2021 is here, which means it’s time to release our digital marketing trends report! What can you expect from the world of marketing in the next 12 months? How will consumer interests change? Which new technologies do you need to be aware of?
We cover all of this and more in our five predictions below. Give this post a quick read, then gear up — 2021 is set to be an exciting year for all marketing professionals.
1. Customers Will Continue to Demand More Personalized Experiences
Your audience doesn’t just want personalized brand experiences, they demand them. Case in point, 72% of modern consumers will only engage with personalized messages from the companies that market to them, according to SmarterHQ.
What does this look like in a real-world scenario? Here are a couple of examples:
- Netflix: Are you a Netflix subscriber? If not, we bet you’re at least familiar with the platform. When you sign up for a Netflix account, you’re asked to select a few movies you enjoy. Netflix takes this information and combines it with individual watch history to create custom-tailored movie suggestions for each of its subscribers.
- Starbucks: The coffee behemoth is also a master when it comes to personalized customer experiences. Thanks to the Starbucks app, the company has an incredible amount of data, which it uses to recommend drinks and food. The best part? The recommendations are customized depending on the time of day.
These are fairly sophisticated examples of personalization. But don’t worry, even the smallest of businesses can jump on this digital marketing trend by creating email sequences that are triggered by specific customer actions, using analytics to promote content on social media to the people who will actually read it, etc.
Now, don’t confuse personalization with standard automation techniques, i.e. bulk messaging campaigns that don’t really take the end recipient into account. While automation definitely has its place in the future of digital marketing, it will require deep data to be useful.
If you can build automated communication channels that utilize the data-based insights at your disposal, you’ll create truly personalized experiences for your customers at scale.
2. What companies Stand For Will Become More Important Than Ever
Our next prediction for digital marketing trends in 2021 has to do with brand values. What does your company stand for? What does it stand against? Modern consumers want to support brands that align with their personal beliefs.
One of the things we learned in 2020 is that the world is deeply divided. From politics to pandemic response, many of us have strong opinions that aren’t shared by everyone else.
Because of this, your brand needs to understand why it exists, what it stands for, and who it serves in 2021. That way you can maintain transparency and connect with your ideal customer base on a deep level. Doing so will ensure their loyalty.
How about an example?
Patagonia is a popular clothing brand for outdoor enthusiasts. The company clearly states its values in all of its messaging: great products, environmentally safe practices. One of the ways Patagonia lives out these values is through its Worn Wear program, which encourages its customers to buy and sell used Patagonia clothes to reduce consumption.
We think it’s important to mention that standing for specific things does not mean bashing companies and/or people who don’t think the same way. It’s about stating your values in order to reach consumers who hold similar beliefs.
3. Artificial Intelligence (AI) Will Continue to Emerge in Digital Marketing
Artificial intelligence isn’t new, but 2021 may be the year when it really goes mainstream. That’s why we’ve included it in this list of digital marketing trends.
Of course, basic use of AI, such as collecting user data from websites, using chatbots on social media, and personalizing email communications, will continue. But more sophisticated uses will also begin to emerge in 2021.
Here are two promising examples:
- Programmatic Advertising: According to Single Grain, programmatic advertising is “using AI to automate ad buying so you can target more specific audiences.” This practice will make paid advertising cheaper and more efficient.
- AI-Powered Content: New apps like Contentyze enable machines to create summaries, captions, and even full blog posts. All us humans have to do is set predefined rules and data sources. Don’t worry, we don’t think these tools will put talented writers out of work — at least not any time soon. But savvy marketers can use them to scale their content creation efforts.
AI has influenced digital marketing for years. But there are signs that 2021 might be the year it takes a huge leap forward and allows companies to market in radically effective ways.
4. The Rise of Social Commerce Will Grow to New Heights
If you’re not familiar with the term, social commerce is the act of selling products directly on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and (soon to be) Snapchat.
Before social commerce hit the scene a few years ago, companies were forced to post links on social media. When clicked, these links would direct people to an entirely separate ecommerce website where they could complete a purchase.
This process isn’t necessarily bad. In fact, many organizations found great success with it and generated an incredible amount of revenue. But there’s no denying the fact that selling from a third-party site creates friction. And friction is the enemy of sales.
Social commerce removes much of this friction by allowing consumers to buy products without ever leaving their favorite social media site.
In 2020, social commerce grew to be an 89.4 billion dollar industry. It’s projected to grow at an even faster rate in the coming years and become a 604.5 billion dollar industry by 2027. That’s why we’re so comfortable adding it to our 2021 list of digital marketing trends!
Here are the main social commerce sites you need to be aware of:
The largest social network in the world allows businesses to set up Facebook Shops — customizable storefronts that allow consumers to discover, research, and purchase products without navigating away from Facebook.
Did you know that 70% of shopping enthusiasts look to Instagram for product discovery? It’s true! Thanks to Instagram Shops, they can buy the items that inspire them immediately, which is almost guaranteed to raise your revenue.
Quick disclosure: Pinterest doesn’t offer social commerce in the truest sense. The platform features Product Pins. When clicked, these pins direct users to a third-party ecommerce site. We’ve included them here, though, because 89% of Pinterest users use the site for shopping inspiration. So there’s plenty of potential.
Finally, we have Snapchat, a newcomer to the world of social commerce. Last year, the social platform beta launched Brand Profiles, a new feature that will allow users to sell products directly on Snapchat. As of this writing, Brand Profiles are only available to a select few, but we suggest keeping an eye on the situation.
5. Standard Digital Marketing Strategies Will Remain Effective, But Evolve
Last but certainly not least, the digital marketing trends of years past — content marketing, video creation, social media strategies, etc. — will continue to remain effective. The catch? They will change and evolve to meet consumer preferences.
We’ve already discussed the need for personalization in digital marketing strategies like email. We’ve also covered how AI will begin to affect content creation. What else can you expect?
- Video Marketing: Video will continue to be an effective way to reach audiences. Because of this, more video content will be created than in the past. We believe that the growth of short form video, in particular, will explode, fueled by social sites like TikTok and Instagram’s new Reels feature. 1:1 video (personalized video created for specific people) will also grow in popularity.
- Influencer Marketing: Businesses spent $6.5 billion on influencers in 2019 and that number is projected to grow to $15 billion by 2022. This is because the marketing strategy works. 63% of consumers trust influencers more than brands. In 2021, influencer marketing will be assisted by AI, which will help companies better identify potential partners and assess ROI.
- Social Messaging Apps: WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and WeChat lead the pack when it comes to social messaging — especially for business purposes. 20 billion messages are exchanged between companies and customers every month on Facebook Messenger alone. Obviously, these apps are popular. If your business uses them properly, it can generate a major spike in sales and revenue.
The online marketing channels you’ve invested in over the past few years aren’t going anywhere. But you do need to be aware of the new digital marketing trends that affect them and prepare yourself to evolve with the needs and wants of your customers.
Stay on Top of These Digital Marketing Trends
There you have it, five digital marketing trends for 2021. Keep these things in mind as you plan your promotional strategies for the coming year. While none of these predictions are set in stone, there is compelling evidence to suggest they will take place over the next 12 months.
What do you think? Did we miss an important digital marketing trend? Give us your predictions for the industry in the comments below.