Our Digital Marketing Trend Predictions for 2021

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Well, 2020 has been quite a year. Fortunately though, 2021 is right around the corner. This new year brings new opportunities and new trends in the digital marketing world. So get ahead of the curve and successfully market your brand this year. We’ve been watching the trends and tracking the news throughout the year to bring you:

Our Digital Marketing Trend Predictions for 2021

A digital marketing rebound

To put it mildly, 2020 was not a good year for the advertising industry, among other things (so, so many other things). As was the case with many other markets, global adspend was down 7.5% from 2019 according to Zenith. The ROI company originally predicted that number would be closer to 9% – so it’s better than expected, but still not great.

How (or if) the global pandemic is resolved in the coming year remains to be seen. After all, who could’ve predicted this maelstrom of a year? But right now it seems this industry is on the mend. Zenith’s report predicts an estimated 5.6% growth in adspend in 2021. And for the first time, digital marketing will overtake traditional advertising with 52% of the market, up from 48% in 2019.

The year of TikTok

Turns out, it wasn’t just a phase: TikTok is here to stay. Despite an embattled few months with the looming but seemingly empty threat of being banned, TikTok helped define the year and create cultural moments amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The first social media giant grown outside of Silicon Valley, this video platform gives users the tools to create their own short videos, from simple footage to complex, feature-driven pieces.

But unlike other social platforms, it isn’t necessarily biased toward people who already carry fame. TikTok’s algorithm ensures you can see both celebrities like chef Gordon Ramsay and talented nobodies – nobodies for now, that is. We’ve seen ordinary people (and animals!) around the world showcase their inner singer-songwriter, comedian, dancer, actor, crafter, and much more.

It isn’t all about talent, though. TikTok has become a cultural phenomenon, connecting people with each other during COVID-19 lockdowns and fueling historic movements like #BlackLivesMatter. With a viewer base that overwhelmingly skews toward young adults, it’s the platform other social media giants are trying to catch, such as Instagram with the new Reels feature. One of our biggest digital marketing trend predictions for 2021 is that TikTok is where digital marketers should start turning their attention.

Influencer marketing continues to evolve

The pandemic makes its presence felt across the board, particularly when it comes to influencer marketing. As brands begin to resume normal ad campaigns, we expect to see more of this particular kind of marketing. When used properly, influencer marketing can be less expensive and more effective than traditional forms of advertising – exactly what brands are looking for if they’re recovering from pandemic losses. And as TikTok grows, you can bet new and existing influencers will be making use of it and bringing their brands with them.

There’s a flipside to all this, though. As influencer marketing grows, more popular influencers begin to grow indistinguishable from other celebrities in advertising. What does that mean? Essentially, we might see some influencer marketing grow less effective as consumers grow more accustomed to it and begin to tune it out. To combat this, some brands might start turning to “smaller” influencers. Those with a smaller following but more engaged audience might get their moment in the sun this year. And with the cheaper rate that comes with smaller followings, some brands might be able to afford more influencers to make a broad and connected campaign.

Virtual influencers are virtually here

Speaking of influencer marketing, a new breed is gaining traction: the virtual influencers. They operate in a similar fashion to the real variety – except that they’re not real. Virtual influencers are usually created using CGI by studios, like Brud. Check out their “website” here. While some look like they’ve been plucked out of a video game, others could pass as real humans.

Whether or not you think they’re straight out of the uncanny valley, virtual influencers give you even more choices in your influencer marketing campaign. If you use a virtual influencer, you won’t have to spend money on travel expenses, makeup artists, food, or anything of the other things we mortals require. They can be in several places at once, so your CGI model could appear at fashion shows in LA, Paris, and Tokyo on the same day, no time travel required.

As convenient as virtual influencers may be, they still remind us of a William Gibson novel.

Cyberpunk 2021

Further augmenting reality

Augmented reality has been on marketing experts’ radar for a few years now. But as people continue to seek out contactless entertainment and shopping experiences, we’ll likely see this futuristic technology become more widespread.

AR isn’t just a gimmick anymore. Companies are putting it to use in real ways. Take Warby Parker, for example: their iPhone app allows customers to virtually try on new frames. And games like Pokemon GO allow players to explore and interact with the real world while playing. In 2021, we expect to see AR find a permanent place in the world of digital marketing.

Shoppable posts

It’s long been known that the less obstacles you put between a customer and a product, the more likely you are to make a sale. This year, we’ll see the next step in this logic come to fruition. Instagram, Facebook, and other social media platforms are rolling out shoppable posts. These posts eliminate the need for a potential customer to navigate away from the site or app to make a purchase. If they see a product they like in a social media ad, they can buy it right then and there.

Shoppable posts are visually appealing and shorten the buying journey by remove loading times to get to a store website. They’re also being implemented across the board: Walmart and TikTok are piloting a live-stream video shopping service through the app. As each item in Walmart’s fashion line is shown off by a TikTok influencer, users will be able to add them to their carts. Talk about synergy! We expect more brands to hop on board when this service becomes widely available.

Events are going digital

If you’re one of the many people who has had an event cancelled this year, you probably expected to see this in our digital marketing trend predictions for 2021. With COVID-19 restrictions likely to continue in one form or another, this year will probably be just as focused on virtual events as 2020 was if not more so. People will be looking to entertain themselves, maintain a sense of normalcy, and fill the void of the experiences they miss with virtual events and experiences. Concerts, classes, and gym sessions all went online this year. And when they’re done correctly, they can all be successful. Some people even sought out necessities like virtual medical consultations as well.

These things aren’t going away anytime soon. Think ahead and figure out how you can contribute to the virtual reality we’re all living in. But one of the keys of a successful virtual event is to do it live. Broadcasting an event live can introduce all kinds of complications compared to a traditional pre-recorded broadcast. But the payoff is worth it. A pre-recorded broadcast can be found anytime, but a live one is the best substitute for a real event. Your audience is more likely to tune in if they know they can participate. Even little hiccups can be forgiven; they’re reminiscent of the real-life experience!

Chatbots are essential

With in-person interactions limited due to the pandemic, being able to automate digital interactions with customers is more important than ever. Marketing experts have been talking about AI and chatbots for years (us included), but now it’s essential that they be able to tackle more complex customer needs.

The more your chatbot can handle, the better. Chatbots offer decreased wait times when a customer needs support and can lighten the load on your support staff. But they can do so much more! Chatbots can order food for you, schedule a Lyft ride, and even find new music for you. Check out this article for creative examples of chatbots from some major brands.

What are your predictions?

Do you think we’re on the right track with this year’s marketing trends or do you think we’ll see a completely different landscape unfold? Give us your digital marketing trend predictions for 2021 in the comments below! While you’re at it, check out our predictions for 2020 and see how right or wrong we got in last year.

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