If there’s one thing that almost all organizations have shared over the past two years, it seems to be this: business as usual is neither desirable nor viable. As we make progress against COVID-19’s hold on our daily lives (unnervingly slow though it may be), some practices and innovative techniques have emerged that have helped businesses, governments, and individuals regain more control of their processes and lives. As we enter the last quarter of 2021, it’s worth looking not only at what has worked, but what will work as we enter a new year—and hopefully, a successful and reinvigorating one.
Communicating Employee Experience
Let’s start with some insights from Rea Regan, who zeroes in on the trends that will matter in 2022 in internal communications. Regan starts with employee experience, defining it as “…the journey an employee has within an organization… from their job interview to their very first day and especially continuing with their job role, physical workspace, manager relationship, and wellbeing.”
She quotes author Jacob Morgan as describing employee experience as “determined by three elements: workspace environment, tools and technology, and corporate culture.” With these two highly similar definitions in mind, we can see the importance of this experience in 2022.
All three of Morgan’s elements will have shifted during the bumpy flight of 2020-2021. Workspace environment might involve transitioning back to the office, tools and technology may or may not still include heavy video-conferencing platforms (and other enablers of remote work), and corporate culture will doubtless have some reevaluation to make as remote employees return and new practices are established.
Reconciling these changes will require, more than anything, effective internal communication, which “allows employees to integrate, be fully involved, and remain informed.” That communication will require significant partnership with human resources, as the employee experience begins with the interview and continues throughout the team member’s employment.
A way to facilitate that communication, Regan contends, is mobile-first communication, specifically with dedicated communication apps. Offering the chance to “boost productivity, lift engagement, build collaboration, reduce misunderstandings, and more,” Regan argues this approach is additionally wise given current workforce demographics.
“Millennials and Gen Z account for slightly over a third of the workforce (38%)… [and] within the next decade, that number will grow up to 58%.” These generations are mobile-driven and highly technologically literate, so driving your internal communications to apps that play to these natural strengths means meeting your team members where they are.
Let’s expand our focus to encapsulate more than internal communications with some thoughts from Nestor Gilbert for Finances Online. Gilbert opens his lengthy piece with a useful three-part breakdown on how marketing will evolve and adapt in the coming year.
“Content is (Again) King”
Those three parts are: “Why video is gaining tremendous importance for marketers,” “why content is king again for marketers,” and a prediction on “the top challenges in managing influencer campaigns.”
Starting with video’s importance, Gilbert cites some figures from Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs’ survey of marketers that found that 91% said video helped them increase user understanding of their products and services, and 81% of businesses already use video. Since 78% of people already watch online video every week (and 55% watch online video every day), it’s no wonder that 76% of marketers report that video helps them increase sales. These figures are not entirely new—video’s rising efficacy has been a trend for some time, but it’s important to remember this is one trend the pandemic has not interrupted.
A bit more in flux, now, are the top challenges in managing influencer campaigns—with key struggles coming from finding influencers to participate, managing the contracts or deadlines of the campaign, and bandwidth/time restraints. This is interesting as Gilbert notes that influencer marketing continues to rise in popularity, expected to reach its highest usage (72.5%) in 2022.
The answer to the challenges, however, associated with influencer marketing starts with addressing cost. “Big influencers have a big pull. However, their services also have a big price tag,” Gilbert reminds us, advocating for “the smaller, the better” in terms of influencers. In fact, small isn’t just cheap—it’s preferred by 70% of millennial consumers, who make purchases based on peer recommendations.
In other words, it seems the power of the influencer is retracting towards something more classic, even for younger generations: the testimonial. These are “authentic endorsements that will generate trust for the long-term,” and clearly just as effective in modern marketing as they have been for decades.
To turn towards a decidedly modern trend (as opposed to re-envisioning classic marketing strategies, as in the testimonial) Ali Liaquat details several digital marketing tools that will continue to rise in importance in 2022.
Digital Marketing Tools
Liaquat starts with AI in digital marketing, which “not only automates basic tasks like reporting on website traffic but can also recommend keywords to optimize a company’s organic search ranking or even predict what customers are likely to buy in the future based on their past purchases and browsing history (italics mine).”
Similarly easing the customer through their buying journey will be the increasingly-popular digital assistant, which can “answer customer questions with little to no human involvement from a company’s side,” providing a “personalized and enjoyable experience” without tying up team members in the effort.
Finally, Liaquat argues for mobile-first marketing—an external version of Rea Regan’s above advice. Pointing out that “mobile marketing strategies can be as simple as optimizing your website’s design so that it automatically adapts for smaller screens” and be as complex as designing new apps, the approach will be “the most important trend for businesses in 2022” in Liaquat’s estimation. The numbers are on his side, so his insistence that “it’s essential to start now” is advice worth taking.
What kinds of trends do you see in the last quarter of 2021 that you expect to continue into 2022? Does your organization have different initiatives or trends it’s following? How do they differ? Do you agree that mobile-first might be the most important trend to follow?