Forget 2020. What Are the Digital Marketing Trends for 2021?

digitalmarketing2020.jpgPart of being a good marketer is to look towards the future – to assess the latest in technology that will bring business to customers. With 2020 around the corner, we have a pretty decent grasp on the impact digital marketing will make in the coming year. But what about beyond? Will content still be king? How will SEO change? Will consumers always be enamored with their voice devices? Let's find out.

A Look Back…to the Future

Back in 2018, we explored what was to come in the blog, Forget 2019. What Are the Digital Marketing Trends for 2020? We examined AI-based solutions, the Google Display Network, native advertising, and voice search marketing. Did these concepts take off? Yes, but that was just the beginning. These trends aren't just fads anymore. They are the staple of innovative marketing plans, and they have room to evolve. Furthermore, other trends based on new technologies are starting to emerge.

Non-Linear Journeys

Gone are the days where a customer sees an ad, goes to the store, and buys the product. Clean and simple. With the implementation of remarketing, cross-device targeting, and OTT, the term “linear click path” has now become obsolete. In the last few years, there has been a question on everyone's mind when they are looking at their Facebook page. That question is, "How did Facebook know I was searching for a new _____________ (insert product name here)." No, Facebook is not a mind reader, in the traditional sense. Chances are you searched for that coveted product on a few occasions. Maybe you watched a video including the merchandise or followed a social media influencer that uses it. Either way, Facebook can read your mind by decoding your data.

Non-linear journeys go well beyond social media as well, with targeted products popping up on televisions, radios, voice devices, and more, making the journey a multi-media marketing endeavor. In this digital age, the journey starts with an interest and progresses to research - reviews and ratings. The user then dives deeper, comparing features and price. Once the user has decided on which company they deem worthy of their patronage, they’ll complete either an online or in-store purchase. Much more complicated than the fantastical linear direct click-to-buy path to conversion. With digital channels becoming savvier, and new ones introduced every year, this marketing trend is only expected to gain traction.

Marketing Automation

One way to identify a user’s complicated and “messy” click journey is through a marketing automation platform. We here at GO refer to it as the central nervous system of all things marketing. However, marketing automation is nothing new. In order to survive in this marketing-driven world you have to adopt new technologies that allow you to work smarter, not harder. However, with a myriad of digital capabilities at our fingertips, marketing automation in 2021 is going to be a whole new ballgame. Much like targeted ads popping up on Facebook, customizing communication based on a prospects' interests or actions continue to be proven much more successful and cost-effective than trying to reach the masses with a generic message.

According to Salesforce, 67% of marketing leaders already rely on marketing automation, and 21% have it in the works for the year ahead. If you are a company that communicates with consumers, it just makes sense. Sending mass emails and continuously bombarding uninterested parties is so 2018. Marketing automation converts more leads with scalable, personalized content, lead scoring, automated nurture campaigns, and tracked results. It's the way to do business in 2021 and beyond.

Google Tag Manager

Yes folks, Google does it again with this free tool that enables users to track specific events and actions on their website without needing to bother your web developer, who has his or her head buried in code. Data from your site can then be shared with Google Analytics, Google Ads, Facebook Business Manager, LinkedIn Campaign Manager, and a plethora of other third-party ad platforms. Why is this important? Because it allows for more customization and ensures you are receiving the information you need while delivering the most effective message. While the use of Google Tag Manager is gaining popularity, we predict this helpful tool will be in widespread use in the very near future.

Offline Conversion Tracking

Regardless of what online retail outlets want you to believe, there are still brick and mortar stores out there, and they need digital marketing too. Many of these establishments are testing new ways to measure their digital marketing efforts and how they translate to in-store foot traffic and online sales. For a while now, they have used things like sensors, coupons, geo-targeting, and promo codes. However, companies like Placed powered by Foursquare are able to tie online marketing to offline sales. Facebook, Google, and the like are in beta with launching offline conversion tracking methods for the retailer of the future.

Google has capitalized on searches starting with "near me" and geo-targeting potential nearby customers, but now they are testing inventory and product searches through AdWords to determine conversion rates. Facebook is now utilizing the data from customers that allow location services to be available on their mobile devices in conjunction with clicked local store advertisements. Even with this information, conversion rates can be challenging to measure. Just because someone spends an hour in a store, doesn't mean they always buy something. To combat this, Google now has an in-store transaction tool that enables retailers to import sales into AdWords through customer match, using Gmail and other emails through Facebook. Going forward, we predict that these platforms will find even more ways to measure conversion rates and that apps like Waze, with over 50 million users and counting, will entice drivers to visit stores while offering promotional or seasonal specials.

Voice Search Marketing

It was predicted that by 2019, 67 million of voice devices would be in homes and offices across the United States alone. Not only is that number expected to increase, but as we get more comfortable with Alexa in our lives, we are using these devices in new ways.

When voice devices first came into the market, many used them for listening to music, asking what the weather is, or making a shopping list. Now, consumers are taking it one step further, and voice devices (and marketers) are here to listen. Want to play a Taylor Swift song? Alexa may tell you how to download her new album. Need milk on your shopping list? Your voice device may follow it up with who is running a special.

While the possibilities for voice devices are emerging, it is clear that these devices present a unique opportunity to formulating campaigns using past purchase information. As users become more comfortable with devices, it is the next logical step to use them for more personalized needs.

Marketing has evolved more in the last ten years than we've ever seen before. The possibilities are endless, and digital marketers will always look for innovative methods to make their clients stand out. What matters though, is finding a solution that works best for your needs, not just going with the new and shiny. At GO, it is our job to make sure that our clients are using the digital technology that brings dollars to their bottom line. There are a lot of options out there, but we are ready to GO and explore the possibilities. Are you?