Globe Content Studio reviews 2023 predictions related to social media, AR

By Shazia Khan

Globe Content Studio

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

In early 2023, Globe Content Studio made seven bold predictions about the future of marketing, under the umbrella title Next in Creative. We decided to look back at the report several months later and grade how we did.

Did our seven bold predictions hold up? Or did we fail the final test and lose all hope of getting into Harvard? Let’s find out, as we pit expectations against realities.

The TikTok Shop is proof that brick-and-mortar shops are still alive.
The TikTok Shop is proof that brick-and-mortar shops are still alive.

Expectation: Retail will embrace the omni-channel experience — both “old school” (brick-and-mortar stores, print catalogues, etc.) and “new school” (livestream shopping, buy-now-pay-later, etc.) — to draw and keep customers.

Reality: Initially, this prediction looked like a bust. Thanks to everyone’s favourite villain (the economy), bets on an e-commerce boom rolled way back: Shopify laid off thousands and abandoned logistics plans, Instagram killed live shopping, Klarna posted huge losses, and the highly shoppable Pinterest reported slowing user growth. Amazon also shuttered several physical shops and froze plans to build more.

But wait — a glimmer of hope? Despite rampant inflation, consumer spending hasn’t really dipped, and that recession is still MIA. Buy-now-pay-later use is still on the rise, which could mean shoppers are slightly more nervous about big up-front buys, but not enough to stop buying altogether.

It’s led the industry to try again. Amazon and Shopify, which we truly believed would have an eternal Autobots vs. Decepticons rivalry, joined forces. Pinterest’s stock is rising, and TikTok Shop is a clear call to go all-in on “retail-tainment.” The dream of building a global “super app” is still alive and well, and omni-channel marketing will be crucial.

We’ll give this one a conditional pass.

Electric vehicles are thriving, but infrastructure is still needed.
Electric vehicles are thriving, but infrastructure is still needed.

Expectation: Electric vehicle (EV) demand will continue to rise, but automakers can’t sell the promise of an electrified future without building up the infrastructure to support it.

Reality: This tracked.

In 2023, attention shifted away from simply making great EVs to figuring out how the heck we’ll support them all by 2030 targets. In February, the White House announced plans to fund and standardise a national charging network (Canada, for its part, boosted funding too). Tesla agreed to the U.S. deal that would see its Superchargers opened up to all EV brands, many of which will adopt Tesla’s North American Charging Standard (NACS) as the norm.

Nice! So, everyone’s friends now, right?

Not so fast: Seven major automakers formed a separate company to create their own charging network. These brands, including GM, Stellantis, and BMW, typically lean toward the Combined Charging System (CCS), though they say their network would support both.

Lawyers worry this coalition has slight “anti-trust” energy, plus duelling charging standards could become a pain (have we learned nothing from from Lightning vs. USB-C?). Either way, there’s real fuel to expand the EV ecosystem. Hopefully nothing happens to slow progress — like, a massive unprecedented strike or anything …

In the post-pandemic era, travel looks a bit different as people combine business and leisure travel.
In the post-pandemic era, travel looks a bit different as people combine business and leisure travel.

Expectation: “Bleisure” — travelling for the purpose of both business and pleasure — will surge as pandemic restrictions fade and remote “work-from-anywhere” life becomes the new normal.

Reality: Like so many flights in and out of Toronto’s Pearson Airport this year, this one’s experiencing some delays. “Count the corporate traveller as one more casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic,” The Globe and Mail’s Erik Atkins said.

While the vacationers seem to be back, business trippers are “flying less and Zooming more” thanks to high inflation, smaller corporate budgets, attempts to reduce carbon footprints, and growing acceptance that virtual interactions can be as effective as face-to-face ones. Airbnb crackdowns and return-to-office pressure (et tu, Zoom?!) may have also hindered wider “work-from-anywhere” adoption.

This doesn’t mean “bleisure” is “blover.”

“A major shift WestJet is seeing is in the length of the typical business trip,” a rep in Atkins’ story said. “Pre-pandemic, it was common to see a significant amount of day trips, whereas now WestJet is seeing our business travel guests take longer trips.”

The length of corporate hotel stays and car rentals has risen too. While growth is not quite what we expected yet, a 2024 or 2025 surge is still possible.

TikTok went to court as concerns about privacy dominated the news.
TikTok went to court as concerns about privacy dominated the news.

Expectation: The social media crackdown is coming. Expect new laws and increased privacy concerns to significantly upend the ability for marketers to engage large audiences on major platforms.

Reality: A little too accurate!

Social media went on trial in 2023, starting with TikTok: Canada and other countries banned it from government devices, followed by a steady trickle of schools, companies, and even the state of Montana. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew had to testify before the U.S. Congress about privacy and safety practices, a five-hour drubbing that ironically just gave the ‘Tok more hilarious content.

The ice appears to be thawing there, but the EU’s Digital Services Act also went into effect, meaning most of the apps you know and love have to comply with sweeping new regulations. Those laws only apply within Europe, but companies such as Snapchat see the writing on the wall and are preemptively updating policies worldwide.

Ultimately, who gets to own and sell social content is turning into the biggest courtroom drama of all. Here at home, the Online News Act — an attempt to level the digital advertising playing field by making large platforms compensate Canadian news outlets for using their material — has dragged into a long, bitter fight.

Another is over generative AI. Companies training ChatGPT and others are scraping social platforms to do it, and you better believe those guys want a big cut.

It’s all been a lot for social media marketers, who simply want to post dank memes and get some clicks without having to study for the LSAT. But the advice we gave in our report — to prioritise trust, diversification, and independence — can still help.

Deeper relationships with consumers is the new normal.
Deeper relationships with consumers is the new normal.

Expectation: The shift to Web 3.0 will split Internet users into smaller communities. Brands will need to facilitate data ownership and better personalisation to keep reaching them.

Reality: Correct. All of the above helped move this trend forward, but a few surprises really gave it gas.

Substack started exploring community ownership. Flipboard, Tumblr, and WordPress are noodling with ActivityPub. Twitter’s spectacular explosion continues to spew the debris of fresh replacement clones everywhere, and a few have real Fediverse potential. But none have recaptured the “town square” en masse. Instead, we continue to scatter further into these smaller, specialised, text-based corners.

Maybe we want it that way?

Business Insider makes a compelling case that Big Social is dead — and private messaging is the new (old) way: “Social media promised to create an intricate web that brought us all closer to one another, but the wave of exposure led to an openness that many people just aren’t interested in ... So after a decade of airing our most intimate moments in public, the pendulum is shifting back.”

For marketers, this may not be as grave as it sounds. New “channels” features on both Instagram and WhatsApp indicate that social platforms are already prepping for brands to reach their customers in a more private world.

The full-blown recession the Globe Content Studio predicted did not full manifest.
The full-blown recession the Globe Content Studio predicted did not full manifest.

Expectation: Economists are predicting a recession. Younger Canadians will cope by turning away from traditional financial advice in favour of robo-advisors, social media, and DIY online communities.

Reality: Half-points? All year, we waited for the recession boogeyman to jump out of the shadows, but it never did. Spooky! Does the fabled soft landing exist after all, or is this thing planning some sort of Mike Myers jump-scare for Halloween?

Can’t say, but what we do know is that the prolonged uncertainty fed into serious financial pessimism. As expected, younger folks are putting off home buying and financial plans more (though intriguingly, Canadians still became more investing-happy than international peers).

Since money is getting too stressful to even think about, it makes sense that more of us want to go on autopilot. Banks were some of the earliest AI adopters, and this year’s advancements significantly boosted their capabilities with chatbots, automations, and cybersecurity.

A recent survey found that while younger Canadians are maintaining healthy skepticism, they’re becoming more open to these kinds of tools. Heck, even classic advisors are giving them a try — a great example of how working with bots, instead of against them, is an advantage.

Expectation: In a digital world now dominated by video, 3D graphics and Augmented Reality (AR) will define how successful brands visually stand out.

Reality: Mostly right.

Adobe continues to drive toward a 3D future, and no wonder: the market is projected to be worth US$11.8 billion by 2030. Investing heavily in the Adobe Substance 3D suite, it rapidly improved features and built a virtual inspiration hub where artists can learn, create, and collaborate. Spline, the free, no-code startup competitor we mentioned in our report, just raised another US$15 million and is named on practically every “best 3D generators” list online. And brands are embracing the aesthetic, from niche (check out software company Frontify’s slick new brand guidelines) to broad (Google Android and Pepsi are just two logos that got shapely makeovers).

One caveat: While the Metaverse, and the height of Pixar before that, emphasised photo-realism, today’s tastes are shifting into a more surreal, mixed-reality space. Two of this year’s biggest films — Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse — both showcased imperfect, intentionally unreal artistry to great effect.

I was tempted to credit generative AI for this too — we can only see so many cursed images before it becomes normalised — but as we saw with the “don’t call it VR” debut of Apple Vision Pro, it may just mean that digital views need to compliment real life, rather than be a total escape from it. (Pour a sip out for the legs, they may never get their due.)

About Shazia Khan

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