Assemble 2023 Digital Outlook

  1. The Evolution of Retail Media

    Right now, North American online retailers are leading the rest of the world when it comes to launching retail media networks (e.g., Instacart, Walmart, Walgreens) — but this won’t last long. Dozens of ecommerce retailers in EMEA, APAC and LATAM will either launch or double down on retail media networks in 2023. As a result, global expansion into untapped markets is becoming one of the most popular growth strategies for leading retailers.

    Having a strategy that is connected and cohesive will be more important than ever. More brands will start viewing retail media as an interconnected advertising channel versus a handful of unrelated platforms, and they’ll use unified real time optimization to capitalize on arbitrage opportunities between the various networks. In order to make that happen, we’ll see more centralized retail media teams — both at agencies and large CPGs (consumer packaged goods)

    Notably, creative will start to play a bigger role in the success of all retail media campaigns. As global competition increases, savvy brands will be more thoughtful in the use of creative assets that are specifically produced to maximize their retail media KPIs. They will also do a better job of connecting their retail media creative with their overall creative strategy, tailoring to the specific demographics and regions they’re targeting.

  2. Content Creation Getting a Boost From AI

    The days of long hours spent searching for the perfect stock photo or creating a custom one from scratch are pretty much over. Thanks to artificial intelligence (AI), acquiring the right image for a campaign or website is as easy as drawing some stick figures — basically.

    With AI-Generated Content tools like Nvidia Canvas, you can simply sketch something resembling the image or visuals you’re looking for, and they’ll convert your doodle into a realistic image. A simple brush stroke in the shape of a mountain will auto populate with a highly-naturalistic range. Other tools will help you find the right image with just a couple of keywords. But unlike your typical search, the database will learn through your choices and narrow down the options, while allowing you to search by audience and style. The same capabilities will increasingly apply to text as well, helping copywriters (and non-writers) draft blogs and articles based on keyword searches. Crazy, right?

    AI content will be a game changer for creative freelancers and non-experts looking to create high-quality assets. They’ll also streamline the approval process, allowing actual experts to present more advanced drafts and outlines to clients at every step of the process without the extra work.

  3. New Universes & the World of Gaming

    Word of the Metaverse has certainly made its way extensively around the marketing world, but we haven’t seen much progress yet. Facebook has plans to create a fully-integrated ecosystem, consisting of all the AR / VR applications out there to bring a whole “universe of experiences and capabilities to one technology, as part of a cookie-less future with Web3. But with Facebook’s not-so-stellar year in 2022, filled with layoffs and internal changes, the big stuff is likely still a ways out. Instead, we’re seeing a lot of individual companies taking gamification matters into their own hands, creating digital experiences and virtual worlds for their audiences.

    For example, Fortnite, the battle royale video game, hosts in-game, virtual concerts featuring real artists — in digital form. Participants can choose whatever avatar they’d like and attend the concert like they would in person, allowing them to interact with other attendees in realistic ways and enabling the artist to tailor their performance using sensors and instruments that are modified to the platform. We’re sure to see a lot more brands customizing these virtual realities to their audiences to connect with them in more meaningful and convenient ways.

  4. App Development Gets Support from Modern Browsers

    Let’s paint the picture here a bit. So as a user, whenever you want to download a new mobile app, you go right to the app store and in a few seconds, the icon appears. But what if you’re a developer trying to publish an app on the App Store and Google Play? Now, that’s a little more complicated — since every operating system (iOS, Android, Windows, etc.) all require a full build of the app, each with a different source code.

    But thanks to a Hybrid App approach, this process has gotten a little easier, allowing dev teams to use a single source of code to deploy to different platforms quickly. BUT they still need to go through all the regulations regarding performance, user privacy, performance, etc. required by the app market, and in many cases, pay annual licensing fees.

    Which brings us to one of our favorite trends: Progressive Web Apps (PWA). A PWA is basically a web application that users can access via browser. In addition to functioning just like a regular website, these sites also allow users to install the app just like a regular app, so accessing it is as easy as finding an icon on your desktop. For developers like our crew at Assemble, that means easier implementation, no fees, and faster turnarounds. We get to take advantage of our expert web dev skills to create hybrid apps (that function like native apps) for our clients — all while their users get the ease of familiar browser navigation.

    And the best part is that PWAs can work offline too. In these cases, it will display the data it was able to store locally, and then when it gets back online, it will automatically update to the latest version of the app that exists on the web. Pretty cool, huh?

  5. The (Ever) Increasing Importance of Globalization / Transcreation

    Remember all that talk about global expansion? Well, transcreation is a very big part of that. So as we see more brands going global thanks to advancing digital capabilities, they’ll have to be a lot more aware of the needs of their highly-diverse audiences. That means not simply translating language, but also adapting the visuals, layout, and more to every market you’re targeting.

    But that’s creating some significant challenges for marketers, especially as animations and video continue to lead in all ad performance metrics. For example, repurposing a master animation banner ad into 100 new versions is no small task when that one banner has 8 different frames. So the new focus for designers will be on increasing the efficiency of the transcreation process without sacrificing personalization and originality.

    The good news is that social media has been a big help. Not only has it allowed brands to have a larger presence in global markets, but it’s also offered some useful transcreation tools, which help convert content built on HTML to GIFs and videos that can be easily shared across channels. While it’s certainly a step in the right direction, design teams (at least ours at Assemble) will remain on the search for new tools that expand on these capabilities for all campaigns.

  6. Video Ads Getting A LOT Bigger

    If you’ve been to Time Square recently, then you’ve seen this trend in action. Trust us, you couldn’t miss it. The power of video ads has evolved from its place on the smallest of screens to the biggest — like really big. While this trend is still catching on, you’re likely to see more creative uses of video on larger displays this year. From the massive screen on the side of a NYC skyscraper to a group of monitors syncing to display one cohesive visual to even those screens on the roof of a taxi cab, marketers will be more conscious about video placements and innovate to be where people are most likely to pay attention.

    And with the recent addition of ads to streaming services, we’ll see video continue to mature in different ways. As viewers, we hate interruptions, so marketers will have to get creative in their presentation to ensure audiences remain entertained.

  7. Advancing Development with Modular Websites / WebFlow Technology

    Sites like SquareSpace and Wix have made it easy for non-developers to build professional looking websites. The only problem is, their customization comes with limitations. Modular websites have offered a compromised solution, and they’re taking the web dev world by storm. In addition to providing a wide range of various UI components for marketers and brands to adjust and scale on their own, they offer a much more robust framework.

    With modular sites, the flexibility provided is less in the customization and more in the creation of each page, allowing managers to add as many widgets as necessary to personalize the site when needed. Scaling and redesigning is easy because everything is pre-tested and developed to fit every new element without fail.

    Webflow technology is currently one of the most common modular solutions used by developers to create a site that’s code-free, user-friendly for marketing teams, so they can handle all content creation internally. It’s not only easy to use, but also much more cost-effective than HTML sites.

  8. The Evolution of Production Tools — And Staying on Top of It All

    If there’s anything as important as having a great production team, it’s having the best production tools. The two go hand-in-hand after all, since your team is only as efficient as the tech they’re working with. More and more marketing teams are starting to realize the need to invest in better tools, and more innovative tools are hitting the market every day, helping teams achieve faster turnarounds, fewer costs, and better results, through templates, reusable components, or automated processes.

    You have tools like Browserstack that allows you to see every single unit in the studio production process and adjust them simultaneously, and Litmus, which makes creating and testing emails easy with side-by-side views of every version across every email client. The key this year will be staying on top of all the latest tools that can help make your processes more efficient and valuable, no matter what they may be.

  9. Emails Getting Interactive with AMP

    Thanks to Google, email marketing is ditching its boring, old school reputation. Their new tech allows you to create shopping carts and other website-like experiences for consumers without ever leaving their inbox. In the past, sending out an email meant having two versions; one regular HTML and one text, and the recipient would receive whichever one based on their preferences and email client capabilities. AMP (Automated Mobile Pages) now adds a third tier, which utilizes the same proficiencies as a web page to offer a more interactive experience.

    This cuts out a MAJOR step in the sales funnel, allowing consumers to interact with brands like they would on their site’s without ever having to actually visit. Right now, Gmail is the biggest email client in support of this new tech (go figure), but as more and more marketers start demanding these capabilities, it’s sure to spread like wildfire.

  10. Marketers No Longer Ignoring QA

    Quality Assurance isn’t new. But it does have a newfound importance in website development in 2023. In today’s world of instant gratification, web users have very little patience for flawed technology, so that means if they see an error message or broken link on your website, they may not only bounce; they may never come back again.

    QA audits help catch all of those errors, plus other things like heavy elements causing slow load times, outdated components impacting user experience, and anything not in compliance with the ADA and accessibility or other web regulatory agencies. All of these elements play into your website’s performance across all browsers and devices, ensuring better search rankings and the assurance that you’re delivering what your site visitors want — and expect — from you. Don’t be that site that thinks it doesn’t really need an audit. You do.

  11. Less is Becoming More in Design

    The average human attention span is now officially shorter than that of a goldfish — clocking a mere 8 seconds. And marketers have realized that overcomplicated and busy designs are not a match for these decreasing attention spans. People want ads that are eye-catching, striking, and bold, but they also want all that as quickly as possible. That’s why animation continues to grow in popularity throughout design, offering a great way for brands to grab a consumer’s attention and deliver their message in a quick and visually pleasing way. With an array of screen sizes, ensuring your ads translate just as well through a large monitor and a small cell phone is important and simplicity is key in creating this cohesion across campaigns.

    And of course, AI is aiding the process. Reference trends #2 and #7 again for more on that.

  12. The Unwavering Importance of Human Touch

    With some of these once-unthinkable advancements with AI-generated content and automated processes, it’s not far-fetched for some creative professionals to question their usefulness in the future. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned throughout our extensive experience working with every side and department within the marketing realm it’s that a human touch matters — to everyone.

    Sure, if you have a robot that can crank out 75 banners in an hour, that’s awesome. But the creativity, collaboration, even humor that goes into it — that’s the ultimate art. Behind every great campaign is a human mind building the foundation to inspire and connect.

    Not to mention, many of these tech capabilities are still far from perfect, making that human aspect even more crucial to the process. If anything, they will only expedite and simplify the creative process for designers, allowing them to more quickly test their ideas and create iterations for their clients.

    So don’t worry, creatives — it’s the special element only you can bring to the process that makes the rest of the tech wheels turn. And we anticipate a great year for all of you as well.

    If you’re interested in learning more about any of these trends or would like to talk to one of our production experts about creating a strategy that hits all of your New Year goals, contact Assemble today.