more immersive insights into their evolving customer behavior.
6. The Rise of Video Marketing
Video advertising has become one of the most valuable tools for marketing teams in the last couple of years. Heading into 2023, the demand for video is likely to continue accelerating. Already, 90% of people say videos help them make better purchasing decisions. Additionally, video also causes customers to spend up to 88% more time on website pages and boosts conversions by up to 80%.
Fortunately, for companies investing in paid media, there are plenty of ways to add video to your marketing strategy. Google’s integration with YouTube means you can create ads directly for other YouTube videos and promote your content to already-engaged audiences. There’s even a machine learning tool that can help brands create dynamic four-to-six second bumper ads.
Video is also easy to access on a range of social channels. In fact, platforms like Instagram and Facebook have become increasingly video-driven. There are Reels, short-form, and long-form videos companies can use to advertise their products. According to studies, 1 in 3 users who watch videos on social media platforms engage with branded content.
Even solutions like Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services could give companies more ways to showcase their businesses to video fans.
7. New Platforms for Paid Media
While digital advertising platforms like Bing, Facebook, and Google are extremely popular among today’s business leaders, they’re far from the only way to reach your audience. Increasingly, new platforms are beginning to enter the fray, providing customers with more specific, tailored audiences they can reach out to.
Experts predict more companies from every industry will begin to access new ad types and landscapes for promoting their content. For instance, Amazon is starting to nip at the heels of market leaders like Facebook and Google with their own advertising solutions. Amazon Ads are displayed both on and off Amazon, leading to rapid adoption among e-commerce brands.
Amazon also has a unique advantage to offer companies over solutions offered by Google and Facebook–it targets buyer intent. Facebook and Google give you access to a broader audience, but your prospects won’t always be looking to buy. Alternatively, Amazon gives you direct access to customers who are already further down the sales funnel.
Remember to consider the benefits of Microsoft Bing too. This platform is often overlooked by marketers, but 52% of B2B users on Microsoft Bing are decision makers. Additionally, Microsoft is currently in the process of expanding it’s audience network to a range of new markets.
8. Voice and Visuals in PPC Search
Not only are the platforms available for marketing evolving, but the tools customers use to search for brand information are also changing. In 2022, sales from voice-search-related content were expected to reach a value of $40 billion, and 50% of customers were expected to use voice-based shopping. Experts believe this results from the rise of digital voice assistants in the modern world.
Around 8 billion voice assistants are set to be in use by 2023, so it’s worth preparing your paid media strategies for voice early. Start by ensuring you integrate long-tail keywords into your content, particularly when trying to rank for local searches. Around 55% of customers use voice search to find local business options. It’s also worth optimizing for conversational and question-based keywords where possible.
Outside of voice, customers are also using more “visual” search. For instance, clients might upload a picture they like into Google to help them find something similar to purchase. To stay ahead of this trend, companies using paid search may need to think about adding a video catalog of their products to their website, with metadata to help search engines categorize the information.
9. PPC Automation Options
PPC or “Pay Per Click” advertising is still one of the most attractive tools for paid media advertisers. However, in the past, bidding for and implementing PPC strategies has been notoriously complex. Going into 2023 and beyond, we’re likely to see more companies simplifying the process with the use of AI automation.
We’ve already discussed how AI automation and machine learning can improve smart bidding strategies. However, there are a lot of additional automation possibilities for companies to discover too. Going forward, companies will begin using more automated solutions to help test their ads before they roll them out to customers. Automated testing processes will make it easier to track which strategies will lead to the best results for specific business goals.
Automation can help companies to enhance CPC by looking for ad auctions that are more likely to generate revenue. The right solutions may even be able to stop low-performing ads automatically, and issue more budget to the strategies building the best results.
The key to success with automation is learning when to use it effectively. While companies can pass a lot of the work of paid media marketing onto machines, they’ll still need human professionals to assist with writing copy and generating results. Paid media can’t be a completely hands-off experience, even with AI writers to help develop content.
10. Smart Segmentation and Google AdMob
Paid media is spreading across a range of devices and channels in today’s evolving marketplace. As the mobile landscape continues to grow, businesses are unlocking new opportunities via unique Google ad solutions. Mobile apps are expected to achieve a revenue of around $490 billion in 2023, giving brands an excellent opportunity to reach more customers.
Google AdMob now offers advertising on mobile solutions, which comes with access to various smart analytics and reporting features for business leaders. AdMob can provide instant alerts to companies when metrics like CPM and impressions encounter changes. Even app creators can leverage the Google Ad environment to determine where their ads are displayed.
For instance, companies can choose to display ads only to those most likely to make an in-app purchase. There’s a Rewarded Ads report to show companies how users interact with rewarded ads, user engagement cards, and simple comparison reports.
For companies leveraging the evolving mobile world, there are several new ways to engage, convert, and drive customer action.
11. Extended Reality Opportunities
Not so long ago, the concept of using VR and AR in your paid media strategies might have seemed relatively futuristic. Now, we’re seeing rapid demand for more “immersive” experiences. In the paid media world, companies can leverage both virtual and augmented reality to interact with their customers in new ways, promote unique virtual experiences, and even collect insights.
For instance, companies that leverage virtual reality for their pay-per-click ads can tap into the embedded technology available in wearable devices to learn more about their customers. VR technology can use eye-tracking mechanisms to activate an ad and track a customer’s interest. VR can give businesses insights into what parts of a screen a viewer is looking at (at any given time), making it easier to plan future paid media strategies.
Companies don’t necessarily need to invest in extensive developer resources to get involved with extended reality, either. Most mobile devices are evolving to support augmented reality features. Plus, companies can even create 360-degree video ads to help consumers learn more about products or explore valuable content.
For instance, New Balance launched a display and 360-video ad to help customers explore the features of their new running shoes and improve the educational experience before purchase.
12. Responsive Search Ads
One major change paid media professionals have seen to the advertising landscape in the last year is the loss of expanded text ads. As of June 2022, companies can no longer create “ETAs,” which require static, separate advertisements for every combination of content they want to show. Instead, “responsive” search ads are taking over on virtually every platform.
Responsive search ads are dynamic entities designed to change according to the search terms used by specific customers. Introducing this technology is part of the online search engine’s strategy to make navigating the online world easier for customers. As a result, companies leveraging PPC campaigns for their paid media will need to change their strategy.
Marketers will need to come up with a range of headlines and descriptions for each ad they create, which Google will dynamically sort through when presenting information to customers. Google automatically uses different combinations of content for each user, depending on their search requirements. Although this could seem like a complicated update, it does mean you can diversify your ad sets with minimal effort, and potentially reach a more engaged audience.
In 2023, it will be crucial to master your responsive ad techniques with a diverse collection of digital assets you know the search engines can combine coherently. It’s also worth noting that responsive ads typically optimize for click-through rates rather than conversions. This could mean Google prioritizes ads with high CTRs without considering good quality leads.
13. Stronger Integration between Organic and Paid Media
Finally, moving into 2023 and beyond, companies will need to think more carefully about how to enhance the connection between their organic assets, and their paid media strategies. For years now, PPC and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) have gone hand in hand. Most companies see better results when integrating SEO and PPC campaigns, focusing more on aligned keywords.
As customers continue to connect with companies across various channels and use various forms of content to inspire their purchasing decisions, it will be crucial to create a multi-channel strategy. Businesses focusing exclusively on paid media may need to think more carefully about leveraging both owned media (podcasts, videos, and blogs) and earned media (PR and reports) to boost their credibility and strengthen brand presence.
Crucially, this process will require some careful planning from marketing teams. Brands will need to analyze their customers carefully and map out the entire purchasing journey to determine what sorts of content customers consume at every step of the buying funnel.
Once they’ve developed a deeper understanding of their target audience, brands will need to consistently examine the results of their PPC, SEO, and other marketing campaigns, to figure out ways of aligning the full marketing stack.
What Should You Do With These Trends?
Today’s marketing world is in constant evolution, shifting with every fabric, thus forcing brands to adapt. You must stay on top of these shifts, and preferably ahead of the curve too, in order to connect with your audience.
This means your marketing strategies, your ad campaigns, and paid social initiatives, all need to be built with these trends in mind, as well as with flexibility. They must be able to adjust to new customers, new purchase behavior and especially to the faster and far more reaching online platforms.
Marketers have always been agents of change, adapting to each of their clients, but nowadays, change is happening everywhere: in the consumers’ living styles, a more active presence on social media, their demand for higher quality of products and services, their need for faster deliveries and last, but not least, their more pressing concern for privacy and protection of personal information. Our paid media experts can help your business not only adapt to the trends, but also continue to grow and make an impact in your field.
This article was updated for 2023 by Rebekah Carter.