Emerging out of a pandemic and into global inflation and a looming recession, 2022 was quite the rollercoaster for brands. The multitude of economic and geopolitical issues, coupled with rising privacy concerns and an increasing need to feel heard, have consumers feeling stretched thin. To survive 2023 with consumer relationships not just intact but even stronger, brands will need to lean into empathy and authenticity, more fully embrace personalization, and leverage analytics to ensure greater impact.
As we head into the new year, our team of thought leaders share their marketing trend predictions.
1. “Brand equity will be the MVP to break through the noise and clutter."
— Jackie Hopkins, Managing Partner, Integrated Communications
The tools, tactics, and channels that brands use to reach customers for engagement will continue to expand in 2023. And in this new world of personal customization and unlimited choice, the barrage is only forecasted to accelerate. Consumers have more information and less time, so it is critical that brands are clear, and get their marketing and communications right.
The customer's decision to engage, and eventually purchase, will rely more than ever on the cumulative associations they have with a brand—gravitating towards brands that evoke a feeling of trust. Brand equity is the MVP in today’s marketing and communications world.
Investments made in building and protecting brand equity in 2023 will reap returns for the long haul. It will allow companies to create and maintain the right associations with consumers to build trust and incite action. Brand equity must be rooted in focused messaging, value propositions, and an ownable brand identity, infused across all marketing and communications activities—and inviting customers to participate with the brand.
When products fade through natural life cycles, it will be the companies that invest in building brand equity through consistency and clarity of value that will empower customers to make purchasing decisions quickly.
2. “CXT: The next big thing that will move your organization forward."
— Anne Catherine Feeney, Partner, Business Consulting
We’ve moved beyond trends of digital maturity and customer lifetime value. Don’t get me wrong—these are all still relevant practices but brace yourself for all things CXT. Customer experience transformation, or CXT, will undoubtedly be the shiny new object for marketers in 2023.
Relevant for all audience types, including B2B, B2C, and even E2E (employer to employee), CXT will force marketers to examine their brands’ macro experiences at every intersection point along a customer’s journey. It’s important to meet these audiences where they are in real time—be it online, on social platforms, or in-person (stores, restaurants, offices)—to ensure a seamless experience. CXT is category-agnostic, meaning any vertical, such as healthcare, retail, CPG, or travel and hospitality, needs to adhere to CXT best practices to stay ahead. This means taking every measure to keep the customer at the core of all brand touch points—in turn, elevating a customer’s experience and affinity for their favorite product, hotel, health benefits, or place of work.
3. “2023: The year of analytics"
— Emily Merkle, Partner, Analytics and Data Science
Analytics awareness is more present in the marketplace than ever before—from Google completing your search before you’ve finished typing the first word to monitoring your fitness activity (or lack thereof) on your smartwatch to football announcers saying, “Take a look at the analytics on that play.” Analytics is no longer a foreign word to consumers. And as consumers talk more about it, brands will want to be (or seem) ahead of the curve, using data and analytics in smart ways to benefit their consumers.
Besides the consumer benefits, as the economy continues to head toward a recession and inflation rises, brands across all industries will double down on analytics. Analytics will no longer be a “nice to have” but will now be essential for building and driving strategy. Brands will need analytics to not only help them understand their business and their customers but help them make the most out of their limited resources in terms of prioritizing marketing and communication efforts that drive the most return on investment. And as customers become more judicious in their spending, brands will need to use data and analytics to show their value to customers in the right ways.
4. “Ditch your old sales playbook and tactics; social commerce fueled by content creators will soar in 2023."
— GL Hendricks, Senior Partner, Integrated Communications
Spend 60 seconds on any social media platform and no matter what your FYP features, without fail you’ll see a content creator unboxing their latest purchase and encouraging their followers to follow the link to purchase their own. And it’s working.
Social commerce is the new e-commerce amplified—and it is only growing. A recent study found that social commerce will hit $56 billion in the U.S. by the end of 2023 and reach $80 billion by 2025.
Social commerce isn’t simply repurposing digital ads or other forms of content for omnichannel execution. To be successful, brands must take a leap of faith—turning their brand over to content creators. The rise and success in social commerce lies in brands partnering with the right content creators for authentic, organic content that incites purchase, drives content-sharing, and invites consumers to become part of brand promotion like never before.
This new sales channel is successful because it allows content creators to use brand messages in their own voices—on appropriate social platforms—to showcase brands in personal and relevant environments. In 2023, successful brands that grow during the current economic challenges will be the ones that step out and embrace content creators to amplify reach and engagement.
5. “Consumers lean into loyalty as the strain of inflation continues to squeeze wallets."
— Katie Berndt, Senior Director, Loyalty and CRM
Whether it’s shopping for groceries, perusing restaurant menus, or attempting to plan a trip, consumers continue to wince at high prices. While inflation may have peaked, there is still a long way to go before it is under control. During times of economic uncertainty, loyalty programs become an important tool for brands and customers alike because they provide ways for both sides of the relationship to show up for the other.
Brands should prioritize their loyalty programs by forming prominent partnerships that can, in turn, mutually protect and grow their current customer bases by providing extra value, exclusive experiences, and new opportunities to earn and burn program currency. Consumers impacted most by the economy are forced to change their buying behavior. Those who are savvy will leverage more loyalty program benefits and focus their spending on a smaller set of brands, choosing those that prioritize trust, show appreciation through personalized benefits, and demonstrate empathy. These key emotional loyalty themes have stood the test of time and will continue to deliver for brands who recognize that meaningful participation reaps big rewards.
6. “Micro-influencers will continue to have a moment."
— Kylie Burness, Director, Integrated Communications
While celebrities can reach mass audiences very quickly, their content often misses on the relatability scale. The once coined tabloid phrase “the stars are just like us” is no more and consumers call out inauthenticity in the comments section.
In 2023, we will see even more brands turning to micro-influencers to win consumer trust. A micro-influencer is a content creator with less than 50K followers and is seen as an “everyday individual” in consumers' eyes. They have a very engaged audience that trusts their recommendations and takes action through comments, clicks, reshares, purchases, and more.
With so many economic unknowns for the year ahead, micro-influencers will be incredibly important to integrate into a brand’s strategy. Consumers may face a hard year ahead and prefer seeing relatable influencer content over a massive celebrity endorsement in their feeds. Not to mention, they boast a great return on investment and are incredibly affordable as brand budgets tighten.
7. “More corporate marketing leaders will move to agile methodologies."
— Laura Smith, Partner, Business Consulting
While corporations have implemented agile methodologies for decades, it has primarily been a practice for software development and IT. However, as we see companies shift to “doing less with more,” gaining alignment across the enterprise on business objectives and taking a data-first approach with agile methodologies is increasingly becoming a priority.
Particularly, we are seeing this shift in marketing organizations of all sizes. Marketing leaders recalibrate agile models to build a culture of continuous improvement, defining test-and-learn prototyping, and instilling real-time collaboration.
For 2023, we’ll see marketing organizations continue to align with business objectives early-on versus later in the sales funnel. This approach allows teams to respond and pivot quickly and adapt solutions as market forces and user journeys change. With this flexibility and adaptability, corporate marketing teams will move from being perceived as a cost center, to a profit center with a seat at the table.
8. “Personalization and customer loyalty will be increasingly intertwined—and ethical data use will be more critical than ever."
— Colin Eagan, Partner, Experience Design
As personalization tech continues to evolve rapidly, everyday brands will be able to customize digital interactions not only at point-of-sale, but across entire customer journeys. Users increasingly expect these connected experiences that travel not only across devices and channels, but long-term brand interactions as well. This merging of micro personalized information design with macro brand loyalty will put a renewed emphasis on organizations to create personalization programs that scale—across content creation and delivery, AI/ML-driven campaigns, and synchronization with authenticated apps and portals.
All of these experiences are driven by data, and the merging of personalization and loyalty will put a heightened emphasis on data privacy. In the upcoming year, expect delivery platforms like web browsers to become increasingly restrictive, aimed at giving users more control over what they share. For example, Google notoriously continues to threaten to eliminate support for third-party cookies, to be replaced by tools like Privacy Sandbox. And while it looks like organizations will get a respite on this cut-over until 2024, the upcoming year will be a critical time for transition planning. We expect more organizations to adopt data strategies built on trust, such as transparent terms-of-use, opt-out mechanisms, and the use of zero-party data.
9. “Mobile devices will become customers' preferred method of interaction throughout their journey with brands."
— Jason Ely, Senior Manager, User Experience
Brands have long recognized the potential of mobile devices as a channel for client engagement and data-gathering for their companies. But 2023 will be the year that customers finally catch up to businesses in understanding the benefits and potential of their mobile devices—and begin using their phones as their main form of communication.
The pandemic accelerated the use of mobile devices in myriad ways: restaurants discovered the benefit of using QR-codes for menus that were both hygienic and easier to update; retailers found value in using augmented reality to allow customers to "view" or “try out” products at home; the travel sector continued to refine their use of phones to reduce friction from traveler interactions with contactless check-in and keyless entry; and the healthcare industry leaned into mobile check-in and document scanning to accelerate the accurate gathering of patient information.
In the coming year customers will expect their on-the-go experience to be more personalized, more powerful, and more customizable than ever before. And brands that are in a position to meet customers where they are—communicating with them on their terms—will see increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.