2020 was a year unlike any we have probably ever seen. It was the year that turned business completely on its head and, for many of us, it meant that we had to change the way that we operated and conducted business. As a way of giving our CIM and 1-day course students as broad an idea of where the digital marketing world might be going, I thought I would do a roundup of what the different journals/magazines are predicting for 2021. I have added my own thoughts/commentary but feel free to add your own opinions in the comments section. Please note that I have inlcluded select predictions from each of them as some have a lot.
So, what are the trends that we are likely to see in 2021?
Forbes magazine has brought together a few digital marketing leaders and asked them to predict what may happen in terms of digital marketing in 2021.
Tony Heidt of The Gauge Collective is one of the people Forbes invited on to this “panel” and he offers an example of one of his clients who he helped pivot to virtual events which included things like Mixology and Chef Demos. Personally, I think the word that summed up many organisations in 2020 was pivot. When your staff work from home and the customers can’t meet you, either at the office or purchase from you in store, then pivoting is the only thing you can do.
Decluttering social media – I’m sure this one will resonate with a lot of people. Lisa Apolinski of 3 Dog Write Inc says that reducing social media to only the most relevant “will be not only popular but necessary close.” I think there is a temptation for people to try as many different social media channels possible but, and we’ve seen this on our social media and digital marketing courses, many companies are resisting this and are actually focusing on the most relevant social media channels for them and their audiences.
Live interactions with virtual events – Lisa Apolinski also says that there is a need for people to interact at online virtual events. I quite like this idea of people engaging at live events and not for it to be just a one-way broadcast.
Social Media Today
Social Media Today lists 10 trends for 2021 (in the form of an infographic) and here is a selection:
- Influencer marketing – they recommend using influencers to generate content on websites and newsletters. This is something you probably know but the micro nano influences have the highest engagement rights.
- Video content – using video can result in you getting 92% higher traffic.
- Hyper automation – You’ve heard of automation but Gartner Group says that Hyper automation is on the horizon with practically every business process being automated (with use of AI and machine learning).
- Remote working – this will come as no surprise that a high percentage of people (82%) are “not planning to return to full in-office setting.”
- User generated content is the new word of mouth – this stat caught my eye: open “ads using UGC get 400% higher CTR.”
Think with Google
This website has got some really interesting predictions for 2021. Let’s go through some of them.
- Equality on the marketing agenda – Google noted that the search term “black owned-business” surged in May 2020 and this tied in with increased attention of the Black Lives Matter movement. It further acknowledges that people are looking to drive change in areas not only through campaigning but through their actions. They reckon that 2021 will be the year that more brands speak up on the issue of racial equality. Therefore, it is the “role of marketers to ensure equality is on the agenda”.
- Protecting people’s privacy – Google reckons that data ethics will enter a new era. With more and more of us going online it requires us to trust brands. And data ethics is about not just compliance but doing what’s right for people.
- Reaching the at-home consumer – COVID-19 has obviously forced more of us to stay at home and go online and Google project that online video will represent more than 80% of consumer Internet traffic by 2022. So, what does this mean? For brands it means an opportunity to connect with consumers in new ways – just think of the number of live events you have seen on YouTube over the past year.
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So, what do the good folks of HubSpot have to say about 2021? It’s not a surprise that the words “pandemic” and “covid” pepper the thoughts of many of the 20 marketing experts they brought together. Their Marketing Trends to Watch in 2021, According to 21 Experts
Asynchronous events will be plugged into the funnel – the theme of virtual events (a recurring trend on so many websites) appears here again but Latané Conant reimagines virtual events as running 24/7 with the consumer dipping in and out and even using different platforms like Netflix and Slack to engage with the event (click on the Ashley Friedlein link below and check out the Live Commerce prediction). This sounds like it would take video conferencing/events to a whole new level.
Businesses will find new ways to encourage online connections – Kevin Alansky reckons that the “virtual and digital-first world will continue in 2021 and beyond”. I would agree with him on this. I remember when the pandemic started and being optimistic that perhaps we could run courses in the autumn. Obviously this didn’t happen and people are now accustomed to working and connecting through Teams, Zoom and WebEx. Alansky also considers that people are getting ‘zoom fatigue’ and we need to look at new models of connecting/doing business online. In terms of online events he considers online communities may be a way forward.
Digital marketing spend will continue to grow – here’s some good news for the digital marketers and digital agencies out there. Bridget Perry of Contentful says that digital leaders planned to spend on average 25% more on digital in 2021. You could say that there’s never been a better opportunity to be working in digital marketing.
Content marketing will start with conversations – Lindsey Tjepkema says that marketers are “still focusing on keyword heavy blog posts as the main tactic to captivate the audience. But it’s a strategy made for Google not for people.” She reckons that customers want to have authentic experiences with your brand and that starts with conversations.
Many companies will implement a new web operations team – this is something I hadn’t really considered but which makes complete sense. Christie Marble of Pantheon Systems says that, “2020 has taught us we must demand the agility to transform on a moment’s notice to respond to customer needs.” She goes on to say that we need to focus on people – the customer experience and you should “focus your team on improving personalization, advancing your customer journey, and creating a truly authentic web experience that meets your customers where they are.”
HubSpot has many more fascinating insights and I recommend you go and check them out.
Search Engine Watch
I suppose a digital marketing predictions list wouldn’t be complete without the addition of some search engine trends. Here are some of the thoughts of the guys over at Search Engine Watch.
AI to show greater impact – You’ve probably all heard about artificial intelligence and the impact it is have been on the digital world. Search Engine Watch reckons that with the AI industry projected to earn $118 billion by 2025, the SEO industry will no doubt be impacted. They see it having an effect on content, keyword research and link building. And were you aware that some keyword research tools – like Keyword Tool and Twin word – already utilise this technology and you can access them today.
Sort out your UX – Apparently “88% of online shoppers don’t return after having a bad user experience” and “70% of online businesses fail due to bad user experiences”. Therefore it might be time to take a look at your Technical SEO and, lucky for you, Search Engine Watch have listed some of the key areas you might want to look at.
Get more from Local SEO – 46% of searches are local searches. So, if you want to get more bang for your buck’s in 2021, you might want to consider some of these tips (assuming you’re not already doing them): utilise Google My Business, use local business directories and cash in on local search keywords.
Implement the E.A.T. Concept – up until a couple of years back I hadn’t heard of E.A.T. but then I attended the Swansea Digital Marketing & SEO Meetup where Lee Woodman of Visit Digital discussed it at some length. Google utilises 3rd party Quality Search Raters to let them know what changes make search more useful. Google has produced a Quality Evaluator Guidelines booklet which, I’m sure you’ll find, makes for good reading.
Play with Long Tail keywords – We have been telling students about the importance of the Long Tail for many years and 2021 looks like it will be no different. Even today Long Tail keywords have a conversion rate of 36%.
Search intent takes prominence – According to a study by Ahrefs, “optimizing search content led to a 677% increase in organic traffic for one of their core landing pages in just a period of six months”. Search intent looks at the reason for a person’s search and they offer 3 types of intent which you may not be aware of but which could be use for you.
Ashley Friedlein (of Econsultancy)
In this fascinating article (published 11th January, 2021) Ashley Friedlein takes a look at 10 digital and marketing trends of 2021. I will select a few.
Doubling down on digital transformation – as many of us already know 2020 accelerated the adoption of ” all things” digital by a number of years. Some estimates reckon this was accelerated by 5 to 10 years; US ecommerce penetration in three months of 2020 was as much as it had been in the past 10 years with the UK “leapfrogging five years of predicted growth”. 2020 was the year we saw businesses pivoting and massive digital transformation. One thing that he also notes is that the biggest investment and digital transformation will be in people and skills.
From our perspective, as a digital marketing training provider, one of the sectors that he reckons will change their “go-to-market” offering is events, training and education where we will move to hybrid digital/physical propositions. This is interesting as it has got me thinking about what our product offering should be when we finally exit the pandemic. Do we create a solely virtual presence or do we go down the path of a hybrid option?
The year of reconnection – Friedlein reckons that if 2021 meant distance, alienation and disconnection, then this year will be the year that we reconnect. He thinks that 2021 is the year that we rediscover ‘community’ in digital forms (time to dig out your Seth Godin book, Tribes!). But the communities of 2021 won’t be large, impersonable, uncontrollable (?) ones but will be “more curated, more quality-controlled, more private, more intimate and smaller than the public social media of the last decades.”
The learning imperative – the theme of learning, training and education can be found throughout this article. It’s interesting to note that even though Friedlein reckons that training budgets might be squeezed (as will be hiring) then we still we need to reward and incentivise marketers through training and development.
He further goes on to say that the winners in the economy will be those investing in training and development. One thing he mentions, and which certainly resonates with us, is the uplift in individuals wanting to ‘better themselves’ and pay for training themselves. I’m pretty sure that this will be a trend which continues right through 2021. We have definitely seen a big increase in people wanting to better themselves and pay themselves.
Digital’s Inconvenient Truth – probably the most alarming digital trend that Ashley Friedland mentions is the rapid acceleration of packaging needed to satiate our need for products. Want something? Let’s get on to Amazon Prime! But, and there is a BIG but coming, one alarming stat that he uses is that 1 billion trees were chopped down last year to provide e-commerce packaging for the US! But there’s another problem, too, in terms of our digital activity – 6 billion trees would have to be planted to offset the pollution caused by email spam.
16 million trees would need to be planted to offset the pollution caused by the estimated 1.9 trillion yearly searches on Google. Perhaps we should start considering how we can lessen our carbon footprint and even offset it. Is it now time to focus much more on local and hyper local? Quite a few websites I visited whilst researching this article mentioned this as an important trend.
Other trends that you might want to check out in this excellent article are Live Commerce and the Augmented Marketer.
So, there you have it – a round up of 2021 Digital Marketing trends. Many of them have come about as a result of 2020 pandemic and the accompanying Digital Transformation. Aspects of digital marketing which we predicted may happen in a few years have happened or are starting to happen now. Our students learn about the Diffusion of Innovation model and Gartner Hype Cycle on their courses but did 2020 shorten/change them? Only kidding! As an organisation is important that we consider the ways that technology might impact us and consider ways to embrace or deal with change. And I sincerely hope that you have a great and safe 2021.
Feel free to leave comments on how social media updates on his post or even in the comment section below. Things you might want to discuss are: which trends Will have the biggest impact on your organisation? Or which should embrace? Or even which are the most worrying ones.