5 trends every brand builder needs to know
By Paul Archer, CEO and co-founder, Duel
With a shift in priorities, budgets and cost cutting happening everywhere, there’s no denying 2023 has been a challenging year for many brands to date – they’re having to fight harder to gain attention and spend more to convert, all the while dealing with rapidly changing consumer spending habits in the wake of the cost of living crisis.
I am fortunate enough to work with over 50 brands a year, and never before have CMOs had to fight the CFO for every single dollar. As customer acquisition costs continue to rise, brands have to stay on top of the latest trends just to be able to match last year’s numbers, let alone grow.
Here’s my take on the trends that will have the biggest impact for the rest of this year…
The changing consumer
Before anything else, brands need to understand how and why consumer buying behaviour is changing and what this means for them.
It is a shift that started long before the current economic situation arose because today’s millennial and gen z consumers are a much more sceptical bunch than their predecessors. They are increasingly losing trust in many standard marketing practices including paid advertising and influencer promotions and instead, they are looking for more meaning and purpose from the brands they buy from (something that has only been accelerated by both the pandemic and the current economic crisis). It’s no surprise then that EY suggests that purposeful companies outperform the stock market by 42 percent.
As a result, long-term brand and reputation building will be much more important than expensive advertising strategies when it comes to standing out from the competition and driving growth this year.
Google vs social search
Not only are consumers looking for more purpose from the brands they buy from, they are also changing the way they search for them. Social media platforms are starting to pose a real threat to the dominance of Google search. Even Google’s Senior VP admitted as much when he revealed: “In our studies, something like almost 40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search…They go to TikTok or Instagram.”
And according to data from Search Engine Land, 40 percent of gen z prefer searching on TikTok or Instagram over Google, Facebook averages over 2 billion searches a day and 83 percent of Instagram users say they use the platform to discover new products and services. And all of that content they consume to inform their purchasing decisions is user generated.
So for brands to succeed in the coming months and years, they’ll need to step up their social media strategy and really start optimising their social profiles for search and not just reach and engagement.
The time for social commerce is NOW
And we are not only using social to now search for products and services, we are using it to shop. In a big way. With the social commerce market set to reach $3.37 trillion by 2028, the time for brands to act on social commerce is right now.
Defined as any purchase which is influenced by social whereby the selling is done through people, not owned brand channels, it is the next digital shopping revolution and is transforming the way brands acquire and retain customers. The secret lies in ensuring you have an army of evangelists and advocates promoting your brand across social.
For those that get it right, social commerce has the potential to become a brand’s biggest revenue generator this year.
Redefining the influencer
The traditional influencer model is flawed. Brands have historically got it wrong by creating a strategy that is built around paying a random person with lots of followers to pretend to like their brand or product. And it doesn’t work (according to data from YouGov, 96 percent of UK adults do not trust these influencers).
But the concept of influencer marketing is a really great one. People buy into people, and true influencer marketing is all about authentic storytelling for brands that want their message to not only be heard, but trusted and actioned. Brands just need to redefine who their real “influencers” are. And this starts with treating their customers as a channel in and of themselves, identifying superfans from within their own customer base and growing through them (not random celebrities with no affiliation to the brand).
These individuals may not be the ones buying the most, but they are the people with the most influence because they live and breathe the brands they love. True brand advocates tell everyone they know about their favoured brands, which makes them the most powerful engine of word of mouth and free customer acquisition available to any business.
Invest in User Generated Content (UGC)
Research from Stackla shows that user generated content (UGC) is 2.4 times more trusted than brand created content. That’s because regardless of age, consumers want to see what other people are saying about a brand, not what a brand is saying about themselves before buying from them.
We are increasingly looking for real content, created by real people who we can relate to and trust in order to make better and more informed buying decisions. That could be from family, friends, communities we are part of or authentic brand advocates we follow on social media.
The best way for brands to invest in UGC is to first focus on building a community of loyal brand fans (we call them advocates) and then incentivising them to create and share content with their own followers. Companies including Lululemon, Patagonia and Gymshark have all grown in this very way – most of their budget don’t go towards paying celebrities, they trust and empower their own customers to share their own content with their own followers and have all grown as a result.
Brands undoubtedly face challenging times, but those that can understand how and why consumer buying habits have changed and can take advantage of the opportunities offered by social commerce, overhaul their influencer strategies and invest in UCG will outsmart the competition, gain market share, reduce their customer acquisition costs and ultimately, grow.