We live in a time where consumer interests and behaviours are hard to predict.
Marketers can no longer stick their heads in the sand and hope that educated guesses will work forever. To remain competitive, we’ve all got to adapt.
Read on to discover 5 digital marketing trends for 2021 that will help your business not just survive, but thrive in this age of innovation:
#1 Marketing will become more empathetic, leading to a rise in conversational marketing and relationship marketing strategies
Companies that invest in relationship marketing achieve a much greater ROI compared to transactional marketing.
Not only is it more cost-effective to market to existing customers (in fact, it’s about 6-7 times cheaper!), but long-term customers are also less likely to churn. The longer you have a relationship with a customer, the more profitable they become.
After all, whether you work in B2B marketing, SaaS sales or do all of your marketing D2C, there’s a person behind every click on your website - and they want to feel valued and be treated like the individuals that they are.
That said, until this year, most businesses have still been focused on transactional marketing, which is less about building long-term relationships and more about increasing individual sales.
This makes relationship marketing a goldmine of untapped potential and growth.
HubSpot’s CMO Christina Mautz puts it like this:
“My prediction is this: Marketing in 2021 will be more empathetic than ever… Whether B2B or B2C, customers are looking for brands they can trust to meet their needs and make their lives easier or more delightful. If we treat each person with loving kindness and respect, we'll be making the positive impact I know we can while building a stronger, more loyal customer base.”
One area of marketing which will be heavily affected by this evolution is content marketing, which multiple experts have predicted will be increasingly led by relationship-focussed conversations this year. According to Lindsay Tjepkema, CEO of Casted:
"The content marketing playbook we've been using is at least two decades old. Marketers are still focusing on keyword-heavy blog posts as the main tactic to captivate their audience. But it's a strategy made for Google, not for people."
Today, your audience wants to have an authentic experience with your brand and the best way to do that is by leading with conversations.
As marketers aim to create a more human-centric experience, we will see more content pulled from actual conversations with people in the industry who can provide that genuine interaction today's consumers are looking for."
#2 The popularity of virtual events will continue to rise
This year, hosting virtual events - as opposed to in-person conferences, networking events and awards show - has been something of a necessity.
However, even after the pandemic, many marketers predict that the popularity of virtual events will continue to rise - and that the events themselves will become more creative, interactive and on-demand.
Latané Conant, Chief Market Officer at 6sense, predicts:
"This year saw an explosion of virtual events as marketers adapted to a changing world. While I suspect a lot of us are feeling some virtual burnout right now, there will still be a place for these kinds of events, even after we resume in-person ones. Imagine a virtual event running 24/7.
Your prospects get triggered into the event as they proceed to the right steps in your funnel, and they engage with this event through multiple means, like Netflix meets Slack. There's video content they watch on-demand, there's a live stream playing on-site and there's a community of users and fans who create a unique and engaging place to be. Prospects learn about your solutions and then, after watching videos and chatting with others, they get directed immediately to your product team. Now that sounds like a virtual event worth attending!"
#3 Businesses will find new digital ways to communicate with their customers
The key to successful marketing in 2021 will be speaking to customers in ways that feel easy and natural for them. Video continues to engage effectively for a range of communication aims. For building personal relationships though, communicating naturally might mean speaking with buyers via their favourite social platforms, choosing to send SMS messages rather than emails - or even taking things a step further by exchanging voice notes with customers.
It’s also important to note that this year, customers have come to see these more conversational, two-way forms of marketing as the new standard for B2C communications. In fact, studies show that consumers now exchange over two billion messages with businesses each month over Facebook Messenger alone!
That’s why, rather than simply relying on chatbots, brands looking to up their conversational marketing strategy and get ahead of the competition should also be looking to offer customers more human communication channels to choose from.
Kevin Alansky, Chief Marketing Officer at Higher Logic, says:
"The virtual and digital-first world will continue in 2021 and possibly beyond. Many organizations have shifted their annual event and tradeshow to a virtual one. Many organizations have not succeeded, however, because they tried to replicate the experience on an outdated model. This has led to a flood in the number of virtual events and many people facing 'Zoom fatigue.'
Organizations are now wondering how to fight this overcrowded market and stand out against the rest. The answer is online communities — how do you engage before, during, and after your event? We need to find ways to better engage our audiences and build meaningful connections between our organizations and our customers. We are seeing the demand for engagement already this year and this will continue to be a big trend through 2021."
#4 Brand image will become pivotal as businesses navigate an increasingly polarised social and political climate
2021 is the year to take down your walls and let your customers see who you - the people behind your company - are. You can do that by posting photos of your employees on social media, broadcasting your voice using voice messaging software or sharing stories of how you’re supporting the local community in your email newsletters.
We’d also recommend highlighting your mission statement and values very clearly on your website, so that your customers can clearly see your team are good people who stand for something beyond revenue, profits and dividend sharing.
After all, today’s consumers want to do business with companies that are making a positive impact in the world – whether that be through volunteering, supporting social causes or tackling climate change.
In fact, research has shown that 47% of customers buy from brands that support a good cause, and a staggering 91% of customers would switch brands if a different brand (of a similar price and quality) supported a good cause.
Essentially, being genuine, ‘human’ and purpose-driven can help you attract more new customers and retain more existing ones - so don’t be afraid to be an open book this year. Let your passions and personality shine - your customers will thank you for it!
Tim Linberg, Chief Experience Officer at Verndale, had this to say:
"One of the biggest trends to watch in 2021 will be how brands navigate an increasingly polarized social and political climate. Presidential politics, the response to navigating the global pandemic, and an increasingly siloed media and social media landscape is forcing brands to make hard decisions about how and where they align with their customers.
Every ad dollar spent, every choice of channel and platform, every social post, every inch of shelf space, and every conference or trade show will be evaluated through the lens of what a brand's marketing decisions say about who they are and what they stand for.”
#5 Personalisation will become increasingly paramount
In this year's increasingly digital market, customers today are increasingly driven by high-quality online experiences.
In fact, according to Walker, customer experience is so important these days that it’s actually overtaking price and product as the key differentiator between stores.
Essentially, your customers want to be treated like the unique individuals that they are. They want to establish a relationship with you that goes far beyond a simple monetary exchange.
So, while an impressive deal or discount code might be enough to attract buyers to your store initially, you’re going to have to work a little harder to woo them if you want them coming back for more.
And that’s where ecommerce personalisation comes in. Instapage recently reported that 80% of shoppers say they are more likely to buy from a company that offers them a personalised experience, while 44% of consumers say they will likely become repeat buyers after having a personalised experience with a brand.
According to Nick Runyon, CMO of PFL:
"Marketing automation should not be confused with personalization. Oftentimes, it's just quicker batching and blasting. When marketers use intent data and data-based insights to fuel their automated communications, they can create remarkable brand experiences sophisticated consumers rely upon. In the year ahead, marketers will better incorporate real, true personalization."
Richard Jones, CMO of Cheetah Digital, predicts:
"The next generation of personalization is not about cookies or third-party data, it's not about merchandising, and it's not about guesswork. The next generation of personalization is about relying on deep data insights, first and zero-party data and using machine learning to derive not only the right content, not only the right offer, not only the right channel but, the right sequence of events that leads to an automated path to conversion.
The next generation of personalization is about providing a value exchange for consumers in the 'moment' when you have them on your mobile app, on your site, in your store. How can you provide them something that will generate trust and affinity with the brand?"
To find out more about how you can effectively personalise your customers' experiences, check out our recent article here.
Bring it on, 2021
Ultimately, if you want to continue to drive engagement among your customers in the coming year, you’ll need to focus on human-centric communications and high levels of personalisation across all of your digital marketing channels.
It seems that - almost ironically - the more advanced machine learning, AI and automation technologies become, the more consumers crave a truly personal touch.
This means that from your content marketing to the virtual events you host, you’ve got to take a human-centric approach, emphasise your relationship with each customer and treat them like the individuals that they are.
When you start using marketing technologies to drive more authentic relationships with your customers, you’ll have hit the marketing sweet spot. Use the learnings above to save time, retain more loyal customers and scale in 2021; a year full of change, uncertainty and potential.
To find out how voice messaging for business can help supercharge your business’ relationship marketing strategy, get in touch with the team at telbee today. We’d love to hear from you!