Tomorrow’s Online Marketing: Long Fence or Wide Open?

Welcome to the future of digital marketing! As the line between marketing and technology blurs, online marketing continues to evolve.

The concept of ‘retinification’ – taking inspiration from the way our eyes work – underpins many marketing innovations.

From the way we browse the internet to our fascination with Augmented Reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR), all bets are off when it comes to how and where consumers interact with digital marketing messages.

E-commerce vs. Retail Marketing

If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering which trend to follow: e-commerce marketing or retail marketing?

E-commerce, or electronic commerce, primarily covers the buying and selling of goods and services using electronic methods, such as online marketplaces and mobile apps. 

According to HubSpot Blogs research, 59% of marketers say they use e-commerce tactics to gain market share, while 41% say they use more traditional retail methods. Still, in 2022, marketers say they’re going to ramp up their e-commerce strategies, even if just to gain that all-important market share.

In a nutshell, we’re going to see an increase in e-commerce activities, such as online buying and selling, as a means to consume digital content.

The Rise of TikTok

A social media platform where users can share and discover content that is both entertaining and educational, TikTok is one of the biggest cultural phenomenons of the past year. 

The app’s success isn’t a surprise. According to TikTok, 77% of their users report that the app helps them ‘learn something new’, while 66% say it provides ‘entertainment’.

Given the platform’s massive user base and growing influence, it’s no wonder brands and marketers are jumping on the bandwagon.

Amongst the horde, we’ve seen a veritable gold rush of brand and product placements, as well as entertainment value. Let’s take a look at how marketers are harnessing the power of TikTok:

Product Placements

It’s well documented that consumers are bombarded with advertisements on social media platforms, often finding their way to content that is ‘sponsored’ or paid for by a brand. However, the ways in which we receive these messages are changing, as marketers find innovative ways to integrate their products into users’ daily lives.

If your product isn’t specifically tied to a brand, it’s a case of ‘figure it out as you go’. The bottom line is that consumers are much more influenced by brands when they see these advertisements in a stream, especially when those ads are entertaining or educational sources of content.

Entertainment Value

In an age where people are distracted by their phones, especially during their down time, marketers are looking to other avenues to get their messages across. 

If, as a marketer, you’re considering using an app like TikTok to get your message out there, you need to establish a balance between educating and entertaining your audience.

An entertaining video is one that will engage with your audience and keep them interested in your content. This applies to everything from video games to informative documentaries to Q&As with thought leaders.

Mixed Reality

It goes without saying that we’re living in a technological era, where AI, AR and VR are changing the way we interact and experience the world around us. 

Alongside these emerging technologies, marketers are also jumping on the ‘mixed reality’ bandwagon, blending real and virtual worlds to create a digital twin of reality.

So, how exactly does one create a digital twin of reality? It starts with a good camera and some software that can handle 3D objects.

With a bit of luck and some post-production magic, you can turn your 2D photos and videos into lifelike 3D models that interact with the real world around you – like a real-life PokemonGo! – bringing your products to life and placing them in the most convenient location for your audience. 

This isn’t a perfect strategy, as the technology can come with its share of glitches, but it’s an excellent starting point. Once you have your 3D models, bringing them to life using a combination of AI and AR will make them more lifelike, offering a much more realistic experience to your audience. 

What makes this approach particularly effective is that, while you’re teaching your audience about the benefits of your product, you’re also giving them a taste of what that product is like in real life. This blending of the physical and digital worlds is highly effective, as it helps users feel like they’re experiencing something new even when using familiar technology. 

Augmented Reality

If you’re a business owner, marketer or an advertiser looking for ways to grow your brand’s awareness, you’ve no doubt heard of the hype around Augmented Reality (AR). 

This is basically blending the virtual and real worlds, so that what you see in reality is supplemented by additional information. While still in its infancy, AR offers tremendous potential to marketers looking to expand their reach and engage with consumers where they live rather than just where they look.

Businesses can use AR to place virtual information alongside physical objects in the real world. So, if you’ve ever played PokemonGo, you’ll know exactly how AR can work:

  • You physically hold your phone up to the environment, so that the screen displays what’s around you (think of the creepy phone cases that spring up all of a sudden when you pick up your phone)
  • You then scan items in the real world with the camera on your phone, which are then matched with PokemonGo’s creatures (your audience will find this process adorable)
  • When an item is scanned and matched with a creature, that creature will appear on your mobile device, waiting to be scanned for battle

The above example is obviously a fictionalized account of how something like PokemonGo could work, but the underlying technology is extremely viable for marketers looking to bring the magic of the digital world to life in the real world.

To date, the biggest challenge for marketers has been finding useful and engaging content to feed this growing appetite for information. 

Luckily, with the help of AI and sophisticated algorithms, marketers can now easily find the content that their audiences want to see, while still having brand safety measures in place to avoid inappropriate content.

Virtual Reality

If there’s one area that consumers have fully embraced the transition to digital, it’s VR. Virtual reality immerses the user in a computer-generated reality that can take them anywhere, and allows them to interact with the world around them as if they were really there. 

Marketers, especially those in the e-commerce space, have taken note of virtual reality’s popularity, and are looking to harness this powerful medium to increase brand awareness and drive sales. 

E-commerce platforms, such as Shopify, have integrated VR technology into their stores, allowing consumers to try on products and make purchases with the click of a button, without ever having to leave the convenience of their homes.

Overall, Tomorrow’s Online Marketing

In 2022, traditional marketing methods, such as billboards, bus shelters and magazine spreads, are giving way to new media, such as podcasts, video content and social media.

Podcasts, formerly known as ‘radio shows’, are all the rage these days, as 29% of American adults report that they regularly listen to podcasts, while another 26% say they occasionally tune in. That’s 66% of the population regularly consuming podcasts. 

What’s more, 12% of those listeners say they use the content to learn something new about new topics, while 8% say they do it for entertainment.

Video consumption, as we’ve established, is also at an all-time high, with 85% of American adults regularly consuming video content, compared to 52% who say they read articles. 

The types of videos people are consuming have shifted towards entertainment with 48% of millennials saying they primarily watch videos for entertainment purposes, while 16% report they primarily watch videos to learn something new.