Here are five trends that will grow in popularity in the near-term.

At the start of 2021, we had just begun to register the seismic shifts set in motion by the first global pandemic of the digital age. At its end, we are all much more entrenched in a home-centric lifestyle, alternating with trips out into the real world when conditions permit us to do so.

Where I am based in Singapore, we have had to open and close our office several times. When it was possible to go into the office, many of us experimented with the much-discussed hybrid work model of combining remote work with a sprinkling of face time with colleagues in an actual office.

It has been a profound time of change for businesses of all sizes. They have had to draw up new ways of working and growing while staying connected with their customers. They’re seeking to enrich the experience of customers online by meeting them where they are and trying new formats and channels of communication.

Last month, we launched a new content series called Ideas That Matter where we talk to businesses from across the region to hear what’s working for them. Every year, we see the new opportunities that are created when social trends intersect with business. While many of these trends will take years to reach their full potential, it is clear that at least five of these trends will only grow in popularity in the near-term:

  1. Virtual and Augmented Reality: We recently announced that we have changed our company name to Meta, and shared our vision for the metaverse. This is because we are really starting to see a behavioural shift in consumers and the technology that supports it. While many aspects of the metaverse will take shape over many years, we are seeing applications for AR/VR becoming mainstream, everything from trying clothes and shoes virtually before you buy them to working remotely in a virtual space. According to Facebook IQ: New dimensions of connection report (June 4, 2021), globally, 78% of people said AR is a fun way to interact with brands, and 74% believe AR can bridge the gap between online and offline. I had the opportunity to hear from Eugene Soh, an augmented reality artist based in Singapore who is the founder of Dude Studios. Over the last year, Eugene says that he has gotten commissioned by more businesses – both local and international – to design AR filters to engage customers. Eugene is also excited by AR’s potential to create community and shared meaning. One of the highlights of his year was an Instagram AR filter he created based on the Red Light, Green Light game from Squid Game. “It went viral and hit 1 billion impressions in two weeks. Those are just numbers, but the reality is that people were messaging me from all over the world asking me questions about the filter in so many different languages. It’s when I realised this filter has really gone international.”

    The takeaway for me from this conversation is that businesses are becoming aware of the immense potential of AR/VR to enhance the customer experience.
  2. Social Commerce: We’ve said this before, but it bears repeating.Business is turning out to be more social than we thought. People discover products they love through their friend’s feeds. A corollary of this discovery is the expectation that they can message a business just as they would a friend. Being a message-able business can mean the difference between growth and stagnation. Take the story of Bubble Tea Club – a small business in Australia. Pam Yip and Jenny Le lost their jobs in 2020 and hit upon the idea of starting a DIY bubble tea business. They launched their company on Facebook and Instagram, using simple photos and videos to tell their story and connect with customers through messaging. In just a year, they have grown a multi-million-dollar business and raised funds to grow their business. Pam told me that she learned people were really looking for meaningful connections during the pandemic. So, they used Facebook Messenger to build out personalized conversations. “There’s actually a picture of myself and Jenny with the message, Hi, Welcome to The Club. Thank you so much for supporting us. The most important thing for us is to treat our customers like we would our friends, staying in touch with them from when they order to giving them updates in case there are challenges or delays in delivery,” Pam said.
  3. Mega Sale Days: Increasingly, these events are fusing entertainment and shopping – and continuing to grow in our region. I spoke with Sapna Nemani, Chief Product and Solutions Officer, APAC, Publicis Groupe who identified three key takeaways for this trend. One is that Mega Sale Days are becoming the point of entry for a lot of first-time online shoppers. Two, it’s not just about discounts anymore, people are choosing brands for the equity and what they stand for in people’s minds and lastly, the entire consumer journey is becoming a lot more social and experiential in nature. So, her advice to clients is to plan ahead for the entire period and not just the sales day. And because it’s not just about discounts, it’s important to establish brand equity. This can only happen by thinking carefully about the relevant touch points to fuel social discovery.
  4. Creators: As the pandemic raged, people had to stay home and find ways to entertain themselves over long periods of time. Naturally, home-based content surged across a range of topics and formats: cooking tutorials, family entertainment fitness hacks and yes, even business and finance creators. According to AnyMind research, the numbers of macro- influencers (100,000 to 1 million followers) across the region grew by 66 per cent over 2021 – particularly in Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand. According to CB Insights, the global creator economy has seen a record $1.3 billion in funding in 2021 alone, nearly three times what it received in 2020. Creators are a new and more diverse form of media. They are becoming brands in their own right and are driving engagement levels that make them powerful retail channels too. So, in 2022, we’re definitely going to see more brands co-creating products or sub-brands with creators.
  5. Video: Digital video viewers in Asia Pacific will exceed 2 billion by 2022, a year earlier than previously projected, according to eMarketer. On our platforms, video is becoming the primary way that people use our products and express themselves. When you look at all forms of video, short-form video like Reels is growing especially quickly and is a primary driver of engagement growth on Instagram. So how should businesses respond? Figure out objectives – whether it is to build a brand or drive more immersive shopping experiences and go from there. From product tags that allow you to buy directly from video to trying on products before buying them using augmented reality – mobile video can allow for immersive experiences. Businesses now have lots of ways to reach people with video across Meta – from ads in Messenger, in-stream ads, and Instant Experiences – it’s an exciting space to explore.

Even as technology doesn’t stand still, one thing remains constant – people prefer interacting with businesses in ways that are human, personal, and seamless. This is why social trends will always have relevance for business.