Our 2021 Vision: Will Marketing Change Forever?
Nobody knows 100% what the future of marketing will look like, but as marketers, we can offer useful insights and predictions based on this year’s events. Believe it or not, it’s not all doom and gloom. As we’ve seen with our own client portfolio, many brands, businesses, and organizations are cautiously optimistic about the future, starting with 2021. In fact, having spent most of 2020 helping clients in various industries including healthcare, business, and banking, we’ve got some ideas about how this year’s crazy series of events will impact the future of marketing as we know it.
As always, technology continues to develop at a rapid pace introducing new trends and technology. However, many of these strategies aren’t new, and instead are evolved versions of trends we know (and love) including:
1. Customer Experience
2. Online Presence
3. Marketing Personalization
5. The Rise of Generation Z
6. Digital Transformation
7. Google Listings and Local SEO
8. Search Engine Optimization
Marketing is no longer trying to convince people to buy from, partner with, or follow your company. Instead, marketing is focused on providing meaningful experiences that will keep customers coming back for more, time and time again. Studies show 56% of customers will stay loyal to brands that “get them,” increasing the need for personalization (BusinessWire, 2017).
However, there is pushback against the increased digitization and automation of interactions, creating a call for marketing to become more human again. Now more than ever, consumers are looking to connect and maintain relationships with brands and learn more about their values and beliefs regarding important topics such as sustainability and inclusivity. In fact, 94% of customers are likely to show loyalty to a brand that offers complete transparency (LabelInsight, 2016). Plus, a recent study reported that 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience, further emphasizing that customer experience will take over as a “key brand differentiator” (Walker, 2013).
In addition to personalization, consumers desire efficiency and convenience when shopping. Trends such as online ordering, curbside pickup, free delivery, Apple Pay, and Instagram Checkout provide a seamless shopping experience to your customers. Looking forward, brick and mortar stores will continue to embrace the shift to online content and shopping—Statista reports that more than 2.14 billion people worldwide are expected to buy goods and services online, compared to 1.66 billion global digital buyers in 2016 (Statista, 2020). While this increase in online shopping may be catalyzed by the pandemic, it’s clear that consumers love the ease of shopping without leaving their home or car.
In addition, despite a critical Netflix Documentary, Facebook and Instagram continue to march along as two of the largest social media platforms. While brands are no stranger to social media, 2020 was a year of discovery as many uncovered the value of truly connecting with their consumers. More than a channel for their own promotion, social media has the power to connect individuals, and many consumers believe this, too—98% to be exact (Sprout Social, 2020).
In addition to a high-quality customer experience, consumers are looking to brands for more personalized marketing messages to help them solve their problems—not something that is generalized for a group of consumers. Luckily, the two go hand in hand. 49% of shoppers have made an impulse purchase after receiving a more personalized experience —thank you, Instagram and Facebook ads (GlobeNewswire, 2017). But, with an infinite number of emails arriving in your inbox daily and social media flooded with ads and posts from various brands, many consumers have learned to tune out digital advertising.
So, how do you catch their attention?
Moving forward into 2021, brands should expect to move beyond the “Hi, [Customer Name]” emails and automated pop-ups on websites and instead produce content that will win over their target audience. Plus, when you work with marketing automation technology like HubSpot that provides you with the data and tools you need to customize content at the push of a button, it’s an easy transition.
With hundreds of thousands of brands producing and publishing content daily, it’s a challenge to make sure yours is seen. That’s where visual content saves the day. In order to capture the attention of consumers on an already cluttered feed, your content must be visually gripping enough that it stops consumers in mid-scroll, holds their interest, and convinces them to share it and save it.
Even then you’re still fighting a tough crowd. 80% of marketers use visual assets in their social media marketing, with video consuming 63% alone (Social Media Examiner, 2020). So how do you stand out when everyone is producing visually appealing content? We’ve got a few ideas:
- Prioritize visuals. Across social channels, photo and imagery posts are the most-used content type to increase audience engagement (HubSpot, 2020). Make the most of visual content creation apps like Adobe Spark and Canva, making it easy to take a template and make it unique to your brand.
- Utilize Stories. Of the preferred Instagram Story formats, 35% report that they engage with short narrative-style Stories most often, followed by interactive Stories like quizzes and polls (HubSpot, 2020). Drive traffic and engagement through the use of text, image, or video Stories on Facebook and Instagram. Plus, browse the library of stickers and gifs to elevate your post.
- Add an interactive aspect to your content. 53% of marketers use interactive content to get more leads (HubSpot, 2020). Deliver immersive experiences to your followers like a poll or a quiz that make it harder to keep scrolling and make your content sticky.
- Embrace video content. 54% of consumers would like to see more video content from the brands they support (HubSpot, 2020). Jump on a live video to answer your followers’ questions, start making Instagram Reels and Tik Toks, or create short, informational videos to accompany your blog.
- Make the most of User Generated Content (UGC). Consumers find UGC 9.8x more impactful than influencer content (Stackla, 2020). Build relationships with your consumers and build authenticity for your brand by using content and imagery provided by consumers.
The Rise of Generation Z
Arguably the generation transformed most by the pandemic with the disruption of their educational journeys and career opportunities, Gen Z is coming out stronger than before and is sure to make a huge impact on marketing in 2021. Although the first millennials (Gen Y) are now approaching their 40th birthday, they still make up a significant portion of many marketers’ target audiences. However, the United Nations recently reported that Generation Z makes up 40% of the world’s population, making this cohort a force to be reckoned with.
If there’s anything for certain about Gen Z, it’s that they are digital natives. Growing up with access to smartphones, the internet, and social media, many Gen Zers are unfamiliar with life before technology. Active on all the most popular social media platforms, including Tik Tok, these bold creators are most likely to buy from brands that have a strong online community. In fact, with the attention span of eight seconds, Gen Z is further transforming the way we receive information and news including Moments for Twitter. Not only does this allow for more personalized content, but it allows users to reduce their news options to a more manageable portion. Looking forward, marketers can expect to continue to deliver visually appealing short-form information to capture attention quickly.
Eager to connect with like-minded individuals, Gen Z also looks to brands for transparency regarding important social causes including human rights, diversity and inclusivity, climate change, and sustainability. Brands who don’t, or do so inappropriately, risk being ‘canceled.’ Most often the consequence of a brand challenging their target audience’s values, “cancel culture” further emphasizes the importance of understanding the issues nearest and dearest to your consumers — especially if they are Gen Z. With the worldwide web at their fingertips and the ability to voice their opinion through various social media channels, a hashtag can become a trending topic on local, national and international levels within minutes.
The bottom line: Brands must meet Gen Z on their terms. With a strong online community, short-form content, personalized experiences, and transparency, brands will breakthrough Gen Z’s barrier and win them over. But keep an eye out for new trends and behaviors because Gen Z is nowhere near done making their impact.
For all the uncertainty about what the future will look like, it’s clear already that it will be digital. COVID-19 has been jokingly appointed the true driver of digital transformation within organizations. As people around the world have been forced to rethink every aspect of their daily lives including work, school, and entertainment, many businesses and individuals have turned to digital tools to prioritize their health and safety while keeping some semblance of normality. Spending 10+ months in quarantine while many worked and learned from home, it’s no surprise that we have seen profound digital advancements in telehealth and remote work.
While telehealth was making some progress prior to COVID-19, it wasn’t until the outbreak of the virus that public health officials were pushing healthcare systems to expand their telemedicine offerings through smartphones and other tools. Many doctor offices and hospitals are even offering on-demand appointments requiring no-appointments—game changer, right? With stay-at-home-orders in place across the United States, telehealth has provided individuals with the convenience of seeing a doctor from home without the risk of being exposed to COVID.
Didier Elzinga, co-founder and CEO of local tech unicorn Culture Amp today claims that “the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the move to remote work by five to ten years.” Thanks to cloud meetings and team collaboration tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google, remote work has provided teams with the ability to be productive from the comfort and safety of their homes. Many businesses, including MCG, have learned that remote work is possible, opening new possibilities for the future of work including hybrid work—combining both remote work and office work. Providing more freedom around when and where to work, hybrid work provides employees with the ability to fit work into the structure of their daily lives providing more time for self-care, family, and friends.
Looking forward, we can only expect both the digital components of telehealth and remote work to continue to evolve as businesses and individuals continue to rely on these technologies daily.
Google Listings and Local SEO
As a small business owner, one of the most important things you can do for your business is to ensure that your local listings are verified and kept updated including Google My Business (GMB), Yelp, and Facebook. Without up-to-date information, you risk missed opportunities with new clients and customers. Plus, many customers, especially local ones, use these sources to lookup location, contact, and business hour information. Accounting for 57.5% of all reviews worldwide, you can expect consumers (63.6% to be exact) to visit Google and check reviews of your business before visiting your website or store (Review Trackers, 2020).
To help target local customers, ensure you have a geographically defined service area within your local listings. This will help ensure that your business appears in searches relevant to customers who conduct “near me” searches.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) seems to be a moving target as new algorithms are introduced and current ones continue to evolve. In fact, with every new Google Search update the algorithm improves its ability to interpret our questions through voice, text and semantic search. This has changed the way consumers search for their information. Instead of keying their questions into a search bar, many opt to ask Siria, Alexa, and Google their most pressing questions. In fact, “65% of 25-49-year-olds speak to their voice-enabled devices at least once a day” (PWC, 2018). Going forward, we expect that the preference of “searching the way one speaks” will continue to evolve and grow even stronger. As voice search shows no sign of slowing down, we believe it will continue to be a major influence on how brands create content and market themselves online.
Where do we go from here?
While these marketing trends don’t represent a complete list of what to consider when planning your 2021 marketing strategy, we do believe they are important to consider. These six key trends can help turn your marketing around, increase social media followers, generate leads, and grow sales, all while retaining your hard-earned customer base.
Looking for a detailed or more tailored approach to propelling your business forward in 2021?
Contact one of our team members today to schedule a no-obligation consultation.