If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we cannot predict what the next month — or even week — will bring.
Three months into the year-that-shall-not-be-named, we saw marketing priorities and budgets completely shift in order to remain relevant to big shifts in consumer habits: Spending more time in front of screens as the coronavirus pandemic spread, social justice reforms taking to the streets and to election-year coverage dominating the headlines on social and in the media at large.
Those brands that did not change seemed complacent.
For these prediction-type blogs, we normally use trends from the past year to make educated inferences on what marketing trends are to come in the next year. But with so many quick shifts in normal trendspotting graphs, we weren’t sure what kind of trends we’d be able to surmise.
But so many of those modifications are likely here to stay. What we thought were quick changes in order to make brands more available to their consumers has actually turned into successes for both consumers and brands in terms of convenience, engagement and customer loyalty.
Take a look at some of the trends we predict are both staying and coming in 2021.
While consumers couldn’t physically go to stores, they needed another way to purchase needed items. If brands did not have an e-commerce store on their website, they quickly had to implement one.
While the convenience of shopping from the couch became celebrated by consumers, so many wanted to continue to support their local businesses whenever they could rather than turning to large online marketplaces.
When stay-at-home orders were mandated, if sites were not already built with e-commerce many turned to social media for tours of their stores or to show their products in action in order for people to purchase via DMs. Not having incoming revenue was not an option for brands, so behind the scenes, e-commerce sites and additional lines of revenue were continually being strategized.
Shopping from the couch is likely here to stay. Even before quarantimes, many brands already saw trends flowing more toward online shopping than in-store visits. If they aren’t already, brands need to be set up for alternative shopping methods rather than in-store visits.
We quickly learned that physical conferences were not going to be possible this year — but the shows must go on.
Pandemic or not, conferences promised valuable marketing, tech and digital insights that others could still glean. And, in many cases, where there was not a virtual conference or webinar planned, brands jumped at the opportunity to become experts at marketing amidst a pandemic — and people were desperate to learn.
The digital conference/webinar trend is twofold: Toward the host and toward the attendee.
This year, hosts had to scramble. If their conference was already planned, they needed to decide to either cancel or move forward virtually, which would mean canceling flights, event bookings, hotel stays, etc. If brands wanted to create a webinar regarding the pandemic, they had a short window of relevance to figure out the technology, structure, topics and marketing.
Consumers were scrambling a bit, too. If they had already planned on attending a conference, they also had to cancel flights, hotels and event registrations, all while figuring out this new normal. And with so many webinars promising to make at least marketing easier in “unprecedented times,” consumers were left to choose which to attend, if any at all.
Similar to e-commerce, the convenience factor is likely to make this trend here to stay. If brands can figure out a way to host a seamless conference experience for their consumers digitally, it would save both parties thousands of dollars and company time, both of which are invaluable right now.
Some hiccups we saw with 2020’s virtual conferences:
- Difficulty getting sponsors proper airtime and leads.
- Multiple conferences by different brands offered the same topic, with littler differentiation between two.
- Technology (this one might also be a 2021-forever trend, though).
- Non-stop Slack channels.
There’s still plenty to figure out here, but the idea of topic-leading conferences and webinars from home is likely here to stay.
Speed Dating Conferences
In 2019, we were invited to a unique kind of conference. The structure of this conference was kind of like speed dating wherein the conference company matched businesses to agencies that could fit a need the brand expressed.
We then met with a decision-maker from the companies we were paired with for 30-minute meetings. In those meetings, we were able to hear more about their needs and we were able to express how we could best meet them.
The conference went virtual in 2020, and it worked just the same. It was beneficial and worth the time for both brands and agencies.
Another conference we had registered to attend in 2020 completely switched their physical, in-person, booth-sponsored and network-driven event to match this model. In the beginning of March, they began asking the companies planning to attend the conference what their needs were in the next 1-2 years and began matching them with the sponsors that were able to provide those solutions.
This type of conference not only is effective for both agencies and partners, but it also offers direct leads to both brands.
“Alexa, is there a vaccine yet?”
In March 2020, WordStream predicted 50% of searches would occur via voice search. What the company didn’t know was how the state of the world would soon contribute to that statistic.
With people being home more and doing more activities in their home, that vocal assistant is naturally getting used more to make lists, look things up or place online orders.
While voice search is getting utilized more, brands are taking notice and ensuring their websites are optimized for voice search, meaning their website is optimized for “frequently asked questions” and maybe even creating a page for just that.
Voxpow stated in the company’s Medium article, “People use voice search as they speak in everyday life. So keep this in mind when optimizing content for voice queries.”
SEMrush predicts 55% of households will own a smart speaker by 2022. The platform recommends brands capitalize on keywords to ensure they’re formatted in a way that’s more conversational versus formal.
We’re probably the 24306838th person to tell you time in front of screens has skyrocketed in 2020. You can read all about how viewers are spending time in front of screens in our whitepaper.
While people are spending more time online, brands have an opportunity to seize that time by creating interactive content.
Remember that Black Mirror: Bandersnatch hysteria? HubSpot relates interactive content closely to that. Post-Bandersnatch, the CRM software reports that more brands jumped on the interactive trend — and that was before stay-at-home-orders were pushing people more toward their screens.
HubSpot ascertained some interesting stats regarding interactive content:
- 45% of B2B buyers say interactive content is one their top three preferred content types.
- Interactive content garners 2x more engagement than static content.
- 77% of marketers agree that interactive content has “reusable” value, resulting in repeat visitors and multiple exposures.
While interactive content really picked up in 2019, this is a trend that has increased more in 2020 and is here to stay in 2021 and beyond.
With remote work becoming the new norm across many industries, more marketing teams are relying on marketing technology to both collaborate and manage work.
In mid-2020, 60% of marketing leaders indicated to NewsCred they expected to increase their MarTech spend in the next 12 months.
Of course, the term “MarTech” is very broad. Marketing technologies ranges from email software to social campaign materials to CRMs and even can be broken down by industry. There are millions of MarTech programs and software available, but NewsCred found the most likely to see an increase in the next 12 months are ones related to analytics, followed closely by automation then web management.
Increased Customer Retention
Ultimately, with any marketing trend, the goal is to increase human connection. And as MarTech Today reports, the better the human connection, the more consumer trust and loyalty a brand can achieve.
In 2021, we believe we will see an increase in brands trying to achieve customer retention through a myriad of ways:
- Better messaging segmentation.
- More user-generated content (UGC).
- Conversational messaging.
Retention marketing certainly isn’t new in 2021, but The Harvard Business Review reported just a 5% increase in customer retention could lead to 95% increase in profits. It’s more expensive for a brand to find a new customer than to retain their current client base.
While 2020 was an unpredictable year, we’re hoping 2021 will look a little more…precedented.