Wow, what a year 2020 was! Its safe to say that not one 2020 digital marketing prediction post (or ANY prediction-based post) mentioned an unexpected global pandemic or the effects it would have on people everywhere. However, even though there have been a lot of ups and downs during the uncertainty that haunted last year, we’re still looking ahead to 2021 and what it might hold for the digital marketing industry.
The world of digital marketing grew quickly in 2020 with businesses who had little or no online presence adapting quickly to serve their customers. This has resulted in a mixed bag of trends for 2021; some will be completely new while others will be a deeper understanding, or more involved use of existing technology or strategies. But fear not! I have done the leg work, gathering up these trends and popping them in one place. Enjoy!
1. Conversational Marketing
While this is often associated with chatbots, its not the only option in this digital marketing trend that is set to grow in 2021. By engaging with potential customers, providing information and answers to questions at the time of sign up and purchase consideration, the use of conversational marketing, even through a simple onboarding Q&A form, is set to grow.
Dave Chaffey – Co-founder and Content Director
Source: Smart Insights
2. Marketing Data Interpretation
Data and digital marketing go hand in hand. However, 2020 has shown that the effects of short-term unexpected changes result in data that won’t necessarily be useful for evaluating the right marketing strategies and customer needs in the future. With that in mind, businesses could benefit from interpreting their data differently, either over different time frames or even searching for a variety of outcomes whose relevance will depend on what happens next.
Katherine Oxenreiter – Director @ LEWIS
Source: Team Lewis
3. Messaging App Marketing
Messenger marketing gives businesses another way to reach existing and potential customers. Many businesses already target one or more social media apps and most apps have a messaging option or extension. This provides an additional contact point which can also become part of the conversational marketing trend we expect to grow in 2021.
Lucy Hawkes – Regional E-commerce Director @ OMG Transact
4. More Stringent Data Privacy Rules
As the switch to digital use has accelerated, so too have rules governing data privacy. Even for those businesses who have been following GDPR since 2018 and have already had to alter some ways in which they can use consumer data, with more countries and platforms tightening existing data privacy rules or introducing them, more consideration is now required. One option is to use a separate platform to access or at least assess the type of customer data you need to support future campaigns and to help firms reach their target audiences.
Michał Schindler – Content Manager @ Codewise.com
Source: Voluum Blog
5. Short-Form Video
Two words: Tik Tok. The social media platform gained millions of new users during the pandemic and the short-firm videos it utilizes have been experienced by consumers around the world in recent months. The creation of similar snack-type video content is something more and more businesses will work on to support customer engagement and brand promotion.
James Blackman – Managing Partner @ CocoonFXMedia
Source: Cocoonfx Media Blog
6. Shoppable Content
Instagram was an early adopter of this strategy and while the social media platform is now a busy ad-related site, the idea of shoppable content isn’t solely available on it. The use of widgets and developing technology means adding shoppable links directly to your products and services advertised online will become easier and appeal to a growing audience.
Bruce Biegel – Senior Managing Partner @ Winterberry Group
7. Ad Optimization Testing
Digital marketing and advertising is constantly evolving and developing which means that in order to ensure your digital ads are on target, optimization testing of those ads needs to become more sophisticated. This is where expert support or the use of specific technology is essential in creating the right digital ads to help businesses grow.
Lindsay Tjepkema – CEO @ Casted
8. Augmented Reality
The use of augmented reality has a number of uses and can help make ad and marketing content fun, interactive and more engaging, all of which are desirable outcomes. It’s also a more cost-effective marketing option than virtual reality, so what are you waiting for?
Jim Kruger – Chief Marketing Officer @ Veeam Software
9. Zero Click Ranking
Google wants users to trust Google above other sites and with that in mind, its no surprise to hear that zero click results – where Google provides the answer to a search and the searcher doesn’t need to click on any of the search results. However, with the right SEO businesses can still rank highly on those pages and at least gain some visibility.
Shannon Purcell – Content Creator & Digital Marketer
10. Local Search
Local community interaction has increased during the pandemic and surveys suggest consumers are specifically searching out local businesses to support. Optimizing your online business presence for local search will tap into this feeling which will likely last well into 2021.
Mirko Humbert, editor-in-chief and main author of Designer Daily and Typography Daily. Key Internet Marketing Trends in 2021 (designer-daily.com)
Mirko Humbert – Editor-in-Chief @ Designer Daily
Source: Designer Daily
11. Alternative Social Media Marketing
We’ve already mentioned TikTok but it features for a second time in our list as a potential new social media platform for business to consider using in their digital marketing campaigns. It’s not the only ‘other’ social media platform but given its popularity its one many business owners may have heard of, opening up the possibility of exploring what other options are out there aside from Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.
Diana Wright – Marketing Coordinator @ Techwyse
12. Providing a Service in Return for Subscription
Many businesses already understand the importance of gaining key customer information and try to do so through signup options to unlock certain information or deals. However, by considering your business in terms of the service it can provide – even if you manufacture or sell a specific product – it becomes possible to encourage more sign up and subscription activity.
Pius Boachie – CEO Digimatic
13. Authentic Relationship Building
The pandemic really brought home the importance of real relationships, which is another of the reasons behind the increase in local community shopping and support. Through the use of a few different digital marketing options including videos, conversational and messenger marketing, it’s possible for businesses to create more authentic and real relationships with their customers and users.
Tim Williamson – Managing Director, APAC, Telum Media
Source: Marketing Tech News
14. Virtual Event Marketing
The online or digital pivot was evident across many different industries around the world in 2020 and we don’t expect that to stop in 2021. Indeed, as so many people had to quickly learn new online skills to do their jobs or complete important training essentials, online events from training seminars to concerts and joining virtual audiences for live TV shows quickly became more commonplace. Add to that the convenience of viewing or joining in from the comfort of your own home and the lower price point where payment is required and its easy to see why virtual events will be a growth sub-sector.
Latane Conant – Chief Market Officer @ 6sense
15. Smart Bidding for Google Ads
This is where Google can use its historical user data – within data privacy rules – to help businesses gain cost-effective results, even if it means spending a little more. Googles data helps indicate the likely rewards from a slightly higher bid in paid ads which can result in your slightly higher ad spend gaining a much larger reward.
Boris Abaev – Co-Founder @ Bidease
16. Micro Influencers
Influencers are no longer new in the digital marketing world. However, well-known influencers can easily begin to look like a walking advert, even when they’re not promoting something. But, even as the big, more well-known social media influencers might not provide the same bang-for-buck they once did, micro-influencers are still on the up. That’s due to their relatively small, but very loyal following. It does mean you need to be specific in your choice of micro influencer if this is a digital marketing trend you’re interested in, however, if you get it right, the results will likely be a pleasant surprise!
Michaela Underdahl – Senior Community Manager @ Nimble
Source: Top Rank Marketing
17. Mobile Optimization
We know, this isn’t new, mobile optimization has been an important digital marketing trend for the last couple of years. Looking ahead to 2021, it’s a trend that will accelerate even more quickly as the increase in working from home has resulted in less PC use and more consumer engagement on mobile devices as working from home means laptops are used for work, leaving other mobile devices the increasingly preferred option for social media scrolling and online shopping.
Tony Arnold – CMO @ Unica
They can be used in a variety of ways to support digital marketing campaigns and ambitions which means they’re an important and cost-effective way to engage with existing and potential new customers. In addition, the constant improvement of the AI which powers chatbots means they will increasingly support that conversational marketing trend we listed right at the top of our list.
Sasha Lassey – Business Marketing Coach
Source: Every Day Shes Sparkling
19. Voice Search Focus
It’s fair to say that voice search has been a relatively slow burner in comparison to some other developing digital trends. Even though it hasn’t ‘blown up’ like other trends, it has continued to increase in popularity which means that even if your business hasn’t really worked to optimize for voice search, it’s something that could be done in 2021 and deliver a welcome additional boost to customer engagement.
Jared Atchison – Co-founder @ WPForms
20. Video Marketing is Here to Stay
With lockdown and social distancing rules limiting face-to-face creativity during much of 2020, video marketing definitely advanced across most industries. Looking to 2021 and with so much uncertainty still ahead of us, the safety of online video ads and marketing will be comforting to many businesses and consumers, ensuring its popularity will grow even further.
Deepak Shukla – Founder @ Pearl Lemon
Source: SEM Updates
21. Back linking to Evergreen Content
Content has long been an important element of digital marketing and that will remain the case in 2021, with backlinking to existing, but evergreen content increasing to help increase visibility to search engine ranking systems. This will work for a number of reasons including that in many cases, the answer to customer questions or concerns about a service or product remain unchanged, ensuring the relevance of that previously created content.
In short, back-linking to relevant, long-form articles will increase the value of the information on the website which will be recognised by search engines and customers alike.
Neil Patel – Founder at Neil Patel Digital
Source: Neil Patel Facebook
There you have it, some 2021 predictions from experts in various fields. If you agree, disagree or have your own views on trends not mentioned here I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.