This will be the seventh year in a row we have written this post, so at this point, it’s become a tradition. Our WSI family looks forward to it, and we hope all of you out there—our readers, partners and clients—look forward to it, too.

We hope everybody who comes across this post as we close out 2021 is doing well. It’s been a tough two years, but we must emerge from the pandemic stronger for having gone through the collective experience. We sincerely wish you and your families a joyous and healthy holiday season.

If you’re brand new to the WSI blog, we publish a set of digital marketing predictions every December. As mentioned, we’ve been doing this since 2014

Here’s the grading legend we created for the original post way back in 2014:

  • Oracle (+2) – when we’re so right, it’s like we channelled that lovely lady from The Matrix
  • Oracle In-Training (+1) – we didn’t quite see the whole picture, but hey, we still saw the future
  • Clear As Mud (0) – we weren’t right, but we weren’t wrong, either
  • Just A Bit Outside (-1) – we tried to paint the corner of the plate, but the ump didn’t give us the call
  • Swing And A Miss (-2) – like a batter who expects fastball and gets a curve, we weren’t close

As always, before we jump into the predictions, we grade ourselves on last year’s batch. Here’s what we predicted would happen in 2021:

#1: Sales Will Continue to Skew Further Toward eCommerce

Grade: +2

We said we felt a bit sheepish making this prediction—and we still kind of do—but we’ll start off with a win and award ourselves the full two points.

After a slight dip in global eCommerce sales near the beginning of the pandemic, the second half of 2020 saw eCommerce growth soar to new heights. eCommerce sales increased by 25% (international sellers) and 43% (domestic sellers), and sales in all markets exceeded previous Christmas season highs by 5% (international sellers) and 18% (domestic sellers).

#2: The Workforce Will Remain as Remote and Digital As Possible

Grade: +2

Another two points for us—we’re off to a fantastic start!

In all seriousness, though, this one was easy to predict. We figured that even though vaccines and other factors would make our lives a little easier than in 2020, there would be no mass return to work. And we were right.

45% of respondents to Buffer’s State of Remote Work in 2021 survey said they were still working remotely as a result of COVID-19. However, in the same survey, only 16% said they know for sure their company isn’t permanently allowing work from home, and over 96% said they would like to work remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of their careers.

Remote work is here to stay, and as a digital company, we’re just fine with that!

#3: Communication—Both Internal and External—Will Matter More Than Ever, And Improve

Grade: +1

Well, this is a tough one to grade, but we’re going to take one point. Here’s why:

We definitely think communication in the workplace mattered more than ever in 2021 (and it will continue to be extremely important in this age of remote work). However, based on our findings, we were probably a little early in suggesting communication at work would improve. With all the remote work, it’s clear there’s still a learning curve for the digital workforce.

In the same Buffer survey we quoted previously, 20.5% of respondents said their biggest struggle with working remotely was difficulties with collaboration and communication.

#4: Virtual Events Will Increase and Evolve

Grade: +2

This is a quick and easy two points, again! In fact, you probably attended a virtual event in 2021, didn’t you?

Anyway, here’s the proof: G2, a peer-to-peer business software review site, added a category for virtual event platforms in mid-2020. In the second half of 2020, the category went from 15 products to 67, with 500 reviews. In the first four months of 2021, that product number nearly doubled to 119, and the number of reviews nearly quadrupled (1860).

#5: New Digital Tools and Services Will Emerge

Grade: +1

We’re only going to take one because it’s a pretty broad prediction, but we actually believe all the new virtual event products we talked about in prediction #4 qualifies as proof for this one as well (we checked the rules, it’s allowed!).

There was another substantial digital breakthrough in 2021 that, while not a product or service, will undoubtedly impact the future of the digital world. That breakthrough was the rise of NFTs or non-fungible tokens. The larger NFT discussion is a post for another day, especially as they relate to marketing and businesses. But the fact that an NFT sold for $69M in March 2021 is proof enough that NFTs are no silly fad.

Final Score: +8

Wow! A new high score…which, of course, means we get to make predictions for another year, so here we go!

These are some of the things we believe are in store for the future of marketing in 2022:

#1: The Popularity of Short Video Content Will Grow

We’ve written a lot of content about video marketing in 2021, but we’ve only scratched the surface of how effective short video content (under a minute long) can be.

With the emergence and success of platforms like TikTok, it’s clear audiences—especially younger ones—prefer to consume bite-sized content. As a result, we believe we’ll see a higher percentage of the video marketing budget invested in short-form videos in 2022.

#2: Content Will Still Be King

This one might be hard to measure, but we truly believe that the importance of content will remain as strong as ever in 2022. It always seems like the focus on content is going to wane, as if some new and shiny tactic is going to pop up to replace it. But the fact is, content is everything. All the new strategies and tactics that pop up are just different forms of content (TikTok and short video content, for example).

The demand for digestible content keeps growing. In a world increasingly digitized by the prolonged pandemic and the emergence of the metaverse, the content will remain king for marketers and businesses in 2022.

#3: The Concept of the “Metaverse” Will Go Mainstream

Speaking of the metaverse…

You can poke fun at Facebook’s rebrand to “Meta” all you want, but there’s no doubt it’s a harbinger of things to come. The concept of a metaverse—essentially a digital universe—burst onto the scene in 2021 (thanks in part to the explosion of NFTs) and will soon make its entrance to the business world.

Generally, the earliest adopters of new (and sometimes confusing) technology are the biggest winners, and we believe that will be true of businesses and companies who find a way to make the metaverse concept work for them in 2022.

#4: Experiences Might Be Part of Marketing Strategies Again

We’re going out on a limb here because this one is entirely dependent on how the global pandemic plays out in 2022, but we’re going to take the optimistic approach. We hope the world is a better and more open place in 2022, and in that scenario, experiential marketing might just make a big comeback.

There’s no denying that it’s fun to immerse yourself in a product, service or brand before you buy it. And from a marketing perspective, it’s easy to see why giving potential customers an experience to remember helps a brand’s cause when it comes to that potential customer’s purchase decision.

If the pandemic allows it, experiential marketing will be back with a bang.

#5: Live Social Media Content Will Boom

Going “live” on social media became a thing in 2021, and we believe it will gain an increased share within businesses marketing strategies in the coming year. Twitter Spaces (audio chatrooms on Twitter) gained huge popularity in niche markets, but we should see these types of ad hoc conversations go more mainstream for businesses in 2022.

The use cases are obvious. Imagine Google releases a new algorithm update that has hurt a large percentage of site rankings. If you’re an SEO expert and quickly start a Twitter Space to discuss the changes with anybody who wants to listen to you speak, that could lend immensely authoritative value to you and/or your company’s brand. We’ll see this happen more frequently and on a broader scale in 2022.