As companies prepare for the rollercoaster of holidays that mark the end of the year (Halloween, Thanksgiving & Black Friday, and Christmas & New Year), it is important to outline and explain some of the marketing trends that will prove helpful.
Among all the trends, though, one factor stands out, which is relatability. Brands in 2021 are not just trying to build fantastic products, though that should be a given. Instead, they are trying to build authentic connections with customers.
As the world makes a slow, gradual recovery from COVID-19, marketers have learned that customers are more in tune with brands that relate to their situations and desires. Some brands already have a head start this year by taking advantage of these trends.
However, if you haven’t already integrated any of these trends into your strategy, you are not late. You can make an allowance for any of these within the next six months and reap good rewards.
These trends are not just 2021 fads, but strategies and tactics that will endure for the coming years.
1. Social Audio
If you need proof of history repeating itself, look no further than internet social audio.
People from the 90s and early 2000s remember internet chat rooms fondly. At the height of the chat room revolution, people spent millions of hours chatting in several thousand rooms on the internet.
However, within the five years from 2010 to 2014, the major social networks AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, and MSN Messenger ended support for voice chat rooms.
Fast forward to the 2020s and social audio has made a groundbreaking return with the innovative Clubhouse app. Interestingly, even though Clubhouse is still in beta, it has over 10 million users already.
Now, even already established social media networks are not left out in the game to capture their audience via live conversations and chat rooms.
On the back of Clubhouse’s growth, Twitter launched its social audio feature called Spaces, and Telegram introduced Voice Chats 2.0. More recently, Spotify launched Greenroom, while Facebook Live Audio Rooms just started rolling out.
Despite the setback that chat rooms suffered in the 2010s decade, the recent return of social audio reinstates the importance of intimate human associations that mediums like audio provide in a way that text doesn’t.
There are obvious challenges with marketing via a medium where the actions are so transient. However, audio rooms open up marketing opportunities for brands via community events and sponsorships. Still, it remains to be seen what more surprises social audio has in store for marketers.
2. Marketing Automation
In the past few years, marketing teams have expanded their budgets for marketing automation as they seek to integrate new technologies to scale their efforts.
Until marketing automation technologies went mainstream, marketers have tried to find a cohesive medium to seamlessly integrate marketing with sales.
The main use case of marketing automation has been lead generation. Eventually, this extends to subsequent aspects of lead nurturing and customer engagement, ultimately boosting sales revenue.
Marketing professionals are already well familiar with social media automation and email marketing automation.
However, one aspect of automation that has gained a huge boost over the past year is data-driven automation; this covers the use of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics tools to extract insights about one’s audience to improve marketing strategy and tactics.
The top marketing automation products in the market are data-focused. At year-end, data insights would prove very important in capturing leads as well as in more specific tactics such as cross-selling and upselling.
3. Video Content and Live Streaming
Lockdown restrictions last year resulted in an uptick in live activities, especially video live streams. Live videos are among the most engaging content types since the audience is present and connection happens in real-time.
More so, people perceive live videos as more authentic and realistic because they are part of a real-time stream of action; therefore, a live content strategy reflects positively on any brand.
Already, according to a survey, 48% of marketers have committed to boosting their marketing budgets for video in 2021.
One of the key features of the rise of live streaming is brands as entertainers as they recapture a significant part of their audience that previously relied on television but are now more online.
4. Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing has been waxing strong for a couple of years, especially with the proliferation of micro-influencers on social media platforms. In 2021, the industry is expected to grow to about $13.8 billion and remains firmly on course to even surpass this.
For many businesses, 2021 is the first year they have had a dedicated influencer marketing budget, indicating the evolution of this form of marketing, breaking away from but still firmly integrated with social media and content marketing.
TikTok and Instagram Reels are emerging as the most common ways for influencers to connect with their audience via short, easily digestible, and engaging videos.
Many of these influencer videos combine entertainment and education to maintain the excitement of their audience.
As more people demand authenticity for brands, micro-influencers would continue to be a huge pillar in the influencer marketing industry. Some of these partnerships are sometimes repurposed by brands for ads and marketing content on other platforms.
The idea of micro-moments and macro-moments has been transforming the ways marketers approach the customer journey in the last couple of years.
With numerous simultaneous technological advancements on the back of the rise of the internet, people of this age are far more exposed now than those who existed in previous decades. Marketing has always been about seizing critical moments to attract people’s attention.
That has become far more important now that there are numerous channels and platforms where people can find entertainment, education, and so on.
Instead of casting their net wide and hoping to get desired results somehow, marketers are now focused on intent-driven moments of decision-making to capture the attention of individuals.
These are micro-moments, such as when someone looks up how to sign a PDF while reading a contract. On the other hand, macro-moments are times when a person has got time to kill but is not intent on fulfilling a task.
Micro-moment marketing is driven by timing and relevance and thus, more important to marketers in this age and more specifically, as we approach the year-end holidays.
In the rest of 2020 and beyond, marketing would be increasingly focused on identifying crucial want-to-know, want-to-go, want-to-do, want-to-buy moments and delivering just what individuals want.
6. Brand Differentiation
This is an age when customers are spoiled for choice. In this kind of situation, what mostly informs customer decisions is their perception of the business brand. That is why the smartest businesses differentiate themselves with branding to connect with their customers better.
There is already an understanding that products are not just products; they represent experiences. Therefore, the most successful branding efforts are those that communicate the authentic experiences connected to the product.
But good branding is also about adapting to the changing needs and experiences of consumers. These days, brands are not only known for products, solutions, and experiences but also personality, social values, and authenticity.
Today, a brand needs to build an identity around trust, transparency, and credibility to be accepted, especially by the younger generations, Millennials, and Gen Z.
7. Conversational Marketing
A high emphasis on brand relatability in the past few years has spurred growth in conversational marketing.
The understanding is that no matter the tactics used by businesses to be more relatable, such as interactive content, social media strategy, or storytelling, nothing beats communicating with customers directly.
Most traditional marketing channels have been one-way, allowing brands to connect with their audience but not vice versa.
Now, businesses are opening up new channels to allow their customers to communicate with them. Mind you, this is beyond the usual customer service complaints handling and whatnots.
Conversational marketing aims at meaningful customer interaction via purposeful dialogues. The key to successful conversational marketing is to center the customer, their needs wants, and desires, rather than the business or product.
Marketers should not be in a hurry to capture information about leads, lest they risk 50% – 90% leaving the conversation prematurely.
Of course, much has evolved in conversational marketing with the emergence of COVID-19, which has practically forced many brands to up their games in phone calls, SMS, social messaging, and chatbots in engaging customers.
8. Mobile Commerce and Mobile Marketing
With 6 months remaining until the new year, it is important to note the prediction that mobile commerce will grow by a whopping 68% in 2022.
Therefore, it is more than apparent that businesses with a solid mobile marketing strategy ahead of next year are well-positioned to take advantage of the growth of mobile commerce.
This growth is one of the many ways the pandemic has strengthened certain technological advancements.
The challenge with mobile marketing is that it is all-encompassing, cutting across various marketing formats from social media and email to video and paid advertising. However, marketers can apply innovative strategies such as push notifications and mobile SEO.
For instance, in the case of push notifications, 40% of users interact with them within an hour of receipt. And push notifications have an open rate of 90% even though the consensus is that they are annoying.
You can make your brand stand out with straight-to-the-point, relevant push notifications that drive attention.
9. Community (-based) Marketing
Still, on relatable marketing, it has become more important now than ever to have strong communities. Word-of-mouth marketing is the oldest form of marketing and frankly, still the most potent.
By building strong communities to pass the word about your products and services around, you are tapping into an age-old idea that relationships based on shared connections are the strongest.
Some marketers shy away from committing to community marketing because it is one tactic that is not more relationship-focused than acquisition-focused.
However, the real advantage of communities is that it makes ambassadors out of loyal customers. You may not be able to quantitatively track the gains, but the gains are present nonetheless.
Digital communities serve various needs and community marketing is one that truly forces marketers to invest in people, rather than channels.
10. User-Generated Content
Another growing strategy for building authentic connections with your audience is by encouraging user-generated content. This is often a precursor to or a product of strong communities. So, this point is strongly connected to the previous section.
For one, user-generated content influences the purchasing decisions of 90% of shoppers. Much of this is due to the authenticity that UGC provides by ‘humanizing’ the brand.
For once, individuals can view a brand and its products from the lens of other human beings. If this perception is positive, it brings new customers.
This form of social proof has proved highly effective. To take advantage of UGC as a brand, you should engage and amplify content shared by users to encourage other people to get involved.
For instance, when planning your year-end discount sales, including a contest to push a compelling narrative will help to propel your brand widely.
Besides, remember that your role in UGC strategy is to plan; let customers tell their stories, and drive the campaign. Of course, you need to watch the campaign patterns for insights on improving your brand aspects.