2023 was a dynamic year for digital branding and marketing, with advances like generative AI making mainstream news headlines. What will next year bring? As UI and UX specialists in the fast-evolving world of B2B branding, there are digital trends we see surging and possibilities that excite us as we look toward 2024.
Our one overarching prediction is this: expect boundaries to be pushed. We believe B2B brands and their agencies will spend 2024 testing new digital approaches, tools and partnerships—each with its own risks and potential rewards—in hopes of deepening their relationships with investors, customers, partners and employees.
We also believe that’s how it should be. In B2B’s hyper-competitive markets, one brand’s slightly more relevant, intuitive digital experience can set them apart—and connect them powerfully and emotionally with the B2B stakeholders whose choices drive value creation.
So, let’s dive in. Beyond the familiar trends that are now table stakes (like personalization or smart content marketing), here are the four digital movements we believe will define the coming year in B2B branding.
Future of Branding: Digital B2B Trends for 2024
1. AI Will Generate a Wave of DIY
While technology specialists have been talking about it for a while, 2023 ushered generative AI officially into the B2B branding zeitgeist. The Gartners of the world are offering webinars on how to use it, making the topic—and the many generative AI tools out there—far more approachable and digestible for average professionals.
There’s no doubt this technology is powerful and, in the right hands, can be useful. Copy generator ChatGPT (now a household name) can produce blog content and consolidate Word docs into PowerPoint slides in a snap. Visual and no-coding-required tools like Appy Pie and Adobe Photoshop’s Generative Fill can prepare assets for straight-to-web implementation—bypassing the need for a human developer to embed things like motion graphics.
Is generative AI’s output always strategically on target? No, and for good reasons. DeSantis Breindel has written about the reasons generative AI won’t replace brand strategy (among other shortcomings, it typically yields outputs that are safe and familiar, not differentiating).
That said, who could blame a challenger brand with a low budget for wanting to whip up a credible-looking website in a matter of days vs. months? Or a legacy company for wanting to guard their advantage by adopting generative AI before challengers figure out how to leverage it more effectively?
A generation of branding and marketing leaders is now ready and motivated to embark on ambitious generative AI trials. We believe they will, throughout 2024.
2. Empathy-led Digital Strategists Will Help CMOs Make Sense of All That Data
Today’s CMOs acknowledge being overwhelmed by the masses of data that their companies collect on their stakeholders. Every website, every customer portal, every employee intranet is counting visits, dwell time, clicks, downloads. Across a company’s entire ecosystem of digital touchpoints, there’s an ocean of information being collected. It must add up to something, right?
As digital journey creators, we know that behind every click or view, there’s a why. A B2B stakeholder’s perceptions, feelings and choices are influenced by many factors—both online and in real life. Brands first need to understand their stakeholders’ deeper needs at each moment of their decision-making journeys. Then they can design new digital moments and experiences that transform what people do.
We believe 2024 will be the year when CMOs invite more digital strategists onto their discovery teams to harness the power of each data point. Elevating these specialists in the audience research phase of a rebrand can help a business identify its stakeholders’ most fundamental motivators. It can then help the brand engage those stakeholders with digital solutions that feel like they’re designed just for them because they are.
As more brand leaders turn to digital strategists to unpack human behavior on digital platforms, we expect more intuitive user experiences and user interface design, along with more relatable brand voices. The person behind the click will be more carefully considered and served—to the brand’s pure benefit.
3. Hybrid Communications Will Focus on Improving Digital-Human Interplays
The B2B buyer’s journey is famously long, layered and content-heavy. It always includes some combination of independent online research and conversations with a sales rep. And recent research uncovered a fascinating tension: B2B buyers say they prefer a digital-only journey, but when their decision-making process doesn’t include interactions with a live representative, they are more likely to regret their purchase.
How do we interpret that finding? Conversations with brand ambassadors need to deliver more value—to enhance, not interrupt, the rich digital experiences that people enjoy.
We predict that businesses will spend 2024 refining their digital-human mix to reduce regret (i.e., dissatisfaction) in their customer bases. Only in direct dialogue with a sales rep can a prospect share the nuances of their specific needs, questions and priorities. The brand needs this vital information to offer the perfectly catered solution.
So after an era of online minimalism, look for deeper websites in 2024 that will serve as platforms for conversation—enhancing conversations with investors and talent as much as customers. When a brand’s employees facilitate people’s journeys through digital spaces, the relationship launches as a partnership. And brands gain the opportunity to build a regret-free relationship from day one.
4. Digital Brand Ecosystems Will Support More Non-linear Journeys
Remember the classic, orderly purchase funnel? RIP. Today’s B2B prospects engage with brands across digital realms, choosing their own adventures along whatever timeline works for them.
These stakeholder behaviors upend the rationales behind yesterday’s brand messaging frameworks. When stakeholders have the freedom to engage with brands when and where they choose online, traditional brand guidelines and guardrails aren’t as useful anymore.
A potential buyer may or may not visit your website’s Home or About page first. They may start with an executive keynote they found on YouTube or track your B2B brand’s social responses to customer complaints. All of these experiences add up to your B2B brand image, even if they weren’t part of your decision-driving plan.
Do traditional brand guidelines still have a role to play? Of course. But they need to flex more than they have in decades past, permitting creative brand expressions that resonate on a touchpoint-by-touchpoint basis. Think strategic fluidity for the digital age.
In 2024, we predict that digital specialists will be called upon to create—not just activate—more messages and stories, designing the communications that can help a brand show up clearly and memorably across virtual realms. Made-for-digital designs and messaging will lend reassuring consistency to the chaos as they strengthen the brand even across asynchronous journeys.
So in 2024, look for simple brand promises that just seem to appear in more and more online spaces. These digital-friendly expressions of B2B value propositions can make brands more memorable. They can also convey the rock-solid brand identity and reliability that customers want to see in a B2B partner.
We’re excited by the advances behind these trends and the possibilities they represent. Digital platforms and experiences will continue to shape the relationships between B2B companies and their stakeholders. So, with each new tool or approach to try, we see fresh chances for brands to deepen their relationships—driving loyalty and growth of all kinds.
Happy experimenting! See you in 2024.
To learn more about digital strategies that can drive value creation for your B2B brand, contact us.