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3 Trends to Keep Customers Engaged in 2022 Pandemic-tested ideas will cement themselves as the new way of doing things, while budgets will reflect a heightened focus on authenticity through vehicles like influencer marketing.

By Shama Hyder

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you feel like you've only just gotten marketing in 2021 figured out, you're not alone. But the good news is that 2022 likely won't introduce the same radical changes that we dealt with over the last two years.

Instead, this coming year will continue to build on the evolution that's been taking place, giving us all firmer footing on which to stand.

Pandemic-tested ideas will cement themselves as the new way of doing things, while budgets will reflect a heightened focus on authenticity through vehicles like influencer marketing.

Here are three trends to prepare for in 2022.

Authenticity is everything, and there's no room for error

Clients and customers have prized authenticity above most other things for years. Now, they value it above almost anything else.

With the general public aware of issues around racism, inclusivity, diversity and ethics to a degree we've never before experienced, there's no longer any room for error when it comes to brands walking their talk — nor should there be.

Clients want to see authentic marketing, and marketing budgets are reflecting that. A recent survey found that 71% of marketers plan to expand their budgets for branded influencer content, which is seen as more trustworthy and authentic than paid advertising.

Brands that want to stay relevant in 2022 will need to do a values-based reality check. How well do your brand's actions reflect your stated values or mission? Does your marketing align with what you say you care about? If not, get ready to fix it — and fast.

Related: 10 Secrets to Building a Successful Digital Marketing Agency

Data privacy is vital, and so is personalization

With the phasing out of third-party cookies, marketers have had to figure out how to continue getting the data they need to deliver customers and clients the finely-tuned, personalized experiences they demand.

But it's not just the cookies that are changing the landscape. Those same clients who want highly personalized marketing also value their data privacy, and they have deep concerns about the availability of their personal data online.

Marketers in 2022 don't just need to adapt to functional changes related to data collection. They also need to adapt to the change in sentiment that's been growing over the past several years.

In other words, brands have to get better at showing customers how important privacy is to them. They need to say it in plain language, in an easy-to-find spot on their website — not buried within terms and conditions.

They also have to get better at collecting data in a way that makes clients feel valued. The answer to this is zero-party data: data gathered directly from the client through options like surveys, content preference forms and email opt-in campaigns.

This, along with the first-party data that brands can collect each time a client visits their website, can create a stronger, more trusting relationship between the brand and the client while also giving the brand better data to work with. It's truly a win-win.

Related: Why Every Entrepreneur Should Build Their Own Marketing Agency

AI is critical for boosting the customer experience

Artificial intelligence is coming into its own in the realm of customer experience.

One thing every marketer should consider in 2022 is whether we're making the most out of the enormous potential of AI tools for our customers (spoiler alert: we're not.)

According to research by Deloitte, "timely offers" and "knowledgeable customer service" are the two most important factors that buyers cite as helping them make a purchase decision.

AI is the perfect tool to fulfill both these needs: Using AI, along with first- and zero-party data, brands can pinpoint better than ever when to serve customers' sales pitches, demos and offers. It can also be instrumental in creating an easily-navigable, responsive knowledge base for customers who want fewer interactions with brand reps and a greater ability to find what they need to know on their own.

AI can give brands the critical edge they need to deliver this kind of experience. Marketing in 2022 will be about what marketing should always be about: the customer. Many brands may say this is how they've always done business, and to a degree, that may be true.

But it's impossible to deny that changes in customer preferences and expectations, along with the greater societal changes spurred on by the pandemic, have forced us all to reckon with our commitment to our clients and customers in new ways. Let's get going.

Related: 3 Ways Covid-19 Has Changed the Marketing World

Shama Hyder

CEO of Zen Media

Shama Hyder is CEO of Zen Media, an award-winning marketing and PR agency for tech-driven B2B firms. She is a bestselling author, an international keynote speaker and has been named one of LinkedIn’s Top 10 Voices in Marketing for four years in a row.

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