As a tumultuous 2020 is now in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look ahead to what can be expected in digital marketing trends for the next 12 months. Last year was unpredictable, to say the least, which meant that while some of the trends that were predicted before COVID-19 did end up coming to light, others didn’t emerge at all, and various forced adaptations reshaped elements of the marketing landscape. Most notably, eCommerce sales soared 30% higher as people spent 50.1% of their time spent on mobile devices using social media apps, and video conferencing became the norm.

All of this “new normal” has led to a major shift in the way brands connect with their consumers. As we look ahead to a year of expected disruption, creative problem solving, and new beginnings, here are a few trends blossoming further  in 2021.

Live-streams and increasing influencer content

In lieu of canceled concerts, plays, comedy shows, mixers, sports events, etc. in-person events came to a halt following the pandemic. More than missed Saturday night plans, masses weren’t able to socialize with their friends and family, leading to an uptick in the number of people tuning into live-streams and connecting more on social media. Whether it was a branded live-stream, a live video from their favorite celebrity, an online workshop, live Q&A, etc. Between Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram, live viewings shot up a record 50% during lockdown periods, with some social media platforms spiking as high as 70%.

We’ll see this upward trajectory continue to rise in 2021 as more third party streaming platforms come to light and corner the new trending market...

Streamyard is a proficient and custom platform we use with clients that have a broader audience on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, vs Instagram. The software lets you connect to multiple platforms, brand your own thumbnail, ticker, and background, and more. Personal content like influencer live-streams can create trust, and tap into the 'in-the-moment' connection that 2020 consumers craved.

Amazon Live really accelerated during the pandemic, and influencers took to the platform to promote their favorite products during live events. What’s more, the live streams were shoppable, which meant viewers could make purchases while they were watching, adding fuel to the eCommerce fire.

Launch purpose-driven missions from brands 

The smartest brands will understand where they fit into customers’ lives on social media, and they’ll find creative ways of fitting into the conversation. At the core of this is the need for transparency. It’s impossible for consumers to connect with brands that they see as insincere or fake. 

Why would they want to invest in something that they can’t trust or don’t believe in? This is why connection will be pivotal for brands that want to remain trusted sources moving forward into 2021. Now more than ever, brands need to dig deep and be sincerely attuned to why they exist and who they are built to serve.

Inclusivity and diversity will be pivotaL

The cultural shift towards inclusivity is also impacting purchase behavior, with more shoppers shifting away from retailers which don’t reflect their views on identity and diversity, to those who are willing to switch brands completely if they don’t show enough diversity. Brands that are seen to be non-inclusive, or who don’t appear to be a part of the inclusivity conversation, will see negative impacts in 2021. Brands which openly showcase their involvement in inclusive and diverse causes, will reap the benefits and drive deeper connections with their buyers. 

Emphasize sustainability

More than ever, consumers strongly feel that companies should help improve the environment. It’s not too surprising that over the past couple of years there’s been a shift in brands moving towards a more sustainable future, whether it’s through the materials they use, the packaging, their systems, or remote workforce hours.

The hunt for a greener planet continues, and consumers are actively seeking out brands that are purpose-driven and conscious about the environment. As the world remains a fragile place, it will be key for brands to emphasize their sustainability in 2021.

User-generated content to enhance the customer experience 

The customer experience has never been more important than what 2021 will bring. Consumers crave enjoyable experiences with brands that are easy and memorable. They want proof before they buy and they want to be reassured - in essence, no one wants to make the wrong decision.

User-generated content ticks all the boxes when it comes to connective content:

  • Builds and strengthens communities

  • Relatable and uplifting

  • Enables brands to meet customers 

  • Helps brands generate tons more content against a backdrop of stay-at-home orders and restrictive measures

It also has long been an effective way for brands to forge relationships with their customers and provide social proof, as this will be a common theme in the new year as well.

Increase your voice and visual search  

An increasing number of consumers are searching via voice-activated tools like Alexa. Perhaps that’s due to people being stuck at home, with limited opportunities for conversation, or perhaps it’s simply because this type of technology is more readily available. But it’s not just voice search that will continue to surge in 202, we can also expect other creative search methods to rise to the top, like visual search. This means marketers will need to focus even more on image alt-text and sitemaps for images. Over the next year, visuals will become increasingly important in the SEO game, and it’s going to be profitable too.

Let’s do this 2021 

The unpredictable nature of 2020 has forced brands and overall digital marketing trends to think long and hard about how they connect with their customers. Shop closures and stay-at-home orders meant people were stuck inside spending a lot more time online. This has forced marketing strategists to branch out and create more human-centric ways of reaching their buyers.

For 2021, expect to see this trend continue. Live-streams will become increasingly common, purpose-driven brands that champion sustainability will rise to the top, and user-generated content will remain an integral part of every marketing strategy. 

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