2021 Digital Marketing Trends

In 2020, marketers found themselves scrambling to alter their marketing strategies amid an unprecedented COVID -19 crisis. In 2021, the brands that will see the most success are the ones that adapt quickly to the changing environment. Deloitte conducted two global surveys to predict 2021 marketing trends, the results were clear. We’ve summarized the findings in this article; seven trends emerged to watch for in 2021:

  1. Purpose
  2. Agility
  3. Human Experience
  4. Trust
  5. Participation
  6. Fusion
  7. Talent

 

Purpose 

Brands that know what their purpose is, that is, why they exist, and hold true to that purpose through long-term commitment, are the ones which will establish a deep relationship with key stakeholders. Who brands serve is another key aspect to understanding brand purpose. In 2021, brands that know exactly who they serve and why, have the opportunity to enhance that meaning through purpose-driven action. Each action must relate back to purpose for stakeholders and the foundation of the organization. 

For example, one of CMG’s clients, Tre, is a restaurant. It’s purpose is to provide quality food and service to the community. Throughout the COVID — 19 crisis, Tre has solidified its standing in the community with real, purpose-driven action. Tre donated hundreds of meals to local hospitals, fueling their exhausted, overworked healthcare teams. Donation efforts were documented and shared across social media platforms. Additionally, the menu was amended to include family style take-out offerings at discounted prices to aid the community which is struggling with not only the pandemic but high unemployment as well. The community’s response was overwhelming appreciation, driving an increase in interest and support and inturn, increased community patronage. 

After restaurants were forced to close for indoor dining, cancelling many private parties and events, Tre acted swiftly to respond to the new circumstances with the creation of their mobile food truck. This brought renewed hope to the community that their milestones and celebrations could still be honored while remaining safe and within government guidelines. 

Within the restaurant locations themselves, maintaining the health and safety of not just patrons, but the entire team, was of the utmost importance. Teams were given COVID food safety training and are always donning their PPE, masks and gloves, to protect themselves and patrons. COVID scans and temperature checks are performed regularly. 

Tre’s commitment to its purpose extends to each facet of its operation. Despite the unprecedented challenges of the COVID — 19 pandemic, Tre remained true to their core purpose and their audience responded extremely positively. In 2021, brands that remain true to their inherent purpose and build on that purpose, are the ones which will see increased brand loyalty, stakeholder trust, authenticity and continued growth.

 

Agility

2020 showed the world that “normal” can change in an instant. The ability to adapt to quickly changing circumstances and pivot from tried and true marketing methods toward more easily adaptable digital initiatives is the key for marketers in 2021. “Investments that empower organizations to quickly respond with the most relevant customer messaging and offers” should be accelerated according to Deloitte, “given the rapid changes in customer engagement expectations, coupled with customers’ increased appreciation of and dependence on digital technology.”

In order to meet the new needs of increased agility, brands can focus on three primary goals. First, combining existing customer datasets into one single customer data platform. This means, maintaining separate datasets for information cultivated from devices, social media, e-commerce and customer relationship management systems (CRMs) is a thing of the past, marketers should combine them all into one singular dataset. This creates easy accessibility for teams and a more holistic outcome for brands overall as well as the consumer. Second, brands should be able to predict consumer needs, and understand them well. In other words, they should anticipate what the conversation might be and prepare communications accordingly. Third, brands should embrace social customer relationship management. Thanks to the COVID — 19 crisis, Deloitte’s survey found that social media is now the top communication avenue for most organizations with 67% stating that they greatly increased their social media presence this year winning out over changes to digital platforms and increasing virtual events.

Social media has long been utilized to communicate with key audiences. However, in 2021 marketers have more information than ever regarding their consumers’ wants and needs due to ever improving analytic tools. The information harvested through social platforms should guide marketing leaders in order to best cater to stakeholders’ needs, while always monitoring so that if changes need to be made, they may be done with agility.

 

Human Experience

Efficiency or the human experience? Which is more important? To consumers, the human experience seems to be the winner. In fact, 25% of people surveyed by Deloitte, “strongly agreed that they walked away from brands they believe acted in self-interest. Simultaneously,

more than 70% agreed that they valued the digital innovations that deepened their connection with others during COVID-19.” 

Interestingly, the human experience is driven by values, emotions and actions, all based on trust, which Deloitte dubs the foundation of human experience. Brands that lead with the human experience can expect to see the most return on investment (ROI).  Over 95% of purchase decisions are driven by subconscious urges, namely, emotion. If stakeholders find a brand doesn’t align with their own values, they are likely to turn away from that brand in favor of another which does support, and exhibit similar values.

 

Trust

According to Deloitte’s report, people rely on four factors when evaluating trust; humanity, transparency, capability, and reliability. Humanity and transparency refer to a brand’s intentions while capability and reliability refer to a brand’s ability to bring those intentions to fruition.

When it comes to trust and organizations, promises are made to stakeholders via messaging; trust comes into play when those promises are either kept by the organization or they are not. Trust can mean different things to different stakeholders in a company. For example, a pizza delivery company might promise its consumers delivery of a hot, fresh pizza in under one hour as a rule. If the delivery is made successfully, the promise is kept, trust is built and the pizza company likely has earned a repeat customer. However, if the pizza arrives late, cold, burnt, etc., then the promise is not kept, trust erodes and ultimately the business’s bottom line suffers as they may lose that customer. Alternatively, trust to an employee of that same pizza company may mean something entirely different. Trust to an employee may mean a safe, hazard-free work environment. During the COVID crisis, the pizza company’s employees may expect additional safety measures to be put into place to protect them while at work.

The public is tuned into brand actions, 66% of those surveyed by Deloitte were able to recall when a brand acted in its own self interest, such as raising prices on essential products or services during the COVID – 19 crisis. These sort of self-serving behaviors risk alienating consumers, 25% of respondents said that they would turn away from a brand engaging in such actions.

When brands commit to regularly exhibiting the four factors which encompass trust, their bottom lines stand to increase greatly as consumers are;

  • 1.6 times more likely to purchase from the brand over competitors
  • 2.8 times more likely to continue purchasing from the brand after a data breach
  • 2.4 times more likely to be repeat purchasers
  • 2 times more likely to recommend the brand to a friend

Additionally, when those same factors are demonstrated to employees, they are;

  • 2.6 times more likely to feel motivated at work
  • 1.7 times more likely to be satisfied with their compensation
  • 2.4 times more likely to show up to work on time
  • 1.7 times more likely to positively review their company on social media

The brands who truly connect with their stakeholders on a humane level are the ones which will thrive in 2021, as people flock to organizations where needs are met and promises are fulfilled.

 

Participation

With the ever increasing switch to digital,consumers find themselves not only online more often, but they are participating directly with brands much more often as well. Brand communications should always be two-way, meaning communications initiated should have the goal of cultivating more communication in as many ways as possible. 

There are two levels of brand participation, low level and high level. Low level involves passive activities such as writing product or service reviews or engaging with social media posts, while high-level participation involves things like user generated content creation, such as how to videos or product tips. 

Deloitte found that of the consumers surveyed this year:

The results of the survey show a very clear desire for more brand interaction from consumers, it also demonstrates how powerful word of mouth is. Building relationships via creation of actionable two-way communication and cultivating those conversations is key to digital marketing success in 2021.

 

Fusion

Understanding and delivering on the human needs brands serve is incredibly important. However, in 2021, brands should look past their own boundaries and seek out partnerships that enhance their purpose. Simply working within the confines of one brand can be restrictive, adding partnerships that bring real value to stakeholders is limitless.

How can brands find the ideal partnerships? According to Deloitte, they can use social media to listen to their audiences and they can invite consumers to directly participate. Every good marketer knows that social media has never been meant for one-way messaging. As social media monitoring tools continue to evolve and improve, so does our ability to harvest and utilize the most beneficial data. 

One of CMG’s clients, Fluff & Fold, a laundromat, just recently opened a new brick and mortar location during the COVID – 19 crisis. Through active listening and direct engagement, Fluff & Fold discovered a new consumer need; people now needed to clean their laundry with as little social contact as possible. Fluff & Fold acted quickly and fused its services with HappyNest, a laundry pick up and cleaning service.

Fluff & Fold was able to quickly pivot its business model to adapt to the new environment. Its customers were listened to to, felt heard and appreciated. As a result, a whole new market segment opened, while its existing clients felt heard and appreciated. Changing environments open an entire new opportunity of possible partnerships and should be embraced when appropriate. 

 

Talent

Marketers are more valuable to their organizations than ever and the C-suite is noticing. In fact, 20 months ago, only 46% of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) said they had a significant impact on C-suite Marketing strategy discussions. That number rose to 81% since the pandemic began and brands began to flood the digital space.

As marketing expertise becomes more sought after in 2021, brands must elevate their marketing talent model in 3 key ways;

  • Galvanize talent through continued education and upskilling, this prepares the team for their growing role both in the marketing world and within the organization. 
  • Place strategic bets on your team, figure out what where the greatest strengths and weaknesses lie. Organizations can then put more of the team’s weight behind where they truly shine and outsource where the team is weakest.
  • Invest in company culture. There is no better investment than your own team. Instilling a culture which promotes continued success for all parties involves creating a multilayered organization where people are empowered with continued upskilling, agility and adaptability.

 

Conclusion

There’s no doubt that 2020 brought unprecedented change for digital marketers and the world as a whole. Digital marketers are in the unique position of leading the transformation within organizations. Through thorough cultivation of these seven trends, purpose, agility, human experience, trust, participation, fusion and talent, organizations can anticipate the digital marketing direction of 2021 and make necessary amendments along the way.