As we move forward from the turmoil of 2020, what trends do digital marketers need to focus on in order to drive growth in 2021? Based on our own experience and after reviewing the latest analyst and consultancy predictions, we believe that these five trends will be vital for success in digital marketing in 2021.
1 The shift to digital becomes permanent
Pandemic lockdowns caused people to switch to digital channels across every part of their lives - from working from home and communicating via Zoom to increasing usage of ecommerce and accessing digital services, often for the first time. This shift has become permanent for the majority. 63% of consumers surveyed by Deloitte said they’d rely on digital technologies more going forward compared to before COVID-19.
As well as bringing new groups online, and leading them to try new services (for example, 27% of US consumers increased their use of online medical consultations during lockdown), the pandemic also changed consumer needs. Unsurprisingly there was a need for brands to deliver greater reassurance to consumers, with a service and products tailored and personalized to their needs. This will continue in 2021, meaning that those brands that struggled to deliver online will need to catch-up quickly - or face missing out on loyalty and revenues.
Adopting a technology led approach to drive digital experience
In its 2021 Predictions report, Forrester points to the need for brands to accelerate out of the crisis through focusing on technology to drive the digital experience.
Harnessing artificial intelligence within digital
McKinsey highlights the importance of AI to drive technology success. 50% of companies surveyed by the consultancy have deployed AI within their business - and leading brands believe that the technology is responsible for 20% of their revenues. No wonder that 35% of companies will invest more in workplace AI according to Forrester.
2 The need for greater agility through digitization
Everything changed in 2020, often overnight. Those brands that had the ability to adapt quickly to the rapidly transforming situation saw accelerated growth, while others fell back. While 2021 should be calmer, this need to increase agility remains critical to success. Deloitte lists Agility as one of its seven key trends for marketers in 2021, and points to the financial impact it has. 58% of consumers it surveyed could name a brand that quickly pivoted to better respond to their needs, and 82% said they spent more with them because of this.
In a digital-first world, agility means being able to continually adapt, experimenting and testing new services and experiences online. Brands therefore must invest in A/B testing programs that look at every aspect of their digital offering, using data to drive decision-making and transforming the experience they offer to all their customers.
3 Greater collaboration internally
Cross-team organisation thanks to digital
Delivering this agile, digital experience means breaking down barriers between departments and teams. Both Gartner and Forrester list greater collaboration within marketing, sales, product, engineering and customer service as a key trend for 2021, with CMOs taking greater ownership of the customer journey - from initial awareness through to post-sales service.
The challenge of remote working
Complicating this push for collaboration will be the changing working environment, with many employees still working remotely for the foreseeable future. This means marketing teams need to invest in the right tools to enable collaboration, that can be accessed easily from anywhere and are simple to use. There will be a greater focus on the usability of martech solutions, such as A/B testing and personalization platforms, so that every member of the team, from client-side marketers to server-side developers, can benefit from using the same tool, tailored to their needs and skills.
4 The focus on data privacy increases
As they spend more time online consumers are increasingly concerned about the privacy of their data, and how it is protected and used. More countries and states are likely to join California (with the CCPA) and Europe (with the GDPR) in terms of regulating how consumer data is used by brands. And technology companies are also doubling down on privacy - as will as Apple’s ITP solution within the Safari browser, Google has announced that it will phase out third-party cookies on Chrome by the beginning of 2022.
All of this requires brands to ensure that they have robust consent management processes and policies in place, particularly when it comes to using data to deliver a personalized experience. One way to overcome this challenge is to focus on using anonymized behavioral data, such as from browsing, to deliver a personalized experience - without collecting or cross-referencing with third-party or existing data sources. For example, Kameleoon’s AI-powered personalization platform requires just 15 seconds of browsing data to accurately predict consumer needs and therefore deliver a tailored experience.
5 Shifting to a truly omnichannel world
The rise of digital has increased the number of channels that consumers use, meaning that brands have to offer a consistent, joined-up experience across desktop and mobile websites, apps, marketplaces and physical stores. Innovations around areas such as curbside pickup and buy online, pick up instore (BOPIS), only truly meet consumer needs if they are part of a seamless, personalized experience. For example, if you provide a personalized experience to VIP consumers on your homepage, this should be consistent across both desktop, mobile, and physical channels.
This experience also has to respect consumer privacy if it is to build trust and meet data regulations. Brands need to be able to create a unified visitor profile on all devices or channels and use this to personalize across the entire customer journey. That requires transparency when dealing with consumers and for brands to demonstrate that their data is being used to benefit their overall experience.
Whatever 2021 brings, key trends around digital, agility, collaboration, privacy and omnichannel will accelerate. Brands therefore need to focus on delivering an optimized, seamless digital experience built on a deep understanding of consumer needs if they are to thrive in the new, post-pandemic world.