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As the world of digital marketing continues to change rapidly, how are successful brands and marketers evolving their strategies to stay ahead? In this blog, get current industry trends, obstacles, opportunities, and predictions from digital marketing experts for your 2023 digital strategy.

We covered all of the topics you’re about to read about in our 2023 Digital Strategy Forecast webinar, where eight of our ecommerce experts shared their experience-based insights in a live panel and Q&A. Watch the replay of the webinar here!

2022 Wins, Learnings, & Trends

As the world of digital marketing changes rapidly, everyone is wondering how successful brands and marketers are evolving their strategies to stay ahead. Let’s kick things off by looking back at 2022 and exploring the major wins, learnings, and trends that we experienced in the past year.

Nothailah Meehan, Team Lead, Programmatic

A major focus in 2022 was the slow death of the cookie. The deprecation delays are a good thing because they give advertisers time to prepare! In addition to an emphasis on first-party (1P) data, contextual/browsing audiences, location data, and connected (CTV), there’s also been an increased emphasis on impactful creative. Rich media units allow for additional elements that can drive engagement, such as embedding video or incorporating social icons.

Another major theme in 2022 was attribution. As we move into 2023 and beyond, it will become more and more crucial to look beyond last-touch metrics.

Niki Morock, SEO Content Manager

The biggest theme in 2022 from an SEO perspective is that helpful content is king! Now more than ever, your content needs to be written for users, not search engines. Google introduced its Helpful Content System last year and has already updated it once.

Google wants unique, original, helpful content written for humans.

Keywords are still important for SEO, and Google can understand them within context better now than ever thanks to MUM and BERT.

Chad Batten, Product Feeds Specialist

Ad platforms are trying to make it as easy as possible for companies to link their product data to the platform. For example, Facebook implemented a new BigCommerce integration, and Google has Merchant Listings as a new structured data type/snippet – which has helped a lot of businesses connect to the platforms. This automated connection enables a lot more product to flood the market and show up wherever you’re navigating, whether that’s search or social. 

Kayla Aves, Retail Media Strategist

On the retail media side, 2022 was the first year ever with two Prime Days, including the Prime Early Access Sale in October). Since this was a new event, businesses couldn’t be certain about what to expect or how it would play out. There was an increased emphasis on being able to pivot in the moment and follow the initial data. Additionally, we saw many brands expanding past Amazon onto other retail media channels.

A key part of a successful strategy is to make sure you’re on whatever retailer’s site your shoppers are on. Make sure you’re both searchable and retail-ready across every site.  

Christine Schulze, Team Lead, Social Media

Brands have been thinking beyond platform revenue growth and into how they can use paid social to grow revenue incrementally. We always expect multi-touch purchase journeys across channels, but too much overlap means wasted ad dollars. We’ve leveraged Conversion Lift Studies and geo tests to better understand the role that paid social plays in our clients’ holistic marketing mix.

Kathryn Mueller, Team Lead, Conversion Rate Optimization

2022 gave us a good vantage point to observe three general UX trends:

  1. Give consumers more information to make their purchase. Ecommerce videos are being put front and center more than ever across channels, including being worked into galleries on product pages and category pages. In addition to that, we’re seeing more and more instances of social proof like “Maria in Chicago just bought” or “10 other people have this in their carts.” Reviews are also more prominent, include more robust content, and are searchable by factors like keyword or size.
  2. Reduce friction. You should have multiple payment methods, such as PayPal, Apple Pay, and BNPL options like Klarna and After Pay. Consider experimenting with less intrusive email signup methods like sticky buttons or trays on bottom of screen. Nobody likes a pop-up!
  3. Drive downloads to your mobile app from your website.  

Sara Burns, Senior Team Lead, Paid Search

The importance of creative definitely extends to the paid search side, as well. Performance Max (PMax) is the newest campaign type that encompasses placements across all of Google, including Discover, Gmail, Shopping Search, Display, and video. It has a huge creative component. It’s more visual, placements are varied, and it’s powered by your product feeds to replace what formerly was Shopping. The future of search is going to be much more visual, which means that the importance of a strong cross-channel creative strategy (i.e. images, videos, testing, scaling) is growing. 

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2023 Digital Strategy for Creative

Creative is a huge area of focus this year, with changes and new ad types across every platform. As you build and execute your 2023 digital strategy, what will it mean to develop effective creative assets?

Christine Schulze, Team Lead, Social Media

Creative is a cornerstone of paid social advertising. We’ve seen that more and more, creative needs to be developed per channel. The video that works for Facebook is very different than the video that works for TikTok.

It doesn’t make sense anymore to do one photoshoot and crop the image a few different ways. You need to be thinking about why a user is opening TikTok vs. Instagram, and what they expect from brands on each platform.

Sara Burns, Senior Team Lead, Paid Search

In terms of types of creative, paid search is seeing a huge emphasis on video. There are lots of different formats of video (e.g. vertical videos for YouTube Shorts), and you’ll want to make use of all formats for Performance Max and YouTube advertising. There are varied assets for Performance Max across the product catalog.

Chad Batten, Product Feeds Specialist

Since you should be linking more to different platforms, it’s more important to use the differentiators available on those platforms to stand out among the noise and your competitors. Be open to using new creative options and formats, as well as product feeds that you can add video links into. Make use of all the ways you can differentiate yourself to stand out from the crowd. 

Kayla Aves, Retail Media Strategist

We are also seeing creative play a major role on retail media channels. Amazon specifically has been expanding their video product offering to be more engaging with shoppers with the expansion of Sponsored Brands Video and the launch of Sponsored Display Video.

The biggest focus for brands should be to use impactful creative to show clear value propositions as you move back toward full-price items instead of the heavy discounts that were offered in Q3 and Q4. You should be using creative to not only provide product specs but also show the value of your full-price items and communicate brand value.

Niki Morock, SEO Content Manager

Creative is playing a larger role on the search engine optimization side of things, as well.

Search engine results pages (SERPs) are becoming more visual to include both images and video. The bigger the role MUM plays in search, the more we expect the look of the SERP to change in a more visual direction.

On top of that, artificial intelligence is going beyond just natural language processing. Whether it’s using AI for idea iteration or battling the use of AI for creating spammy pages, Google is focusing on the many ways AI is being used.

“EAT” is not just expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness anymore. In late 2022, Google added another “E” to the acronym. Expertise is now one of the core components to high-ranking content. Google is keeping the focus on humans first in search.

Nothailah Meehan, Team Lead, Programmatic

When it comes to creative for your programmatic ads, be unique, be impactful, tell a story, and make a connection. User-generated content (UGC) and testimonials resonate highly with shoppers. Ensure that the talent you use for your content matches the audience you’re trying to reach. You also want to be sure to refresh your content regularly. Ensure new ads are being utilized at least every three months. Also, QR codes can be a great way to make it easy for shoppers to get to your website.

Kathryn Mueller, Team Lead, Conversion Rate Optimization

On the site itself, customers expect high-quality video that shows the product in use and from different angles before making a decision. The investment in video assets is worth it.

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Cookieless Marketing: An Inevitable Approaching Change

Video certainly isn‘t the easiest creative to routinely refresh, but it’s definitely going to be a worthwhile investment in the current digital landscape. Another huge shift in ecommerce that is changing the way marketers operate is the transition away from third-party data and toward cookieless marketing.

Kayla Aves, Retail Media Strategist

First-party data is king, especially on the retail media side. Each retailer has their own wealth of first-party data, so it is important to focus on how you can leverage what already exists for both retargeting and in-market audiences.

Christine Schulze, Team Lead, Social Media

Since platforms can give us less and less information, There is definitely an increased emphasis on collecting 1P data. The Conversions API (CAPI) on Meta is a must to have good data, and it’s required to leverage Conversion Lift Studies. Beyond the platform’s server-side tracking, leveraging your CRM for audience building and understanding user behavior will become more and more important.

Sara Burns, Senior Team Lead, Paid Search

It continues to be important to leverage first-party data and audience lists, including some of the automated CRM connections to be able to leverage that data (i.e. customer match). Full-funnel strategies can also help you navigate the death of the cookie since they rely less on specific remarketing tactics that were popularized in the past. Enhanced Conversions are another great privacy-safe option.

Nothailah Meehan, Team Lead, Programmatic

There’s been an increased focus on leveraging 1P data for programmatic. Data connectivity partners such as LiveRamp make this easy to do. Most DSPs have an existing relationship that can be leveraged. 30-70% match rate.

Chad Batten, Product Feeds Specialist

Remarketing efforts rely on cookies to be effective, and so we may see a shift in the way things like dynamic remarketing ads perform. Having a more solid grasp on what your top-performing products are and being ready to shift to labeling these products in the feed and advertising on them can help offset any of the effects your business sees on that ad type.

Kathryn Mueller, Team Lead, Conversion Rate Optimization

The cookieless future also impacts conversion rate optimization efforts from an A/B testing perspective.

Expect to see more server-side testing instead of client-side because client-side relies on cookies to assign users at the browser level.

With server-side testing, users get split into a control or variation group at the server level – with the added bonus of not impacting site speed! It requires somewhat of a dev investment, but it’s the way of the future and will be inevitable.

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Economic Strains That Can’t Be Ignored

Economic uncertainty is top-of-mind for everyone this year. How are we seeing this affect the way clients are budgeting going into 2023? How should marketing departments operate if they’re under pressure to cut budgets in order to keep profitable?

Sara Burns, Senior Team Lead, Paid Search

Many businesses are reducing their marketing budget, but that opens up the opportunity for you to beat out your competitors who might be pulling back. Take a long-term view of where your budget is going across channels and maintain investment, build your brand, and capitalize on this opportunity.

Research shows that 30% of PPC performance is driven by brand messaging and awareness, so if you cut upper-funnel spend now it will harm your long-term growth – especially if you cut right now at a time when many of your competitors are.

Positioning yourself well now for long-term success is important instead of immediately cutting in the short term.

63% of brands saw ROI improvements during the last economic downturn by increasing their spend, which is also a trend that we saw during the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Christine Schulze, Team Lead, Social Media

The economy is on everyone’s mind. Paid social is naturally more upper-funnel, and many the gut instinct for many businesses is to proactively pull back here – but that’s dangerous. My advice is to be intentionally reactive to performance trends. Cutting back too early will dry up your funnel and hurt your growth goals down the road.

Nothailah Meehan, Team Lead, Programmatic

Programmatic is utilized mainly for upper- and mid-funnel objectives, so we are naturally starting to see cuts there. Consumers are spending less and researching more before making a purchase. It is important to have a sustained presence in order to retain customers and stay ahead of your competitors.

Joe Del Vechhio, Digital Advisor

Don’t abandon the top of the funnel! Many retailers are hammering away at channels where customers are actively searching because those usually provide the best direct ROAS, but by doing that, you’re missing a huge percentage of future customers who aren’t in-market right now.

If your competitors are reaching them before they start their search and you’re not, then you’re at a huge disadvantage.

Any time money is tight, attribution comes under the microscope to help justify ad spend. At ROI, we are working on a Unified Marketing Modeling process to understand how traffic through different channels affects total site revenue versus focusing on channel-specific revenue and ROAS. We’re really excited about our tech team’s development on this, as stepping out of single-channel attribution is going to let us make great budget allocation recommendations to our clients.

Chad Batten, Product Feeds Specialist

Having an optimized product feed can save marketers some budget. Many of the feed optimization tests we do focus on making product data and product categories more specific and granular. When this is done well, it can help lower CPCs while maintaining site traffic through an increased click-through rate.

Kathryn Mueller, Team Lead, Conversion Rate Optimization

In the face of economic downturn and rising CPCs, many brands are putting an extra emphasis on converting more of the traffic that is already visiting their site. Conversion rate optimization is a great way to increase revenue without increasing advertising budgets or spending more to drive traffic. Often, brands find that allocating a relatively small budget to conversion rate optimization can yield much larger returns than spending the same amount driving incremental traffic.

Also, to address economic changes from a UX perspective, sites must provide as much information as possible.

Give shoppers the information they need right in front of them, and they’ll be more likely to convert.

Personalization is a must-have for ecommerce sites moving forward. You should test within personalization to see what speaks most to your users (for example, loyalty programs and account creation to make customers stickier and drive lifetime value).

Niki Morock, SEO Content Manager

The goal on the organic side is always to drive more qualified traffic to your site so that the users who land there are more receptive to converting.

From helpful informational content to well-written transactional pages using relevant keywords, we want search engines to understand what each page is about and why it will be valuable to searchers.

While the on-page copy is important, we also focus on the technical SEO aspects of your site because Google wants to send searchers to websites that load quickly, are easy to navigate, secure, and accessible. Making sure your website is technically sound and focused on helping searchers will help capture Google’s attention and earn those qualified users, hopefully taking some of the pressure off the paid media resources.

Kayla Aves, Retail Media Strategist

For brands on retail media platforms, it is important to follow similar SEO principles to ensure your product detail pages rank organically on all your retailer sites.

Every retailer has their own listing content requirements, but overall, you want to ensure your product descriptions clearly communicate your product’s value and usage, while leveraging the keywords your shoppers use when searching for your product. Also, ensure your product images are high-quality and clearly demonstrate your product’s usage to help consumers feel confident in their purchases and thus increase conversion rates.

Chad Batten, Product Feeds Specialist

The goal of optimizing Shopping Ads in paid search is to create an end product that stands out against all of the other shopping listings that they sit beside. Product data is a big piece of this puzzle.

Google and Microsoft have introduced many different annotations and differentiators that you can include on your ads to make them stand out, such as adding “Fast & Free Shipping” as a callout. In fact, after we added a “Fast and Free Shipping” annotation to the product feed for a sporting goods brand during the 2022 Cyber Week, we were able to drive a 67% increase in click-through rate YoY.

From identifying as a woman-owned business, to opting into Google’s Trusted Store Program, to letting shoppers now that there’s a brick-and-mortar location nearby, there are a multitude of ways to showcase the best and most relevant aspects of your product offerings. Understanding how to opt into these is important to really optimize your product feeds.

Tying It All Together: Your 2023 Digital Strategy

From the increased importance of creative (including having high-quality video and creating different digital assets for each channel instead of just resizing them) to economic uncertainty (like an inflation, an impending recession, and consumers’ caution around discretionary spend) to Performance Max, cookieless marketing, GA4, and everything in between, there’s a lot for ecommerce marketers to balance at once right now.

Digital marketing changes have been on a fast track since the pandemic’s onset, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down any time soon. Having a team of seasoned experts who are dedicated to staying ahead of the curve can be a huge benefit to your business.

At ROI Revolution, we work as an extension of your internal team to drive and execute deliberate strategies and make sure you’re proactively prepared for any changes in the world of digital marketing that could impact your business. To explore the untapped opportunities that we could discover to drive your brand’s growth and help you achieve your goals, send a message to our team today.