Every year, the market analyzes the past period changes and punctuates the next trends in Digital Marketing.
For 2021, this analysis is crossed by the transformations brought by COVID-19.
2020 touched everyone’s life. The new coronavirus pandemic caused pain and loss, but it also transformed behaviors, technologies, and working ways that impacted Digital Marketing.
While people were adapting to social distance, companies had to strengthen their digital transformation.
In this context, the pandemic launched new trends or accelerated movements that had already been pointed out in previous years, both in the work of marketing teams and in consumer behavior.
Let’s understand what Digital Marketing will be like in the next year, considering the changes we saw in 2020 that dictate or influence most trends.
1. Valuing experiences in real-time
The pandemic restricted circulation on the streets due to the need for social distance. Indoors, people looked for alternative ways to go on with their lives.
In this context, one format of Digital Marketing that was already strong became more popular: the lives (or transmissions of live events).
Many people watched a show, a game, a class, a lecture, or a live interview over the internet this year.
Lives have multiplied on all channels — on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and on specific platforms, such as Zoom —, and have broken viewing records.
People wanted to connect with each other, in a scenario of isolation and uncertainty.
More than that: they wanted human connections in real-time, which deepen their proximity and involvement with the content and respond to the urge of an increasingly rushed and demanding audience.
Brands can use the power of real-time experiences: consumer engagement is tremendous.
Despite having worn out throughout 2020, lives are one of the main formats in real-time that you can explore in 2021.
Brands can do interviews, questions and answers, lectures, and webinars.
But always remember that the differential in real-time experiences is the possibility of interaction with the public. So, encourage and value user participation.
There are other possibilities for real-time experiences. Interactions on Twitter, for example, happen as news and debates arise around the world. You can cover events or take part in relevant market discussions.
Chatbot conversations are an example of real-time experiences with instant feedback.
Many artificial intelligence technologies such as chatbots or virtual reality devices tend to expand these experiences and make them increasingly immersive in the years to come.
2. Management of user-generated content (UGC) in strategies
In Digital Marketing, user-generated content is the users’ posts that your company can use in marketing strategies.
Although it’s not a new concept, the UGC tends to become stronger in 2021.
That must happen because brands now can see the power of influence of ordinary users whose experiences with the brand act as social proof for other consumers.
After all, people trust people like them more than brand advertising and even more than the big web influencers.
Therefore, they can be understood as nano-influencers — with little reach, but with high power of influence because they are authentic, close, and reliable.
When talking about marketing trends for 2021, Deloitte shows that consumers’ active participation in the brand’s channels can generate benefits.
This participation can happen through online reviews, social media posts, among other types of UGC.
According to the Deloitte report, people like to participate in brand strategies to help other consumers.
So take advantage of this motivation and bring consumers to participate in your strategies and digital content in 2021.
Brands can do this, for example, by:
- reposting the stories of users who mention the brand;
- launching challenges on TikTok for users to create content;
- publishing user reviews on the website or e-commerce;
- creating exclusive groups of debates and contributions to the brand.
During the pandemic, when people needed human connections, some brands could stimulate UGC and involve consumers.
South Bend tourism held a contest to encourage the use of masks in public places. The winners received passes for restaurants, companies, and attractions in the region.
3. Increase in creating interactive content
Okay, maybe you think that interactive content isn’t something new. And it’s not.
In early 2020, we were already talking about the importance of interactive content in Digital Marketing.
So why is interactive content still a Digital Marketing trend for 2021? Because we went through a year of social distancing, which prevented us from being close to people in person and took interactions to the screens.
Therefore, brands started to invest more in interactivity to create human involvement.
Like real-time experiences and the use of UGC, which we have already mentioned, interactive content connects brands and consumers.
But interactivity is also a trend because brands increasingly need to create content that stands out on the web.
In 2020 we saw hundreds of charts explaining the new coronavirus, how the moving average of cases is, and how to reduce the risk of contagion by using masks.
The New York Times created several infographics like this:
4. Growth of TikTok and Reels
Social networks come and go. But this seems to be here to stay: TikTok consolidated itself in 2020.
During the quarantine, in the first quarter of the year, it was the most downloaded app in the world, with 2 billion downloads.
The growth of TikTok is one of the main trends in Digital Marketing to keep an eye on in 2021.
Unveiling the TikTok algorithm and understanding how to go viral is one of the challenges for the coming year.
Besides, new forms of advertising and partnership with content creators of the platform can come into your sights.
Some brands have already stepped up to this trend and anticipated to promote content on TikTok. See this example of a partnership between “Revolve” and tiktoker Vale Genta.
Me constantly convincing myself why I need to buy everything I see (wearing Indah from @revolve ) #RevolveWinter♬ original sound – Travis Leon
The success of the social network in 2020 was so much that it caused reactions. In the United States, former President Donald Trump blocked the app’s activities in the country (decision still in a legal dispute).
On Instagram, Mark Zuckerberg added a new feature similar to TikTok (not to mention the same), called Reels.
We expect reels to be closely monitored in 2021, as it also tends to grow. After all, the tool has a user base that is already on Instagram and spends hours of their day there.
Even more important than being on TikTok or Reels is understanding the content language that these platforms are consolidating.
These are fast videos, which care little about professional quality. They seek to explore the effects and tracks to create creative content that goes viral.
They serve to laugh but also to educate and inform, always with a touch of humor.
5. Increase in the use of voice assistants
During the pandemic, the daily use of voice assistants grew 26% in the US.
Google Trends shows that interest in Amazon’s Alexa has grown considerably this year.
Devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home are capable of playing music, making to-do lists, searching for information, setting alarms, controlling other connected devices, and even shopping.
In this way, they bring practicality and agility to everyday tasks.
For Digital Marketing, voice assistants are an excellent opportunity for innovation. These devices offer several possibilities, like developing products that connect with them and create audio content (podcasts, for example).
Another trend related to virtual assistants is the increase in voice searches.
However, here is a caveat: a statistic released in 2014 predicted that 50% of searches in 2020 would be by voice.
However, this prediction was not confirmed (in fact, it never existed) and searches are still mostly done by text.
But on smartphones, the use of voice search is greater: according to Google data, in 2018, 27% of people used voice search on mobile devices. And that statistic tends to grow as virtual assistants become popular.
So, SEO should aim at optimizing content for conversational searches.
More users are searching with natural language as if they were talking to the search engine.
Google is ready to understand how people speak — BERT’s artificial intelligence is capable of unraveling human language.
6. More searches without clicks on Google
Google wants to deliver more ready-made responses to the search results page (SERP).
The search engine understands that if the user does not need to browse the sites to find the answers he wants, his search experience is more agile and valuable.
So Google searches are eliminating the need for a click. Features such as featured snippets, rich snippets, Google My Business, and the Google knowledge map (knowledge graph) are responsible for this.
They already bring information or snippets of pages that answer what the user searched for.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Google made changes to the SERP in this regard.
In every search related to coronavirus, the results page provides “on-SERP coverage” about the disease, with data and news from reliable vehicles and authorities.
Besides, the pages themselves can insert rich snippets that inform about changes caused by the pandemic, such as canceling events and new service hours.
The trend of search without a click is nothing new, but Google has shown that it is getting stronger. But this can raise a question for those who work with SEO: “Am I not going to lose organic traffic with this?”
If the user doesn’t need to click on the link to get an answer, they may not click on your link at all. But you can see this trend in another way: the information you bring to SERP for the user can be a stimulus for them to perform the action you want.
- if you have an e-commerce and use a rich snippet of user reviews, perhaps a good grade for the product will encourage the user to click to buy;
- if Google selects an excerpt from your blog for the featured snippet of a query, the user can understand that you are the authority on that subject and click to read everything;
- if you have a physical store and the user searches for their address, Google Maps data helps them get to your location and purchase.
Realize that organic traffic is not always the goal that SEO should aim for.
Often, conversion — which is what matters to the business — happens without the user having to access your website. So, optimization for Google should start to consider this Digital Marketing trend for 2021.
Work the content to come with featured snippets, include rich snippets relevant to users, and enter your company on Google My Business as part of Local SEO strategies.
7. More humane and committed brands
The coronavirus pandemic has also affected our emotions. Feelings were on edge in the face of losses and uncertainties, which opened up the human vulnerability against a microscopic virus.
Brands were also affected by this scenario and realized their fragility in the face of market changes.
However, brands that knew how to assume their human condition and understand their role in a time of difficulty connected with people. They became humanized and gained the identification of consumers.
The year 2020 also brought another episode that showed the need for the humanization of brands.
The Black Lives Matter movement that has expanded around the world has made several brands engage against racism.
On social networks, numerous demonstrations were published to support the movement. In the US, the death of George Floyd also motivated demonstrations.
It also shows the brands’ humanity, which is not afraid to show that they are committed to social causes.
Today’s consumers want this from companies: that they are not only committed to their profit but people and the planet.
But this humanization of brands in Digital Marketing needs to be authentic.
The causes that the brand defends must resonate in its internal processes, like hiring employees or creating its products.
That is why the brands that connect with the public are those that have relevant purposes and values. They know why they exist and the value they deliver to the world.
So, the brands’ essence guides their position in the face of controversial themes and important causes, such as diversity and sustainability. And this positioning is consistent across all its operational fronts, both internally and externally.
8. Turning to slow content
You have already noticed that, in recent years, the internet has been flooded with branded content, haven’t you?
The strengthening of Content Marketing has led brands to create unbelievable volumes of publications.
The problem is that the focus was often on volume production, at the expense of quality, just to please Google’s algorithms and social networks.
As a result, we now have a plethora of content that does not answer users’ questions, brings wrong information, and does not add value to the consumer’s journey.
For this reason, many brands and content creators are turning to slow content.
If the last few years have been marked by rampant production, it is time to slow down to focus on quality, not quantity.
Many people left aside superficial and futile content to go deeper and connect with themes that were more important to their life.
People want to consume good content. Content that delivers value and shows the identity and purpose of your brand. Also, creating deep connections with the audience.
Therefore, it needs planning, research, maturation, revision, creativity, and inspiration.
It also needs deepening, data analysis, alignment with the buyer persona, the positioning, and the brand’s principles. And none of this is done overnight.
The chart below shows a problem at the root of this “acceleration”: most marketing teams produce content in response to internal requests rather than focusing on the audience.
That shows that the business’ needs are ahead of the public’s — and what is urgent is ahead of what is most important.
So, no more fulfilling the table and running after the clock. Content needs to be qualified for the audience, and it takes time.
We know that the market does not always have this time, but it is necessary to organize the processes, schedules, and priorities for Content Marketing to be relevant.
9. Focus on data and content performance
Rushing to produce as much content as possible, many brands leave behind something that can enhance their strategies: data analysis.
If Content Marketing has goals, the strategy must have indicators to tell if it is on the right track.
A good analysis of the metrics shows whether the content resonated with the public, generated the expected conversions, reached the desired number of people, among other objectives.
This information serves to optimize the strategies, so it generates more results.
But when brands prioritize quantity over quality, they don’t have time to analyze data. For this reason, slow content must combine with data-driven marketing.
When you slow down production, you can dedicate yourself more to every blog post, social network, and email.
You can analyze the history of posts and identify which approaches worked best. So you can create content that delivers more value and has a better chance of success.
10. Strengthening Agile Marketing
The year 2020 showed how companies need to be prepared to respond to the market quickly.
In less than a month, they needed to review their marketing strategies, take campaigns off the air, and create content and ads adapted to the “new normal”. And with each passing week, a new scenario presented itself.
With the imposition of physical distance, companies had to develop channels and processes to connect with customers and employees remotely.
So, they joined the home office, purchased software for online meetings, started selling on the internet, among other various measures.
In this scenario, agile methodologies started to make even more sense. If it already presented itself as a solution to deal with an always-changing market, in the year 2020, it proved to be essential.
Agile Marketing is an agile project management methodology for the marketing area, which inserts the department in the digital age’s fast pace.
Short work cycles, continuous learning, flexible planning, consumer focus, and constant collaboration are its pillars. The focus is on giving quick responses to the market, rather than blindly following plans.
With this orientation, departments and marketing agencies are no longer so plastered in hierarchies and bureaucracies and start adapting quickly to the reality that presents itself.
That was what many companies needed during the year 2020.
If the last few years have already pointed to this change, the pandemic forced brands to adhere to the digital transformation agility if they wanted to stay alive in the market.
Now you know the main Digital Marketing trends for 2021. The year 2020, marked by the pandemic, presented new trends for brands and accelerated other movements that appeared in recent years.
So, it’s time to prepare for them. Do not forget that the pandemic is not over — we will still live with some instability for some time. But companies that plan and anticipate changes are better prepared to face them.
Now, let’s help you plan your marketing strategy for the coming year. Download our 2021 Planning Bundle with templates and budget spreadsheets to plan a successful year!