Essential digital marketing trends for 2021

Anna Bredava
by Anna Bredava on January 5, 2021

Happy New Year! I think one thing everyone can agree on is that 2020 was a challenging year — to say the least. And we are all excited to start anew, even if the change is more symbolic than material.

Digital marketing was also affected by changes in the world. As more and more people started to spend their time online, brands had to adapt and do more to attract and entertain consumers. This led to some major adjustments in the industry that will spread further in 2021.

What are they? Let's go through the main marketing trends we expect to see this year and break down how you can apply them to your own digital marketing strategy.

Digital marketing trends 2021

1. Consumer privacy and consent is in the spotlight

That's not exactly a new trend. Ever since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, online privacy has been one of the major topics in public discourse when it comes to social media. In 2020, we saw some indications that governments are planning to introduce more regulation for online data:

  • The US government tried to force TikTok to sell their American part to an American owner (right now, it's owned by a Chinese company).
  • Facebook had to switch off several features on Facebook and Messenger (including group chats) in Europe in order to comply with European Union's ePrivacy directive.
  • TikTok was banned in India.

We can expect more regulations on the use of private data online in 2021. This will affect digital marketing significantly. Getting data on your customers might get more challenging and ad targeting may get a bit less accurate.

Perhaps, marketers will be forced to find new ways to learn more about consumers and do target audience research and in this case, social listening could be the answer. Since social listening tools like Awario analyze only public data that users are sharing willingly, there's no chance of breaching anyone's privacy.

How to implement this trend in your strategy

Make sure you are transparent about what data you're using and communicate this to your customers. People appreciate honesty more than anything else, and if you make your proposition valuable (for instance, we use your purchase history to alarm you about new products that you might like) they may not mind giving you access to this data.

You can also use digital marketing tools that allow you to do research without mining personal data. SEO tools and social listening tools can give you a lot of information about your clients without invading their privacy.

2. Shopping moves to social media

As with the previous trend, it's not entirely new — we've been able to purchase products right from social media for a couple of years now. But, with the inability to go outside, people are buying online more. And they are spending more time on social media. Combine these two factors and it's obvious that social media platforms are to become a major marketplace for users. The line between scrolling and shopping is getting more blurred by the minute. 

This is especially relevant for brick-and-mortar businesses: they didn't have a reason to use eCommerce prior to the pandemic, but now that many tried it, it's unlikely to go away. Any traditional operation that can be turned into an online process will do so, and all in-person contact will be limited. 

How to implement this trend in your strategy

  • Sign up for Instagram and Facebook shopping to link products to your social posts.

  • Set up retargeting ads. A majority of your traffic won’t purchase on their first visit to your site. Implementing a retargeting strategy will ensure you capture them later and increase your overall revenue.

  • Focus on user experience. If your website is slow, not optimized for mobile, has a clunky checkout process, or lacks shipping and return policies, now is the time to fix it. 

3. Virtual events are here to stay

Another byproduct of the pandemic is the boom of virtual events. Every conference, awards show, presentation and even party planned had to be moved online which entailed both some inconveniences and advantages.

The major advantage of online events is their availability: anyone with a working online connection can participate no matter where they are in the world. Brands were able to reach entirely new audiences by pivoting to virtual events. This allows marketers to invite guests that are usually unavailable, give access to more participants in general and also play with video editing, streaming, and different online instruments and platforms to make their event more interesting.  

In addition to that, virtual events do not require a big budget to organize. That means lower costs for more people and a higher ROI. 

In 2021 and beyond, virtual events will continue to be a popular route to engage with a broad set of customers as companies see the many benefits of online events.

How to implement this trend in your strategy

Anything can be a virtual event from a simple Instagram Live to an online festival happening on several platforms simultaneously. Check out different platforms and give people several channels of communication: they can watch streams on YouTube and discuss them in a dedicated subreddit or tweet about them using a special hashtag. Don't limit yourself to just one platform.

4. LinkedIn gains in popularity

2020 became one of the most fruitful years for LinkedIn. The platform rolled out LinkedIn Live, Events, Polls, and Stories. The LinkedIn team is looking for ways to appeal to small businesses like never before with the rollout of upcoming features that will help SMBs build a community of raving fans around products or services. This year will become the year when marketers get a hold of all these different tools and explore LinkedIn opportunities in a new way.

Another reason why LinkedIn might become the next big thing is the expansion of remote work. People who are now working from the comfort of their homes miss cooler chats and the professional environment they used to have. They miss their colleagues. And most of the time, the best way to connect with them is through LinkedIn.

How to implement this trend in your strategy

Try new features and focus on encouraging conversation with your followers. Create polls that your audience will want to vote on, ask irresistible open-ended questions in updates, share candid photos from your workday in stories, or post about celebrating career milestones.

Don't forget to use the video. It's still one of the most engaging mediums on social and it's becoming more and more popular on LinkedIn. Take full advantage of LinkedIn's streaming features and use them to announce new products or highlight people from your company.

5. Instagram Reels: short video takes over the world

2020 was the year of TikTok: it became so popular that the US government even tried to ban it. The company also introduced ads for brands and ways for creators to monetize their content. All in all, TikTok is on a steady route to becoming the most successful social media platform, at least among younger demographics. 

Of course, something as popular as TikTok engendered clones. Instagram is famous for its ability to copy successful trends and make them mainstream: this happened with Stories, which originally appeared on Snapchat, and now it's happening with short edited videos. 

To compete with the rise in popularity of TikTok, Instagram launched Reels, a new form of video content delivered in 15–30 seconds to create quick, attention-grabbing moments in a creative and entertaining way. Instagram’s new UI update, which put IG Reels front and center, should hint to marketers that Instagram Reels will be here to stay in 2021.

How to implement this trend in your strategy

Simply start! Reels are the next big thing on Instagram and the app's algorithm heavily prioritizes them. It even affects your profile's overall reach. So the sooner you start making them, the better.

Check out the highlights from the Reels tab to get the feeling of what's popular. You can also go to TikTok to peep related hashtags and relevant content. Experiment with filters and effects and don't be afraid to try something daring — short videos need to be fun and engaging to grab attention in a feed full of similar videos. 

Make sure that you add text to your video content to increase watch time, and also add a value-based caption to encourage your followers to “save” or “share” your Instagram reel. Remember, your Instagram reel will stop the scroll but the value you add in the caption will encourage people to take action on your piece of content. This will help your content perform better in the algorithm.

These are the major digital marketing trends that will play a major role in 2021. Are you excited for the new year? Share what trend you're going to try next in the comments!

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