If businesses learned anything in 2020, it’s that digital marketing is no longer optional. It is key to survival in a post-COVID world. The immediate impact of the pandemic left many businesses scrambling to up their digital marketing efforts while pivoting their entire business model. We’ve got you covered with the top ten digital marketing predictions for 2021, so you can be confident that your business will be able to handle anything the new year can throw at it.
HOW DIGITAL MARKETING CHANGED IN 2020
In order to talk about digital marketing predictions for 2021, it’s important to understand just how much changed in 2020. Experts are calling it a “world-wide, all-encompassing digital experiment” of a year.
Starting with the initial lockdowns in March of 2020, consumers started spending more time online and doing more online shopping.
According to Michael Wolf, CEO of the technology and strategy consulting company Activate Inc., over 16 hours a day are spent on digital media by the average U.S. adult at the end of 2020. That is up from the already staggering 12 hours from 2019. It’s important to note that these are overlapping activities for example if someone is working and streaming a movie for two hours, that would total four hours.
This isn’t something that will go away when COVID lockdowns have passed. Consumers are now used to a more digital experience and a seamless online to in-store experience and there’s no going back. Now, businesses have realized the importance of having a seamless digital marketing strategy to help them keep their doors open — even if that’s only online.
From stress-relieving diversions to the general functions of daily life — the digital space has become more of a reality and businesses that want to succeed in 2021 will embrace this with more of an omnichannel approach to digital marketing.
TOP 10 PREDICTIONS FOR DIGITAL MARKETING IN 2021
There’s a lot of exciting developments headed down the pike for small businesses and digital marketing in 2021. It has never been more necessary to develop a strong digital presence, but it’s also never been easier or more accessible to businesses of every size — from the solopreneur to larger enterprises. Our team of experts at Brandlink is here to help keep your company ahead of the curve with tips on how you can utilize these digital marketing predictions to grow your business in 2021.
1. Embracing digital transformation will be a necessity.
What is digital transformation? Digital transformation is the integration of digital technologies into every area of your business. It fundamentally changes how your business operates and how it will deliver value to your customers.
More companies are taking action to invest in this transformation including — migrations to digital platforms, robust e-commerce, automated and personalized email marketing, AI integrations, and omnichannel marketing plans.
This looks different for each business — and small businesses may have to start small, but “going digital” is no longer something for the future. COVID taught us that digital transformation is a necessity to keep business doors open and it allows companies to be ready to pivot when necessary.
Action Step: While this may sound like it’s out of your scope as a small business, on the contrary! It’s accessible, there are levels for every budget, and it helps use technology to make a small team run like a larger company. Start thinking about your digital transformation plan now. Want to know more about how this could work for your company? Contact Brandlink for a free consultation.
2. Omnichannel marketing will be the difference between businesses that win and businesses that lose.
Omnichannel marketing is essentially a multichannel sales approach that gives your customers an integrated shopping experience. Experts are moving away from the different message per platform model, and embracing the omni model which works with the growing trend of consumers starting online and ending up in the brick-and-mortar store for a more personal experience.
Businesses that think of their marketing and sales from the omnichannel perspective will win big with consumers in 2021. They have had a taste of the seamless digital to in-person experience due to COVID and they will want to keep that around.
Action Step: Think of your marketing efforts from a multichannel perspective and create a seamless experience for your customer.
3. Local will be key moving into 2021 — from SEO to content marketing.
Everything’s coming up local for 2021. From global businesses to the shop around the corner, the local marketplace is about to get crowded.
With Google My Business putting more focus on local results and consumers wanting to support local businesses, everyone will begin pitching the local angle. Near me, nearby, or the name of the local city are of the most common search phrases on Google. Example: Natural grocery store near me or nail salon in (local city name).
As a local business, you should have the edge over larger competitors, but it’s important to take action now before the space gets too crowded. Localize everything you can from search terms to content. This means your business should invest time in understanding what local terms are being used to search (or have a partner like Brandlink to help you with that) and integrate that in your on-page content and your SEO tactics.
Action Step: Make sure that your business listing is up-to-date on Google My Business as well as every other free online directory. Check out this helpful list for local business directories to make sure you’re taking advantage of everything you can.
Start updating your SEO with local and intent-focused keywords.
4. Quality content is going to be more important than ever.
Businesses that fulfill the Google EAT principle will get better results in search. EAT stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. In a nutshell, that means quality over quantity—and intent context are key to ranking well in Google and winning customers in the digital space.
When you take into account the various updates from Google as well as the general changes in a post-COVID world, businesses must optimize their content for both transactional as well as informational search intent. With more people working remotely, there’s less of a commute time and more time to watch and read online content. What that means is with the increase in people online, more people are researching content and products. And that means businesses need to take into account search intent in their content because not everyone is looking to buy — many people are researching more beforehand.
Additional ares to consider when creating content:
- Image Optimization
- Predictive Search
- Content for Featured Snippets
Action Step: The idea is to think of your content from a holistic perspective. You may not be able to rank at the top for some keywords in content alone, but if you have considered phrases for predictive search or added thorough keywords to your image optimization, you can rank with the best of them in images, videos, and even featured snippets.
In order to do this, it’s crucial that you understand your customer/audience, so be prepared to invest in market research. This can be something you do on your own or have someone like Brandlink’s market research specialists help you with.
5. Shoppable content will be how more brands win in the digital market.
The biggest winners in 2020 were the digital giants like Facebook and Instagram — and small businesses can take advantage of their pioneering to grow their business in 2021. Digitally-savvy companies want to create a frictionless experience for shoppers. That means a seamless design from the time the customer sees a product in content to when they could click to buy. Facebook and Instagram shops were launched earlier this year to help small businesses especially during the pandemic — of course, it does help them, too. Think about your content from a shoppable experience.
Action Step: Set up your own Facebook/Instagram shops to reduce friction in the purchasing process. Think about your content on social media through shoppable post opportunities. Utilize tools like Instagram Reels and Guides to showcase products and begin the shopping process.
Now is also the best time to begin paid social ads that coordinate with your content. Facebook and Instagram have improved their paid advertising system this year making it even easier to create profitable ads in 2021.
6. Core Web Vitals will become foundational to search rankings in Google.
Google has a core web vitals update planned for May 2021 which will become part of Google’s overall evaluation of “page experience.”
Where mobile-friendly and safe browsing were basic vitals that helped your website, now loading time, interactivity, and visual stability will be significant ranking factors. Businesses that want a chance to get ahead should prep ahead of time.
Action Step: Make sure your core web vitals are healthy. Look to integrate interactive elements on your site and be sure to consider user experience.
7. Interactive content will be expected by consumers.
The digital surge of 2020 has created consumers that have a higher level of expectation in their interactions. (It’s like how Amazon’s free shipping changed perceptions of shipping costs.) Interactive content will no longer be an additional perk, but an essential driver for organic traffic and the overall consumer experience.
It doesn’t have to be super high-tech and there’s an option for every level of business. From quizzes, assessments, interactive videos, surveys, and more, there are ways to create cost-effective interactive content in addition to higher-level gamification on your website.
Action Step: Review your website and social experience to see where you can create interactive content.
8. Nano and micro-influencers will become more important to local businesses.
While the concept of influencers on social media isn’t new, scaling down to focus on local, or nano influencers, allows you to cultivate a real relationship. Start by searching your local Instagram hashtags or searching for relevant bloggers in your area. Find the posts with the most engagement and study how other users interact.
Action Step: Look for local nano or micro-influencers. Once you’ve found an influencer that aligns with your brand, reach out to start a conversation. Depending on your relationship, nano influencers can help you run one-off or multiple campaigns to garner more attention for your business.
Compensation is different for every party and is something that should be discussed on a case-by-case basis, as there are several options to pursue. For example, you could decide on a flat rate, performance-based pay, or even a simple exchange of a free product. Whatever path you choose, an influencer contract should be drafted. Standard templates can be found online to make sure all parties are on the same page.
9. Email automation will be the secret weapon for sales.
Email automations are crucial for nurturing the purchase process. They allow you to personalize a consumer’s experience. If you’re a smaller business, try tailoring your email content to offer specific promotions for clients when a birthday or anniversary is coming up, or let the ladies in your email audience know about your next Ladies Night Out event.
The personalized possibilities are endless! Automated emails (think: order confirmations, shipping updates, etc.) are also a great way to let your audience know that they’re being taken care of. (Especially if you’re away from your computer!)
It requires more effort than just uploading a mailing list and pressing ‘Send’, but it’s worth it in the long run. Advanced email tools like Active Campaign or Mailchimp make it easy to set up an account and streamline the process through automated scheduling and segmented lists.
Action Step: Take your email marketing efforts to the next level by creating email automations such as a welcome series, win-back series, and more.
10. Kindness will be key.
This prediction is pretty straight forward. Consumers want more from brands since COVID-19. It was a trend already on the rise, but in the last year, we’ve seen a significant uptick in consumers putting their money where their mouth is.
They are looking for brands that:
- Support people during COVID.
- Are Eco-friendly on some level.
- Offer value for money.
- Produce high-quality products.
- Treat their team/staff fairly or have fair business practices.
- Support local causes.
Action Step: Consider how your business can be a more conscientious participant in the digital space and/or local community. The next step is to make sure you are clearly communicating your values to your audience.
HELP GROWING YOUR BUSINESS IN 2021
These digital marketing predictions are a great start to getting you ahead of the competition in 2021 — even if that competition feels like it’s against an unexpected economy.
The goal of digital marketing is to keep your business agile and active where your customers are active — and to prevent lockdown experiences from financially impacting your business in the future.
Our team at Brandlink can help your business with its own digital transformation. If you aren’t sure what is possible or how to get started, schedule your free consultation today and we’ll get you answers to all your digital marketing questions.
We will be your partner in the process.