7 Digital Marketing Trends for 2021

2020 was unpredictable, to say the least. That meant that while some of the trends which were predicted pre-pandemic did end up coming to light, others didn’t emerge at all, with various forced adaptations reshaping elements of the marketing landscape.

Most notably, eCommerce sales went through the roof, people spent a lot more time on social media, and video conferencing became the norm. This has led to a major shift in the way brands connect with their consumers.

So, as we turn a corner into the New Year, what marketing trends will continue to permeate in 2021?

Here are some key trends to consider:

1. Live-streams and an increase in influencer content

Stay at home orders meant events were canceled, and consumers were unable to attend in-person events. They weren’t even able to socialize with their friends and family.

This led to an uptick in the number of people tuning into live-streams, whether it was a branded live-stream, a live video from their favorite celebrity, or an online workshop.

On Facebook, live viewings spiked by 50% during lockdown periods, while viewings on Instagram surged 70%. TikTok use shot up in 2020, and there’s a good chance we’ll see this upward trajectory continue to play out in 2021.

Human-drive content like influencer live-streams can create trust, and tap into the ‘in-the-moment’ connection that 2020 consumers crave.

2. More goodwill and purpose-driven missions from brands

The smartest brands will understand where they fit into customers’ lives on social media, and they’ll find creative ways of fitting into the conversation. At the core of this approach is the need for transparency.

It’s impossible for consumers to connect with brands that they see as ‘shady’ or insincere. Why would they want to invest in something that they can’t trust or don’t believe in? This is why connection will be pivotal for brands that want to remain trusted sources in 2021.

Now more than ever, brands are having to dig deep to find out how to flourish in turbulent times.

We’re no strangers to seeing brands doing good things, but there will be an even bigger emphasis on this next year.

3. UGC to enhance the customer experience

Customer experience has never been more important.

Consumers crave enjoyable experiences with brands that are easy and memorable. They want proof before they buy and they want to be reassured – after all, no one wants to make the wrong decision.

User-generated content (UGC) ticks all the boxes when it comes to connective content:

  • It builds and strengthens communities
  • It’s relatable and uplifting
  • It enables brands to meet customers where they’re already hanging out
  • It helps brands generate tons more content against a backdrop of stay-at-home orders and restrictive measures

UGC has long been an effective way for brands to forge relationships with their customers and provide social proof, and this will be a common theme in 2021 as well.

4. An emphasis on sustainability

81% of consumers strongly feel that companies should help improve the environment.

It’s a number that’s not that surprising. Over the past couple of years we’ve seen a shift in brands moving towards a more sustainable future, whether it’s through the materials they use, the packaging, their systems, or something else.

The hunt for a greener planet continues, and consumers are actively seeking out brands that are purpose-driven and conscious about the environment. As the world remains a fragile place, it will be key for brands to reiterate their sustainability in 2021.

5. Inclusivity will be key

Inclusivity also became a bigger focus in 2020, with the Black Lives Matter movement highlighting endemic issues that linger within various elements of society.

A cultural shift towards inclusivity is also impacting purchase behavior, with 41% of shoppers shifting away from retailers which don’t reflect their views on identity and diversity – and 29% are willing to switch brands completely if they don’t show enough diversity.

Brands that are seen to be non-inclusive, or who don’t appear to be a part of the inclusivity conversation, will likely see impacts in 2021. On the flipside, brands which openly showcase their involvement in inclusive causes, will reap the benefits and drive deeper connections with their buyers.

6. Increase in voice and visual search

An increasing number of consumers are searching via voice-activated tools like Alexa and Google Nest. Perhaps that’s due to people have been stuck at home, with limited opportunities for conversation, or perhaps it’s simply because this type of technology is more readily available.

But it’s not just voice search that will prevail in 2021 – we can also expect other creative search methods to rise to the top, like visual search.

Tools like Google Lens enable consumers can search for whatever they can see. This means marketers will need to focus even more on image alt-text and sitemaps for images. Over the next year, visuals will become increasingly important in the SEO game.

It’s going to be profitable too: Retail Customer Experience estimates that by 2021, early adopters that redesign their websites to support visual and voice search will increase their digital commerce revenue by 30%.

7. Easy-to-consume content

2020 also saw people leaning on easy-to-consume content – things like podcasts that can be consumed on-the-go or newsletters that land directly in subscriber’s inboxes.

Studies show that 55% of people now listen to podcasts, while newsletter mentions were up 14% during lockdown. Advertisers are spending more on podcasts too, which is a hint to their continued success in 2021.

Convenient and readily-available content like podcasts and newsletters will help brands connect more deeply with customers and provide a more intimate way to stay in touch.

Are you ready for 2021?

The unpredictable nature of 2020 has forced brands to think long and hard about how they connect with their customers. Shop closures and stay-at-home orders meant people were stuck inside, which also meant that they were spending a lot more time online. This has pushed brands to branch out and create more human-centric ways of reaching their buyers.

Over the next 12 months, we’ll see this continue. Live-streams will become increasingly common, purpose-driven brands that champion sustainability will rise to the top, and UGC will remain an integral part of every marketing strategy.

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