The marketing industry, like the entire business landscape, went through unprecedented and unpredictable times in 2020. Now, as analysts and industry insiders make forecasts into how 2021 may look, it’s clear that some the effects of 2020 are here to stay—at least for another year.
But it’s also easy to see that 2021 promises to be its own unique year, with new marketing trends to adapt to, and, perhaps more importantly, opportunities to take advantage of.
1. Conversational Marketing Gains New Ground
Conversational marketing has been gaining increasing prominence in the world of digital marketing over the last few years.
With of COVID-19 on individual’s abilities to work from home (err, well… inability to leave their homes, I suppose), that trend has found new emphasis. The brands that have been experienced the most marketing-fueled growth have been those that have found ways to talk to consumers on a more “eye-level” basis.
I expect this trend will only continue into 2021, as it shows significant evidence of gaining momentum.
There’ll likely be a greater focus on one of the core elements of conversational marketing: personalization. Consumers are generally keen to receive communication that’s clearly suited to their tastes and related to previous experiences they’ve had with the brand.
That means marketers in 2021 will have to find ways to marry that personalization with segmentation at a smaller level, so they can reach consumers in the ways they’ve come to expect—and are most likely to respond to.
This, may, however, prove a little difficult for many brands. Especially considering that 45% of them haven’t created any kind of plan to take advantage of this ever-growing marketing trend or the latest digital marketing techniques.
Still, those who are able to make their marketing more conversational are likely to see direct returns.
2. Greater Privacy and Consent Concerns
In 2020, Apple, Google, and Mozilla shook up the marketing world when they announced their privacy-first approach. Marketers who’d never needed to reconsider their cookie-powered digital marketing campaigns suddenly found themselves thinking about how they’d update and pivot.
As expected, very few businesses had prepared for this, let alone thought about it.
This isn’t likely to be one of the seismic shifts of 2021, and perhaps not even for the next few years; however, I believe we’ll find it’s roots firmly planted in 2021 as it begins to sprout. Fortunately, that means it’s going to be gradual and there’s going to be time for marketers to adapt.
However, I do expect changes will take place in the coming year, and they’ll likely be the first signs a business will need to evolve many of their digital marketing practices.
That may mean paying greater attention to customer retention, reevaluating if PPC ads can fill the gap, and investing more resources into social media. What does this mean for you? Well, with a pivot in strategy, we’ll likely see a completely new look at the KPIs that truly drive results in the next 5 years.
3. More Localized SEO Efforts
When a business relies on foot traffic—people passing by the store and noticing it—a pandemic is a serious problem. These businesses are also the best positioned to see some return from traditional brand-marketing efforts. In short, digital marketing wasn’t off the table, but it was by no means absolutely necessary.
Now, heading into 2021, it’s crucial for survival. With people spending much of their time inside their homes, they’re discovering 97% of businesses online.
Even Forrester—who had said in 2018 that local SEO would generate $1.4 trillion in sales—have had to revise that figure. And it went up.
In 2021, e-commerce is likely to cement its position as the foremost form of commerce. Even if things do change, as far as restrictions across the globe and people shopping in-store again, consumer behavior will likely take some time to return to normal—if it returns to normal at all.
We now live in a world where internet traffic, predominantly driver by search engine results, will remain a key part of the customer journey, even if the store they eventually make a purchase from may be just down the street.
4. Voice SEO Starts Getting More Attention
Analyst predictions have cited voice search as the next frontier of voice SEO for the past few years. And while many of those speculations turned out to be immature, 2021 may be the year when they come to fruition.
Consumers have warmed up to smart speakers in record numbers in 2020, and the mounting interest shows every sign of spilling over to 2021. For one, 55% of households in the United States are expected to have smart speakers by the end of 2021.
But much of the new focus on voice SEO will focus on how different it is to text search. For example, while 10% of voice searches begin with “who,” “what,” “where,” and similar words, only 3.7% of text searches have queries that start that way.
To add to that, marketers have found a significant strategy concern: voice search results have been shown to display different results than text results, even if the subject matter is largely the same.
That means the 2021 marketer has to think more critically about creating the kind of content that ranks for voice-search queries if there’s opportunity on the table for them.
A related prediction that voice user interface experts are making is that, as users become more accustomed to make voice searches through smart speakers, that will likely translate to increased voice input on mobile and through wearables, too.
The increased potential increase in voice traffic may mean a need for a greater focus on voice SEO for marketers in some industries. Basically, this will be a long term play based on consumer behavior and preference, and much like the transition to digital, the companies who invest now, will likely see dividends later.
5. Increased Popularity of Interactive Content
The marketing industry is poised to produce more interactive content in 2021.
At least 53% of marketers have been using it in some or the other, and 88% of those who’ve experimented with it report that it boosts engagement on their websites.
Separate research carried out through a partnership by the Content Marketing Institute and Ion Interactive puts the average engagement increase at a solid 66%.
It has other benefits, too, such as providing prospects with tangible experiences, earning backlinks, and differentiating the brand. Those are crucial advantages to capitalize on in 2021, especially as people are spending more time online, which also means there’s greater competition for attention.
We all know the brand that captures its audience with standout content gets the spoils.
At the end of the day…
For marketers, 2021 will be a year that brings in massive new changes and also initiates others that may pick up steam years down the line. Either way, the five predictions above have a mix of the two, and there are significant revenue rewards for marketers who can find inventive ways to leverage the changes.