2020 was a challenging year in many ways and it affected the digital marketing sphere as well as the entire economy. Many businesses were forced to move some or all of their operations online. Those of us who have worked in this space for years are fortunate in that we’re already familiar with it and therefore have an edge. However, things are also getting a lot more competitive, which means we have to be alert and adaptable to changes. It’s a good time to look ahead and anticipate what the coming year is likely to bring. Here are what I suspect will be the top digital marketing trends of 2021.
1. Brands Need to Clarify and Communicate Their Brand Message
With so many businesses competing for the customer’s attention, it’s more essential than ever to communicate your uniqueness. To do this, you need to be clear about your brand, mission, values, and what you stand for. Rather than simply describing your products, you need to establish a recognizable identity that comes across in all of your marketing and communications. This should be reflected in everything from your logo to the layout of your website to the tone of your emails and the copy on everything!
2. More Emphasis on Local Marketing and SEO
Local SEO has been getting more important every year as businesses compete on Google My Business for nearby customers. 46% of Google searches are for local information. The 2020 pandemic made local marketing even more critical as customers were forced to shop closer to home. Here are some particularly important local marketing tips to keep in mind. Make sure your Google My Business listing is accurate and up-to-date, including your address, phone number, hours, and your main products/services. If your operations change frequently due to issues such as lockdowns, edit your listing whenever something changes.
3. New Types of Segmentation
Brands need to sharpen their focus and hone in on specific groups of customers. Segmentation is an effective strategy for all your marketing, including your website (different pages can target different audiences), social media, and email list. Traditionally, businesses separated customers based on age, gender, and location. You can still do this as needed, but you could also focus on other criteria such as interests, cultural values, ethnicity, and religion. For example, with holiday marketing, you have to realize that not everyone celebrates the same holidays.
4. Strategic Omnichannel Marketing
Consumers are researching, browsing, and shopping using multiple devices and platforms. You need to connect with your audience in the ways that are most convenient for them. Don’t try to maintain a presence everywhere as this can lead to diluting your efforts and spreading yourself too thin. Rather, focus on the channels where your customers spend the most time. Make it easy for them to find you wherever they happen to be. You should offer smooth transitions between your website, social media, email, and other channels.
5. Brands Will Have to Work Harder to Gain Loyalty
As I mentioned, in 2020, digital marketing became more competitive. In such an environment, it’s more crucial than ever to build brand loyalty as people will stick to businesses that make them feel safe as well as appreciated. You can do this by communicating in an authentic manner, keeping in mind that people want emotional connections as much as having their material needs met. Make sure you pass along relevant information and do so in a way that’s warm and caring. Make sure your authentic concern comes across in your messages. For a brick and mortar business, you need to reassure customers that you provide a safe and convenient shopping experience.
6. The Need to Balance Technology With Personalization
AI and machine learning are creating rapid advancements, allowing businesses to automate many tasks. Chatbots and voice assistants let you connect quickly with customers and prospects, answering their questions and pointing them towards the optimal solutions. You should make full use of these convenient tools, as they can help you serve your audience more efficiently. At the same time, you need to balance this with the previous point, which requires you to make an emotional connection. One way to do this is to recognize the limits of automation. For example, a chatbot is great for answering common questions. But you need to provide an easy way for someone to reach a live person if they have a more complicated inquiry.
7. Mobile Will Continue to Grow
People are embracing mobile devices more and more each year. This isn’t a passing trend but a fundamental shift in consumer behaviour worldwide. Statista expects the number of global mobile users to reach 7.1 billion by 2021. A mobile-first marketing strategy is essential if you want to reach your audience. Mobile marketing overlaps with many of the other trends on my list, such as local SEO and omnichannel marketing. As people shop locally, they’re likely to be on their smartphones. In addition, having a mobile-friendly website, use tactics to engage people such as apps and notifications. SMS or text message marketing is a convenient way to reach people. Location-based notifications that target shoppers who are close to your business can be especially effective.
8. Embrace Big Data While Avoiding Data Overload
Everyone is talking about big data and this is indeed an important part of business and marketing today. However, what really counts is your ability to identify the data that’s most relevant to your needs. You have to avoid the problem of data overload. As businesses have access to ever more sources of information, they need to be more discerning and learn to focus on actionable data that really helps them.
9. A More Personalized Approach to Social Media
Social media is another sector that will continue to expand. However, it’s no longer practical to think you can reach your audience with broad content such as Facebook posts and tweets. You need to engage your followers with more targeted content. Make sure you’re using the social media sites where your customers are most active. Features such as Facebook and Instagram Stories are good for this. You can combine organic content and advertising with short videos within Stories.
10. Interactive Content and Virtual Events Will Flourish
Along with Stories, one of the best ways to engage with your audience is through live presentations. These can be done on many platforms such as Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Google Hangouts, webinars, or Zoom. We’re seeing more and more options popping up, and for good reason. Although posts and emails still have their place, live interactions are more engaging.
Aside from webinars and live-streaming, larger-scale virtual events are also getting more popular. According to Grand View Research, global virtual events will grow annually by 23.2% between 2020 and 2027. In 2020, many live events were forced to go virtual, including festivals, concerts, and seminars. Even when live events resume, there are some key advantages to virtual events. They’re cheaper to put on, and they can reach people all over the world.
Be Ready for Another Year of Change
2021 is likely to be another year full of surprises and challenges. However, I feel confident that some developments, such as the ones listed above, are likely to be large factors. If you can keep up with growing trends such as local marketing, segmentation, virtual events, and the strategic use of big data and AI, you have an opportunity to separate yourself from the competition and build stronger relationships with your customers.
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