What’s in store for B2B marketing in 2022?

To kick off the New Year, we asked our Propolis Hive experts for their predictions for 2022. Check out their answers so you can hit the ground running.

For those not in the know, Propolis is our exclusive community platform, where marketers can share insights (and problems), learn from one another and industry experts, and access our very best content, including roundtable discussions, webinars, research reports, and more. The community consists of eight ‘Hives’, which cover the core pillars of B2B marketing. So, let’s see what our Hive experts are predicting for 2022…

Barbara Stewart, CX Hive expert

Since early 2020, nearly all organisations have strengthened their online presence and commerce abilities – irrespective of their industry. They have come to terms with the fact that the ability to win and retain customers is largely linked to the CX they are able to deliver. ​ 

They have invested heavily in their CX roadmaps and technologies, but will find themselves solving for the same challenges they have faced the last two years. 2022 will be the time to consolidate and build the capabilities required to analyse the immense amount of customer data that they have access to, and finally be able to offer personalised customer experience.

Businesses will need to define their long-term CX transformations

Since the beginning of 2020, businesses have had to pivot their CX towards trust, digitise overnight, redesign processes for a contactless world, redefine processes for a digital world and much more. We now move into the long-term transformation strategies  where businesses have to be ready and “fit for change”. The hard questions businesses need to answer in 2022 is what stays and what goes.

CX will become cross functional

Globally CX is a key business priority, with impacts on multiple lines of business, sales, marketing, digital, contact centre. Organisations will need to align the dots, especially when it comes to data being made available to all relevant stakeholders. The reality is that organisations have struggled and CX projects have failed to involve Digital or Contact Centre teams. But organisations are waking up to the fact that they cannot provide proactive CX when the information and insights reside in silos. Aligning these different teams is a role by itself.

Supply chain challenges will impact CX professionals

Supply chain issues are hitting businesses hard across the world. These challenges are expected to extend into 2022 and it is not immediately known whether global shipping and movement costs will continue to rise or decrease over time. These issues will impact every business whether they ship physical goods or virtual ones.

Businesses will map their CRM to customer journeys

During a recent analyst briefing, SugarCRM mentioned that their CRM is more and more being mapped to actual customer journeys. This mirrors other recent conversations with tech providers and customers regarding their CRMs. With all the work being done to improve the customer experience, CRMs are still just a place where there is a lot of information and data often with little real insights and are rarely mapped to the customer’s specific journey.

Shane Redding, Strategy and Evolution Hive expert

2022 – another rollercoaster year?

Trying to predict what next year holds is like being asked do I enjoy rollercoasters? Part of me is looking forward to the new and the possible, part of me holds trepidation about the unknown. It shifts with my differing daily waves of optimism and pessimism! As I write this my son who was due home for Christmas has just tested Covid positive. So like many families, our plans are changing yet again. One thing I have got better at in the last two years of the pandemic is dealing with change, so too have B2B organisations demonstrating flexibility, adaptability, and innovation.

So my prediction is more of the same – big ups and downs!  

More uncertainty, continual rapid change, and very uneven economic growth – at country level and by industry.

  • Winners: technology especially mobile with 6G trials starting next year, Satellite industry (starlink satellite internet beta in 2022), infrastructure projects, building materials, chemical companies and of course pharma. Agencies would do well to target these as well as the biggest spender of all, government!
  • Losers: retail, hospitality, events, all travel, face another very bumpy year. Radical reinvention will continue to be needed, to survive and thrive. 
  • People: the trend for digital nomads will accelerate, with the best talent dictating where and when they want to work. More governments (like Spain, Portugal and Italy) will actively invest to attract these workers. Companies who had hoped to get office workers to return to a “traditional” place of work will give up and accept hybrid working. Or haemorrhage talent. Acceleration of tech into previously high human touch roles, especially professional services with Ai providing better quality, cheaper services, especially in legal and consulting.
  • Digital disruption continues at pace. Digital printing of parts could provide smaller distributed manufacturing production centres for key essential parts, as international companies look to redress their reliance on international supply chains, especially China.
  • Marketing agencies and media organisations will invest in more proprietary tech, with aggressive MnA growth seeing independents snapped up. Watch out though for digital markets coming under deeper scrutiny in 2022 with anti trust legislators taking much more interest in this.
  • Marketing leaders will invest not just in their teams skills; but in their own, becoming more data and digitally savvy to help understand where the new strategic opportunities lie.
  • Community and partner marketing will boom, especially in B2B, with companies desperate to create deeper relationships through co creation, so customers have “skin in the game”
  • Finally expect 3 big Es to dominate in B2B marketing next year: experimentation, experiences and engagement.

A bit like a rollercoaster, excited about the ride, slightly sick in the stomach of what it might mean!

Karla Wenthworth, Marketing Operations and Process Hive expert

I was recently asked to put together my thoughts on a couple of areas to watch in 2022. That is not an easy task as the digital landscape is like quicksand in terms of stability. But I did manage to sum up my thoughts in three areas, and I'll share them with you all now.

You only have to Google 'digital trends 2022' to return a tsunami of results with a host of interesting thoughts on what is going to grab the focus of digital marketers as we head into the new year. I am not going to profess to have the ultimate answer, but I am going to give you three trends that I have seen emerging and will continue to surge in the next 12 months.

1. Level up personalisation and close the experience gap 

Already a growing demand, your customers and prospects are going to expect you to swiftly close the experience gap. What does that even mean? Well, put simply, an experience gap is when a brand promises something, but then the experience doesn’t live up to it. And that can be a lot of things and a big trap for us marketers to fall into. After all, it's our job to make things sound appealing, desirable or attractive to prospects before handing them off to the final sales process.

If advertising gives an impression that cannot be lived up to, that’s the experience gap. 

Brands could make a promise about quick and reliable services, the best prices, the highest quality, or any number of other attributes. Problems arise when the expectations set by a brand are not fulfilled. And once failed, It doesn’t matter how much money is spent trying to convince a customer otherwise; they know that the reality is different.

What makes it even worse, is in today’s digital world, customers are quick to share their experiences. Any gaps between a promise and reality are quickly exposed. Customers are no longer willing to wait for the companies they buy from to catch up with their marketing and the digital process is expected to produce the goods to solve this issue.

In 2022, consumers will expect brands to close this ‘experience gap’ even further.

Data will be an essential piece of the puzzle. While most have been collecting data, the focus will now shift to accessibility and actionable insights to ensure meaningful and valuable personalised experiences. The approach of collecting data and identifying past behavior patterns is not good enough, companies must make the right data accessible to identify actionable insights from it and create content and experiences tailored to your prospect.  

From an organisational perspective, this requires teams across regions and departments to share data in order to build a 360 degree view of their customers. Use what you know about your customers and prospects in every aspect of your interaction with them, not just marketing, the sales process, lead nurture, retention, or reactivation. It's now not the case that you will win more customers if you do, it’s the issue that your customers expect it from you!

2. AI is everywhere

You'd have been under a rock for a long time if you haven't seen at least one of the Terminator films. Well, the good news is that time traveling robots are (probably) not something that we're going to see in 2022. But have you seen The Minority Report? There are a few things in there you won't see, like sibling psychics or vertical climbing automated cars. But there is a part in the film where facial or optical recognition triggers personalised advertising. That kind of capability is more than ready enough to be deployed, but the truth is, humans are just not ready for it yet.

But anyway, we're not talking about deep coded AI, we're talking about the very basic things that are surrounding us right now.  How many smart devices are near you now? Your phone, Alexa, smart sockets, smart TV's?  "Smart" really just used to mean connected to the internet but today, “smart” increasingly means powered by artificial intelligence or machine learning algorithms that are capable of helping us in increasingly innovative ways.  

Smart cars use facial recognition algorithms to detect whether we are paying attention to the road and alert us if we're getting tired, Smartphones use AI algorithms to do everything from maintaining call quality to help us take better pictures, and of course, they are packed with apps that use AI to help us do just about anything. Even smart toilets are on their way – capable of helping to diagnose gastrointestinal issues by using computer vision to analyze stool samples! 

So how does that affect our world of work? AI has permeated the tools we use to carry out everyday work – from voice assistants to language translation and tools. It also powers much of the robotic process automation that has enabled workloads to be lightened in admin, logistics, accounting, and HR departments. Whatever your industry or job function, you’re likely to find there’s an AI-powered solution designed to make your life easier. 

Two thirds of users say they can't tell if they are talking to a computer or not.

Chatbots have become a standard feature of most business websites, now so sophisticated that users cannot tell whether the web conversations are automated or not. 

Creative AI is also making a surge. We've already seen content writing being used for some time for marketing teams, bloggers, and even The New York Times as journalists. There have also already been whole commercials made purely by AI, designed to appeal to human emotions. No matter what you use AI for in your marketing processes, it is impossible to ignore that is growing all around us.

3. Digitisation, datafaction and virtualisation

During 2020 and 2021, many of us experienced the virtualisation of our offices and workplaces, as remote working arrangements were swiftly and critically put in place.  But this was predominantly a crisis-driven surge, whereas now, we have turned it into more of an evolved trend.  

A metaverse is a persistent digital world that exists in parallel with the physical world we live in.

In 2022, we will become increasingly familiar with the concept of a “metaverse”. Yes, Facebook has already coined the term, but inside these metaverses, we will carry out many of the functions we’re used to doing in the real world, including working, playing, and socialising. 

As the rate of digitization increases, these metaverses will model and simulate the real world with growing accuracy, allowing us to have more immersive, convincing, and ultimately valuable experiences within the digital arena.  While many of us have experienced somewhat immersive virtual realities through headsets, a range of new devices coming to the market will soon greatly improve the experience offering tactile feedback and even smells.

Ericsson provided VR headsets to employees working from home during the pandemic and is developing what it calls an “internet of senses" and has predicted that by 2030 virtual experiences will be available that will be indistinguishable from reality.  That might be looking a little further ahead than we are interested in right now.

So, let's concentrate on something we can process. A single source of truth becomes key to the data‑driven business.  Digitization continues to drive an increasing amount of data, causing data paralysis and preventing us from doing anything useful because we simply have too much. By 2025, its predicted data will grow by 61% to 175 zettabytes. (For those who don't know, a zettabyte is 1,000 exabytes, and one exabyte is 1,000 petabytes. Each petabyte is 1,000 terabytes. A zettabyte is enough storage for 30 billion 4K movies, or 60 billion video games, or 7.5 trillion MP3 songs). Organizations will seek a single source of truth where consumers can get the right data in the right context at the right time.

Thanks to the trajectory it was already moving at coupled with our delightful friend Covid, we have seen one of the largest digital accelerations of all time and it shows no sign of slowing down, just getting more and more complex. You cannot afford to rest on your laurels or spend too much time delivering something that can change so very quickly. Keep learning and adapting, keep your finger on the pulse, use technology and understand your customer.

Most importantly, understand their expectations of you!

Tony Lamb, Data Strategy, Insight and Intelligence Hive expert

This year has been quite an experience again. As with many historic examples, desperate times require new approaches and make change happen quickly. Look at how the Second World War drove innovation; computers, penicillin, the jet engine, atomic energy etc.

Though not as extreme, the last two years have catalysed a new wave of innovation and change in the workplace. Hybrid working has redefined the role of the office and technology is providing new solutions to increase our capabilities. And data is often central to many of these changes.

So what does 2022 hold in store for us? Here's my top five predictions for the data hot topics for B2B marketers.

1. Digitisation of B2B sales

Within B2B marketing, one of the big impacts we’ve seen is the move to digital sales channels, meaning businesses are now often making contact with a prospect when they’re over 70% of the way through the buying process.

Using data to identify risks of churn within existing customers (I cancelled my HBR subscription today after a few months of inactivity) or source intent data to predict which customers may be in the market for your services or products are now vital business activities.

Without data, this lack of prospect and customer visibility will directly impact financial performance in 2022.

2. Building a data strategy

In the B2B markets, many organisations have been undertaking tactical data activities. Some of these are reaping rewards, but as discussed in our Data Hive report 2021, these tactical data initiatives are now creating a barrier to further progress.

Many companies I have spoken to over this year, are now seeing the importance of creating a company wide data strategy with a direct link to value creation, and business outcomes, to allow the whole business to move forward. Without company buy-in to the data strategy, barriers will exist, and prevent, or limit the overall value that a company can generate.

3. The move to integrated data solutions

Data technology has evolved leaps and bounds over the last 10 years. One of the big barriers to overcome has been the limitations caused by data stuck in silos.

Customer data platforms are transforming how data can flow across the organisation, and then consolidating this to provide a clear, 360 degree view of customer interactions with a brand across all channels. Having access to these customer profiles is invaluable when making data-driven, impactful decisions that grow the company.

With the increased focus on digital channels, this is now a business priority for many organisations.

4. Optimising CX

With the increased reliance of digital channels, the customer journey will become a real focus for companies in 2022. Reacting to the pandemic, many companies started to really leverage the channel, but this is no longer a tactical move. Interactions need to be optimised, and data will drive this. 

A report in 2020 by Aberdeen Strategy and Research Aberdeen’s study reports that most 51% of companies use at least 8 channels as part of their customer experience programmes, but only 17% are fully satisfied with their ability to harness data as part of this omni-channel strategy.

And the rewards are great. The research showed best-in-class businesses using customer analytics enjoy superior results across CX, marketing, sales, service and financial measures:

  • 39x improvement in customer lifetime value.
  • 39% improvement in cross-sell/up-sell value.
  • 2.6x improvement in customer satisfaction rates.
5. Regulatory data landscape.

Data privacy is now a hot global topic. Our focus was reignited with GDPR in 2018, now US states are beginning to catch up, we’ve had Google's activities around cookies, and most recently, the UK Government reviewing the future of the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Overall, the move to use of first party data will be a continued trend in 2022, and we await to see how regulation catalyses this.

In summary

The last two years have catalysed many changes within our businesses. In 2022, from a data perspective, we will hopefully be able to spend time refining and evolving, rather than firefighting and surviving. But we’ve now got a “head of steam” to drive this.

Best wishes for 2022.

Jarmilla Yu, Teams and Resourcing Hive expert

If 2021 was the year of The Great Resignation, 2022 will be the year of the Great Rebuild. The ripple effect of high levels of people movement and world of work shifts will continue into the mid 2020s.

Expect 2022 to be a year that will be a candidates’ market, and a year that can present great opportunities for the savvy leader. Whilst the war for talent will rage on and continue to cause disruption, it will also be the ideal time to connect and engage with candidates and teams to find out what really matters to them.

Offering a chance to reshape organisations and teams to equip and enable people to do their best work. 2022 will be “purpose driven” with people deciding why, where, when and with whom they work – and not settling for second best. 2022 will see a rise in intrapreneurship, portfolio careers, pro bono marketing and investment in learning and development – all win wins towards building sustainable high performing marketing teams.

Want to learn more valuable insights from the best in business?

Check out our exclusive site Propolis to future-proof your 2022 today by sharing insights, learning from industry leading marketers, and accessing our best content. How exclusive is it? Let's put it this way, by the time you're reading about new marketing trends on the web, Propolis members have already heard about the next big thing.

Check out Propolis now!

Propolis