The year 2020 has caused a paradigm shift in what we perceive as business tactics and strategies. With the onset of the worldwide lockdown, necessities became crucial, while luxury items became infrequent in the monthly shopping list. Fashion statements tilted towards more comfortable homely clothes, while dietary habits underwent an increase in fresh produce and home cooking and a reduction in comfort food.
All these aside, the pandemic has set a new reality upon us whereby businesses are reshaping elements of the digital marketing landscape to adapt to the changed dynamics and capitalize on their investment. In line with the mass digitization in every step of life, virtual and on-demand platforms have drastically led to a major shift in the way brands connect with their customers. Most notably, contactless services have added a new dimension to the already burgeoning e-commerce sales.
Although many of the market predictions about 2020 did not turn into reality, owing to the uncertain nature of the pandemic, this has not stopped business owners from anticipating trends and changes for space before fullstop – 2021. A few key trends will dominate the market this year and whoever caters to this changes the most will surely stand apart from their counterparts.
1. In-the-moment Buzz of Live-streams by Influencers
Before handshakes became a weapon of destruction, people would frequently hangout, meet, and stay connected with their near and dear ones. But the pandemic has changed how we interact. Social media has now become the new banquet hall, at the same time the new marketplace. On average, people now spend more time on social media than they previously used to. This led to an uptick in the number of people tuning into live-streams, whether it was a branded live-stream, a live video, or an online workshop. In 2020, consumers have watched 50% more live streaming on Facebook, while the figure for Instagram saw an increase of 70%. There is a good chance that in 2021 we will see a hybrid of live streams where some guests attend in person, while others tune in live.
The live streams, however, will be driven by influencers, rather than celebrities. During the pandemic, many celebrities came across as disconnected and untouched by regular people and their authenticity and credibility were brought into question. The influencers, on the other hand, were able to feed on the ‘in-the-moment’ buzz that created a sense of trust in the products they were selling.
What is more is that the livestreams are shoppable which means viewers can make purchases while they are watching. With this form of social shopping expected to evolve more in 2021, companies will redirect their budgetary plans to incorporate social media into their omnichannel e-commerce strategy to explore creative ways of reaching out to their customers.
2. More Content Diversity and Values with Purpose
Social awareness, right now, has been at an all-time high. Over the past couple of years, more attention is being given towards a sustainable future, environment, mental health, gender issues, inclusivity, equality etc. As the world is undergoing an unprecedented change, businesses are reiterating their sustainability by aligning their brand values with awareness messages to be in tune with why they exist and who they are built to serve. A representation of the society helps brands develop a deeper connection with the customers, distinguishing themselves from thousand other competitors in the market. The new generation of millennials and gen Z now wants their brand to speak on diversity and equality. Thus, in 2021, there will be no place for homogenous content.
Now more than ever, brands will need to identify where they fit in customers’ lives on social media and capitalize on that.
The investment should be well thought-out to generate the desired return. For example, with thousands of children out of school in the developing world, brands that sell digital items or educational materials can engage in parting over-device education to the downtrodden section of the population. Such initiative when showcased at an educational site will establish goodwill and connection. The need for transparency is at the core of sowing the seeds of trust and faith in people.
In this regard, brands will make a concerted effort to work with influencers from different sectors to convey their brand values to the audiences. By harnessing the sincere and genuine nature of influencers, brands will be able to communicate their stance on a range of issues in a way that resonates with their target market.
3. Narrowed Target but Enhanced Customer Experience
No matter how much one spends on marketing campaigns, it will never be impactful if the efforts do not reach an effective audience. Each product has been designed keeping in mind a specific target group. The marketing campaigns should work on narrowing the approach to that group only. Target groups can be subdivided into primary, secondary, tertiary sections based on geographical, psychological differences.
Social media is a great tool for narrowing campaigns according to the area of interest of different groups. Such informed ads are capable of lowering advertisement costs while offering personalized services. In 2021, the usage of keywords and hashtags will dominate the customer segmentation process. Words like hygiene, comfort, homely, contactless, clean will be the most sought out for. Different social media groups had been formed to keep people occupied during lockdown. The groups are very narrowly targeted and can be a great tool to reach out to the desired section.
Short videos with shoppable features will also be one of the most effective marketing strategies in 2021. According to the recent stats, 46% of Instagram users have shopped from products that are featured in the shoppable posts on the brand pages.
It is rather convenient to buy products directly by looking at a picture, checking its price and just moving to the checkout section. This is especially true for the younger customers. Marketers should start studying up on elusive platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Facebook reels to balance branded messages in a short and snappy way.
Customers will also look for reviews and opinions of others more than ever. In contrast to offline shopping, they now want to be reassured about the quality of a product by carefully analyzing what others have to say about it. The user-generated contents (UGC) forges relationships with customers and provides social proof. The more authentic the reviews are, the higher the number of customers drawn to the product. It also assists brands in narrowing the target and finding more about what the customers demand.
4. Search Engine Optimization
Featured snippets are the direct answer to the query searched that is showcased in a box at the left side of the result page. It can be shown in the form of a list, paragraph or a table and often comes with relevant pictures. The more attractive and straightforward the box is, the more attention it grabs. Companies can optimize contents for featuring in the ‘featured snippet box’ by providing detailed information on the queries people search. Companies can also use certain keywords that people search for to optimize their reach.
Moreover, in 2021, we are more than likely to see both big and small companies improve their visual search capabilities. Many online shoppers believe traditional text-based search is ineffective when it comes to finding the right product. This means in 2021 marketers will need to redesign their websites to support visual search if they want to take the user experience to a new level.
5. Aligning with On-the-go Lifestyle
Convenient and readily available content like podcasts and newsletters allow the audience to connect with the emotion behind words on a more personal level. In 2021, this format of content production will grow. With lifestyle on-the-go, the power to have podcasting on demand and newsletter landing directly in subscribers’ inboxes allow companies and brands to tell their story anywhere at any time, which helps to establish authority in the industry and advocates the brand along the way.
For better engagement with current and potential customers, their queries could be regularly answered in upcoming podcasts with newer contents. Partnering with other companies who have similar target audiences to create an episode together will benefit both. Since the trend is relatively new, very few brands seek such partnership. Therefore, listeners are not saturated with brands seeking to promote their product and give more attention to the ones who are using the platform. In 2021, advertisers are expected to make use of this untapped platform to a greater extent.
However, it should never be forgotten that COVID-19 is unpredictable. Many brands are facing the toughest time and many will continue doing so. It is fair to say that anything might happen that will alter the trends and predictions. The key goal right now is survival, both for the human race and for brands. It is always clever to keep security money for any uncalled-for changes. Different strategies may work for different companies. So, it is crucial that trends are analyzed with caution before deciding on anything.