- Brands should continue to diversify their approach to digital content as part of an increasingly important omni-channel marketing approach to today’s digital consumer.
- Content and data should go hand-in-hand for further optimization and search engine optimization benefits.
- AI will continue to emerge as a disruptive technology that marketing leaders need to better understand and take advantage of
- Customer retention and education strategies are more important than ever.
With every new year it’s important to take a step back, understand the emerging trends, and align our digital marketing strategies to take advantage of recent events.
2020 brought unprecedented changes onto society, and with both the maturation of social media and popularity of video and story-centric content, 2021 will continue to challenge marketers looking to improve their digital marketing ROI as newer technologies such as AI become more mainstream.
Rather than just post my own advice, which I will include at the bottom, I decided to ask many industry experts representing a variety of companies what digital marketing trends they are focusing in on the new year.
Hopefully some or all of this advice will resonate with your situation and provide you some insight on how to best pivot your marketing in 2021.
Content is the currency of digital marketing, and for businesses to engage digitally, they need to stay ahead of trends in how they create content for which platforms.
The recommendations from the experts range from a focus on omnichannel marketing to investing in Stories and video content, including effectively repurposing your existing video content for social media and making sure you literally create assets from your assets by investing in digital asset management software.
Finally, a reminder of the need to maintain high quality content was raised together with the importance of voice search, personalization, and AI in your content.
Companies need to be everywhere
We see more and more businesses focus on omnichannel marketing and becoming less dependent on one single traffic and revenue driver.
One reason behind that is that businesses are looking for target audience specific marketing channels and optimize the marketing campaigns for this platform in order to out-spend competition.
The other main reason is to reduce revenue risk by being too dependent on Google, YouTube or Pinterest algorithms, for example. The third reason is, most companies want to grow their revenues, so they are trying to acquire customers using all major marketing platforms.
– Martin Luenendonk, Co-Founder, FounderJar
Focus on stories
The “story” was pioneered by Snapchat in 2013. While it took quite a while for others to adapt (three years!), today, almost every social media platform has its own version.
Instagram Stories, Twitter Fleets, YouTube Reels — each have their own name or little twist to it — but they all pretty much function the same way. Social media stories take advantage of the audience’s fear of missing out with the use of mixed, engaging media that disappears after 24 hours.
To succeed in the stories format, you have to make use of all its features. This means utilizing the full screen, engaging with your followers through polls and clickable media, and experimenting with stickers, motion overlays, effects, and all kinds of creatives.
For brands and marketers, the stories format allows you to be more candid and post as much as you want without worrying about jargon such as frequency or grid uniformity. It’s also easy to use and a great way to increase brand awareness. What’s not to like?
Because each platform has its nuances, it’s important to find an app that allows you to cross-post without losing quality.
– Denise Langenegger, Outreach Strategist for Instasize
Repurpose existing video content for social media
The consumption of videos on social media has skyrocketed due to the pandemic. For this reason, people are expecting more and more video content on social media, whether it’s your customers, employees, or stakeholders.
However, not every team has the capacity or budget to create good quality videos, right? Wrong. In fact, it’s critical that you start empowering internal teams to create video content – and this can be done easily with simple, online video makers.
What about all of the different ideas for videos you have to come up with? You already have them. Take existing blog posts and webinars and turn them into teaser videos for LinkedIn.
Customer case studies and product tutorials can be transformed into engaging Instagram Stories. The content is there, and the possibilities are endless, you’ll just have to come up with ways to present them in a new light.
– Sandra Chung, Sr. Content Marketing & Partnerships Manager, PlayPlay
Invest in digital asset management software
With increased digitalization, marketing agencies worldwide are accumulating more digital assets. This is why digital asset management software is gaining momentum right now.
Modern-day digital asset managers will help you access, organize, and distribute assets easily. Among my most favorable features, there are meta-tagging, AI-powered technology, advanced search capabilities, shareable public websites, and much more.
– Olena Zherebetska, Content Manager, Pics.io
Focus on your own unique data for content marketing
When trying to attract recipients through content marketing activities, many companies experience the “red ocean” effect. This means that it will be harder and harder to publish content that differs from the rest of the dozens of times rewritten “over and over” articles and e-books for download.
In 2021, popular content will be unique content, based on research or internal data that the company needs to collect and analyze. Data for unique reports and articles can also be obtained from open data, for example by creating a model for analyzing user comments on social media.
If you want to stand out from the competition, choose the unique content produced by your company or hire specialists who will help you master this process. Once you have such content, make it properly distributed in the appropriate channels where your recipients will find it.
To increase your reach, focus on influencers in your industry who have already built reach and can help spread your content. You have to create conditions for win-win cooperation and offer something in return that will be attractive for such a partner (it does not necessarily have to be a paid cooperation).
– Lukas Mehnert, CMO, Smartlook
High quality content enriched with structure data will rule search engines
The year 2021 is primarily about following Google’s guidelines for creating a website structure and creating content. In terms of structure, we have an announcement of a new ranking factor in the form of Core Web Vitals for the coming year.
CWV focuses on measurable indicators, such as page loading time, ease of navigation and optimization for mobile devices. In short, it is the desire to send users from search results only to the best quality websites in terms of UX.
In terms of content, the text that is difficult to parameterize is currently assessed by Google according to the E-A-T methodology (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness). It is a publicly available set of guidelines and processes thanks to which Google classifies the content of websites into those with less and more trust and authority.
My advice for 2021? Your website should contain only high-quality, comprehensive content enriched with structured data.
– David Cacik, Head of Marketing, CloudTalk
Voice search, AI and personalization will be key
As businesses remain intentional to stay competitive in 2021, they’ll have to spread their attention even more thinly than they already have.
Next to SEO, we see a rise in VSEO (optimization for voice searches), the technological advancement that was necessary to stay competitive in 2020, will have to be taken even further, in the realms of AI, and personalization will become the king of marketing.
So companies will start to optimize their written content for voice searches, implement more and more AI features on their websites, such as chatbots, product and content recommendations, e-commerce transactions, and so on.
On top of that, companies will not only have to provide personalization if they want their consumers to stay loyal, they’ll also have to excel at it. This means that personalization is not an option or a nice thing to have anymore, it’s a necessity if you want to stay in the game.
– Kristina Ziauke, Content Manager, sixads
AI will change digital marketing forever in 2021
Artificial intelligence is the biggest trend that’s going to change digital marketing in the future.
Whether it be Google taking in more of AI to answer queries or AI based chatbots resolving queries, AI is certainly shaking things up. AI will help digital businesses get a competitive advantage.
It will help businesses enter new markets and reduce costs in existing businesses. Communication, product recommendations and personalization are all going to be more targeted thanks to AI.
– George Mathews, Founder, Kamayobloggers
Digital customer strategy
While some experts focused on the more tactical aspects of digital content marketing, others had advice on digital customer strategy, which has become of critical importance from lockdowns and limitations that still remain in place in most of the world.
The advice ranged from a focus on retention and customer education to a concept of “predefined personalization” to permeate all of your digital touchpoints with customers.
Focus on retention
There are three main risks that online merchants will have to face in 2021: 1) the continued growth of online marketplaces, 2) the rise of ad costs and 3) the massive competition in the ecommerce space.
There isn’t just one quick formula to fight this, but customer retention and branding are some of the best weapons merchants can use. Retention is more important than ever.
As customer acquisition costs rise, getting existing customers to come back for a second and third purchase can make a huge difference in your profit margins. Exploring areas such as subscription options and loyalty points are ways to keep your clients engaged with your brand.
Having a brand and, most importantly, a voice that customers can recognize at different stages of the funnel will become crucial. Do not neglect aspects such as invoicing or packaging, make sure that your branding is visible and identifiable at all steps.
Creating an omnichannel approach in which brands are able to connect with those customers that have found out about them in a marketplace and redirect their attention to channels they can control.
– Raul Galera, Partner Manager, CandyBar
Continue to nurture and educate your customers
2020 launched a wave of offline-to-online business transformation that we could see in the first half of this year. Many companies have directed their marketing to this trend.
Unfortunately, some companies did not manage to survive the crisis and ceased their activities. I believe that marketing activities should focus not only on acquiring new customers, but also on helping existing and future customers.
So what if we get a new client for our services, since he will drop out after a few months? We should give him adequate support and education so that he can endure difficult times and be able to grow, and so will we.
For more practical tips, I suggest developing well-functioning marketing funnels, lead magnets, webinars, and sales processes. Let’s turn our strengths and knowledge into value for recipients that we can monetize.
– Andrzej Bieda, CMO, Landingi
Predefined personalization in all digital engagement
Personalizing everything possible is, in my opinion, the keyword for 2021 and beyond. Competition with price or speed of order fulfillment is in some sense standard, but how much can you fight in this way? We go hand in hand with our clients at every step, only to win their favor.
So what else can we do for them? We can personalize everything we can so that the customer feels that even a mass-produced product was created especially for him, and we as sellers only deal with that one customer.
Yes, we already collect various data in cookies and try to personalize ads in this way. However, artificial intelligence is still a long way off. But is it possible to do large-scale manual personalization? Yes, because despite their uniqueness, customers still have common features.
So my idea here is what I call predefined personalization. That is, creating various patterns (they can be service patterns, advertisements, messages, or even the appearance of the entire online store) that seem to suit this one customer, but have been defined earlier, and now we only substitute the collected data and present the recipient.
– Maciej Biegajewski, Digital Marketing Specialist, LiveWebinar
Conclusion: Content is king, but the customer is our raison d’être
While the opinions from the experts were varied, there were many overlaps with a focus on content and customer. If you think about it, these are evergreen trends for which marketers should always have top of mind, but sometimes it can be easy to get lost in the weeds of our everyday work or chase after the latest shiny object (anyone spending too much time on Clubhouse out there?).
In conclusion, some of the best advice comes down to the relationship that we should have with our customer and the general public, including the important role that brand influencers can play.
Trust and credibility are more important than ever
Develop audience trust. Nowadays, people are bound to feel some degree of uncertainty. Building confidence in your brand, company, product, and service will serve as a solid foundation for both long-term relationships and company growth.
Pay more attention to loyalty and retention in 2021 by developing your Customer Success program. This will make sure that your users get maximum value out of your product.
Consumers also want more credibility in the advertisements they consume. This is the point where influencers come to the scene as advertisers as their audience trust the recommendations.
Brands need to understand their ICPs and influential personalities for their audience. Create offers and run campaigns for micro-segments. Address highly-targeted pain points to trigger more responses.
– Olga Petrik, CMO, NetHunt CRM
Use social media for customer and influencer collaboration, not promotion
My own personal advice, echoing some of what Olga said, is to reimagine your digital relationships with your customers and celebrate them in social media.
Social media is also an amazing place to find your fans and engage with influencers whose collaborations can lead to both high quality content creation as well as exposing your brand to new trusted communities.
While brands will need to continue to create their own impactful social media content, over time companies should try their best to source the type of user-generated content from their fans and nano influencers that generates trust and credibility with the public.
What do you think of the digital marketing trends mentioned above? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Neal Schaffer is an authority on helping innovative businesses digitally transform their sales and marketing. Founder of the digital marketing consultancy PDCA Social, Neal is currently a Fractional CMO for several companies and also teaches executives digital marketing at Rutgers Business School and the Irish Management Institute. He is also the author of four sales and marketing books, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley) and the recently published The Age of Influence (HarperCollins Leadership), a ground-breaking book redefining digital influence. Download a free preview of the Age of Influencer here.