It was an over-used word last year, but 2020 was certainly unprecedented. From the overnight move to remote working for many, to lockdowns that saw some businesses shuttered while others faced overwhelming demand – it was a year like no other.
Hopefully, it’s now time to move forward, and the start of 2021 seems a good time to look at the things the new year may have in store. What are the marketing trends you need to know about in 2021?
- Life is becoming even more digital
The digital pivots we saw in 2020 – the move to virtual events and the reliance on e-commerce, for instance – may become permanent. In its article on The 2021 Marketing Trends you Need to Know, Generate UK suggests that supporting a life lived virtually will become more important than ever, as people’s lives are, by necessity, played out more online, via virtual meetings, events and e-commerce.
To support this move, Forbes advises businesses to adapt their digital marketing and online presence, and in particular to ‘enrich the user experience on your social profiles by leveraging shop and other features that break down barriers towards purchasing from you’. Consider how you might evolve your own social media activity to optimise reader experience and encourage more online interaction.
- Digital marketing, therefore, grows in importance
In tandem with this shift to a more virtual world, marketing activity will also focus on the digital. Outdoor media becomes less important when fewer people are in shopping centres, venues and transport hubs.
Instead, digital marketing that reaches the consumer in their home becomes the centrepiece of the marketing campaign. Now would be a good time to take stock of your campaigns for the coming year – are you giving sufficient weight to social, email, online and other marketing activity that will deliver regardless of the external environment?
- Consumers have higher expectations of brands
As every Marketer knows, one huge advantage of the shift to digital marketing is the wealth of data it provides. Via UTM codes, web analytics and email marketing data, you are able to see deep into the habits of your clients and customers.
Anyone who engages with your content knows this too, of course, and the quid pro quo is that they expect your interactions with them to be highly personalised and tailored, based on an awareness of what they have bought, read and engaged with previously.
Marketing outreach and content need to be relevant and bespoke. For pared-back Marketing teams already struggling to keep pace with the demand for content, this could pose a challenge. Maybe consider whether an element of automation could help to speed your content production and allow you to create the volume of tailored content expected by your business and your customers.
- ESG is an ever-increasing focus
A business’s environmental, social and governance credentials have never been so important. As the Black Lives Matter movement gained traction in 2020, companies were quick to distance themselves from practices that perpetuated or condoned inequality (even if these happened way back in their history). And customers were quick to call out – and desert – those who didn’t.
The impact of this growing social conscience on business is predicted to continue and grow in 2021.
As Generate UK says, ‘brands who support racial, ethical and environmental causes will reap the benefits’. Or as Deloitte puts it in the firm’s 2021 Global Marketing Trends report, ‘As customers align with businesses that share their values, companies that act with purpose are more positioned for success’.
Whether it’s evidencing action to address gender pay gaps, or acting to remove ESG risks in your marketing supply chain, walking the talk in terms of your company’s approach will be vital in 2021.
- Agility remains essential
According to Deloitte, 2020 ‘made [it] clear that agility is a crucial, cultural mindset’.
Organisations that embrace and demonstrate this agility will be the ones that get ahead. This might mean the need to engage customers via virtual events, or a requirement to produce communications rapidly to respond to new products, services or customer demands.
The Deloitte report notes that ‘Digital technologies can empower organizations to respond more nimbly when rapid changes in customer expectations and market needs collide’ and that it ‘is now more important than ever to accelerate— rather than throttle—investments in those technologies’.
We touched on automation above. One way that Marketing teams can create time to innovate is by embracing technologies that improve their own efficiency. On-demand marketing solutions enable professional, on-brand materials to be produced quickly and cost-effectively – ensuring you present a consistent, professional face to the world.
It’s worth considering whether your agility and ability to produce content at pace could be supported by martech software that employs smart templates to deliver the content you need and allows marketing materials to be produced and shared easily across the business.
Ensure you’re ready to take on the challenges of 2021
2020 showed us that the unexpected can and does happen. We all hope that 2021 will be a calmer year – but it certainly won’t be without its challenges. Marketers that embrace the prevailing trends, with an agility that enables rapid changes in direction where needed, will find it easiest to face these challenges and adapt their approach accordingly.
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