With the chaos of 2020 now behind us, it’s time to look ahead to what we can expect from the next 12 months.
2020 was unpredictable, to say the least. That meant that while some of the trends which were predicted pre-pandemic did end up coming to light, others didn’t emerge at all, with various forced adaptations reshaping elements of the marketing landscape.
Most notably, eCommerce sales went through the roof, people spent a lot more time on social media, and video conferencing became the norm. This has led to a major shift in the way brands connect with their consumers.
So, as we turn a corner into the New Year, what marketing trends will continue to permeate in 2021?
Here are some key trends to consider:
1. Live-streams and an increase in influencer content
Stay at home orders meant events were canceled, and consumers were unable to attend in-person events. They weren’t even able to socialize with their friends and family.
This led to an uptick in the number of people tuning into live-streams, whether it was a branded live-stream, a live video from their favorite celebrity, or an online workshop.
On Facebook, live viewings spiked by 50% during lockdown periods, while viewings on Instagram surged 70%. TikTok use shot up in 2020, and there’s a good chance we’ll see this upward trajectory continue to play out in 2021.
Human-drive content like influencer live-streams can create trust, and tap into the 'in-the-moment' connection that 2020 consumers crave.
Amazon Live really got going during the pandemic. Influencers took to the platform to promote their favorite products during live events. What’s more, the livestreams were shoppable, which meant viewers could make purchases while they were watching.
NYX Pro Makeup ran a similar promotion, where they invited influencers to live-stream make-up tutorials for their annual Pride celebrations.
2. More goodwill and purpose-driven missions from brands
The 2021 Hootsuite Social Trends report notes that:
“The smartest brands will understand where they fit into customers’ lives on social media, and they’ll find creative ways of fitting into the conversation.”
At the core of this is the need for transparency.
It’s impossible for consumers to connect with brands that they see as 'shady' or insincere. Why would they want to invest in something that they can’t trust or don’t believe in? This is why connection will be pivotal for brands that want to remain trusted sources in 2021.
Now more than ever, brands are having to dig deep to find out how to flourish in turbulent times. A report from Deloitte states that, to do this, brands need to “be deeply attuned to why they exist and who they are built to serve”.
We’re no strangers to seeing brands doing good things, but there will be an even bigger emphasis on this next year.
We’ll see more brands running campaigns like Hilton’s #HotelsForHeroes, where they gave away free rooms to medical workers, or Chanel’s contribution to the pandemic where they tasked their seamstresses with making face masks.
3. UGC to enhance the customer experience
Customer experience has never been more important.
Consumers crave enjoyable experiences with brands that are easy and memorable. They want proof before they buy and they want to be reassured - after all, no one wants to make the wrong decision.
User-generated content (UGC) ticks all the boxes when it comes to connective content:
- It builds and strengthens communities
- It’s relatable and uplifting
- It enables brands to meet customers where they’re already hanging out
- It helps brands generate tons more content against a backdrop of stay-at-home orders and restrictive measures
UGC has long been an effective way for brands to forge relationships with their customers and provide social proof, and this will be a common theme in 2021 as well.
4. An emphasis on sustainability
81% of consumers strongly feel that companies should help improve the environment.
It’s a number that’s not that surprising. Over the past couple of years we’ve seen a shift in brands moving towards a more sustainable future, whether it’s through the materials they use, the packaging, their systems, or something else.
The hunt for a greener planet continues, and consumers are actively seeking out brands that are purpose-driven and conscious about the environment. As the world remains a fragile place, it will be key for brands to reiterate their sustainability in 2021.
The Ocean Cleanup is a great example of a brand that’s done this well. In late October, they presented their first product made solely from plastic collected from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
They used TINT to share the announcement, which outlined how the brand will continue to use recycled products from the ocean to create beautiful, sustainable products. In a full circle turn of events, the revenue generated from the products will be pumped back into the brand’s cleanup campaign.
5. Inclusivity will be key
Inclusivity also became a bigger focus in 2020, with the Black Lives Matter movement highlighting endemic issues that linger within various elements of society.
A study by Accenture shows that the cultural shift towards inclusivity is also impacting purchase behavior, with 41% of shoppers shifting away from retailers which don’t reflect their views on identity and diversity - and 29% are willing to switch brands completely if they don’t show enough diversity.
Brands that are seen to be non-inclusive, or who don’t appear to be a part of the inclusivity conversation, will likely see impacts in 2021. On the flipside, brands which openly showcase their involvement in inclusive causes, will reap the benefits and drive deeper connections with their buyers.
6. Increase in voice and visual search
An increasing number of consumers are searching via voice-activated tools like Alexa. Perhaps that’s due to people have been stuck at home, with limited opportunities for conversation, or perhaps it’s simply because this type of technology is more readily available (about one in four American homes has a smart speaker of some kind).
But it’s not just voice search that will prevail in 2021 - we can also expect other creative search methods to rise to the top, like visual search.
Tools like Google Lens enable consumers can search for whatever they can see. This means marketers will need to focus even more on image alt-text and sitemaps for images. Over the next year, visuals will become increasingly important in the SEO game.
It’s going to be profitable too: Retail Customer Experience estimates that by 2021:
"Early adopters that redesign their websites to support visual and voice search will increase their digital commerce revenue by 30%.”
7. Easy-to-consume content
2020 also saw people leaning on easy-to-consume content - things like podcasts that can be consumed on-the-go or newsletters that land directly in subscriber’s inboxes.
Studies show that 55% of Americans now listen to podcasts, while newsletter mentions were up 14% during lockdown.
Advertisers are spending more on podcasts too, which is a hint to their continued success in 2021.
Convenient and readily-available content like podcasts and newsletters will help brands connect more deeply with customers and provide a more intimate way to stay in touch.
Take a leaf out of Nisolo’s book. They used their newsletter to connect with customers and check in with them, before providing relevant resources that might help them in turbulent times.
Are you ready for 2021?
The unpredictable nature of 2020 has forced brands to think long and hard about how they connect with their customers. Shop closures and stay-at-home orders meant people were stuck inside, which also meant that they were spending a lot more time online. This has pushed brands to branch out and create more human-centric ways of reaching their buyers.
Over the next 12 months, we’ll see this continue. Live-streams will become increasingly common, purpose-driven brands that champion sustainability will rise to the top, and UGC will remain an integral part of every marketing strategy.