It is of a genuine belief that 2021 will be full of optimism for marketing, with a focus on performance across channels, empowered by improved tracking. Most of the behaviors consumers and brands will adopt are based on core values, authenticity, and the efficiency of digital channels. Predicting the future feels particularly daunting after this past 2020 year, however, there are trends and themes underway that ThrivePOP has noticed that aim to inspire and ignite marketing in 2021.
The following are the most important marketing trends to look out for:
A cookie-less future
A big wave of change for online advertising is coming in 2021. Google’s industry-leading browser Chrome will stop supporting third-party cookies by early 2022, significantly altering how digital ads are targeted and tracked. Yet, even among knowledgeable digital marketers, there’s considerable confusion about how campaigns will be affected.
The future will provide a final chance for marketers to educate themselves about the impact of the cookie-less future and how to prepare for it. The most important action involves improving access to, and effective use of, their valuable first-party data—and ensure agencies have a clear plan for placing and measuring campaigns after the change.
The COVID-19 impact
COVID-19’s effect has been significant, and likely enduring. Consumer behavior has changed and reset, at least to a degree. Going forward, smart marketers will make short- and long-term changes to messaging as well as products and services.
The key question for all businesses is: Which new customer behaviors and expectations will stick, and which will recede? Answering this with insight and forethought is integral to effective resource allocation.
It’s safe to say that successful brands will focus on value-based pricing and messaging. Brands will conduct extensive research to better understand how the pandemic has specifically impacted its employees, customers, and their industry. Smart marketers and brands will utilize those insights to inform both 2021 marketing strategies as well as long-term shifts in media and messaging.
Here, Influencer Marketing Hub posted some interesting statistics on which types of businesses actually showed growth in 2020:
For instance, virtual events have seen explosive growth and are likely to become a mainstay of marketing’s “new normal” as traditional trade shows and conferences struggle and adapt. Remote workforces and Zoom calls have taken precedence in managing the day-to-day responsibilities and collaborations of employees and marketing managers. The pandemic has forced brands to adopt digital channels for product and service delivery as well as marketing.
Furthermore, ‘digital transformation’ has become the popular buzzword since COVID-19 took over back in March 2020. Companies of all sizes are investing significant dollars in the migration to digital platforms, including e-commerce, chatbots, email, apps, artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, omnichannel marketing and augmented and virtual reality. Those brands that embrace evolving technologies to create a more seamless customer experience will be in a leadership position post-pandemic.
One key element worth noting is that in a successful digital transformation, developing omnichannel marketing in the new digital age–specially as channel use and preferences change–is going to be front and center for 2021. Which means, there are clear cues to act on, such as the elevated usage of restaurant home deliveries that will persist and are thus investing in operations such as ghost kitchens. These offer pickup and delivery only.
Post-COVID-19 business leaders must be clear-eyed in evaluating their earlier forecasts and deciding whether to continue with related priorities or adapt to unexpected realities.
The role of influencer marketing
Influencer marketing will secure its position as a key channel for consumer brands. Consumer brands have historically used social media influencers to present authentic unbiased advertising to appeal to prospects and customers. The pandemic amplified the impact influencers have on the purchase of products, due to a limited ability to shop at stores and instead, resort to online buying.
Social media use dramatically increased during 2020 and this trend will be lasting into the future. It’s believed that 40% of people purchased a product online after seeing it used by an influencer on YouTube, Instagram or Twitter. As a result, there is an opportunity for brands to utilize social media influencers now more than ever.
An increase in brand-to-brand collaborations
2021 will likely experience a renewed focus on celebrity collaborations, as well as more company-to-company partnerships. Unexpected partnerships between corporate brands capture media attention, generate social buzz and allow for cross marketing to customer bases—without celebrity endorsement fees, all of which plays well in an era of hard-to-capture consumer attention and tightened budgets.
Increased action on social, environmental, and ethical issues
The future will see brands making significant efforts to clean up business practices and adjust messaging to appeal to enlightened consumers who care deeply about a company’s purpose and commitment to social and environmental sustainability. Also, ethical businesses will be more successful in the long term, so expect to see many businesses to join in the movement in 2021. This interest crosses generations but is most consistently propelled by Gen Z, as more of this group is entering the workforce, and their voice will be louder than ever—both as consumers and employees.
No previous generation has been as demanding of their employers to demonstrate a corporate social conscience than Gen Z. Brand marketers will feel compelled and inspired to push their organizations to take meaningful stands on social, environmental, and ethical issues, which will lead to a mindset that impacts a range of beneficial initiatives.
The new year is full of optimism, much of it offering new opportunities. Change never stops and now is the time to make the best of what’s to come in 2021. There will be a focus on performance across channels, empowered by improved tracking, and most of the behaviors consumers and brands will adopt are based on core values, authenticity and the efficiency of digital channels.
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