After two years of increased online interactions and blurred lines between commercial and social, people aren’t going back to their old ways. To help chief marketing officers capture new digital touchpoints. Gartner’s latest report shares its key marketing predictions on virtual influencers, the privacy movement, flexible workplace, social commerce and more.

Mobile App Tracking

Gartner predicts that by 2023, 60 percent of consumers will opt-out of mobile app tracking services, down from 85 percent. For one, consumers are discovering that untargeted ads increase their exposure to low-quality content. Their initial impulse to opt-out of tracking is also fading.  

Seeing that about 25 percent of digital users would actually allow tracking while another 25 percent report allowing it in specific circumstances, prior predictions about the collapse of online tracking are proving to be overblown.

A full reversal to “accept all” tracking from trusted sites and well-established publishers may soon be underway. And those apps and websites that offer customers a reason to opt-in will likely earn a substantial revenue advantage.

To capitalize on this opt-out ambivalence, brands should offer customers compelling reasons to trust them with their data and make it easier for them to change privacy behaviors and settings. They can also mitigate data degradation by maximizing contextual targeting and measurement.

Workplace Flexibility 

Gartner’s next prediction: Workplace flexibility will open the door to advertisers and the volume of ad impressions delivered by TV and streaming media channels between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. will increase by 60 percent.

The firm’s research found that 50 percent of consumers’ regularly scheduled and daily routines have shifted from what they were pre-pandemic. Couple that with the fact that this year, remote and hybrid employees will spend 20 percent more time watching video content during daylight hours.

The outcome of this behavior change is ads placed in former prime-time spots, i.e., those during morning and evening programs, could potentially no longer reach the volume or type of customers that brands would like to engage. On the other hand, this could benefit marketers who’ve been priced out of high-demand spots.

Moving forward, brands should align their ad strategy to utilize the times of day when their audience is most receptive and leverage audio as a core component of the messaging given many customers will be listening while at work.

Employee Advocacy

By 2023, 90 percent of business-to-business (B2B) social media marketing strategies will incorporate scaled employee advocacy programs, which Gartner forecasts will drive brand credibility.

According to LinkedIn, when employees share content it has a 200 percent higher click-through rate than when the company shares it. This finding, along with employees’ decreased trust in company-sourced information, suggests employees have greater personal credibility with customers than brands. 

These programs could achieve greater reach and engagement than conventional approaches to earned and owned social media while simultaneously improving reputation and increasing employee engagement and productivity.

To stay ahead of this trend, Gartner says brands must “leverage the personal touch” by utilizing employee advocacy programs that scale the curation and distribution of consistent brand content on social media.

Virtual Influencers

Everyone saw this one coming. Gartner anticipates that by 2025 CMOs will dedicate 30 percent of influencer and celebrity marketing budgets to virtual influencers. 

Among the benefits of doing so is computer-animated personalities may be worth millions just in brand endorsements. They give brands more control over messaging and cost less than celebrities. There’s also greater consistency and lower risk involved given they’ll never be involved in scandals or leave the firm. 

All of this isn’t to say they don’t come with challenges. Consumer backlash is ever-present and may become an issue if unattainable beauty standards aren’t adequately addressed, Gartner notes.

Brands seeking to harness the power of virtual influencers can explore how they may represent their company or industry, evaluate their performance using the same key performance indicators (KPIs) used for traditional influencers and continue monitoring customer sentiment toward them.

Social Commerce

Traditional digital commerce platforms are out. By 2026, Gartner expects 60 percent of millennial and Gen Z consumers will prefer purchasing on social platforms. Roughly 33 percent of B2B and business-to-consumer organizations have already incorporated selling on social platforms as a portion of their digital commerce strategy – motivated by increasing customer purchasing on social channels. Younger consumers are turning to these commerce options as they enable convenience and discovery.

Brands competing in the space must reimagine the customer experience and how best to design it so that simplicity and enrichment are at the center. The quality of social media product pages must remain high and include information that customers need to make a decision. Regardless of how many customers are willing to opt-in, privacy will forever be a concern therefore transparency here is key.