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Having slashed the marketing budgets vested in more traditional mediums in 2020, various brands and advertisers shifted their focus on digital marketing. Social media took the centre stage, within the ambit of this new type of marketing and drove discovery and purchase decisions of 2021. 

Marketers, from all streams, have finally seemed to acknowledge that the influencer marketing model is well-suited in a time like this where almost everyone is looking for some inspiration, be it DIY videos as they turn home chefs, or learning new yoga postures to focus on self-care. Creators have stopped being puppeteers who hold cringe shows once in a while only to end with ‘subscribe and hit the bell icon’, but have actually started playing an integral role in building a sense of community — something people searched for when living in isolation, somewhere they could belong.

The consumption of videos like never before can be attributed to the prolonged stay-at-home periods, in which consumers steered away from pictures and text and moved towards the short length video formats. According to Bain and Company, the online video user base in India has grown about 24% in the last three years, increasing the audience size to more than 350 million people. The report claimed that an average Indian smartphone user spends a staggering sixty minute or more, out of his daily screen time which is estimated to be roughly 4.8 hours.
Bolstered by the steep downfall of average human attention span, influencer marketing now offers quick turnaround time and personalisation tactics. Not only this, the bond of trust and authenticity that creators share with their fans have encouraged brands to invest in them in order to reach out to their targeted niche audience. All this has resulted in the severe transformation undergone by the influencer marketing industry in a relatively short time, turning it into a mainstream marketing vehicle.
2021 saw brands moving away from ‘one-time associations’ for single posts, to actually collaborating with influencers for long-time deals, as they proceeded positively towards being more involved in their campaigning strategies rather than just enlisting a list of influencers from trusted agencies.

A study conducted upon the significance of influencer marketing to marketers today, reported that it has become a top priority this year, as every other leader indicated a budget growth of  >25% in 2021.  

GroupM and INCA’s report went further to predict how this industry is poised to grow at a CAGR of 25% for the next decade, thus, reaching a size of Rs 2200 crore in 2025. The study also specifies how celebrities corner only  a small percentage of 27% of the marketing dollars while the bulk 73% is taken by digital influencers.
Therefore, keeping in mind the year 2020 and its aftermath seen in 2021 which successfully revolutionised the digital industry, we decided to reach out to a few influencer marketing agencies in order to understand the future prospects of this ecosystem  and the shape it’s going to form. Here is what they said:

Neel Gogia, Co-founder of IPLIX Media:

As the brands realise, with each passing day that the ROI delivered by influencer marketing is unparalleled, their investment in long-term influencer partnerships has seen  a huge uprise. This type of partnering helps the brands in  building customers’ faith in themselves. Without any doubt, this symbiotic relationship will help both.

Content regionalisation will also gain momentum in the upcoming year. Many-a-brands, globally are already experimenting with it. LinkedIn recently launched its regional version, an year after many others (like Facebook, Twitter and Clubhouse) launched theirs. These brands will now support various regional languages for increasing user’s accessibility.

Dharika Merchant, COO, WORD and Alchemy Group:

The demand for micro-influencers is expected to increase many-fold. Their share in the influencer marketing industry has increased drastically this past year: thanks to various brands favouring them, due to their high engagement rates and affordability. The primary reason for such rise is the more data-driven approach: better insights and favourable data, which leads to an effortless long-term relationship between the brand and the influencer, thus enabling an always-on marketing approach. This approach portrays brand loyalty from an influence point of view, thus adding onto the credibility of the brand. Undoubtedly, the focus on micro-influencers will be one of the leading trends in the industry in 2k22 that will chance the face of branded content.

Pranav Panpalia, founder, OpraahFx:

All set to emerge as one of the most widely used tools in the influencer marketing sector in the coming year is the concept of ‘streaming live’. Popularised due to the raging pandemic, Live-eCommerce materialised as a concept for the very first time, in China, from where it spread globally. It is an undisputedly efficient way of connecting with the right audiences and turning them into targeted customers that the brand’s influencers vouch for. This is a great methodology for brands who focus mainly on ‘ROI’ driven campaigns rather than brand-building. 

With numerous start-ups and MSME brands now shifting their focus on performance-driven influencer marketing campaigns, the concept of live-eCommerce will soon be hyped in our country, thus disrupting the influencer marketing industry. Brands which promote products and services known for their accessibility and affordability shall be highly inclined to make use of this new concept. 

Owing to its authenticity and real-time content, live streaming is also well- known for enabling better connections between creators, brands, and consumers. Providing a larger scope of personalisation, feedback and result-driven conversations, live streaming has also paved the way for consumers to interact with the creators they prefer. If used strategically, the feature promises greater benefits to influencers and content creators of all kinds.

Apaksh Gupta, CEO and Founder, One Impression:

One particularly successful trend, out of the many emerging in 2022, is the mainstreaming of metaverse. The coming year might witness a lot of investments from various brands into mainstreaming the metaverse. 

In the year that has passed, big brands like NIKE and VERIZON have already begun strategizing ahead of the year to surpass their league of competitors. Gucci’s limited collection for ROBLOX, is letting their customise their avatars in Gucci products, automatically.

2022 will also bear witness to an increase in the number of brands who will be deploying AR/ VR technologies with influencers and content creators to promote their products and services.

Rohan Tyagi, VP Strategy and Operations, India – Triller:

The palpable attraction of GenZ and millennial buyers towards NFTs and Crypto has opened up new engagement and revenue channels for brands. Brands can disrupt their markets with new strategies to raise awareness and boost customer loyalty, via NFTs.

However, in the decentralized world of Web3, maximum power has now shifted back to creators; and brands hoping to leverage such technologies know that they cannot simply buy into the space. Today’s community interest is driven by creators which may result in an uptick in brands-influencers partnerships so as to leverage the opportunities provided by NFTs.

Though fairly young, the influencer marketing industry might take off as it is, and soon convert into multi-billion dollar in  economic value. In the virtual world that we reside in today, this may happen quicker than expected.

Aayush Tiwari, VP – Talent Management & Music Business, Monk Entertainment:

The wave of crisp, crunchable short video bites has taken the internet by the storm in 2021 and is bound to increase its reach in the upcoming year. The catalytic factor in the popularity of such content is its ease of making and low-entry barrier; its USP being its ability of getting recreated under innumerable ‘trends’ within seconds. Various new trends emerging each week garner millions of views and raise UGC levels. This mechanism was also super-strengthened when the dominant media platforms, like Instagram, Youtube launched their verticals and many new players like MOJ, Chingari, Takatak entered the game. 

Vaibhav Odhekar, Managing director India & Middle East, AnyMind Group:

The shift from consumer approach towards the whole marketing, influencer segment and monetization of platforms, in this sector is pretty obvious. With the ever-rising social media consumption, D2C brands across various segments have moved towards this branch of marketing. A report on ‘State Influencers in Asia, 2021’, by Antag states that the most popular columns are: Art & Entertainment, Food & Beverage and Fashion & Beauty; apart from this, Finance, Health & Wellness are also on their way to become trendsetting in 2022.

In addition to D2C and e-commerce, consumer behaviour shifts, driven by the pandemic, has accelerated the trend of trending.

One such trend was launching individual brands by various influencers, driven by their own expertise in a certain field, passion, or life experience. 

Another trend is the sharp upraise in social commerce, something which is likely to stay throughout the next year. Social Media Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter have already made such features available in some parts of the world, and might soon be available globally. 

Whatever trend it may be, it is safe to say that the next year is most likely to be filled with a lot of them.

Sagar Pushp, Co-founder and CEO, ClanConnect:

The now-emerging trends from the end of 2021 will most likely continue to reign in the upcoming year. The creator economy, for one, might shift plausibly towards the subscription-led model, wherein their genuine fans can access exclusive content of their favourite influencer after paying a certain amount. This variety of content will not be provided on any other public platforms like Instagram and YouTube. Secondly, NFT use will probably skyrocket. With it, users can finally assume ownership of any kind of content, say, a certain image, or some video, or maybe a sound clip. This will surely generate more revenue opportunities for creators.

Pulkit Agrawal, Co-Founder & CEO, Trell:

Now, harder to reach via traditional media channels, Indian GenZ and millennial shoppers—who prefer engaging through social media networks to make purchase decisions, than going out— have given a massive push to India’s creator economy, which is likely to prosper in 2022, with newer shopping and engagement models being adopted across the ecosystem. 

Brands are now eager to integrate social media and commerce to drive higher awareness, consideration, and sales of their product. 

Further, influencers have a major opportunity to churn more personalised content for their followers while integrating brands with the help of data-driven insights, as the Vertical videos are bound to take centre stage in the coming year. 

The rise of social commerce in the country will also provide the much-required impetus to digital-first brands while also opening up newer avenues for influencers to monetize from brand collaborations, converting what was until now, a mere hobby, into a full-time profession. 

With all this change hanging around every corner, the industry is expectantly awaiting the new year to create transformative shopping experiences by making itself more interactive, immersive, and entertaining than ever before.

One such innovation is live commerce where an influencer demonstrates product usability in a live video setting. This drives higher visibility, excitement, and loyalty for consumers and seems the most realistic virtual experience until now.

Gautam Madhavan, CEO, Mad Influence:

The restlessness of modern-day consumers, who prefer on-the-go content type, will intensify the reach of influencers via short videos and live streams. This audience mainly looks for two things: Content quality and Content authenticity, which must be provided at all costs.

By Shalini Goswami