2020 has been an extraordinary time. The chaos and disruption of COVID-19 has brought on enormous shifts in our society and has revolutionised how many businesses operate and how consumers behave. With the emergence of new technologies and trends over the last few years, some of the changes were possibly in the post anyway, but the global pandemic has served to turbo-charge the process. Businesses of all sizes have had to adapt quickly and nimbly to attract, connect, engage and influence their audiences, and marketing and communication has been a vital link in that chain. As we approach a hopefully happier 2021, here are 4 marketing trends to watch out for.
10 years ago there were less than a billion social media users, but by 2020 the number had grown to 3.8 billion, almost half the world’s population. It has changed the way we live our lives, and despite some commentators saying its growth may be plateauing, it is here to stay. Not only does social media allow us to stay in touch with our friends and family, but it has become a major source of news and information. Given the numbers and almost limitless ways content can be shared on these platforms, it comes as no shock that social media has become a must have for online marketers. It is also no surprise that the social media giants have realised if they can be the gateway to product or service discovery, with the tools at their disposal they can become the method of purchase and even perhaps post purchase customer care. This year has seen the launch of Facebook Shops, Instagram Shops and Pinterest Shopping Ads, a major move into the world of e-commerce. The science is simple – you see a product you like on a post, you click on it, buy it with a built-in payment method, and you’re done. Social commerce, as it is known, is tipped to be a major trend in 2021, as businesses who have pivoted to online this year to mirror the huge shift to online shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic, adopt it to reach their customers and sell product.
Video Marketing & Live Streaming
Video content is not new in marketing and was already growing rapidly as more people joined social media platforms and smart phones and other tech evolved and improved. However, in 2020 video exploded and dominated the internet. The COVID-19 pandemic, with its various lockdowns and social restrictions, forced the world to broadcast online. Views and engagement hit an all-time high – YouTube grew even larger and video content increased heavily on established social platforms, while video streaming applications boomed in 2020. TikTok’s rise was meteoric, while Twitch, the live streaming platform originally created for gamers, grew enormously as people turned to digital entertainment during the pandemic. While it is certain that video will continue its ascent, the main area of growth for 2021 seems set to be live streaming. With the huge amount of content available online, people are becoming increasingly weary of long video presentations and commercials, with preferences moving towards fast and concise communications. With the rise of the likes of TikTok and Instagram Reels, 2021 will see short-form videos becoming more popular than ever. Businesses will no doubt look to capitalise on this by marketing via this type of content – as well as engaging their audience, it can be a very cost-effective approach. Advanced tech isn’t required, you just hit the record button, and post-production costs are eliminated.
Live events such as exhibitions and conferences, so vital to brand awareness and lead generation for many businesses, have been decimated by the pandemic. Since COVID-19 bit in March 2020, there has been a tsunami of indefinite postponements and outright cancellations. Businesses and marketers have scrambled to replace live events with virtual events out of necessity, with some understandably mixed results. As 2020 rolls into 2021, there has been some very positive news with regard to an end to the crisis, with the arrival and introduction of various vaccines into the population. However, initial results are as yet unknown, as is what the speed of the roll out will be, so it is highly likely in-person events will remain off the table for much of next year, so we will continue to see virtual events take a prominent role. In any case, it is likely the virtual event is here to stay anyway. Many organisations have found going virtual has exposed their events to entirely new audiences, with attendances and drop-out levels much lower. A survey of the business events industry by PCMA (1) from earlier this year found that many companies who moved face-to-face events to a virtual platform interestingly did not see them as a pandemic-only solution. When you factor in much lower costs and improved return of investment of virtual events, companies will continue to use them to communicate with their customers and clients. The challenge of next year will be to make them as engaging as they are now in a post-Covid world.
Email is already one of the best and most popular ways to engage with people when marketing your services or products. A recent study (2) by Accetrix predicts that email users will grow from 3.8 billion in 2018 to 4.2 billion at the end of 2022. They also found that the ROI of email marketing was an outstanding 42:1, so it is undoubtedly set to grow further in the coming years. Email has also soared in importance during the pandemic with many office employees working from home and increasingly using emails over phones to communicate. Many commentators think a return to a 5-day office-based week post-COVID is very unlikely, with a high proportion of workers splitting their time between their home and the office. Not only will email marketing grow but it will also evolve, with artificial intelligence becoming far more widely used – content will be taken from sources automatically without marketers having to do it manually. It is already automated effectively using SAAS by many marketers and you can get response pricing by checking out numerous review websites, but using AI to handle live data will entail email addresses will be filtered to ensure content and messaging is highly relevant and personalised too. The design of emails is going to improve dramatically too, with better interactivity, better animation, 3D images, textured illustrations and dynamic content becoming ever more common. And with the growth in popularity of short-form videos on the web, 2021 could be the year that email providers begin to allow video in emails, which would be a big opportunity for marketers.