With 2021 right around the corner and a pandemic still affecting the way we live and sell, it’s time to look to the future.
An unpredictable year has made businesses wary about investing too much into their marketing strategies, and that’s certainly understandable. But thriving in this new climate will require focusing on reaching and connecting with your customers, just like it did before COVID-19.
So instead of hiding our heads in the sand, we need to look around and assess how we can still serve consumers. Here are six marketing trends that we think will be bigger than ever in 2021.
1. Continued growth of influencer marketing
Influencer marketing is still going strong — no surprises there.
But what kind of influencers? If we learned anything from the ultra-brief introduction and shutdown of short-form streaming service Quibi, it’s that big celebrity endorsements aren’t where it’s at.
Quibi spent their $450 million marketing budget on major network ads featuring stars like Liam Hemsworth and Sophie Turner. But in doing so, they completely ignored the way people prefer to receive marketing messages these days — by influencers and micro-influencers that have developed a close-knit following.
As we become more globally connected, people continue to seek out more and more niche communities of like-minded peers. These communities are led by influencers, and their followers are active and engaged.
Continue to build long-term relationships with influencers as ambassadors for your brand in 2021.
2. Social media sales
Social media use is up through 2020, as we’ve been sheltering at home. One poll reports that 46% to 51% of adults are using social media more than they were before the COVID-19 outbreak.
This has made marketers and sales teams focus more on using social as a means of selling, rather than simply building awareness and relationships.
“Vanity metrics” like follower count and likes aren’t necessarily useful for moving your bottom line. Instead, focus on building an active, engaged audience of potential buyers.
Social media sites have recently rolled out new tools geared toward making purchasing easier than ever. Facebook Shops, Instagram Shops, and Pinterest Shopping all make your posts shoppable and reduce the number of steps between awareness and buying.
And it seems to be working! 55% of consumers have made a purchase through social media. So expect to see this trend increase in 2021.
3. Greater focus on personalization
Your customers are talking — are you listening? Survey after survey shows that not only do people expect personalized marketing messages, but they prefer them.
72% of consumers say they’ll only engage with personalized messaging. And 90% are willing to share behavioral data for a cheaper and easier brand experience.
To reap the benefits of personalization, marketers have to go beyond the basics — addressing emails to the customer by name or letting them create an online user account. Instead, use more advanced techniques that take customer preferences into account.
Starbucks, for example, offers regular discounts through their loyalty app. But instead of offering the same deals to everyone, they offer personalized deals based on each customer’s purchase history.
While your small business probably doesn’t have as sophisticated an app as Starbucks, you can still offer more personalization by segmenting your email list or creating unique landing pages depending on how customers find your website.
We turn to social media for connection. But the downside? Online discourse can get nasty. The relative anonymity of the internet leads people to say things they would never say in “real life.”
In a micro-community of like-minded people, however, internet users find supportive groups who share their interests. Members get to know each other, which keeps conversations more empathetic and friendly.
Instead of aiming for as many followers as possible, brands have begun hosting semi-private micro-communities across the internet. This is where their fans can talk about their products and provide support to each other. In a time where authenticity is more valued than ever, these small groups provide a place for genuine, thoughtful discourse between your customers and your brand. These communities live in private Facebook groups, Slack channels, Discord, and invite-only Instagram accounts.
As the host of a micro-community, you position your brand as a leader in the space — and have an active group of superfans gathered in one place!
5. Interactive content
Let’s face it — we’ve been in a major content consumption spiral for most of 2020. With limited things to do, many of us have been binging blogs, social media, and Netflix since March.
We’re craving activity. But with winter on the horizon and the pandemic here to stay (for now), that activity is still mostly online.
That’s why 2021 will be a big year for interactive content. Anything you can put out there to get your customers engaged will be a boon both to customers and to your consumer insights.
What is interactive content?
- Polls & surveys
- Online tools
- Live chats
- Interactive timelines
The idea is to make your target customer part of the experience, rather than a passive consumer. Mix this type of marketing into your 2021 content marketing strategy for big results.
6. Google Core Web Vitals
Optimizing your business website for Google search isn’t so much a trend as it is a way of life. But 2021 will bring us an update called Core Web Vitals that will be important to maintaining your website’s position in Google results.
Core Web Vitals will give greater weight to the user experience on your website. The tracked metrics will include page load time, wait time for full interactivity, and cumulative layout shift (that annoying jump in a page due to a slow load.)
This update will go into effect sometime in 2021. So digital marketers and web developers should focus on improving these metrics now. Check your website’s Core Web Vitals in Google Search Console, or Google’s PageSpeed Insights to see how you stack up.
As always with Google, user experience is paramount!
Start Strong in 2021
So, 2020 didn’t go the way anyone expected. Time to pick ourselves up, brush off the cobwebs, and start fresh in the new year. By working these marketing trends in your 2021 strategy, you can make up any lost ground and come out stronger on the other side.