What may or may not happen in 2023 – and some things I hope will happen.

A great deal has changed over the last 3 years.  The pandemic became a part of our lives, more of us shifted to ecommerce and remote/hybrid work has become the norm (for certain professions). However, the sudden digital boost plateaued in 2022 while many organisations had significantly overestimated projected growth – as witnessed across the tech industry.  We also witnessed the slashing of marketing budgets this year as companies struggle with the impact of global recessionary pressures and ongoing geopolitical crises.  This high level of uncertainty makes it hard to say what trends we will witness in 2023 – are we in a recession or aren’t we? So, I will caveat the predictions below by saying that some of them are more my own deeply desired wishes for the future of our industry than they are predictions.

Social Commerce

A study by Accenture has estimated that, globally, social commerce is expected to grow to $1.2 trillion by 2025 from $492 billion.  Social Commerce is particularly powerful because the entire journey, from discovery to purchase, can take place on one platform.  We’ve seen TikTok build fulfilment centres in the US to support their ecommerce ambitions and their SMB clients.  This is likely a sign of more global endeavours to come in this space.  More platforms will work to incorporate ecommerce into their offerings. We’ve seen this with YouTube Shopping and it’s already fully integrated into Instagram.  Beyond social commerce, I would personally love to see streaming players dabble in ecommerce more.  Why can’t I pause a Netflix show and be able to find out where I can buy the handbag Olivia Pope is holding in Scandal and purchase it right then and there?  

Performance Measurement

As mentioned, 2023 will continue to be a tough year for advertisers, agencies and tech players as recessionary pressures will continue to hamper consumer demand.  Marketers will need to be leaner and rely heavily on technology and data to squeeze as much value out of their marketing budgets as possible.  The focus will be on ROI optimization above everything else.  This will be a good year to get measurement and data infrastructure right and ensure effective and ongoing performance measurement is in place.  Being agile and staying on top of trends will be critical as well to ensure your measurement infrastructure is tracking whatever can be tracked.  

Performance vs. Branding

We have seen even the upper and middle funnel focused brands increasingly shift their attention to concrete performance-oriented results.  Even brands that don’t sell their products directly to consumers are using proxies and partnerships to establish ROI KPIs and shift budgets to performance channels or co-operative campaigns.  More sophisticated measurement for branding customers, possibly based on AI models, will be increasingly used to make the connection between brand budgets and results.  Adtech and cloud solutions will also become key as advertising budgets face growing pressure and will need to go further to drive brand building than they have in the past.  Increased efficiency, more sophisticated analytics (such as predictive modelling) and personalization will be on the rise.  

Automation and AI

I previously mentioned how AI use cases are almost infinite, but going forward, and certainly in 2023, we are going to see greater proliferation of AI into more businesses and new fields of application.  We will also see the use of AI across the advertising value chain, from content creation to chatbots to campaign management. More and more of what agencies and advertisers do will be automated and made more efficient through the use of AI.  This increased use of AI will also require more governance around how it is deployed within organisations and will likely attract more attention from regulators.  

Metaverse, Sustainability and other trends

What would a list of predictions for 2023 be without mentioning the Metaverse?  Perhaps a more accurate one.   Aside from gaming and ecommerce, the potential of the Metaverse is hard to gauge.  It is also unclear what adoption will look like when a VR headset can cost between $300 USD to $1,000 USD; at a time when disposable income is in decline, it’s not exactly accessible to the masses.  A more credible trend would be Augmented Reality (AR).  We might see advertisers investing more in interactive tools such as shoe size estimators or furniture visualizers.  We are already seeing capabilities in Snap and TikTok but perhaps we will see an expansion of these.   

While the critical importance of sustainability has been top of the agenda for quite some time, it is now gaining more focus in the Middle East.  Markets that historically haven’t really prioritised sustainability are now focusing more resources and time on reducing their carbon footprint, increasing sustainable business practices and abiding by ESG standards.  The extent to which this will influence the average consumer in MENA and, by extension, marketers is unclear.  With all the pressures on the bottom line faced by marketers, it requires a concerted effort on the part of the company to prioritise sustainability initiatives and sustainable business practices.   Consumers faced with a choice between two equally priced brands might decide on the more eco-friendly one but if the eco-friendly one is even slightly more expensive it’s hard to imagine they’d be swayed for sustainability’s sake.  pwc’s March Consumer Pulse Survey found that 53% of consumers are buying eco-friendly or sustainable products but at the same time 60% are more focused on savings.

It is important to note that in my attempt to arrive at predictions for 2023, I have mainly focused my attention on what marketers will need to deploy to stay competitive. The importance of effective measurement, a focus on performance, robust data infrastructures from which to leverage AI and automation remains unchanged. This, coupled with capitalising on emerging trends such as social commerce, which neatly marries the worlds of brand building with performance, will be essential to weathering the storm, future proofing brands and manoeuvring budgetary restrictions in the coming year and beyond. 

Disclaimer: Views expressed are my own and not Google’s