Marketing Trends for 2021

Attempting to predict the future is quite a challenge after the year we have all experienced.

We have battled through a global pandemic, social justice movements, bush fires, murder hornets, and even thundersnow.

It’s been an unpredictable year. To say the least.

Along with it, marketing has been evolving to deal with these strange times and ever-changing consumer behaviour. And with 62% of the global population now being online, the opportunities for engagement are indeed vast.

In this guide we will discuss the marketing trends that we predict will shape 2021 for many brands and businesses. And how you can begin embedding these into your strategy to plan for a positive new year.

 For marketers. A better 2021 starts here.

Marketers will need to be agile and responsive

Our number one trend and essential requirement for marketers in 2021 is to remain agile and responsive.

Being agile is not new for businesses. Particularly within software.

“Agile” has been used for years as a methodology aimed at being quick and efficient. In 2021 however, agility for marketers is focused around enabling brands and businesses to adapt their marketing to meet the rapidly evolving needs and demands of their audience.

But agility isn’t just about speed. It’s about doing the right thing for a business to improve growth and retention.

Many businesses have been forced to rapidly change, pivot, and re-invent themselves in 2021. It has shown many the activity that it is possible to achieve in a short period of time. And often with significantly reduced marketing resource.

And it continues to enable marketing teams to question the true value of the marketing investments they make. Where they are spending their time. The partnerships they have built. The software that they use. The third parties that they work with.

In such a changeable environment, all of the above needs to fit into a fast-paced, agile strategy. Else it will only slow down a business when they are in crisis mode.

Essentially, businesses need to have a strategy and framework in place that allows them to adapt and fully understand what their customers want, and how they can give this to them, in order to stay relevant.


Image Source: Linkedin

Data insights will become democratised – and easy to access for all marketers

For many businesses, the power of data has traditionally been kept by a handful of analysts and specialists with the required skills to effectively understand, organise, and analyse complicated data sets.

This approach was a necessity, due to many employees not having the training or know-how to properly deal with an increasing flood of data and information.

However, data requirements are changing rapidly.

New technologies that are capable of making data shareable, manageable, and interpretable are fast-emerging. Allowing for data to pass effectively and efficiently from the hands of the experts to the wider business.

And this data democratisation is a real game changer.

For businesses who have been early to adopt. They have been able to catapult their marketing activity far beyond their competitors’ efforts. Offering customers an unparalleled experience that is highly tailored and personalised to their needs, wants, and desires. 

And of course, this has not gone unnoticed by consumers. With 80% of frequent shoppers only shopping with brands who personalise their experience. Meaning the businesses who are slow to adapt their data strategy are falling behind. Fast.

But it’s not just customer satisfaction that data democratisation benefits.

The ability for marketers to instantly access and gain insights from data translates into more efficient decision making and agile teams. Something that has been essential in 2020. And will continue to grow in importance in 2021.

Growth in data democratisation will lead to more empowered teams and individuals. Many of whom can now take responsibility and ownership of data and its influence in their decision making.

For marketers in 2021, there is no question that data democratisation is coming. In fact, it has already been embraced by many businesses. Instead, businesses should focus on creating it in their business as quickly and effectively as possible.

Personalisation and automation will become an essential

Which takes us neatly onto our third trend – personalisation and automation.

This is hardly new, with 67% of marketing leaders stating they already leverage automation tools. But the key here is that personalisation and automation in 2021 isn’t just a nice to have. It’s an essential.

72% of consumers say they now only engage with marketing messages that are personalised and tailored to their interests. And as more consumers opt for the online shopping experience, offering this is going to become more important than ever.

After all, the world has been in crisis mode all year.

Consumers are feeling disconnected, disengaged, and often lonely. So a personal touch and tailored experience goes a long way.

Therefore, in 2021, marketers will need to focus on customising their communications, campaigns, and experiences even further. Using demographic, behaviour, and purchasing data.

Marketers need to acknowledge and understand the constantly changing mood of the country. Planning and creating their communications appropriately, and offering customers exactly what they need in the moment.

This could mean making consumers’ lives easier with recommended purchases and stock level updates. Replenishment emails for frequent purchases. Or simply acknowledging the local tier or lockdown level and offering useful store and delivery information.

Of course, this is easier said than done. And unless a business has an endless team of marketers to handle the manual work involved, personalisation fast becomes impossible without automation technology.

That’s why, along with a personalisation strategy, great automation technology will also be a key player for any marketing team.

Brands will require a deeper understanding of consumer behaviour

A key part of offering a personalised experience for consumers is understanding their behaviour.

In 2020, even the most strategically prepared brands have struggled to pivot and personalise their communications in ways that are both useful and meaningful to their audiences.

Fortunately, 92% of consumers still believe that brands should continue to advertise throughout the pandemic. But consumers also want brands to be meaningful and helpful to them. To provide reassuring messages. And not just go in for the hard-sell.

In 2021, marketers need to learn from their mistakes. And strive to better understand their audience to offer them what they need.

One route to achieving this is through Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. Which during a time of crisis, can explain why consumers behave as they do.

Image Source: Simply Psychology

For instance, during a time of crisis, such as a global pandemic, consumers’ needs and wants become confused. No matter what stage in the pyramid they were previously or normally focused on.

For example, how can consumers be concerned about their confidence or their need to be unique when they are worried about their health and safety? Or struggling with food and essential shortages?

This is why, during the early stages of the Covid-19 lockdown, many consumers were drawn back into the foundations of the pyramid. Focusing on their basic needs such as food, rest, safety, and security.

This is just one example of how brands will need to react and pivot their offering based on the mood of the country. So those that best serve later stages of the pyramid will benefit from changing their messaging to meet these needs. And be empathetic to the situation.

Live Stream eCommerce will be a point of differentiation for brands

Live stream eCommerce may not be a familiar marketing term to many. However, in China it’s a market that is predicted to reach 613 million users by the end of 2020. With more than 900 live-streaming sites now allowing consumers to interact and buy from brands in real-time.

And it’s a trend that’s being picked up all over the world. Fast.

With consumers increasingly buying online. And Covid-19 increasing our need to regain human contact. Big brands are starting to experiment with live streaming. And new live eCommerce platforms are fast emerging.

Amazon launched Amazon Live in 2019. Allowing consumers to purchase products from Amazon sellers and vendors via live-streams hosted by influencers to boost engagement.

And other brands are making the shift from live streaming which has no native shopping capabilities, such as Instagram Live. In favour of partnering with third party companies such as Livescale and Bambuser. Both of which offer live-streaming capabilities that can integrate into websites. Meaning consumers can directly shop for what they are viewing.

A further indication of this trend is that as well as brands investing in livestream eCommerce, we are also seeing new companies emerging. Many of which aim to turn online shopping upside down.

For instance, Popshop live has been hugely effective for the brands that have used it so far. Japan LA, for example, reportedly generated $17,000 in sales from a single livestream show. More than its average offline and online sales from an average Saturday.

Image Source: Amazon Live

The rise of the gig economy to support marketing teams

This trend is very much a result of the changes to the marketing industry, and the economy as a whole, in 2020.

The gig economy refers to a free market system made up of temporary and flexible jobs with short-term employment engagement.

Over the years, businesses have increasingly leaned towards employing independent contractors and freelancers due to their flexible and temporary nature. In fact, the number of people taking part in the gig economy has doubled over the past 3 years. And that’s not even accounting for 2020.

But with the world fighting against a pandemic, a difficult economy, and business uncertainty. The gig economy has drastically increased in popularity. For both employees and employers.

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For example, after a shaky start in early 2020, freelancing has bounced back and is experiencing a surge in both professionals and businesses turning to the gig economy in large numbers.

The contrast is indeed stark, with the share of temporary job postings in communications, for example, being only 12% prior to Covid-19. By April, it was four times higher, jumping to 28% from just 8%.

Of course, there is evidence that this increase in the gig economy is out of necessity. Not choice. Employers have been forced to make many jobs redundant. And for many, freelancing and consulting has become a means for survival.

But understandably, the gig economy offers many benefits in such uncertain times. For employers, they have the flexibility of temporary employees. Many of which can bring years of experience and creativity to long-term teams.

And for employees, there is an increased amount of control over their workload and income. Of course, freelancers will always be concerned about building up business and losing a client here and there. But this can pale in comparison to losing a full time job and suddenly being cast into unemployment.

Digital-first brands will be successful – but they need to stay ahead

For years the industry has been encouraging a digital-first mindset. And trends have frequently hailed that being a digital-first brand is the key to marketing success.

And of course, digital-first brands will certainly continue to be successful in 2021.

However, it’s important that these brands do not rest on their laurels.

Digital-first is no longer a new phenomenon. An increasing number of businesses, brands and start-ups are using the approach to make their marketing communications cheaper, more agile, and more effective.

So instead, in 2021 brands need to focus on staying ahead.

Consumers are rapidly requiring a higher level of customer service and buying experience. They demand that brands treat them as individuals. Instead of a demographic group.

And the leading brands are advancing their digital-first approach to already prepare and meet this. They are seeking authenticity in their communications. Humanising their messaging and predicting the actions that consumers will take in such a changeable environment.

For instance, Perkbox developing a recognition platform that lets companies celebrate amazing employees when they can’t do so in person.

Or Amazon taking on 8,000 interns from around the world to join its virtual Internship Programme.

For marketers, this means it is essential they keep up to date and informed on their audience. And many of the trends we have discussed in this guide will enable them to do just this.

They must remain aware of new tools, new channels, new networks, consumer behaviour, and everything else related to their industry and key audience.

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In summary

2020 has presented us with new challenges. Many of which will unfortunately not be going away as soon as 2021 begins.

So more than ever, marketers must keep their fingers on the pulse. Just as their competitors will be doing too.

We hope that this guide will help marketers achieve just that. But for anyone who would like a little help in planning for a better 2021, simply get in touch with one of our experts.

They would love to help.

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