2020 launched a wave of offline-to-online business transformation. What we see now is the accelerated pace at which the shift to a digital-first culture has been happening since 2020.
When customers have made it very clear that they prefer online and mobile interactions businesses are left with no choice but to adopt digital marketing as a way of connecting with customers.
The current scenario is to do more with less – fewer people and less budget. Customer retention and the omnichannel approach are some of the best weapons businesses can use as customer acquisition costs rise. Retention is more important than ever.
Each year brings its own set of brand new trends as well as few earlier trends which suddenly climbs up the popularity rank due to its increased relevance in the changing situations.
Let’s take a quick look at the digital marketing trends in 2021 that will make you competitive.
- Digital-first culture
In the process of transforming to a digital-first culture, we can see that lot of companies have invested quite heavily in upgrading their e-commerce services, in developing new platforms, apps and in consolidating the customer data they have.
2. Artificial Intelligence & Personalisation
AI is one of the biggest trends that’s going to shape digital marketing in the future. AI helps to analyze behavioural and demographic data to learn about every detail of a user’s personal preferences.
As AI crunches large amounts of data per user it helps to personalize content for them. AI and personalization will be key to staying competitive.
Consider implementing more and more AI features on your websites, such as chatbots, product and content recommendations, e-commerce transactions, and so on.
Thanks to AI product recommendations, communication, and personalization are all going to be more targeted. Marketers need to better understand and take advantage of AI as it continues to emerge as a disruptive technology.
3. Chatbots & Conversational Marketing
To drive more sales and create better customer relationships brands need to engage in conversations with their customers. Chatbots enable such conversations round the clock providing a fast and interactive customer experience.
With conversational marketing made possible with chatbots, each customer feels heard, their problems are resolved individually.
Businesses can now have conversations with multiple customers at once with chatbots, at minimum cost. Customers can even provide feedback and rate their interactions with the online assistant.
Chatbots and voice bots may become the future of commerce.
4. Social Commerce
It is fascinating to see how the act of buying is moving from shops and e-commerce stores into social platforms, where we have been so far connecting, messaging and hanging out.
Social commerce benefits the platform because they keep people in their space, which means they spend more time there. Facebook shop, Insta shop and WhatsApp for Business catalogue are all examples of social commerce.
In social commerce, you create your own little shop in the platform just by tying in your product catalogue and some content.
5. Progressive Web Apps (PWA)
With the mobile-first habits of customers, Progressive Web Apps are increasing in appeal.
With PWA the website is immediately launched into a PWA—no downloading and no waiting. You can directly guide the user to your official website and prevent them from getting lost in the App Store.
PWA has the combined benefits of browsing on a mobile browser and mobile app, When the PWA opens on a mobile device, you will notice that it looks just like a mobile app.
6. Voice Search
When using voice search, the top spot in search results is the most coveted. With voice search, it is a top spot or none.
The searcher inclines to go with the first thing that pops us as this usually answers the queries in a satisfactory manner. They rarely bother to scroll through the various options available on the screen.
7. Mobile-First Design
Google is actually going to index your mobile site, first and foremost. So focus more on the user experience of mobile viewers and mobile users.
While creating designs for your email newsletters, presentations, eBooks and other marketing materials pay attention to the mobile responsiveness of the design.
8. Machine Learning & Cookie less World
Cookies are going and the gap it leaves is going to be taken by AI and machine learning. With the help of predictive formulas gain insights into what might actually be happening without having the cookies to track the user behaviour. Machines will be doing a lot more work for us.
Google Analytics 4 brings us the power of machine learning and predictive analysis.
9. Omnichannel Marketing
In order to grow revenues companies need to acquire customers across multiple marketing platforms, both online and offline, instead of being dependent on one single platform to drive revenue. So you will be seeing more and more businesses shifting their focus to omnichannel marketing.
This also reduces revenue risk from being too dependent on Google, YouTube or Facebook algorithms, for example.
10. In-email Purchases
Another trend that is becoming popular is the option to make purchases right inside an email marketing campaign, without ever leaving your inbox. Customers are increasingly preferring products that allow for scaling across channels.
11. Micro Services
Reacting very quickly to changes in customer demand, companies are now offering agile little services or tweaking what they’re already doing and getting them out immediately, like new delivery options, new payment options.
Instead of spending 6 to 12 months discussing maybe launching a new product offering companies are moving towards micro services which can be launched much faster.
12. Less Is Still More
Less is more in design – having good, clean typography, clean grids, and systems.
In content, the microcopy is catching attention. It is the little nuggets of content between your experience that nudge you along, tell you and reassure you through each step.
Be clear, concise, short, and sharp with your message, delivering it in the quickest way possible to your users and readers.
Use engaging content formats like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), 3D animation that helps to convey more, keep people engaged enhancing customer experience.
The list of trends doesn’t stop here. Given below is a list of few more trends compiled from various sources.
- Use of virtual reality
- UGC (User Generated Content) as social proof
- Focus on Stories
- Repurpose existing content in video/audio formats
- Live streams & influencer content
- Virtual events with live interactions
- Drone software
- Marketing automation
We are witnessing how technology is reshaping our lives and customer experience. Digitally savvy customers are increasingly preferring self-service to human interactions.
Artificial intelligence is going to be one of the biggest game-changers in customer experience.
All businesses have to learn to adapt to these trends to remain relevant and to stay connected to customers.
Place your customers at the centre of your strategy and activities, build a community around them. Customers are now expecting brands to be there for them at every stage of the buying journey.
Among the trends listed above which are the ones, you can quickly adapt for your business?
Many of the trends discussed above can be straightaway adopted without incurring huge expenses. All it requires is a change of mindset, updating your knowledge about existing social media features and the many apps that are currently available.
Here’s my pick of the trends that can be straightaway adopted:
- Digital-first culture – need just a change of mindset where you keep digital habits of customers at the centre of your decision making.
- Mobile-first design – be it website, presentations, marketing emails, marketing materials, logo designs –designers need to ensure their designs are totally mobile friendly. Check Canva for mobile-friendly designs.
- Social commerce – check out the Facebook shop, Instagram shop, WhatsApp for Business catalogue, see how you can start using these free features for marketing.
- Chatbots & conversational marketing – there are many free chatbots available including FB Messenger bot. Try with a free option and scale up to a paid version if needed.
- Omnichannel marketing – identify and optimize all the channels, offline and online, through which you can convert customers – storefront, website, social media, emails etc.
- Microservices – what are the new ways you can serve your customers better, maybe a new delivery method, or a new payment option, or a new customer service
- User-Generated Content – create a branded hashtag and encourage customers to share posts on your products/services using the hashtag. Think creatively.
- Stories on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn – Using your smartphone and free video editing apps create stories on your business that inform, entertain or educate.
- Repurpose existing content in audio/video formats – convert your brochures, blogs or other written content to a video or podcast using the apps that are now available for such conversions. Check out Lumen5, Tella
Lini Reghunath, a digital marketing specialist & trainer residing in Bahrain, works with local and international brands on digital strategy, campaigns, content marketing and analytics. An expert trainer, she enjoys conducting 1-on-1 coaching in digital marketing. Follow her on LinkedIn