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Some of the social media marketing or digital marketing trends forecast for 2021 include the rise of chatbots and conversational marketing, increased use of short-form video content and shoppable posts, voice-activated search becoming the norm, integration of virtual reality and augmented reality, rise of influencer marketing and personalization. Some rising social media platforms include Houseparty, Steemit, Vero, Caffeine, Nextdoor, and Medium. More details are outlined below.
Social Media Marketing or Digital Marketing Trends Forecast for 2021
Rise of the Chatbot and Conversational Marketing
- The use of chatbots, an AI-based technology that uses real-time messaging, is expected to continue growing. Marketing will then become more conversational. This will be one of the foreseen trends in digital marketing this year.
- This is driven by the growth of e-commerce and online purchases, together with the chatbot’s capability to imitate real-life interactions and engage with customers. These capabilities make chatbots a very appealing go-to solution for businesses.
- This also presents a distinct opportunity for digital marketers since they can use chatbots not just for instant customer service but also as a source of immediate interaction for data collection and information.
- Gulf Business reports that recently there has been an expansion in the use of chatbots as they are being used in unique ways to drive not just customer engagement but website traffic as well. Chatbots are expected to become more prevalent as the months and even years go by.
- According to David Cancel, Drift’s CEO and founder, “Today’s buyers expect to find what they’re looking for now, not later. As we prepare for the future, it will be more important than ever for businesses to be available across a broad spectrum of channels, and to make sure you’re communicating the way people prefer to communicate.”
- So many brands have already been using chatbot technology. These brands include Lyft, Whole Foods Market, Sephora, Fandango, Staples, Pizza Hut, The Wall Street Journal, and MasterCard among many others.
- MasterCard created a Facebook messenger bot for real-time customer engagement and that also automates payment handling. The MasterCard chatbot “uses natural language processing software to decipher what the customer wants and respond as if it were a real person.”
Short-form Video Content
- Video marketing is seen to be “one of, if not the most important marketing trend today and likely for the next 5-10 years.” Studies reveal that 70% of consumers have shared a brand’s video, “72% of businesses say that video has improved their conversion rate , 52% of consumers say that watching product videos makes them more confident in online purchase decisions , 65% of executives visit the marketer’s website and 39% call a vendor after viewing a video.”
- According to Gulf Business, “video content is all set to solidify its position as the GOAT (greatest of all time) of content marketing in 2021.” The pandemic has been one of the drivers for this trend as it highlighted the demand and importance of short-form video content.
- Short-form video content is fast becoming a front runner and a cornerstone of business’ marketing strategy. A number of brands “have already made tremendous progress with their video content strategies. “
- Although long-form video content still has a place, short-form videos have been dominating. The succinctness of short-form videos and snippets are enabling brands to quickly connect with customers and stay on top of their mind.
- One example of this is this short video from the Hong Kong Airlines, which is also a 360-degree video content. The 360-degree video content is also another trend that shows movement towards a more interactive experience.
- Short-form videos are memorable, can push engagement, and easily digestible. This is why Tiktok had an astronomical success in 2020, during the pandemic. Customers have an appetite for content that is snackable-sized or short. A study also reveals that short video is the most preferred way of learning about a new service or product.
Era of Shoppable Posts
- Driven by the major uptick of online shopping due to the pandemic, shoppable posts are now fast becoming the norm. This is one of the trends in digital marketing this year. As such, 2021 is expected to be a new era of shoppable posts.
- There has been a breadth of shoppable posts across all major social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. This allows businesses to maximize their e-commerce presence on multiple platforms.
- This trend is also driven by convenience. It’s easy and hassle-free. Through these shoppable posts, customers are able to “easily click on the shopping icon of any product” that is posted on the company’s social media feed. Customers are then directed to either “the e-commerce website page or go straight to check out.”
- There are so many brands that have already been using the shoppable post feature of large social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. Some examples of these brands include Madewell (clothing brand), Nike, Burberry, and Aerie.
Voice-Activated Search Becoming the Norm
- Voice-activated search is also expected to become the norm this year. Research suggests that “voice-based shopping is expected to jump to $40 billion in 2022.” According to Nielsen Global Media, “Smart speakers are in 29% of U.S. households, and 40% of adults use voice assistants.”
- This trend is driven by the rise of virtual assistants such as Alexa, Siri, and Google Home. Also, voice search has been heavily integrated into our tech devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops among others.
- Because of that, and because of the convenience and ease that it provides, it is predicted that the voice-activated search will further hit a high this year. This trend poses a huge opportunity for digital marketers.
- If voice is now the future of search, then there will also be a change in the keywords that marketers choose for SEO optimization. Keywords for SEO optimization will now have to be compatible with the words that people have been accustomed to when asking a virtual assistant.
- It is believed that text-based search will soon be a thing of the past. Thus, marketers must ensure that the words they use are optimized for both text and voice search.
- Some brands that are already participating in this trend are Nestle, Domino’s, and Johnnie Walker among many others. These global brands “have already started integrating voice technology into their marketing strategies to better connect with their customers.”
Integration of AR and VR
- Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are two major technological advancements that are expected to dominate the future of businesses. AR and VR both came out as ‘heroes of this pandemic‘ as it allowed marketers to virtually bring experiences to life. Both have been integrated into product development, storytelling, and content creation.
- AR and VR are referred to by Gulf Business as this year’s next ‘big thing’ as the use of both will have a major impact in creating 3D environments that are expected to strengthen the emotional ties among the product, the brand, and the customers.
- According to Lisa Apolinski, president of 3 Dog Write Inc., “With Facebook owning Oculus and dozens of augmented reality patents, it is only a matter of time before digital growth experts have to learn and incorporate AR into a digital engagement.”
- Several brands have already implemented and integrated AR into the regular shopping experiences of their customers. For instance, customers of Ikea are now able to “access an AR app and see a 3D illustration of furniture in their home spaces before making a purchase.” The Ikea app can be accessed here.
- Also, Asos customers are able to access ‘the virtual catwalk’ where they get to have “a real-world vision of their favorite garments on a virtual model.” This feature is available in the Asos app though it is only accessible by iOS 11.3 (or above) devices.
- Though AR and VR are both predicted as the next big thing, experts believe that AR will continue to grow and outpace VR when it comes to market share. Also, AR is seen to be “much more implementable from a marketing standpoint.”
Rise of Influencer Marketing
- The trend on influencer marketing has been growing and will continue to grow as this kind of marketing is seen to be more authentic than corporate advertising.
- Research shows that “63% of consumers trust influencers’ opinions of products much more than what brands say about themselves” and “58% of people have bought a new product in the past six months because of an influencer’s recommendation.”
- Influencer marketing though is seen to be more than just a trend. A study “predicts that the ad spend for influencer marketing could reach $10 billion.”
- The May GlobalWebIndex survey reports that 96% of UK and US consumers who have been following influencers have also started engaging with the influencers “more or to the same extent as before the coronavirus outbreak.”
- Based on Mediakix data, the Insider Intelligence has estimated that “the influencer marketing industry is on track to be worth up to $15 billion by 2022, up from as much as $8 billion in 2019.”
- Some brands participating in this trend are Florida Paint and Ocean Spray among many others. According to Smart Brief, “Ocean Spray and Florida Paint’s timely and opportunistic embrace of influencers is just the tip of the iceberg for brands going into 2021. Influencers can speak on a more personal level and give their honest opinion that resonates more with their followers compared to normal brand advertising. We expect influencers to gain even more popularity and followers and businesses to use influencers more than ever before.”
- Personalization is one of the trends in digital marketing that has already started and is expected to continue growing in 2021. The brands that will thrive this year (2021) are those that have personalized their marketing and that includes personalized emails, products, and content among others.
- Research shows that “63% of consumers are highly annoyed with generic advertising blasts , 80% say they are more likely to do business with a company if it offers personalized experiences , and 90% claim they find personalization appealing .”
- According to CMSWire, “In 2021, companies will use personalization not just to craft better email subject lines, but to make the buyer’s journey more individualized.”
- Carol Vold, CMO of observeIQ, also said, “This change in dynamic requires a highly personalized customer experience that aligns to how buyers now want to do business.”
- According to Kevin George of EmailMonks, “personalized, triggered emails based on behavior are 3 times better than batch-and-blast emails.”
- Some of the brands that have already personalized their marketing strategies include Amazon and Netflix and Amazon. Personalization drives their “tailored recommended products or movie titles.”
- EasyJet has also “launched a data-driven email campaign that uses customers’ travel history with the airline to build personalized stories, which then suggest where they might like to travel next.” With this campaign, there were able to send around 12.5 million unique emails which then had a 25% higher click-through rate as compared to their previous non-personalized emails.
- In addition, Cadbury has “created a personalized video campaign that matches a Dairy Milk flavor with users based on data from their Facebook profile, including age, interest and location.” This personalized campaign end up generating “a 65% click-through rate and a 33.6% conversion rate, proving that the personal touch works.”
Rising Social Media Platforms
Aside from Tiktok and Twitch, here are the other social media platforms that are also on the rise:
- Houseparty is a face-to-face social network that enables group video chats or calls through desktop or mobile apps. This social media platform is ranked as “the seventh most popular free app in the iOS App Store, placing it just behind social distancing peers such as Zoom and Google Hangouts.”
- Houseparty is in Forbes’ list of “social media sites to watch for marketing in 2021.” It is a group video platform that is able to “host up to eight people in a room.” In this platform, “users can play in-app games with each other. “
- This platform is intended for those who are considered as “happy hour enthusiasts in the social distancing age.”
- Houseparty is an appropriate platform for “tight-knit marketing events with influencers, especially while the pandemic is ongoing.” Ad space is also available on the platform.
- Steemit is similar to Reddit, but instead of the upvotes (in Reddit), Steemit has cryptocurrency. It’s a blockchain-based social media and blogging platform. It’s one of the new social media sites that’s on the rise and it now has over 1.2 million users.
- Steemit users are mostly males, though there are also females, whose age ranges from 25–34 years old.
- Using the platform is beneficial because “the cryptocurrency Steem has a pretty hefty market cap of more than $55 billion.”
- Vero is an ad-free social media platform where users can share media and content with acquaintances, friends, and followers. Though it is ad-free, organic marketing still has a big place in this platform. Also, unlike other large platforms, Vero doesn’t use an algorithm.
- This platform is like Instagram but without the ads and algorithm. Vero users are able to categorize their circle into friends, close friends, and acquaintances.
- The target users of Vero are millennials and kids who seek “an authentic social media experience (or as authentic as it can get). ” In 2019, Vero users jumped from 150,000 to 3 million.
- The platform will be beneficial in marketing as it amplifies real engagement as well as organic conversations with your audience.
- Caffeine is a live stream competitor just like Twitch though not as popular. This platform, which is also a desktop application, “invites 1 million monthly web visitors.” Caffeine has a broadcast system that is compatible with about 900 PC games.
- This is designed for gamers though its other users also stream music and entertainment performances.
- This platform has fewer marketing opportunities as compared to Twitch. However, Caffeine is now becoming more well-known.
- Nextdoor is a social media platform that has been “defined by private neighborhood hubs where locals go to get their gossip and sip their tea. “
- Nextdoor’s target audience is “anyone who lives in one of the more than 236,000” neighborhoods that are defined in the platform.
- According to a mobile data and analytics provider, Nextdoor “was the ninth most-downloaded lifestyle app in the US on iPhones” in 2019.
- This is “one of the top social media sites for hyperlocal engagement.” This platform is beneficial in marketing since Nextdoor has a feature wherein neighbors can mention or tag businesses in posts. Nextdoor neighbors can also “comment on business pages and send them personal messages.”
- According to Forbes, Nextdoor is one of the newer social media platforms that marketers who are after local SEO should know about.
- Medium is a microblogging platform that has around 1.4 million new posted articles every month.
- Almost all Medium users are college graduates and many are earning high salaries.
- Medium is beneficial for marketers as the platform can be used for thought leadership, sponsored content, and for building a backlink profile.
Other Marketing Trends Forecast
Predictive and Prescriptive Analytics
- In the next decade, it is expected that the market value of prescriptive and predictive analytics will nearly triple “as business leaders become more and more reliant on leveraging data to make decisions. ” Predictive and prescriptive analytics is seen to be the future of marketing campaigns.
- According to Simantel, “We expect to see a major shift in 2021 in terms of alignment of goals between analysts and marketers for leveraging data and impacting customer outcomes. As a result, we will see stronger partnerships develop in which analysts can leverage predictive models for what is most likely to happen and prescriptive recommendations based on trends for how marketers can influence those outcomes. “
- One of the predictions related to this trend is the likelihood of data storage solutions being redesigned to focus on “real-time integrations with the marketing activation tools. “
- Simantel further notes that the marketing teams who only depend on descriptive analytics, “or data that explains what has happened”, to guide their next campaign will struggle and lag behind the marketers who are leveraging prescriptive and predictive analytics. Marketers who are trying to observe as well as anticipate trends using predictive and prescriptive analytics are foreseen to acquire greater returns.
- One of the brands that have already started using predictive and prescriptive analytics in marketing is PetCareRX, a pet care pharmacy. PetCareRX used predictive analytics to understand their customers better and to make differentiation among their customers.
- According to CMS, “If marketers aren’t leveraging prescriptive analytics in their marketing processes, they are definitely missing major opportunities to make a positive impact on the brand’s bottom line.”
- Although many Gen Z and millennial consumers have already been supporting brands that exemplify their values for several years now, 2020 has been a year when consumers have been more active in demanding corporate consciousness. This demand is foreseen to continue this year (2021).
- Envato, one of the world’s leading marketplaces for creative people and creative assets, predicts that this is a trend that will “carry well into 2021 and beyond, as many consumers are now not just supporting activism themselves, but expecting the brands they love to take a stand on important issues too.” The rising trend on brand activism is driven by the many social issues that have become more visible because of the pandemic.
- Consumers now have an increased awareness of environmental and social issues and consumers expect that the brands they consume would care about these issues as well. A research report from Accenture Strategy entitled “From Me to We: The Rise of the Purpose-led Brand” reveals that 63% of consumers intend to “reward companies that are willing to take a stand on current issues.”
- According to Jo Birleson, Social Media Specialist of Envato, “Less of a trend and more of a social responsibility, brand activism is now on the rise with brands speaking up about social and environmental issues that resonate with their consumers. It shows that brands are committed to the issues that people care most about, often driving brands and people to become activists for the first time, which is incredibly uplifting. What matters most though, is that brands are authentic in their activism – that there is a fit between the issues they speak up about and the issues they actively invest in. Supportive sentiments can fall short if you’re not offering resources or action.”
- In 2020, businesses and brands have already become more vocal about their beliefs and values. Big brands which include Nike, Reebok, and Netflix among many others have taken a stand “to support the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, promoting their stance across social media.” Some brands even took it further by channeling their activism into branding and producing new products. This then directed their campaigns.
- For example, Pure Gold in the US “launched their 6 For 6-Pack program to support organic farming, and Ben & Jerry’s teamed up with the Climate Council for their latest ‘Unfudge our Future’ campaign – a new range of products urging the Australian government to ditch fossil fuels and embrace renewable energy.”