The changes our society experienced in the last 12 or so months forced many businesses to accelerate their digital strategy, and countless more to haphazardly start devising one. With 2020 safely behind us, it’s time to focus on what tomorrow holds for the digital marketing world.
And from what it looks like, the future revolves around customer experience, machine learning, and brand ethics.
The average internet user is well versed in online research and goes beyond just checking out a business’s website and a few first-page Google results to find what they want to know about a company.
To build a trustworthy name and increase profits nowadays a brand needs a solid online presence, cutting-edge real-time analytics, and responsive marketing tactics.
In this article, we will be concentrating on the emerging digital trends the marketing community foresees as dominating in 2021 and we’ll mention several of the golden rules that still apply, but with a new twist.
Read on to find out how to make your brand shine on the digital stage in 2021.
1. Real-Time Analytics of User Experience Will Be Crucial
The dynamic changes in the international economic landscape reflect on customer behavior. To move with the uncertain times, marketers will have to respond to a user experience that changes in real-time and continually update their digital strategy.
Businesses that used to rely on data from past years and previous cycles will have to gear-up with the right tools and up their analytics game. Keeping up with recent events and staying in touch with customers will be more important than ever.
To manage quick reactions the marketing departments and the C-suites will have to be in sync and on the same page. Communication will be vital, and having step-by-step action plans for different scenarios will accelerate finding solutions and staying on top of the constantly changing economy.
2. First-party Data Will Rule the Cookieless Digital World
Ready or not, the marketing community will have to discover and realize the full potential of first-party data.
Along with other major browsers such as Firefox and Safari which are no-longer storing third-party data, last year Google announced that by the end of 2022 their browser Chrome will be cookie-free as well.
Third-party data, also known as cookies, have so far been a driving tool of online advertising. But as people spend more and more time online, concerns about privacy and the ways websites are managing user information are growing. In light of this, new rules were next to inevitable.
Experts are yet uncertain of how getting rid of the cookie will impact the digital marketing world. But what’s sure is that this will be a chance for first-party data to really shine.
Therefore, cloud solutions and CRM software will be vital for integrating user-data sets from different platforms where clients willingly share details with businesses. Utilizing the full potential of this information will be the key to providing a first-class personalized experience to users in an ethical way, all the while growing revenue.
3. User-Generated Content Will Shake Things Up
Customers trust other customers more than marketing campaigns. What gives a brand the most credibility is client recommendations.
To stay relevant, businesses will have to encourage feedback as well as engage with their audience in discussions on social media platforms. Answering all reviews, regardless of whether they are positive or negative, and staying connected to customers in such unpredictable times, shows humanity and makes a brand more relatable and trustworthy.
An interesting freshly minted user-generated content (UGC) trend is video-feedback. It allows users of an app or website to directly record a message reviewing services or products. It’s a fun and personal way for people to share their experience of a brand and provides information for prospects in an engaging form.
UGC builds a relatable face to a business and lets customers know you are open for suggestions, ready to improve, and, most of all, it shows you value their opinion.
4. Expect a Surge in Mobile App Adoption
Businesses, from digital publishers to eCommerce websites, food delivery companies, and SaaS enterprises, are launching apps for their services.
And consumers can’t get enough of them.
App Annie’s annual report shows a massive surge in mobile app usage. Consumers are now more inclined to invest money in apps and in-app purchases and spend more hours using them than ever before.
Developing an app is a great way for businesses to generate qualified leads with a distinct interest in their services and products. It can also serve to monitor and analyse customer behaviors as well as accelerate prospects’ journey through the marketing funnel via targeted personalized content.
Moreover, apps help a brand build a loyal audience and accumulate invaluable first-party data.
5. AI and Machine Learning Will Get Democratized
From email campaigns and scheduled social media posts to chatbots that are already sophisticated enough to be mistaken for humans, automation and AI are no strangers to the experienced marketer.
But as 2020 forced many companies to accelerate digitalization, using automation and AI will no doubt still be on the rise this year.
Marketing teams new to the digital world have built and implemented online strategies for the businesses they represent and have familiarized themselves with the basic processes. Automating them will be a natural next step.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning, are becoming more advanced and accessible in all aspects of our lives, marketing included. And with the push the pandemic gave, research and technology in the field has become less expensive and affordable, not only to large corporations but to small-scale businesses as well.
Automated processes and analytics tools gather substantial amounts of data and insights on user behavior patterns. Machine learning will help process this data, make sense of it, and provide a basis for a better than ever personalized user experience.
6. Digital Events Will Rock the Virtual Stage
Although people around the world long for face-to-face experiences and real-life meetings with other human beings, 2021 is to remain a digital-mostly year. Online events have proven to be a cost-effective alternative to traditional concerts, trade-shows, conferences, and seminars, and the market will continue to develop this year.
Social distancing accelerated the evolution of this format, and virtual events quickly outgrew simply copying real-life events but from home.
Meanwhile, businesses have discovered that going digital is a chance to reduce customer’s costs – from participation fees to travel and accommodation expenses – and make events accessible to an immensely bigger audience. Increased attendances lead to a boost in profits and a higher ROI which is hard to argue with.
Cost-efficiency and accessibility rest the case for digital events on both sides and we will surely see more of them in years to come. Even when the world is back offline.
7. Visual Search and Voice Search Will Further Evolve
The rapid evolution of machine learning will make visual and voice search more reliable, thus the more popular choice.
Voice assistants are finally understanding what people are saying, and it’s been estimated that more than half of the searches in 2021 will be made through a voice command.
Spoken requests will be a regular choice for online shopping, which makes voice optimization especially important for eCommerce businesses.
Outside the business applications of the technology, Google’s machine learning algorithms are getting so advanced that now you can hum a tune to your Voice Assistant and it will help you find out which is the song stuck in your head. Imagine that!
At the same time, Google bots are now learning to crawl images and recognize what they represent. From an SEO perspective, this makes visuals optimized with meta descriptions and proper alt tagging even more imperative for a page’s visibility to search engines.
The technology is still evolving, but users are more than ready to embrace it. According to research by ViSenze, 62% of millennials are already using visual search and want more of it.
Apps such as Google Lens, Pinterest Lens, Snapchat Visual Search, and eBay Image Search, that allow users to find products through visual search are growing in popularity. And businesses that are quick to react to the trends and optimize their images should expect rewarding revenue.
8. Online Shopping Will Be the New Normal
Both experts and users agree that trading and shopping will never be the same again.
For most people, the preference to shop online is not a new trend, but many companies are still struggling to do business online. Now that it is a necessity, eCommerce will be a must for brands. Because, let’s face it, nowadays if you don’t offer your products and services online, you might as well close shop.
Social commerce is a new trend in online shopping that had great success last year and, no doubt, we’ll see more of it in 2021.
It’s technically not considered eCommerce because you make purchases directly from the social media app, without visiting the vendor’s website. You browse your newsfeed, you see something you like, you click “buy”, and continue browsing. That’s it.
And, as it appears, that’s exactly what users enjoy.
9. Ethical Brands Will Outshine Competition
Having experienced the benefits first-hand, a lot of the businesses which gave up their physical locations last year intend to stay digital. This means virtual workflow management tools and services will still be popular and we might see some new startups step out in the marketplace.
Meanwhile, going digital office-wise is not only good for the environment but it can be beneficial when building a brand’s image as it is flexible, sustainable, and socially-oriented.
A digital office has a reduced carbon impact on the planet, as employees spend less time in cars, waste less paper, and less single-use plastic. To add up to this, businesses, where possible, can opt for green solutions such as recycled packing, creative upcycled resources, and can invest in supporting green causes.
Ethical brands promoting sustainability and inclusivity, and contributing to society are more likely to build a network of returning and loyal customers.
People prefer to show commitment to companies that care more about social values than profits.
As competition, in all industries, is fighting to stay on top of the dramatically changing economic landscape, businesses that manage to do so with dignity and humanity will be the ones to win the customer over.
Now that everyone is online almost all the time, having a carefully devised, continuously evolving digital marketing strategy is more important than ever. Businesses will have to go with the tide and keep-up with the latest digital trends.
Machine learning and automation will play a vital part in shaping the digital outline of 2021, but customer experience prevails as the nexus of all marketing efforts.
Personalizing the digital experience of every single customer sounds like a lot of work but it will allow businesses to build up a loyal audience that will pay off in returning clients.
Which is your favorite upcoming trend? Share with us in the comments below!