April 9, 2021
At the start of 2021, 4.66 billion or almost 60% of people in the world were internet users according to DataReportal. In 2020 alone, 319 million new users went online for the first time. Given the current world state for 12 months now, these numbers are not surprising.
But internet use did not just increase, the way people use the web has also changed because of recent events.
Since we are in the business of digital marketing, it’s important to evaluate these changes while identifying how they will affect the industry. The digital marketing landscape is volatile and adaptive. Staying ahead of the curve is one surefire way to success.
So, here are the project digital marketing trends for 2021:
In the Moment
With the global pandemic still raging on in many parts of the globe, the sense of communal experience that has been brewing since the dawn of the internet has been intensified.
Now, we see the rise of live streams and web events. Although these have always existed, they have now become the norm when it comes to gathering people together.
Facebook has reported a 50% spike in live viewings during the pandemic. Instagram has seen an even higher increase, up to 70%. CNBC reports that Tik Tok also experienced a drastic uptick in its userbase since 2020.
All these point to the growing trend of live streaming. Even grandparents were encouraged to learn to use video calls as the safest way of interacting with younger, more active family members.
Of course, this trend is now being leveraged by marketers. Online concerts, branded content from influencers, web-exclusive events, and other similar strategies will continue to flood cyberspace throughout this year, and maybe even beyond.
This has largely been driven by the pandemic, but it also harkens back to the Global Village that Marshall Mcluhan theorized in the 1960s. Mcluhan predicted that the increasing rate of information sharing would eventually lead to instantaneous sharing of culture.
These live events that people from around the world can theoretically join is just another step towards the phenomenon that Mcluhan foresaw. Now, people can share experiences as they happen in the moment, and it’s an increasingly powerful marketing tool to maximize.
The User Experience
According to the DataReportal article mentioned above, an overwhelming majority (92.6%) of internet users use mobile devices at least some of the time when they access the web. These portable computers are increasingly becoming the main link people have to the digital world.
As such, web and app design are also following suit.
One of the biggest trends in digital marketing this year is the improvement of the user experience. A lot of factors make up the overall user experience. Some have become more important than others.
Page speed, for example, has always been inversely related to websites’ bounce rates. As the loading time increases, more people just choose to leave websites instead of waiting. Improving page speed is therefore paramount to success, especially now that more people are going online.
On the flip side, according to Neil Patel, conversions also increase as the page speed improves. To make this improvement, he suggests using content delivery networks for both static and non-static files.
Another trend that affects the user experience is the wide implementation of chatbots. In the past year alone, at least two-thirds of people used a chatbot for customer service. The use of these helpers is only expected to grow in the future.
This is because it’s a cheap but effective way for businesses to provide immediate and accurate response to their clients and ultimately, elevate user experience.
Chatbots are also part of the bigger trend related to customer feedback. The existence of social media platforms has changed the conversation to become decreasingly one-sided. Now, people have the means to be heard and businesses are listening.
Means of Searching
The popularity and utility of searches are undeniable. Now, people almost always check the internet first for everything from where to get their next meal to which real estate property to invest in. But although it’s a proven formula, the search mechanism is evolving, too.
Voice and Visual search are becoming more popular for users – and for good reason.
Marketing Land estimates that around 157 million smart speakers are in American homes. This means Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, and other similar voice assistants now offer a more accessible and convenient way of searching compared to typing.
Although photo search has been around for a while, the feature is now getting traction. With the rise of tools that allow users to search for what they see in front of them, using their phone’s camera, like Google Lens, Snapchat camera search, and Amazon’s StyleSnap, searching has never been easier.
The success of visual apps like Instagram and Pinterest has only pushed this trend forward.
There is also growing sentiment that these new searching trends can be profitable, especially for early adopters. According to Retail Customer Experience, those who redesign their websites to take advantage of these trends will see a significant increase in digital commerce.
Whether it’s because people want to make the most of their time at home or they just want to consume more, content that’s easy to consume is on an upward trend.
For several years now, short videos, podcasts, infographics, and newsletters have been growing in popularity. In 2020, this popularity has become more apparent. According to Brand Equity, 55% of Americans now enjoy podcasts. During the lockdown, newsletter mentions also increased by 14%.
Meanwhile, there has been steady growth in short video sharing platforms. This was especially embodied by Tik Tok in the last 12 months.
All these point to a modern consumer that wants to consume content in a quicker and more convenient way.
Advertisers can make the most of this growth by leveraging another trend – user generated content. People relate better with other people, especially compared to companies and brands. This is also why there is growing investment in podcasting and other similar bite-sized media.
In the ultimate battle for people’s attention, those who can convey their messages in the simplest and fastest way have a clear advantage over the competition.
Because the digital world is becoming even more fast-paced, those lagging behind, in one aspect or another, will see their clients changing allegiances.
One of these battlefields is how fast and frequently companies update their information.
In fact, according to McKinsey & Company, consumers will happily switch brands if they encounter inventories that have not been updated. A store that neglected to update their stock numbers online, for example, may end up pushing their disappointed clients to a competitor instead.
People want the most updated information so they can make the most informed decisions – their online purchases are no exception.
Another example is how Google is now using automation in their Google Ads bidding. With this new feature, advertisers can mount more efficient marketing campaigns to get their ads in front of people’s screens in the moments that matter the most.
Customer retention is also enjoying more attention now. Retaining old customers has generally been more cost-effective than acquiring new ones. And if done right, these repeat customers will even market a business’s products for them.
Improvements in data collection and analysis has made segmentation and, subsequently, customer retention, more intuitive.
If brands want to succeed in the current climate, a certain degree of human connection needs to be achieved.
The growing support for sustainability, inclusivity, and other social responsibilities is driving the purchasing decisions of more and more people. According to Investopedia, a study in 2020 found that more than half of consumers in the U.S. consider values when making their purchase.
This is a powerful tool to leverage, but only if it’s genuine. The modern consumer is easily able to discern whether a brand is authentic in their cause or just pandering to their market.
In the next few months, there will be a rise in goodwill missions, socially responsible marketing, and other similar endeavors from brands that want to make the most of this trend, which is unlikely to go away.
Although the following did not have their own sections, they are still worth mentioning since they may also see a more significant rise in the near future:
- Branded Content – The LEGO Movie is a stellar example of branded content. The less people think it’s an advertisement, the better.
- Nostalgic Marketing – There’s a reason shows like Cobra Kai and Stranger Things are liked. It’s also the reason behind the reemergence of old sneaker designs and old car models.
- Repurposing Content – Since there is already an overwhelming amount of content on the internet, some marketers are opting to repurpose old and proven effective ones. Some turn articles into videos and vice versa.
As unpredictable as the past year has been, the trends that emerged from it are slowly becoming more intelligible for marketers. Now, the focus is turning these trends into more profitable endeavors. Take note of the trends mentioned here when you’re considering your strategies this year.
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Dan Smink is the founder of C1 Partners, a Denver SEO company that helps small to medium enterprises with their digital marketing strategy. Dan comes from a background of 20 years in business leadership and has a track record of helping businesses achieve million-dollar revenue values. He is an active community leader and a contributor to the Forbes.com's Agency Council spreading the word on how digital strategies can make a positive impact on today’s businesses. You may connect with him on LinkedIn.