5 Performance Marketing Trends to Watch in 2022

From new payment solutions to the continuing convergence of social media and shopping, brands must navigate several purchase paths

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Brands that can stay flexible with the current environment while delivering products and services consumers are looking for will always come out ahead, writes Jessica Hawthorne-Castro.

As consumer preferences change and the various ways to reach them continue to proliferate, finding the right approach can be challenging. There are generational factors to consider, emerging opportunities to explore and new hurdles to jump along the path to finding the right marketing mix.

To complicate things further, every new year seems to bring a host of new opportunities worth exploring. To help, we’ve whittled down our list of trends to watch to five key points all performance marketers will want to pay attention to in 2022. Here they are:

1. New ways for consumers to pay for their purchases

From cryptocurrency to Venmo to simplified multi-pay financing arrangements like Afterpay and Affirm, your customers expect these and other options to be at their fingertips as they hit “buy now” on your website. They’re also looking for a seamless experience enabled by QR codes, which cut down on the number of clicks it takes to look at, read reviews about and buy a product or service. These and other trends took hold in 2021 and we expect them to continue and even escalate over the coming months.

2. Social media continues its reign

Try as they might, the powers that be have yet to come up with a more engaging and interesting way to connect with customers and prospects online. For now, at least, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube continue to offer marketers the most affordable and direct way to achieve that goal. And because younger generations are among the biggest users of social media, it’s also an effective way to reach Millennial and Gen Z consumers on their own territory. The social media fire has been stoked and 2022 may be the year that these platforms become the go-to media opportunity for a wider range of companies.

3. Marketers are obsessed with monetizing TikTok

Within these social media circles, TikTok stands out as one of the biggest opportunity areas for the year ahead. That’s because marketers spent much of 2021 figuring out how to monetize this platform and, from our own research, some of them have found the right combination. And while TikTok doesn’t offer video creators the opportunity to monetize their videos, it does provide an Ads Manager service that companies can use to choose a goal, select an audience, set a budget and design an ad. TikTok may be considered one of the newer social media platforms, but it’s already proven to be a major competitor by doubling the number of Snapchat, Pinterest and Twitter users within a short timeframe. Amazon even created an entire page based on popular products recommended by TikTok users at Tik Tok Amazon Finds.

4. Subscription delivery services evade the supply chain challenges

The global pandemic disrupted supply chains to the point where products lingered unfinished on the manufacturing floor; container ships sat stacked up outside of the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles; and stores left entire store aisles empty for lack of product to place on them. Any company that made, sold or distributed products likely managed disruption at some point during 2021, but organizations whose models incorporated subscription delivery services were able to avoid some or all of this strife. Software companies, TV networks, travel services, publications and others all fulfilled orders virtually, thus avoiding the supply chain snarls. We see this continuing during the year ahead as more companies add virtual subscription opportunities to their product offerings.

5. YouTube continues to morph into a shopping destination

In November, YouTube launched a weeklong livestreaming event called “Holiday Stream and Shop.” According to BNN Bloomberg, select social media stars sold their own merchandise and brand-name products directly on the platform. In the weeks that followed, YouTubers could hawk goods from their videos, a concept known as “shoppable video.” The publication says this is all part of the company’s “biggest push yet to become a shopping destination.” This will likely be a game changer for 2022 and beyond, seeing that purchases made on social media exceeded $36 billion in 2021. We can’t wait to watch the continued convergence of video and social media—an opportunity that will be open to both emerging and established brands over the coming year (and beyond).

As we usher in 2022, brands will continue to need to meet consumers’ growing needs with the discussed payment method expansion and reaching them across streaming and social media platform. The types of brands that can stay flexible with the current environment while delivering products and services consumers are looking for to enhance their lives will always come out ahead and succeed.

Hold On, We’ve Entered a Digital Marketing Time Warp

How performance marketers can leverage accelerated industry trends

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Digital channels were well on their way to becoming an advertising delivery mode of choice for performance marketers when the pandemic emerged in March 2020.

In the months that followed, the global crisis pushed digital marketing forward anywhere from five to 10 years (depending on whom you ask). This disrupted the normal timeline of marketing, throwing the industry into warp speed—and it’s unlikely to slow down.

These changes cut across generational lines. With millennials and Gen Z having grown up with mobile technology at their fingertips, they became the first logical targets for companies moving their advertising to the digital space in the last two years. But the pandemic-driven shutdowns and restrictions also impacted Gen X, baby boomer and silent generation consumers, who turned to the virtual world for their content and entertainment.

Moving the needle quickly
Digital marketing matured to a point that it wasn’t expected to reach until at least 2026, creating opportunities and challenges for performance marketers to meet consumers in their new customer journey and timeline. Favorite engagement points included online video, pay-per-click advertising, social, CTV/OTT, sponsored content, mobile and email.

Consumer product good giant Unilever is honing and optimizing its marketing plans while also setting its sights on reaching consumers at multiple touch points. Performance marketers can borrow a page from this playbook as they lay out their plans for 2022 and beyond.

“We have to change with our consumers, engage with them differently than before on digital,” Unilever’s Min Kang stated in Marketing After Covid: Brands & Marketers on Their Biggest Learnings. “Digital allows us to be agile and flexible, with a strategic approach to promotions that balances scale, efficiency and effectiveness.

“The key is to understand all these different dynamics and consumer preferences and deliver a rich consumer engagement that brings value at scale,” Kang added.

Social takes off
With face-to-face experiences replaced with virtual interactions, social media became a shining star for performance marketers working to reach younger generations of buyers. From TikTok to Facebook and Snapchat, the number of advertising opportunities proliferated as more brands turned to social media platforms to spread awareness about their products and services.

“With concerns about brand safety, supply chain distribution, daily changes in shopping behavior and more, advertisers learned the importance of needing to be able to adapt quickly within their social campaign strategies,” Quotient’s Drew Hall states in the same white paper. “This included cross-platform designs and changes in media targeting and creative messaging.”

Be ready for anything
With the upcoming year promising new opportunities and challenges for performance marketers, it’s time to start honing those plans with a ready-for-anything mindset. Be prepared to make quick pivots, pay attention to consumer trends—including any generational-specific developments—and come to terms with the fact that this digital marketing time warp that we’re all experiencing may carry into the new year.

As Janet Balis wrote in the Harvard Business Review, getting to know your customer segment better is the perfect starting point for marketers trying to adjust to this new normal. She advises brands to communicate in “very local and precise” terms, understand the situation on the ground (by country, state, zip code, etc.), and create personally relevant messaging for the target audience.

Using a blend of art and science, performance marketers can effectively reach, engage with and sell to consumers in any business environment. Balis added, “Creating a personal, human connection within any commercial message requires defining consumer segments that describe people according to multiple dimensions that influence their purchasing behavior, from their psychographics to attitudinal characteristics.”

Understanding Why TikTok Appeals to Young People Is Key to Brands Reaching Them

It’s no secret that young people gravitate to the newest things, the latest trends and the hottest styles as they grow and establish their individual identities. For many teens and college-age students right now, social media newcomer TikTok stands out as the preferred conduit for watching, creating and sharing short videos.

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In July, TikTok upped its video length limit from 1 minute to 3 minutes with the goal of supporting even richer storytelling and entertainment. “With all the ways our community has redefined expression in under 60 seconds, we’re excited to see how people continue to entertain and inspire with a few more seconds and a world of creative possibilities,” the company said.

“A lot of times you don’t even have to search for what you’re looking for on TikTok. It’s just there.”

A prime target
With a longer video format to work with and a young user base to tap into, TikTok is a prime target for performance marketers looking to rise above the digital clutter and reach new audiences. Offering a continuous stream of content that users can scroll through, the platform curates the videos for each person based on their viewing history.

“A lot of times you don’t even have to search for what you’re looking for on TikTok,” said one college student. “It’s just there.” She especially likes content such as fashion videos that provide information about where to buy the clothing and accessories, and clips about what to bring to college, where to buy your books and how to manage your time.
TikTok also helps to break down some of the social anxieties that younger consumers may have naturally developed as part of the social media generation. That’s because it’s more helpful and collaborative than other social media platforms. It encourages questions and collaboration, for example, and is known for its supportive, less-judgmental tones.

Finally, TikTok promotes individuality and helps users cope with the stress of the global pandemic and isolation by helping to connect people.

Types of TikTok advertising
Similar to the early days of digital advertising, TikTok creators may display “I’m not being paid for this” disclaimers on their clips, while influencers who create ads label them as such at the bottom of their videos. I would estimate that most of endorsements fall into the first bucket, and are seen as genuine, organic recommendations. And while these may not be official, paid advertising relationships, it’s likely that the creators are getting free products and/or teeing themselves up to become influencers.

Many of these influencers have millions of followers and have previously signed brand deals on platforms like YouTube and Instagram to promote products and services to their audience. “TikTok is no different, and the power of followers can be harnessed the same way,” Ruth Matthews writes in 6 Easy Ways to Use TikTok for Marketing in a Gen Z World.

Because successful content on TikTok isn’t overly curated and relies on user input, influencers can get creative with how they promote brands. “Some examples of this are wearing a piece of relevant clothing or filming themselves using one of your products as part of their day-to-day lifestyle,” Matthews writes.

Still, the balance between brands and influencers over creative license is delicate—and desire to go viral often comes up against a brand’s stricter standards of what it can get behind.

Another opportunity for brands on the platform is ecommerce. TikTok recently announced a partnership with Shopify, including the launch of TikTok Shopping, a partnership with select Shopify merchants. The introduction of new tools will allow Shopify merchants to create, run and optimize their TikTok marketing campaigns directly from the Shopify dashboard. Kylie Jenner is among the early adopters of the new service for her Kylie Cosmetics brand.

Taking that first step
For performance marketers, TikTok is a viable platform for reaching younger consumers and getting their products into the algorithm for recommendations (e.g., back to school, trends, clothing, electronics, etc.) The return on investment can be high because this is where younger audiences are spending their time right now. Meeting them where they are with relevant, useful content and product offerings can be well worth the effort.

Making Up for Lost Time: How Younger Consumers Are Spending Their Summers

What Gen Y and Z are doing and how performance marketers can reach them where they are

As the world continues to open up, marketers are rethinking how they connect with and engage Gen Y and Z consumers, many of whom have been cooped up for the last 16 or so months.

Summer is looking very different for Gen Y and Z consumers right now. Now aged 13 to 39, these generation groups are spending more time with their families, taking outdoor hikes, enjoying time off from school and hanging out with their friends. For entertainment, they’re going to the movies, taking vacations and watching summer sports.

According to a recent YPulse survey, Gen Y and Z are doing more of all of these things as the nation continues to emerge from the global pandemic. For example, 80% of the under-40 set is spending time with family this summer (up from 66% in 2020), 62% are enjoying barbecues (versus 41% last year) and 60% are going to the beach or pool (36% in 2020).

“Summer 2020 was shaped by the pandemic,” YPulse points out. “And while there has been uncertainty around whether ‘normal’ would make a return this year, [our] data shows that young people are planning to get out and make up for lost time this summer.”

Meeting them where they are
Tired of only being able to socialize via mobile phone or Zoom, Gen Y and Z want to get outside, hike, explore the mountains and take a dip in the ocean. As they get back to experiencing some of life’s simple pleasures, they’re also spending more time with friends and family.

“Everyone’s been stuck inside for months, so we want to get outside. It’s not necessarily about doing a big activity; we just want to get out,” said one 20-something Hawthorne employee who shared her thoughts with me for this article. With TikTok as a favored social channel, she says she’s been seeing more targeted ads on that platform plus more billboards and signpost stickers popping up around her town.

Here are four more avenues that marketers can explore as they attempt to pin down their Gen Z and Y audiences this summer:

Social media ads. The TikTok “For You” pages feature continuous, scrolling videos that feature subtle ads made to look like other TikToks. Viewers may not realize they’re watching an ad until they’re halfway through it. Snapchat stories takes a similar approach, but using articles that people can read by clicking through to them, while Instagram stories include sponsored feeds—also subtle and not as noticeable for viewers.

Music to their ears. Streaming music services like Spotify, Apple and YouTube also present opportunities for marketers, knowing that Gen Z’ers heading to a beach barbecue will probably take along a speaker with them. With audio ads, marketers can reach active listeners on any device, in any environment, throughout the day. That’s because the ads are served up between songs, while there are no distractions.

Geotargeting. The delivery of different content to visitors based on their geolocations, geotargeting helps companies reach Gen Y and Z consumers when they are out and about. If they’re gathered around a firepit set up in a restaurant’s outdoor seating area, for example, these youngers are constantly checking their phones and social feeds. The group that plans to hit the beach within the next few days may need new beach towels, umbrellas or coolers for the outing. Using geotargeting, marketers can hit them while they’re making plans and writing up their shopping lists.

Video games. They may be heading outdoors, but Gens Y and Z still love their video games. This presents an opportunity for marketers to create in-app ads on the popular gaming platforms. According to Deloitte’s 2021 Digital Media Trends survey, Gen Z consumers say video games are their top entertainment activity, with 87% of them playing video games on a daily or weekly basis. “Video games were already growing significantly before Covid-19, but have been amplified during the pandemic,” Deloitte points out. “Many are playing daily to fill idle time, connect with friends, compete with opponents and escape into stories.”

Rethinking connections and engagement
As the world continues to open up, marketers are rethinking how they connect with and engage Gen Y and Z consumers, many of whom have been cooped up for the last 16 or so months. And while the national vaccine rollout is still in full swing, and the worldwide impacts of the pandemic have yet to subside, individuals are looking to make up for lost time this summer. For marketers, it’s the perfect opportunity to meet consumers where they are and give them valuable information, content and products that they’re hungering for.

5 Travel Boom Trends for Performance Marketers to Watch in 2021

Go-to destinations are being replaced with out-of-the-way places

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There’s a lot of pent-up demand in the leisure travel world right now, which means companies forced to mothball their sales and marketing efforts in 2020 are in a great position to reboot those initiatives and tap into the post-Covid travel boom. From hotel operators to RV parks to online booking companies and all points in between, a diverse range of companies suddenly has the opportunity to come back stronger than ever.

According to Expedia Group’s 2021 Travel Trends Report, 42% of travelers are “more hopeful” about travel or drove them to book an upcoming trip. The report found that 44% will take more trips in 2021 than 2020, with younger generations traveling the most overall. And, roughly one-third of respondents said their next trip will be a week, or longer.

5 key trends to watch

As they help consumers break out of pandemic isolation and resume some level of “normal” activities, companies in the travel industry may find themselves operating in a very different environment that what they’re used to. Here are five trends performance marketers should pay attention to when developing new strategies for reaching this audience:

1. Longer trips are in order

Weekend trips away from home may not cut it for the travelers that were relegated to staycations in 2020. According to Concur TripIt data, there’s already been an increase in trip duration—spanning flight, lodging, and car rentals—signaling that travelers are planning trips with an intent to stay longer. “And without the physical confines of work or school,” Localogy reports, “longer stays at short-term rentals will continue to be a popular choice for business and leisure travelers alike.”

2. It’s about culture, reconnecting and healing

Expedia says that travelers plan to spend an average of $3,444 for their next trips, with millennials expected to spend “significantly more.” The reasons behind the travel vary: 63% of respondents said travel creates greater cultural understanding while 56% see it as a healing mechanism.

For others, being able to travel again means reconnecting with loved ones and family members that they missed visiting in 2020.

3. Different generations have varying travel priorities


Americans still prioritize travel to be close to family (32%), according to a recent Airbnb study, but equally prioritize a new experience or destination (31%), preferably nearby, followed by a return to a favorite destination (25%). Older Americans (50+) are most interested in future travel to be close to family (33%) and to revisit a favorite spot (32%), followed by a new experience or destination (29%).

Younger Americans remain most interested in a second trip as a new experience or destination (35%), followed by being close to family (31%), being close to nature (23%) and returning to a favorite place (23%).

4. Go-to destinations are being replaced with out-of-the-way places

According to Airbnb, the top 10 destination cities for travelers (ranked by nights stayed) in 2019 were Barcelona, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, New York, Paris, Rome, Seoul, and Toronto.

“In 2020, smaller, lower-profile destinations saw major growth in demand,” it says, citing the largest year-over-year increases in searches for 2021 bookings as: Derbyshire, U.K.; Rodanthe (on the coast of North Carolina); Forks, Wash. (the main setting for the Twilight series); and the Muskoka Lakes (a few hours’ drive from Toronto).

5. Trip cancellation insurance gains in popularity

Coming off a year that saw many people cancelling trips and then trying to get their deposits back, travelers are covering their assets with trip cancellation insurance. In fact, revenues for the global travel insurance market are expected to reach $40 billion by 2028 (up from $21 billion in 2019).

Credit the fact that travelers are encountering new requirements that could impact their travel plans and their travel insurance needs.

As companies in the travel industry help consumers make up for lost time,—vacation, postponed holiday gatherings and missed family time—people are optimistic about getting moving again.

This presents a great opportunity for performance marketers to plan ahead, understand the competitive landscape targeting travelers and plant their stakes in this “next normal” leisure travel environment

Seeing Is Believing: Why Visual Search Works

Gen Z and millennials have embraced this way of shopping, and it’s time brands did too

Instead of text-based searches and sifting through pages of results, visual search enables enhanced, modern interfaces that help curate and review buying options faster, which comes naturally to Gen Z and millennials. Thanks to the convergence of computer vision, machine learning and neuroscience, visual search is helping marketers meet these customers where they are by returning the most relevant search results based on similarities (e.g., color, style, shape, etc.)

With 90% of information processed by the human brain being visual, and that brain’s ability to identify images it’s viewed for as little as 13 milliseconds, brands using visual search are definitely onto something. These companies are not only feeding the new generations of shoppers’ craving for automation, they’re also opening the window for all generations to test the visual search waters.

The ‘easy’ button
Research shows that 62% of millennials are more interested in visual search capability than any other new technology, and that over 600 million visual searches are done on Pinterest every month. The process finds customers looking for products with a photo or other image versus keywords that are typically used in search engines. They can simply take a picture of the item, upload it to a visual search engine and be presented with the similar items available to purchase. It’s as easy as that.
For example, using an uploaded image of a blue prom dress, a visual search would enable someone to shop for an identical or similar dress online. And because visual search engines rely on neural networks that leverage machine learning, these engines are constantly expanding their fields of experience. As they become “smarter,” these search engines deliver more accurate, relevant results to shoppers.

From Pinterest to Bing to Amazon
Many online brands are successfully using visual search. Pinterest Lens allows customers to use their photo of an item to find out where to buy it or search for similar products, all while viewing ads for options for sale on other platforms; Google Lens recognizes objects and details via a camera; and Bing Visual Search allows consumers to search for specific elements within images (versus having to sort through a list of results) by clicking “visual search.”
Amazon has been in the visual search game since 2019, when it introduced StyleSnap. Shoppers click the camera icon in the upper right hand corner of their Amazon app, select the StyleSnap option, and then upload a photograph or screenshot of the desired outfit. StyleSnap presents recommendations for similar items on Amazon that match the look in the photo, factoring in parameters like brand, price range and customer reviews.

Putting visual search to work
For performance marketers, visual search provides a new channel for reaching Gen Z and millennial consumers who either don’t want to use text-based searches or are seeking new, automated ways to find stuff online. With these new highly visual consumers, and many search engines already offering visual search capabilities, this capability has become an opportunity that direct marketers can’t afford to ignore.
Consider this: Visual results are going to show up higher in a search engine’s rankings. That means your results appear faster, are seen more often and get better conversion rates than non-visual results. Younger generations of shoppers already love visual search, but it won’t be long before all consumers take to it and come to expect it. With 35% of marketers already planning to optimize their own websites for visual search, one can assume that number will only continue to grow in 2021.

As companies look for new ways to harness the attention of younger, tech-savvy shoppers, visual search may rise to the top as an effective way to align the creativity of the human brain with advanced technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence. And with visual search conversions providing 85% higher returns than textual search results, the more “visualized” your brand becomes, the more customers you’ll be able to attract and engage online.

Performance Marketers Need to Watch These 5 Consumer Trends in 2021

After a year of chaos and uncertainty, these are some of the interests and behaviors that are here to stay

The beauty category is expected to continue growing in 2021.
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Never stagnant and ever evolving, consumer buying behaviors took center stage in 2020 as companies tried to keep up with a string of impacts driven by both world and national events of this unique year.

Through it all, several key trends began to emerge. With more employees working remotely, and people spending more time at home, ecommerce sales shot through the roof. Applications like Zoom and social media outlets became the de facto communication tools for co-workers, families and friends as they acclimated to flexible home and work arrangements.

With fewer “outside outlets”–i.e. gyms, social events, concerts, and vacations–available in the near term, here’s how we expect these and other trends to continue to evolve in 2021:

1. Health is top of mind
With health concerns taken on a new importance in 2020, vitamins, supplemental products and telemedicine have exploded and enabled a more flexible, personal and pro-active approach to the category. With more time on videoconferencing, people were able to take a good, long look at themselves for what could have been hours of video conferencing a day and were able to prioritize their health and appearance.

Health and wellness apps like Calm have resonated strongly with consumers in 2020 and will continue growing in 2021. It doesn’t matter if someone is working remotely, homeschooling their children, or working on laptops from their kitchen tables, people still want to put their best foot forward. Home gym equipment like the Peloton had long waiting periods, since they could not produce or ship product fast enough, and demand for subscription-based workout platforms and remote personal training also increased. In the fitness market, we saw a major increase in new health micro-tracking features across fitness and wearable brands.

2. Consumers will always want to look and feel good
The normal beauty regime was supplemented by elective surgeries and the rollout of online makeup platforms like L’Oréal’s Signature Faces. However, the younger generations want an authentic and unfiltered aesthetic where they can also feel immersed in the brand. Gen Zers are searching for more authentic influencers who are uninhibited to reveal their complex personalities and honest and vulnerable lives, according to F-Trend TrendSight.

3. Home is where the heart is
Throughout the pandemic, there’s been a big focus on consumer products that have anything to do with the home. Whether it’s remodeling your kitchen with new appliances or just learning to cook for the first time, people have had a renewed focus on anything home, family and food. The home has become an education hub, an office space–sometimes for two parents–and the entertainment center across all ages. As a result, home repairs and services have exploded as people took pride in their homes and safe environments. Oven-ready meals or a boxed food delivery services that could help you cook at home with your family, created a fun, learning experience to deter from the norm and increased family engagement.

4. Direct shipments and curbside pickup is here to stay
These widely adopted practices provide customers with a mobile-first, contactless option that eliminates waiting in line or searching for items in store. For consumers, the on-demand, convenient and customer-friendly is now the norm. For businesses, it provides another channel in which to engage and an opportunity to optimize customer experiences that can lead to repeatable behavior and increasing brand loyalty. There have obviously been huge gains with companies that have shipped direct to home, including Amazon, whose revenues increased by half-a-trillion dollars in 2020.

5. Esports will continue to gain ground
Online, interactive communities like esports continue to expand and wade into the mainstream. Expect to see an increase in eSports programming on linear TV that will reach new, incremental audiences and casual gaming fans while giving advertisers another option to raise awareness with an otherwise “unreachable” young, male demographic.

The exponential growth and adoption of e-commerce combined with opportunistic buying and have all led to condensed and shifted consumer journey. Also, the increasing user generated video content to launch and support brands, driven by the rise of Tik Tok, will expand further with YouTube, Facebook, IG, Twitter and Snapchat. This expanded video landscape will shift consumer engagement. As the traditional sales funnel has shifted, smart marketers are rethinking how they approach, engage with, and sell across all generations of customers.