After the year we’ve had in 2020, it’s not surprising every marketer and his brother are scrambling to try and identify which marketing trends 2021 is likely to bring.
Many companies saw their hard-laid plans go out the window during the pandemic, and it’s anybody’s guess what the “new normal” is really going to look like. Several long-haul marketing trends have been around for a while, though, and don’t seem to be ending anytime soon. Here are 10 strong, lasting trends you can use as a basis for your digital marketing strategy for the new year.
Trend #1: Omnichannel Marketing
Our love affair with constant connectivity has blossomed during the pandemic, as we try to replace in-person interactions with virtual ones without missing a beat. People who previously weren’t tech-savvy have suddenly become expert Zoomers. More grandparents than before are on Instagram, and the average adult owns five or more connected devices. Of these, 90% of users switch between three different devices to perform a single task. This means your marketing has to be available on all of those channels simultaneously.
The concept of omnichannel or cross-channel marketing has been around for a while, but it has seen an increase in importance lately that is likely to continue into 2021, because:
- To remain competitive, brand marketers have to recognise how important a seamless customer experience is, especially when consumers are shopping for necessities. Omnichannel marketing gives brands the chance to create a communication flow that encompasses email marketing, SMS, chatbots, blog posts, push notifications, event marketing, call centre contacts, and other touchpoints.
- Omnichannel marketing integrates offline and online marketing Even during uncertain times, this helps you to:
- reach a wider audience,
- deliver messages that comply with consent regulations, and
- give customers the freedom to choose channels they want to use to communicate you’re your brand.
In the long term, omnichannel will provide a more measurable and trackable form of marketing, which will boost both cost-efficiency and ROI. As useful and popular as it has been in the past few years, you can expect it to increase in value in 2021.
Trend #2: Live Interaction
Interactive content is anything the customer can click on, swipe, or interact with online. Prior to 2020, quizzes and polls, augmented reality advertising, and 360-degree videos were all popular ways of offering an immersive and engaging customer experience. This trend looks set to continue into 2021, partly because of the massive shift to virtual activities caused by the pandemic. If anything, brands will be under pressure to provide real-time interactivity rather than pre-recorded or delayed responses, as we try to make technology take the place of human contact.
One of the best ways your brand can interact with customers in real-time is through live video. With the ongoing advances in smartphones, tablets, and streaming services, the use of video marketing has progressed way beyond cable TV. People have changed their viewing habits substantially over the past few years, and research from Roy Morgan shows that more than 14.5 million Australians were already paying for streaming services a year ago. That’s almost 60% of the population, and that’s before 2020 happened and services like Apple TV and Disney+ entered the market. While streaming services mostly focus on pre-recorded video content, social media platforms like Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram Reels are also ramping up their use of live video.
Trend #3: Marketing Automation
The use of automation in marketing dates back to the 1980s when CRM systems became the holy grail for customer servicing, sales management, forecasting, and support. Since then, automation has become progressively easier and less expensive for large and small businesses to implement.
With the ongoing advances in automation delivered by artificial intelligence (AI), companies can now track each prospect’s interaction with their content marketing right across their digital landscapes. The AI can leverage the personal data it acquires and applies machine learning to create the best possible automated customer experience for each individual, to guide them forward and generate demand for their product and service.
Black and Decker, for example, used marketing automation to reduce the length of their industrial storage sales cycle by 30% in year one and an additional 25% in year two.
Trend #4: Retargeting
Retargeting or remarketing is a form of online marketing based on users’ Internet activities that work in tandem with search results. Retargeting “tags” users by including a pixel within a target webpage or email, which sets a cookie in the user’s browser. This allows the advertiser to “follow” the user around the web showing them ads for items they previously viewed, wherever they are on the web and on whatever device they are using. It’s not free, but it’s gaining ground ahead of 2021 because it’s generally cheaper to increase conversions from users already interested in your product than users who aren’t.
Trend #5: Voice Search
In 2021 and beyond, search engines are set to become the virtual malls of the world, where you can reach people looking for your product and present them with your offering in a personalised manner.
The use of voice search, particularly, has been big for some time. With speech recognition technology now three times faster than typing, it’s going to continue to be a major trend affecting content marketing.
To make your information discoverable, you’ll need to optimise it for Google Home, Siri or Alexa users. That means marketing including keyword research, and comprehensive wording for featured snippets that delivers easy-to-read, authoritative answers to the questions asked.
Trend #6: Personalisation
For some decades now, people have responded well when recognised, either in person, on the phone, or even through media. Multiple surveys show that high numbers of users expect offers and communications to be personalised for them. It’s no longer simply about sending out personalised emails, either.
Personalisation is now about empowering users to feel like they are getting a one-on-one customer experience that relates directly to their wants and needs.
With the technological shift we’ve seen happen since the start of the pandemic, users now recognise that even small businesses are capable of providing this level of customer journey personalisation, and they expect it.
Trend #7: Social Media Engagement
Social media engagement as a digital marketing trend is nothing new. Back in 2015, solutions provider, TrackMaven showed how brands got three times the engagement for content shared on Facebook compared with Twitter. Since then, the landscape has changed dramatically, but nothing has altered the basic premise: social media marketing produces engagement. You just have to be on the right platforms, with the right content, at the right times, and that’s not going to change in 2021 either.
All of the trends above are still in the running for 2021. In addition, the 2020 roller coaster has spurted growth in a few surprising areas, and we expect to see the following “new kids on the block” in the digital marketing trends 2021 playbook.
Trend #8: Changes in Consumer Behaviour
The effects of Covid-19 have been notable, and they have lasted long enough to change consumer behaviour and create new habits. In 2021, digital marketers will find it necessary to adapt their communication methods as well as their product and service to accommodate these.
Brand research will need to try and understand how the pandemic impacted their customers, employees, and industries. Companies will have to find ways to use those insights to develop new customer service strategies, as well as long-term shifts in the way they do things.
Virtual events, for example, have grown tremendously in frequency and importance, and these are likely to be a big part of the new normal, while trade shows and exhibitions get largely left by the wayside. Fortunately, marketing technology offers a wide range of options that companies can use to get messages out to their target audience.
Trend #9: Increased Focus on Social, Environmental, and Ethical Responsibility
The U.S.’s racial inequality protests and Australia’s devastating fire season in 2020 inspired people the world over to change certain behaviours. In acknowledgement, brand marketers have begun including more responsible approaches to such issues in their content marketing strategies. Continuing into 2021, it’s likely brands will work harder to clean up their practices and will adapt their public relations strategies to highlight this.
Online marketing will increasingly appeal to enlightened consumers, who care more about a provider’s purpose and commitment to sustainability than the lowest price. Since research shows companies with ethical practices are more successful over the long-term, we can expect a degree of anti-consumerist marketing in 2021.
Trend #10: A Shift in Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is using celebrities and other leading personalities to promote a brand’s product and service via social media platforms and other public forums. Over the past few years, it has been exceptionally successful, mainly achieved through celebrity seeding, or getting well-known figures to use products.
As we head into 2021, the drive for authenticity is expected to push influencer marketing even more into the spotlight. This will create opportunities for influencers who embrace companies’ core values, display ethical behaviour, and remain above reproach, to become highly successful brand ambassadors.
These trends might seem daunting, but designing comprehensive marketing plans aimed at incorporating the shift to technology isn’t really new. It’s just more urgent now. We’ve developed a detailed marketing checklist/template you can follow to make sure you don’t overlook any aspect of marketing.
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