2022 has certainly been a year to remember. Between three Prime Ministers, economic chaos, the death of the queen and a war in Ukraine, it’s fair to say it has been unpredictable year.
But it hasn’t all been doom and gloom. Even though England might be drowning its sorrows after dipping out of the World Cup recently, the North has continued to cement its status as a thriving hub of innovation through its flourishing digital, creative and tech scene.
Global companies and agencies continued to set up bases in the region, such as Booking.com and Scottish ad giant Leith, and whether it was TikTok, VR or AI – we continued to shine a spotlight on all the latest trends.
But with the cost of living crisis and economic turmoil continuing to bite with a recession rearing its head, what’s next on the horizon aside from us all cranking up the radiators a notch in 2023?
We’ve spoken to a variety of industry leaders and gathered their insights and predictions for 2023, from how brands might be shaking things up, tech innovations to agency trends…
Bec Chelin, Director, Manifest Group
I don’t think anyone in the industry is in any doubt the next 12 months are set to be as unpredictable as the previous 24 months have been – so in short, who knows! However, I do believe there will be shoots of innovation and growth for those able to act with agility and with a focus on tangible business results for clients through periods of economic uncertainty.
I find it slightly bewildering that we still need to highlight the need for a stark focus on reporting and measuring real change and tangible business results as a result of the creative work executed across multiple channels. But, rather than bemoan that, I’ll celebrate the fact that a scrutiny on budgets and ROI has driven that need. Excitingly those with the right measurement models – like The Loop at Manifest – will be able to lead from the front here.
We’ll also see brands looking to consolidate their agency networks in favour of those who can look at the whole creative marketing and activation mix holistically, driving more consistent brand narratives and better results. It’ll give creative independents much more opportunity to show what can be done with an agile, flexible and creative mindset. I do hope in the midst of financial pressures agencies will undoubtedly see, that the recent investment in people and planetary measures across the triple bottom line doesn’t lose traction. It’s important we see the benefit of investment in these areas as more than just something to be enjoyed during more profitable times, but more a driver of a successful, commercially viable agency in and of itself.
Amul Batra, Chief Operating Officer, Northcoders
2023 is set to be another year of massive change. The tsunami of digital transformation that has gripped businesses will continue across the board but we will also see more and more organisations focus on data-driven strategies. In reality, this will mean that decisions will be based on what they know to be actually true rather than acting on a feeling or hunch.
It goes without saying that analytics and data constantly evolve but new technologies are now delivering quicker and more precise insights. However, the real key to making those all-important data driven decisions – and ultimately maximising potential and driving growth – will be the ability to rely on useful, clean, well-organised and easily accessible data.
That’s not rocket science but there are so many so called ‘traditional industries’ out there where this doesn’t currently happen. So, a step change is needed which will shift focus from digital transformation to data transformation.
I think the next trend in SEO in particular will be rafts of new SEO agencies telling you how important content is, after years of trying to do everything but produce great content. They haven’t done this before because it’s either too hard, doesn’t make them enough profit, or they lack the knowledge.
However, Google’s understanding of ‘entities’ has significantly improved in the past few years, and it’s getting better every single day. Those agencies who haven’t taken the importance of content seriously are now either being wiped out because they’ve been found out, don’t know how to change, or are being forced to say ‘content is good’ on excruciatingly simplistic LinkedIn posts, as though website and marketing managers don’t already know this.
As CTI Digital’s resident pessimist, it would be remiss not to predict that I expect 2023 to be challenging for businesses and marketers alike. From economic instability, rising interest rates, and a likely recession to the deprecation of third-party cookies affecting the likes of Universal Analytics and pixel-based tracking, the coming year will reward good agility and those who are open and responsive to change.
The ever-increasing costs of advertising are causing many businesses to pull back on media spending – opening up a significant opportunity to compete if the reduction in demand leads to falling CPCs.
2023 certainly will be a challenging year for many, but where one person sees difficulty, another sees opportunity. Adapting marketing strategies and having the courage to test new ideas and strategies will likely lead to winning sales, clients, and market share for businesses.
The year to pl-AI-y: The idea of AI-driven technology that produces content – words, images or otherwise – is nothing new. OpenAI’s GPT-3 launched in 2020, and there’s been plenty of excitement since about whether AI can create a picture of a dog in a cheeseburger hat, or not.
But we think next year is when AI will get real. Generative AI (content producing AI) is already being called the next era-defining innovation, changing how we experience the internet and receive content. OpenAI launched Chat-GPT last month – and this time, the detailed responses and well-reasoned answers it produces has garnered a lot of attention. Producing long form copy? Initial creative exploration? TOV exploration? Nothing will replace genuine human creativity, but anything that can augment it is surely a positive thing.
It’s currently not much more than a meme-machine, but coming out of COVID and the turbulence of the last few years (we hope), the time is now to make the most of new tech and disrupters. The tech is better, the benefits are clearer – and that first mover advantage is still ripe for the taking.
So we predict that 2023 will be the year AI-driven content production starts to takes off in the real world. Whether that’s Chat-GPT or the next new thing, we think this will be the year that we really start to play, explore and navigate this new world and understand what it could mean for marketers, agencies and brands.
Mike Carr, CEO, Crowd Network
I have seen 2023 described as the “year podcasting has to pay for itself”. But what does that mean? Put simply, podcast companies must balance the books, which has not always been the case in the feeding frenzy of the early wild west years of this new(ish) industry.
Long-term this will secure the future of podcasting, but how you create a strategy in this turbulent market will be the key to success. Whatever the content produced, the diversification of revenue streams will allow podcast companies to attack on all fronts and be less reliant on an unpredictable advertising market. We will see more podcasting companies diversify revenue streams through lucrative live tours, merchandise and brand partnerships. In April, our first ever live show, The Joe Marler Show at The Clapham Grand, London, sold out in just 10 hours which demonstrates that audiences are hungry for the multi-content possibilities the podcast industry can offer.
Subscription models will continue to develop as we learn more about what the audience is and isn’t willing to pay for. There will be more creative brand partnerships as brands look for engagement and community rather than a high-volume scattergun approach.
Video, and in particular YouTube, has the potential to be a game changer for the industry. YouTube is investing heavily to launch more tools and features that speak to audio-only creators, which will include the launch of audio ads and other monetisation mechanisms. If successful, podcasting will change significantly to fully embrace video. The industry has gained significant momentum in the last few years and the opportunities are now endless.
James Wilkinson, co-founder and CEO, Zuto
ESG remains important despite recession: Even though we are facing a recession, many businesses are realising that committing to being a force for good doesn’t mean you have to forfeit success and profit. For consumers, seeing brands with a commitment to ESG has become a high priority, so making these commitments is becoming more and more important for companies from a competitive point of view.
Employers will need to make the workplace appealing: 2022 saw a return to the office for many companies. Large tech firms such Apple introduced stricter measures with regards to their home working policies, and Twitter even ordered their employees back into the office for 40 hour weeks.
However, heading into 2023, companies must understand that a large proportion of the workforce has become accustomed to working at least some of the week from home, or elsewhere. Candidates now expect to have this choice of hybrid working, so in order to successfully recruit in today’s competitive market, this is something businesses will have to embrace over the next 12 months.
I anticipate 2023 is going to hand us a whirlwind of changes and challenges. Consumers will be seeking value in the brands they buy from due to the recession further impacting our everyday lives. And brands will likely double down and focus more than ever on ensuring they are connecting with their audiences by investing in their advertising, whilst from an industry perspective, advertisers themselves will be utilising the opportunities in the changes across both digital and TV.
The challenges across digital advertising will be navigating targeting and tracking consumers in a post third party cookie world. On the other hand, I suspect we’ll see a shift and a tighter focus of advertising on SVOD platforms that have added advertising subscriptions, such as Netflix, ITVX, and Disney+ into 2023.
Nicola Docking, Head of Strategy, Poke Marketing
In a world that swings from one unprecedented event to the next, is it really possible to predict anything for 2023?
With the majority of industries still reeling from lockdown, the emergence of Gen Z as adult consumers and the cost-of-living crisis in full swing, for many marketeers it is a case of getting back to basics and really learning about your target audience again. 2023 will see more openness to invest in strategy, rather than just tactics, as brands must relearn their audience’s behaviour.
Audience segmentation and dissemination of targeted messaging to each sector will be vital. Audiences need to feel understood more than ever. In a world that is so uncertain, people are looking to be guided in a way they may previously have been cynical about. Hence the popularity of influencers and TikTok. People don’t want to be “sold to”, but they do want to know what they should be buying and are happy to let someone else show them. Brands should be starting with a strategic behaviour change framework to identify the content that will change attitudes, shift perceptions and drive behaviour change. This approach defines the ‘why’ of marketing now and into 2023.
Randel Bryan, Executive Director and Deputy CEO, Factory International
2022 has been a remarkable year for arts and culture in the North, with real momentum building around enhancing the region’s standing as a key cultural destination. The North has been described as seeing a cultural resurgence; however, we see it as building on Manchester’s ripe cultural heritage and history as a place of innovation.
That said, 2023 presents a real opportunity to go further when it comes to widening engagement with the sector, connecting local people and talent with opportunities, and pushing the boundaries of art in all its forms. But now is not the time to rest on our laurels and enjoy the view, moreover it’s time to really ride this wave of enthusiasm and ensure that all communities of Manchester, especially those who have been socially or economically excluded from the arts, feel invited, connected, and empowered to join in. That requires genuine two-way dialogue with communities and working with local people to shape arts and cultural programmes that relate to them in authentic and meaningful ways.
A major catalyst for this movement will be Factory International, a cultural venue opening in 2023 that will not only be a global destination for arts and music in the heart of the city, it will also be a destination to develop the next generation of diverse talent, via the Factory Academy, a major training centre for local people that provides routes into technical and production roles for people from all backgrounds.
Cameron Lee, Head of Strategy, Total Processing
People don’t pay like they used to. In 2022, digital payments continued to triumph and cash is no longer king. Contactless is thriving, with consumers increasingly embracing digital-only banks.
In 2023, I wouldn’t be surprised to see digital wallets close the gap on physical cards. It’s happening faster than people think. A third of all online transactions are already made with a digital wallet, like Apple Pay and Google Pay, and that’s only going to go up. It’s less to carry and the fastest way to pay. Any merchants that aren’t already accommodating for it will need to keep up. That’s especially important for ecommerce. By 2024, ecommerce is expected to account for a third of all sales and a vital avenue for retailers looking to expand into the international market, which makes it one to look out for over the next year.
The way people pay has never evolved quicker. The best, streamlined checkout systems look nothing like they did this time last year, and it’ll be interesting to see how the digital payments landscape evolves in 2023!
As with every year, I’m going to steer clear of the bigger, long-term movements such as the metaverse, NFT’s et al, and focus more on the specifics of 2023.
There’ll be volatility in the economy but volatility also means start-ups and 2023 will see new brands and new agencies born, coming from the next generation of entrepreneurs. Exciting times for some, misery for others. Testing times means brands working harder to convert and retain customers, so we’ll see more value add from brands as the stakes are raised around customer experience.
Agencies who can deliver true strategy will flourish. Now more than ever, clients need agencies to understand their world. Those who just do stuff, will struggle, those that immerse themselves in the client world and can offer true strategic support, will flourish. If an agency is writing a ‘spend through tough times’ article, you can be sure they’re a million miles away from understanding a client’s world.
Finally, back to the first point, brands will spend more of their marketing budget on the periphery worlds; E-sports, NFT’s, the metaverse, partnership, CX. It won’t take big budget share, but it will make agencies understand it better.
The rise of micro-influencers and the extended definition in 2023! As the coined term of ‘influencers’ continues to prevail, and marketing predictions see it topping every annual ‘global trends report, I believe the line between micro-influencers and employee engagement could become blurred. And if positioned correctly within the overall marketing strategy, the power of positive brand endorsement from within could be the key to excelling at CX.
Shifting focus onto employee satisfaction and the curation of internal brand ambassadors will serve multiple purposes. A desire to work for a company that values its employees will no longer just be a factor for the employee itself, but a driving force in the purchase decision process when consumers are doing their product research.
Expectations of authentic storytelling will reach new heights and as marketers we will need to look to new avenues to deliver this.
Jonny Saatchi, Managing Director, MC2
2023 is going to pose a number of challenges for high-growth businesses. It is going to be a very tough economic environment. But as with every cycle, there will always be opportunities too.
Every market will feel things become more competitive. Raising money (particularly at a desired valuation) will get harder, lead generation more problematic and attracting and retaining talent will be a continual battle.
We believe, therefore, the ‘winners’ will be the businesses who are relentlessly audience-centric by prioritising strategic marketing. It is so easy to become too inward-focused in our thinking. But when macro headwinds set in it is more important than ever that every marketing strategy and every piece of communication that flows from them is designed with a specific stakeholder or stakeholder group in mind.
Safa Alkateb, CEO, Autocab
In 2023, more big tech companies will look to form cross-industry partnerships with smaller businesses to pool resources and expertise, and meet growing consumer expectations.
We’ve seen this in the transport sector over the past year, where Uber has been working with local taxi and private hire operators across the UK to extend its service. The collaboration is helping to meet increased passenger demand, while also opening up greater earning opportunities for drivers.
On a regional level, this is a win-win for local economies, allowing businesses to grow and diversify their service offering for customers. Technology will facilitate more of these integrations, linking together businesses from different sectors – and ultimately offering us travel, delivery and shopping experiences in one place.
Mark Sellers, Managing Director, TalkTalk Business
In 2023 I expect we will see businesses embrace bandwidth on demand, a data communication method that allows organisations to flex their connectivity in real-time. We’ll see more organisations take control of their own bandwidth with improved flexibility to dial speed up and down as needed. This can be done in response to the peaks and troughs of seasonal trading periods or expansion plans – a more cost-effective approach.
With venues, for example, being able to dial their bandwidth up to meet the demands of full capacity, and dial back down for set break up, or schools to cope with reduced bandwidth needs in school holidays. This is great but the real advantage comes through being able to make these changes and control the network centrally – from anywhere, at any time.
Integrated network software is what makes this achievable. With previous scenarios of any network changes having to be made by engineers visiting sites, resulting in more time and cost endured, this change is a welcomed one. A software-defined network with bandwidth on demand is a game-changer for all businesses, and we are excited to see what the new year brings!
I also expect we will see the digital transformation trends of the past two years continue, with businesses investing in a resilient, secure and reliable network as a foundation for communication, and data sharing- meaning more flexible work environments. And with this year’s financials already being stretched by rising energy costs its time bandwidth is viewed as something your organisation can take control of.
There are a number of factors, such as changes to privacy laws, that might lead to a reduction in target audience size due to less accessible audience data. However, this means that there could be a shift in focus from visibility and brand awareness to traffic and lead quality.
In PPC terms, this also means eliminating poor performing audiences as much as possible, and could inspire a willingness in experts to be super aggressive in order to drive budget towards PPC ads that are targeting the correct audiences, converting good leads and sales, and driving conversions and revenue.
So, despite a reduction in target audience size, I predict advertisers will increase aggression for smaller audiences to best drive success for both lead generation and ecommerce clients alike.
Andy Waters, Head of Studios, dock10
Over the last five years we’ve seen a huge revolution in the way television is made, with virtual studios really coming to prominence. So far, news and sport have been the pioneers of this format as they quickly understood how to make the technology work for them with shows like Match of the Day highlighting the extraordinary possibilities of virtual studios. People who remember the desperately unimpressive virtual output of the 90s are stunned by the photorealism we can now achieve and how this can add everything from exciting little flourishes to a whole new dimension to a show’s format. Other genres have taken notice and we are seeing more and more interest from across the broadcast industry.
For me, this adds up to an exciting expectation that next year we will see many more genres adopting the virtual studio format, including quiz shows and entertainment shows. There is a continued pressure to reduce budgets, but channels still demand new and creative content – and this is where virtual studio elements can make a difference. You don’t need to throw away your set and shoot in a green box, simply adding some virtual elements can give any show ‘something special’. We’re now able to make a daytime show look like a big-budget Saturday night entertainment extravaganza – and that is going to lead to an explosion of shows trying this new technology next year. Oh, and Wales will win the rugby world cup ;-)!
Google certainly kept us on our toes this year with a raft of algorithm updates that created a high amount of volatility in the SERPS. This frequency of updates means it’s easy to become overly laser-focused in your approach to SEO, often getting side-tracked by concentrating on tasks that might not have much of an overall effect on your rankings.
In 2023 at Pixel Kicks we envisage a dual approach of creating rich and engaging long-form content, but amplified with a solid paid social campaign to get eyes on it. The additional time required to do this means clients will get a head start on their competitors, they’ll benefit from increased social sharing, and stand a chance of picking up some natural organic backlinks too. Pages should be visually rich, with plenty of images and video, and well formatted. We’ve come a long way since blog posts were just reams of text – in fact quite often our team will design posts in Figma prior to starting work on them.
Covid struck like a tsunami – bringing destruction to many but also creating a huge wave that was ridden by digital-first brands. Companies that invested in a marketing strategy that balanced harvesting demand with longer-term demand-creating growth investment will be glad they did. Because I believe 2023 will be the year that punishes the short-term wave-riders.
Many brands were able to exploit a unique period of digital growth, where the damage caused by Covid had largely been delayed through government intervention, leading to inflated disposable income. This has brought increased expectations from shareholders, and often employees alike. This is forcing those brands who had a short-term wave-riding strategy to think increasingly in the short-term to hit inflated revenue targets.
Thinking short-term typically means thinking discount-led; a tactic that will be challenging under inflationary pressures. Risk-taking combined with cost-cutting may arise for these brands out of necessity, potentially resulting in experimentation across unproven lower-cost channels, an increased reliance on cheaper UGC, a desire to reach new cheaper audiences and so on. So this year, I expect some bumps in the road for brands who simply haven’t invested in their brands.
Liam Fulton, co-founder and CTO, Frame
I think automation and Synthetic Image Generation will really take hold next year – especially amongst retailers as they are being battered from all sides. The entire sector is being massively impacted by spiralling energy, raw material and labour costs as well as a significant drop in their customers’ disposable incomes. Many are realising that automation and Synthetic Image Generation is a way for them to buck that trend by focusing on what actually makes people buy; namely the image in front of them.
In the past, all types of retailers, including ecommerce and brick and mortar, have been bound by the limitations of needing to do reshoots if their imagery wasn’t delivering, but that’s now been turned on its head. Current technology means they can make changes quickly and cost effectively using AI to generate images and sales data to select the ones with the biggest impact. That is a gamechanger and will revolutionise the sector, and how we as partner agencies work with them, over the coming years as it becomes more widely adopted and understood.
2023 will no doubt be awash with exciting new tech and platform options to aid our efforts as marketers and we need to be ready – Google Analytics 4 anyone? However, next year will be back to basics in the sense that brand and humanising marketing content will be at the fore. Brought in by the prior uncertainty of the pandemic, businesses and consumers have continued to seek a change of pace, more lasting connection to brands and each other. Right now, we’re experiencing another tough climate, so while consumers battle with recession pressure, messaging, tone, consistency and ethos have never been more important. Clients and consumers need clear reasons to spend their hard-earned money, so brands must get back to what makes them stand out, how they add value – they need to be demonstrably part of the solution in challenging times.
On the back of this, we expect a rise in brands reassessing their messaging and mission, seeking assistance with strategy to deliver this in the most effective way possible. We’ll see a continued rise in video content, this too featuring more people to foster connection and communicate value quickly to stop the scroll. People first is the feeling for 2023 – looking after staff, customers, clients, being in it together and improving what we can, however we can.
Joelle Mullin, Retail and Travel Client Partner, Awin
Over the last few years, publisher diversity has proven to be the key strategy for brands, ensuring multiple layers of data touchpoints to support customers in their decision-making journey. Embracing a varied partner mix also reduces the risk of relying on one partner type. In 2022, brands with a more diverse base benefited from the large growth and were able to protect themselves somewhat from the impact of many macro-factors affecting retail.
As customers continue to demand honest product insights, retailer comparisons and seek out the best prices, I believe we will continue to see the affiliate channel buck the trend and stand out comparative to wider retail ecommerce. Retail brands will be looking to secure sales, at a strong ROAS, and will be looking to the affiliate channel as a safe investment that offers transparency, control, and choice.
It’s going to be a tough year for retail overall, and customers will be focused on essential vs non-essential shopping. I am proud to be working within a channel that aims to support our brands and their customers through partnerships of all sizes in 2023.
Liam Bateman, Director of Mobile & .Net, Silverchip (part of CTI Group)
2023 is shaping up to be the year AI has a truly mainstream impact, we’ve been talking about it and experimenting with it for so long but with the recent launch of ChatGPT and various AI Image creation tools, the concept has not only hit the headlines but the general public is now aware and seeing its potential. It’s the number one technology trend we will see develop through 2023 and will be interesting to see how business navigates its potential and pitfalls.
On top of that, I still think VR and Blockchain have a strong place in the future, both these technologies have gone through that naive phase, it’s a bit chaotic as the use cases settle. In terms of VR Meta (aka Facebook) has banked big bucks on VR and the new Meta Quest Pro has made some big leaps but the challenge will be how business gets the cost down and more devices in consumers’ hands.
And as for blockchain, away from the headlines there is really interesting work going on, particularly in the gaming space and I see this developing further through 2023.
If you say you trust that something is true, you mean you hope and expect that it’s true. That’s the dictionary definition, at least. Sadly, I think that many of us will have trust issues next year. And that’s because the growing distrust levels, particularly online, are about to be put under the pump again with so many new and wonderful innovations joining a world that’s already dealing with an information overload.
Web3 had an interesting year, not helped by the struggles of crypto markets, and 2023 will continue to be tumultuous because of mistrust. There’s lots of exciting innovations ahead though – AI had positive year with cool new computer-generated content emerging; perhaps ChatGPT3 could even write this article itself next year! But would you trust it?
Misinformation in the news never seems to go away, and that spreads to social media which is the biggest frustration users have with it. And trust gaps can widen as we make our way through economic uncertainty. What will we do to combat this?
I’ll answer that with another dictionary definition: if you trust in someone or something, you believe strongly in them, and do not doubt their powers or their good intentions. Sounds like a job for comms…
Michael Forster, CEO, GigPig
2023 will likely start with the UK in recession. Businesses and households will slow down their spending on non-essential costs. Businesses in the hospitality sector that want to survive will start to spend more on technology to make their businesses more productive and to find solutions to drive their costs down and their footfall up.
They must ensure they embed the right technology partners throughout their processes and in every area of their operations and marketing. Technology is so available and accessible for all businesses, that anyone who does not adopt it will be damaging their business. If hospitality tech providers want to have clients who are robust and expansive at the end of the recession, then they will start to partner and merge their data lakes. Helping to inform their clients of the demographic that they are catering to and how to market to them, thus creating a more targeted offering.
This is all necessary if the Hospitality sector is to survive the coming onslaught, it had only just started to recover post Covid. Can any of us imagine not being able to go for a night out meeting friends and socialising whilst listening to music?