The way we do business has changed dramatically over the last year. The way we market our print shops has also morphed. Now is the perfect time to look at seven on-fire marketing trends (hello, chatbots) that you can incorporate in your 2022 plan. We lay out the trends your shop can’t afford to ignore in 2022, with industry experts weighing on how to make them work in your shop.
Chatbots are becoming more and more common (and expected) on ecommerce and social media sites. A chatbot, put simply, is an app that lets you carry on an online chat with a prospect or client instead of talking with a live person on the phone.
Here’s why you need to pay attention: According to Drift’s 2020 State of Conversational Marketing report, usage of chatbots as a brand communication channel increased by a whopping 92% since 2019. Plus, 24.9% of buyers used chatbots to communicate with businesses in 2020, up from 13% the year before. The average satisfaction rate of bot-only chats is 88%, almost 2 percentage points higher than the satisfaction rate for chats that get passed over to human agents.
“With a decrease in-person shopping, chatbots are a great tool to communicate with customers and answer pre-sale questions,” says LaTonna Roberson, owner of T-Shirt Shop Dallas, who’s a huge fan of using automated bots to answer frequently asked questions immediately. “Not only is this method effective for increasing sales, it frees up your valuable administrative time and that saves money. I recommend shops place bots on their website, but also social media pages to increase interactions with customers.”
“The important thing with influencer marketing is to make sure your shop company isn’t simply jumping on the bandwagon, but you’ve done your research and know that both the influencer and the market will respond well to this technique.”Kristine Shreve, Applique Getaway
A chatbot can decipher text messages from a customer and automatically respond with pre-written replies to help with their needs. What’s great about this is you don’t have to outsource this extra customer support. The chatbot is easy for buyers to use, and is available 24/7 on your site, if your customer decides they want to place an order for logoed polos at 3 a.m. on a Saturday night. In fact, 68% of consumers like chatbots because they provide quick answers and 55% of businesses that use chatbots generate more high-quality leads.
You can use chatbots on your website, your social media messages, texts and more (since 47% of Millennials use Instagram as a messaging app). Customers want answers promptly, and they want them to feel personal. Chatbots are the best of both worlds. Whenever your chatbot runs out of ways to help, it can send a message to the customers to let them know when and how they can connect with a live human for more support.
However, before you let your chatbots do their thing, there’s some upfront work you’ll need to do. “You need to put time into automating the most conversations you have with your customers,” says Marshall Atkinson, business consultant at Atkinson Consulting and Shirt Lab Tribe. “Chatbots aren’t instantly awesome. You need to map out what your customers want to know. Map out your top 10 conversations in a logical workflow until you get to a point where it doesn’t make sense for the chatbot to answer complex questions, and they need to connect with a live person.”
For the “real live human” part of the chatbot equation, Atkinson recommends starting with the end result in mind: What hours will someone on your team be available to answer questions? Will they receive a text or email to notify that a buyer is waiting for a response? “Whether you use a chatbot on your website or Facebook page, you need to have people at the ready to respond to prospects or customers as quickly and efficiently as possible,” he says.
2. Conversational Marketing
“Conversational marketing engagement” is another big trend for 2022. With chatbot and text message marketing, people expect to “converse” with a brand in more casual-speak. That’s why you should expect to hear the phrase “customer-centric” used a lot. Conversational marketing is just like it sounds. Today’s consumers want a conversation with you. They also expect quick responses to their questions. In fact, a recent survey shows that 82% want an “immediate” response when they ask a company a question.
“Our customers love being tagged in social media videos of their items being printed. It’s a great way to give them free social media advertising and help us build our following.” LaTonna Roberson, T-Shirt Shop Dallas
“Brand voices need to become more distinctive, when you’re conversing in real time and via chatbots,” says Kristine Shreve, director of outreach and marketing at Applique Getaway. “You have to decide how you frame the conversation: Do you use slang? Do you use emojis and hashtags?”
When you think about your unique brand, the voice you write and converse in should reflect your vibe in general. “A streetwear brand that’s more grunge or hipster may use more slang and worry a little less about grammar,” Shreve says. “An upscale women’s brand that carries most traditional styles, would be less likely to use slang and emojis. A brand voice that’s participating in direct conversations has to be more carefully crafted than one that’s just used in basic advertising.”
Fusing conversational language into automated chatbots offers the best of both worlds. “Today’s buyers expect to find what they’re looking for now, not later,” says David Cancel, founder and CEO of Drift. “As we prepare for the future, it’ll be more important than ever for businesses to be available across a broad spectrum of channels, and to make sure you’re communicating the way people prefer to communicate.”
So how does this work? Let’s look at two real-world examples.
- 1-800-Flowers markets its product through Facebook Messenger. This allows direct text communication with the customers, and the company uses chatbots to walk the customers through the sales cycle. If you click into the chatbot, you’ll see this conversational message: “Welcome to 1-800-Flowers.com. You can now order flowers or talk to support without leaving Messenger. Tap the button below to get started.”
Then, if you’re ready to place an order, the chatbot asks you a series of quick questions to get that order rolling: “Great choice with Warm Sunset Bouquet! Delivery on Friday, Dec. 1, 2021. What’s the recipient’s first name?” “Recipient’s last name?” “What’s the recipient’s phone number in case the florist needs to contact them about the delivery?”
- Domino’s Pizza uses texts to communicate with its customers. (The pizza giant even allows customers to place an order with a simple pizza emoji!) For example, a customer receives a text with a conversational statement before the special offer: “Not sure what to order for dinner? Domino’s never disappoints.” “There’s no better time to carry out any three-topping pizza.” “This Domino’s deal is a high five for your taste buds.”
Your customers won’t always know (or use) industry terms like “placket” or “stitch count.” That’s why your messaging should not just be conversational, with shorter sentences, but also speak in the way your prospect would. If you want to pitch a stain-resistant uniform piece that’s soft, durable and doesn’t pill to a buyer at a restaurant, you might just say, “We know you want your staff to look clean and neat, and you don’t want to buy new uniforms every six months. Take a look at these shirts.”
HubSpot found that 47% of shoppers were open to making purchases from a chatbot, and the number of tasks performed by bots is only expected to increase in years to come. That’s why investing in bots on your site can help you warm up your prospects and lead them to make their purchases online.
While personalization has been around for a while—using customers’ first names in emails and recommending products based on their past browsing or purchasing history on your ecommerce site—90% of customers say they expect it from the brands they love.
With personalized marketing, you take the data you have on a customer (like their purchases and interests) and then use that to create a tailor-made marketing and sales communications plan. This means you need to offer personalized emails, product recommendations and special offers to each individual customer.
Consider these important personalization stats that can help you increase sales:
- 63% of consumers say generic advertising blasts are “highly annoying”
- 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company if it offers them some form of personalized experiences
- 90% of consumers say they find personalization appealing.
The best way to create a personalized marketing strategy is to use data from your website and in-shop purchases to send out personalized emails with offers designed specifically for that client. You should also follow up on your sales with meaningful personalized thank-you messages. For a new prospect, create an opt-in page designed to collect some data upfront so that your first email to them can offer a more tailored message or offer.
“Where are your customers hanging out, as defined by your business plan? Meet people where they are. If they’re not on Facebook, they’re on LinkedIn or Instagram. In other words, hunt where the deer live.” Marshall Atkinson, Atkinson Consulting and Shirt Lab Tribe
Of course, with the proliferation of security breaches these days, people are wary of providing too many personal data to businesses. However, 57% of shoppers will share their information if they receive personalized offers, and 80% of people are more inclined to purchase from a company that provides tailored experiences.
Atkinson recommends that beyond using a person’s first name in an email or recommending products based on their buying history, that shop owners target people’s needs using the language that they might type into a search engine. “Don’t describe restaurant uniforms like a catalog,” he says. “Instead, show them images and videos of the garments in use so they see what happens when wine spills on an apron.”
Insider’s Tip: Try out alphabroder’s new SalesBuilder design tool, which lets you easily create your own unique sales flyers, presentations, look books and other powerful marketing tools, whenever you want.
4. Video Marketing
This is the big one, because if you haven’t started video marketing yet, you really need to get on it. More than half of buyers say that watching videos from a brand makes them more confident in buying from a company. Check out these numbers that demonstrate the importance of incorporating video:
- 70% of consumers say they’ve shared a business’s video with their friends (either in person or through social media)
- 72% of businesses credit video with improving their conversion rate
- 52% of consumers believe they’re more confident in online purchase decisions because they’ve watched videos on products
- 65% of executives who view a video will visit a marketer’s website because of the video
- 39% of executives will call a vendor after they watch a video on their products.
Customers want to learn about new products before they buy, and videos have become the most popular way for them to do this. Videos (more so than small text) translate perfectly on smart devices, and the data backs that up. If your site has videos on it, you’re 50 times more likely to get hits on your pages because of the way Google calculates the search algorithm. Simply put, sites with videos rank higher in their ratings.
Here are two video marketing trends gaining more and more traction:
Live video is popular with many businesses that use it for a variety of purposes such as interviews, product demos and behind-the-scenes glimpses of the brand, such as life in the office, how products are made, and new fashion trends. “The glimpses of your shop’s inner workings help prospects get to know and trust your business, and feel like they’re part of it,” Shreve says. “We all know people buy from people they trust, and video can help build that trust.”
Plus, you can include your customers in your videos for extra oomph. “Our customers love being tagged in social media videos of their items being printed,” Roberson says. “It’s a great way to give them free social media advertising and help us build our following.”
Atkinson recommends making a series of product videos, so if you make one with three new trucker hat styles, send that to customers who’ve bought similar products. “When you understand who makes up your audience, building your video series is much easier,” he says. “Don’t forget the call to action, and never be afraid to ask for the sale.”
1:1 video is when a business creates personalized video messages rather than make phone calls or send emails. Video equipment and high-quality smartphone cameras make this easier than ever.
For his business, Atkinson makes 1:1 videos using Soapbox, an easy-to-use tool that lets you record, edit and send video thumbnails in a snap. “I make four to five personalized videos to generate new business and invite people to come on my podcasts in about 15 minutes,” he says. “The key is to welcome your viewer by name and come across with a lot of energy. You’re different if you do this, and that gives you the competitive advantage, especially with customer service.”
Pro Tip: Don’t forget video SEO. YouTube (which is part of Google) and other videos are displayed in search engines, so video optimization is crucial to getting seen. Using text overlays and closed captions in addition to your description, title and file names is very important.
Insider’s Tip: Visit alphabroder’s Digital Lounge for lots of ready-made content—including thousands of videos, social media posts, flyers, catalogs, images and more—all in one spot to enhance your digital marketing efforts.
5. Influencer Marketing
Another type of marketing that relies on word-of-mouth, influencer marketing is becoming increasingly popular. Here, influencers can be everyone from world-famous celebrities to YouTube and Instagram users who have developed a following in a particular field of interest. By getting these people to “endorse” or cross-promote your product, you have the potential to reach thousands of followers and fans.
Influencer marketing is one of those trends that work really well for some companies and niches, and not for others. Apparel is a great product to use influencers to push, though. “The important thing with influencer marketing is to make sure your shop company isn’t simply jumping on the bandwagon, but you’ve done your research and know that both the influencer and the market will respond well to this technique,” Shreve says.
While this may sound like the same type of celebrity endorsements that corporations have been using for years, people influencer marketing as more authentic:
- 63% of consumers trust influencers’ opinions of products much more than what brands say about themselves
- 58% of people have bought a new product in the past six months because of an influencer’s recommendation.
Want to start using influencer marketing? Here are some key tips:
- Look to create a long-term relationship. Someone who already likes your decorated apparel and other products and posts about it would be a good place to start.
- You’re not looking for Kim Kardashian to be your influencer. Nano or micro-influencers are even better. These are people who have a smaller following but whose users are really engaged with a history of buying from the person influencing. (In fact, brands use micro-influencers 10x more than mega influencers.) “Do your due diligence and make sure the person you’re working with is actually an influencer who has a demonstrated pattern of motivating their followers to take action,” Shreve says.
- Look at your employees. You might have your best influencer right there working for you. Be sure that any employee-generated content aligns with your brand narrative. Since 60% of millennials are more likely to take advice from YouTube influencers than traditional media personalities, look to establish a presence on that channel.
Atkinson advises taking another less-traditional approach. If you identify an influencer with a healthy following of 500,000 or more engaged followers, offer to create an apparel line or limited series just for them. “If you can create some custom designs, that influencer will be more likely to promote their own line,” he says. “That’s where you can gain some traction.” Our partners at Russell Athletic are Rock Stars when it comes to working with influencers and apparel lines. Check out a recent collaboration with influencer @tyiewilliams below:
“Influencer marketing is a great way for any business to get their product in front of new eyes.” says Beth Adams, marketing & brand communications manager at Russell Athletic. “From a localized campaign, Printers could partner with local influencers in a creative way to showcase something like ‘spicing up your blanks’, where they can bring in blank garments, have them add on a fun graphic, with the influencer showing the printing steps along the way, showing the actual printing, and then the styled look. There are many ways print shops could partner with local or broader influencers to meet their market needs.”
Adams continues, “Start small with a few influencers, test the market, take the time to review the influencers account to ensure they are a good fit for the brand, work with the influencer to explain what you are looking for while giving some creative freedom to the influencer to create content that will fit their page. For example, from the Russell Athletic side, I like to look at the account to make sure that their everyday style will work when promoting hoodie and doesn’t look like a random brand that they are promoting. Organic, natural fits are key in my opinion. I probably wouldn’t work with an influencer who’s account is all high luxury fashion posts where if they styled a hoodie, it wouldn’t fit their everyday style/content and could look out of place to their followers, causing low engagement.”
Adams advises, “There are many ways to work with influencers, from our side we work directly with an influencer agency who are great assets to help you manage the programs and find the right influencers to fit your brand.”
6. Voice Search
Even search engines have changed in just the past few years, particularly with how people are accessing them. You’ve got to keep that in mind for the coming year, especially when looking at these numbers:
- In 2020, half of all internet searches were done by voice instead of typing in the request
- By next year (2022), over half (55%) of all American homes will own a smart speaker (such as Sonos One, Amazon Echo, and Google Nest)
- A staggering 72% of people who have voice-activated smart speakers say they routinely use them on a daily basis
- Today, voice shopping is a $2 billion industry. It’s positioned to jump up to $40 billion in 2022.
Overall, people expect to be using voice search far more in the future. “Since we know voice search is on the rise, it makes sense to work with the parameters that suit that method of shopping best,” Shreve says. “Should every company immediately change all their website copy? If it’s been working well so far, definitely not. It’s just a factor that you should keep in mind and incorporate into copy for new products or when you update copy for existing products.”
For all voice technology, remember to write in a conversational tone, focus on getting featured snippets on Google, and think about keywords that people will speak rather than type.
Pro Tip: Consider testing to see how new product copy performs against existing product copy. “If you learn that new products with new copy written with voice shopping in mind perform better, or sell more, that could well provide your answer,” Shreve says.
Optimizing for voice search is a great way to spread brand awareness, but how is that going to convert into sales? Well, in 2022, we’ll see more businesses tap into this potential, experimenting with new ideas to use smart speakers as a lucrative channel for driving sales.
“With a decrease in-person shopping, chatbots are a great tool to communicate with customers and answer pre-sale questions.” LaTonna Roberson, T-Shirt Shop Dallas
The key for companies to realize is that voice search isn’t another channel to force messaging and sales. Instead, marketers must develop a unique approach to consumer interaction, and this channel should be part of a broader, more connected brand experience.
Atkinson advises shop owners to first review how people use their phone to ask a question, and what basic terms they use. “Are they saying, ‘Hey Siri, where’s the closest screen printer?’” he says. “Or are they saying, ‘I need logoed T-shirts in New Jersey.’”
You can also survey your current clients to learn how they found you. Different client demographics or areas of the country may find you in different ways, with different terms, so keep that in mind. “Was it a Google search or your Google profile?” Atkinson says. “And have you optimized these areas with the right terms so you get found by the algorithms?
7. User-Generated Content
A major shift for many consumers? They don’t trust a company’s advertising as much as they did in the past. A survey found that 76% of consumers think ads are “very exaggerated” or “somewhat exaggerated.” In that same survey, one in five respondents even went so far as to say they “refuse to make a decision” about a product based on its advertising.
“Influencer marketing is a great way for any business to get their product in front of new eyes.” Beth Adams, Russell Athletic.
That’s why it’s a great idea to inspire your customers to generate “user content” (UGC) to promote your services. Think about it this way—your customers have a unique voice that is totally different from your marketing style. A significant 70% of consumers will consider UGC reviews or ratings before making a purchasing decision. At least 41% of them will read four to seven UGC reviews to gain important insights on a product.
Their reviews and personal content will sound much more appealing than professional, slick marketing and advertising. Also, if you talk to your customers about their experiences, you can gain a better insight into what you’re doing well and what could change.
Insider’s Tip: Check out alphabroder’s Hot Takes, which is so much more than a “podcast.” Tune in to hear four unique industry pros banter about their unique takes on everything from industry trends and insights, to their favorite sitcoms of all times.
2022 Brings Exciting New Changes to Marketing Strategies
Now that you’ve explored seven must-follow-and-implement marketing trends for 2022, it’s time for a shop huddle to review your current (and future) marketing plans to see where you can implement some of these ideas to make your customers even happier and more loyal—and your shop more sales.
SHOP alphabroder USA, alphabroder CANADA and Prime Line BRANDS TO FIND PRODUCTS OF THE MOMENT.
Laurie is part of the marketing team for the leading supplier in the industry, alphabroder. During her free time, Laurie likes to ride horses, sail and spend time with her husband and her two children. Reach her at Lprestine@alphabroder.com