2021 proved that among changing times, consumer needs and expectations change just as rapidly and dramatically. As we try and find our “new normal,” Insider Intelligence has identified the top digital trends and developments that should be on marketers’ radar throughout 2022.

Here’s a look at the biggest technology trends to watch this year:

Digital Trend #1: Digital ad spending blows away our pre-pandemic outlook

US digital ad spending will grow by nearly 50% in the next four years. By 2025, the digital ad market will top $300 billion—more than three-quarters of all media spending. Digital has eclipsed all other forms of advertising, but it has also outperformed our expectations several times in recent years.

We predict that upper-funnel ads will drive digital ad spending gains. Although search remains a larger contributor to ad spending than video, the latter is where the budgets are shifting. This is true across a range of platforms and publishers, including CTV services, retailers, and even social networks, where video ads sit higher in the purchase funnel than do other formats.

Digital Trend #2: The pendulum is swinging toward AVOD

Ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) viewership is growing. There will be 164.0 million US AVOD viewers in 2025, up from 127.7 million this year. These figures represent increases relative to key metrics such as OTT video service users, digital video viewers, internet users, and the general population.

Consumers want choice, and after a flurry of SVOD launches and a pandemic-induced surge in on-demand viewing, there’s now an opening for ad-supported OTT services and device manufacturers with free channels.

By the end of 2022, 46.65% of US internet users will be AVOD viewers.  - Insider Intelligence
By the end of 2022, 46.65% of US internet users will be AVOD viewers. Insider Intelligence

Digital Trend #3: Viral commerce will be the ‘It’ trend in social commerce

Brands and retailers will look to cash in on the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt phenomenon by strategizing around viral commerce—the practice of creating content that’s designed to show off products in an entertaining and visually appealing way so that it’s shared widely across social media.  

Integrations with Shopify and other payment platforms have made it easier for brands and influencers to set up shop on social media. With these tools in place, marketers can use viral commerce to increase the reach of discovery, in hopes that a shoppable post will lead users down a streamlined funnel toward purchase.  

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Digital Trend #4: 2022 will be the year of the micro- and nano-influencer

Move over, celebrities and mega-influencers. Creators with smaller followings will be the strategic play in the influencer marketing world in 2022.

Consumers view nano- and micro-influencers as “people like me,” which makes them more likely to trust and take action based on their recommendations. They’re also less expensive: According to June 2021 HypeAuditor data, 70.7% of influencers with 1,000 to 10,000 followers charge less than $100 per Instagram post, while 76.9% of influencers with more than 1 million followers charge $1,000 or more.

Digital Trend #5: QR codes expand their reach beyond the pandemic

QR codes offer a great customer experience because they let users go to a website to get additional information, download an app, log into a loyalty program, or buy something. For restaurants and retailers, this will mean faster checkouts and reduced staff needs—and therefore lower costs. 

But they also give stores and restaurants the ability to collect information about users, such as what they’re browsing or ordering. With first-party data increasingly important for understanding customers, this additional perk is a central feature for retailers, since it helps them target and attribute online ads as third-party sources of data become less accessible.

Three-quarters of US adults are at least "somewhat willing" to make greater use of QR codes in the future.  - Insider Intelligence
Three-quarters of US adults are at least “somewhat willing” to make greater use of QR codes in the future. Insider Intelligence

Digital Trend #6: Apps will embrace sustainability

A growing number of companies in 2021 offered consumers the chance to track their carbon footprint in apps, but the trend accelerated when Google released features in many of its apps that let consumers track their carbon impact or limit their emissions. More than half of US and European respondents said they consider sustainability when making a clothing purchase, according to a September 2020 survey by Trustpilot and London Research.

Google joins a growing number of companies offering carbon footprint tracking within apps. Cogo has partnered with dozens of banks to provide consumers with real-time carbon footprint tracking for their daily purchases, which they can track with an app. And companies like Unilever have committed to adding labels with carbon imprint information on their products.

Digital Trend #7: The streaming market continues to get more crowded

There are more than 200 global streaming services, according to Flixed, yet the number of services continues to grow. Due to mergers and acquisitions, it’s not unusual for a single media conglomerate to operate numerous streaming services. For example, ViacomCBS now has multiple subscription services (Paramount+, Showtime, BET+) and free apps (CBS News and Pluto TV), in addition to services like its sports app that require an authenticated pay TV login to stream television broadcasts.

The expansion of streaming services also matters to users. The number of streaming services that people use has expanded as more streamers have launched, per TiVo, but they still use only a small fraction of the total streaming services available.

Digital Trend #8: Programmatic display goes from big to huge

Buyers are getting more comfortable with programmatic connected TV (CTV). As CTV platforms improve fraud detection and raise the quality of their programmatic inventory, the programmatic share of CTV ad spending will grow dramatically. In 2023, more than 78% of US CTV video ad spending will be transacted programmatically, compared with less than 70% in 2021.

That said, the programmatic guaranteed deals that dominate CTV environments don’t offer the same degree of addressability and measurability that some advertisers are used to in other programmatic display channels. There’s still room for improvement to make programmatic CTV a win-win for buyers and sellers.

Digital Trend #9: Meta’s US ad growth will remain strong despite negative press, privacy changes

The company formerly known as Facebook will face its toughest challenges ever in 2022, but the effect on ad spending will be minimal.

The effects of Apple’s iOS changes will be noticeable—but temporary. Headwinds from the iOS changes have made it more difficult for the company to provide accurate ad performance readings and have led to lower growth in iOS-targeted ad spending. Still, Android-targeted spending on Facebook and Instagram has accelerated, and ad prices for Android ads have increased.

Forecasts show increasing faith in Meta's US ad revenues. - Insider Intelligence
Forecasts show increasing faith in Meta’s US ad revenues. Insider Intelligence

Digital Trend #10: Social audio will be a one-hit wonder

Twitter has been expanding Spaces, and as of October any user can host one. But plans to give the feature its own tab in the Twitter app have been put on hold. Facebook, meanwhile, introduced Live Audio Rooms, its foray into social audio, at the height of the Clubhouse craze, but its latest move squashed all its audio initiatives (including Live Audio Rooms, podcasts, and short-form audio) into a section of its video hub, Facebook Watch.

Marketers looking for audio opportunities will recommit to podcasts. With more than 117 million monthly listeners in the US in 2021, the prospect of reaching this audience will cause podcast ad spending to increase 30.2% next year to $1.71 billion.

Insider Intelligence publishes new tech predictions at the start of each calendar year. Stay tuned for updated predictions at the start of 2023.