No one knows what the future has in store for us. But based on what’s happened before and what we know is on the horizon, we can make some educated guesses about possible future marketing trends.
The team here at Epix Media put our heads together, made sense of this crazy world, and came up with some marketing predictions for 2021.
Not content with just making predictions though, we decided to offer some guidance on the things marketers need to do to prepare for these shifts.
So, sit back, relax, and see what the future (potentially) has in store for us all!
Gen Z enters the market
Right, so the first prediction isn’t so much a “prediction”, but more of an “obvious fact as a result of the natural aging process that life has put on us all”.
As years go by, more and more Gen Z’s enter the market.
With that, the older they get, the more senior their employment roles become, and this increases their wealth too. The oldest members of Gen Z are 23 years, so they’re starting to make important inroads to their careers.
We need to start paying attention to them as they begin to become a valuable market for all businesses. Be that B2B or B2C.
Research by WP Engine shows some stark differences between Gen Z and the preceding generations.
Take social stances. Whilst Gen X and Millennials are either indifferent or happy for a brand to say they follow a particular social stance. Gen Z expects brands to either lead the way or provide evidence that they take a social stance.
To put it another way, changing your Twitter profile icon to show support for a social stance isn’t enough for Gen Z. They need more. And social stances matter for Gen Z. In fact, 72% of Gen Z say they are more likely to buy from a brand that contributes to social causes. That’s an incredibly large part of the audience.
This goes further too, in a way that is rarely spoken. Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X are just on the cusp of entering the political classes. What does this mean?
Being more tech-savvy and aware of dangers & limitations of the internet – should we expect further changes to data protection laws? Will we start to see discussions around legal regulations for online advertising?
What marketers need to do:
Let’s be honest for a moment. It is very unlikely that you need to implement any changes for this prediction in 2021.
But being aware of it for 2021 and beyond and beginning your planning will go a long way.
So, what can marketers do to prepare? Spend time trying to identify what relevant issues or social stances your brand is willing to be associated with, in a genuine, authentic way. More importantly, how are you going to actively showcase that in your marketing?
Research your market and your audience. What social stances matter to them? Use that as a base to start building upon. But do this with integrity – tokenism will be found out, and could be damaging.
As I said earlier, there’s no urgency to implement this in 2021. But beginning to the planning process can help direct the next 5 to 10 years’ worth of marketing and will keep you ahead.
Are virtual events here to stay?
Who would have predicted that a massive growth area for marketing in 2020 would be virtual events? I doubt anyone.
In fact, if you had said it, you’d probably be laughed out of the room and dismissed.
But alas, we’ve all suddenly found ourselves in a world where virtual events were a necessity.
Are they here to stay? Let’s look at some of the benefits of virtual events:
• They save time for attendees. For example, a one-hour seminar takes up just one hour of the day. There’s no travelling.
• They are cheaper to host. There is no need to hire a room or venue to host the event.
• You get a larger reach. You can target people outside your immediate area – even globally!
• They are environmentally friendly. The huge reduction in travel reduces emissions.
Whilst virtual events have become a necessary stopgap for current events across the world, let’s be honest: they’re not the same as a real event.
So sure, once the world starts opening up again, I don’t think virtual events will ever replace in-person events.
But that doesn’t mean virtual events will disappear. I still expect them to be more prevalent than they ever were before 2020.
Why? Because of two reasons. Firstly, all the benefits listed above. Secondly, people are used to them now.
Before 2020, they were a novel thing that most people dismissed or had no experience of. Now that plenty more people have experienced them, people are more open to the benefits. Why would someone want to take half the day out to travel to a one-hour seminar when they can sit at home or the office and take part in it?
What marketers need to do:
A brand’s potential reach for a virtual event is much wider than a physical event. And with an audience that’s now more accustomed the virtual events, it suddenly turns them into a powerful marketing tool.
Examine how your brand could potentially utilise live events. What topics could you discuss? How can you build an audience?
Keep on top of emerging platforms too – in response to this year, new technologies are appearing that offer more engaging environments that your typical Zoom call.
Narrowing of social media focus
Social Media is exploding. 10 years ago, we only really had Facebook to advertise on.
Now we have Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest to name just a few. No doubt there are other platforms that will rise through 2021.
The biggest problem when it comes to brands and social media though is that brands rush to join the latest platform without stopping and assessing their usefulness.
Thought should always be given to the audience. Is the platform relevant to your brand?
For instance, would a business finance company find a market on TikTok? Would a plumbing supply company benefit from being on Pinterest?
But another consideration is to think about how your audience uses certain social media platforms.
Take Twitter for example. In the early days of Twitter, every brand and their dog was on it. Actively posting. Engaging with one another.
Then, probably about 6 years ago, something changed. It was like every marketer or social media co-ordinator suddenly realised that it was only other brands that were engaging.
Even now, when you look at the engagement on some of the biggest global brand posts, it’s generally low.
Take Coca Cola, for example, they have over 3 million followers and this is the engagement from their latest post:
So why do they even bother with Twitter? Because of how their audience uses Twitter.
It’s not a platform where they go looking to engage with brand posts. In fact, I don’t believe it ever was. Instead, it’s a platform where they go to complain.
For larger brands, Twitter is a customer relationship tool rather than a marketing one.
Identify which platforms best suit your brand and what purpose it serves for your audience.
What marketers need to do:
You don’t want to be managing 10 different social media accounts, producing strategies and content for each (unless you have a large team and amazing coordination).
It’s not efficient and will just lower the quality of your content.
Instead, hone a strategy that will get the best out of you, your content and your audience.
The first step, as always, is to understand your audience. Part of this is to understand what social media platform they use. And by this, I don’t mean “they’re on Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat”. I mean, really understand what platforms they use.
For example, are they on Twitter to read the latest news and air their opinions on it? Are they on Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family? Do they use Snapchat to play around with the filters and share them with friends?
Once you understand how they’re using a platform, then you can decide whether you need to be on it and how you should use it.
2020 was a tough year for many people. The financial jet-streams that move money around our economy have been fundamentally disturbed. Some households and businesses are suffering. Some are thriving.
Many people will be looking at their household or business expenses looking to make cuts and improve savings.
Hopefully, things will turn around again, but for at least part of 2021, this will have an impact on marketing.
Marketers may also see campaign budgets change, which means a need for greater focus on optimising and delivering even greater value.
What marketers need to do:
Brands need to get back to basics: understand the changing priorities of their customers and really focus on the value they provide. Identify their pains, and figure out how to address them.
Working off audience profiles that are 1, 2 or 3 years old will not address the pains they’re currently facing. You need new data.
Smart brands will be planning to increase budgets to make cheap gains in market share, in order to capitalise on competitors who have pulled back. Marketers are going to need to plan like their competitors are about to try these kinds of tactics and be ready with a good mix of solid strategy and great creative.
Content marketing can be a powerful way to communicate directly to a target audience.
Whether that is through entertaining, delighting or educating them. It builds a strong resonance between brand and consumer.
Unfortunately, because content marketing is being more widely used, it also means there is more competition in the game.
And when there is competition, you need to stand out.
Interactive content is a way to achieve this. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be overly complex.
In a recent article reviewing the top UX techniques implemented in 2020, we looked at how effective personalised interactivity on websites we built has been.
We expect to see a lot more of this in 2021.
When interactivity is personalised, content suddenly speaks directly to the consumer as if they were involved in creating content for themselves.
Recent examples include:
• A ‘plan your wedding’ calculator and enquiry tool for a wedding venue supplier which gives a couple the chance to build their perfect wedding package
• A ‘Choose your mat’ tool for a seller of doormats that allows users to find the best-recommended mat for their needs, demystifying industry terminology and putting the correct products straight in front of them
• Audience focused visual feedback on buttons in the form of “football banter” for a sporting brand
• A Rainwater Harvesting calculator that helps farmers work out how much potential water and money they could save from harvesting rainwater
• A ‘Pick your course’ tool for a data protection company that helps the user identify the best course or service for the user based on their needs
Each of these focuses on making the content on the respective websites more personalised for the user because of interactivity – because of their personality and choices.
What marketers need to do:
Once again this harks back to knowing your audience. Identifying what problems, challenges or pains they may have.
From here, you can start to identify what type of interactive content will suit their needs best. Is it a calculator to work out costs? A quiz to identify the ideal product? Or a troubleshooting tool to help solve a potential query?
It doesn’t even need to be that serious. You could identify that a game might resonate best with your audience.
But the best thing with interactive content is that practically every business in every sector can benefit from it in somehow or someway. It is just a matter of understanding your audience.
Resistance to change
This one’s a bit tricky, but hear me out.
There has been a lot of uncertainty in business in 2020, and for consumers too. In the relatively stable years before this, marketers had a good handle on what would likely happen. Things were relatively predictable.
But things aren’t predictable anymore.
Some businesses will be reluctant to invest in innovation as incomes and revenues shrink. They could become more resistant to change. For B2B marketers, that creates headwinds as less ambitious brands may retreat back to what feels safe.
On the other hand, brave business leaders, eager to make up for lost time, could make a break for it and push their marketing harder than ever before. Their brands may move faster than ever before, willing to look at any innovative way to better connect with, and retain their customers.
The pressure felt by brands in 2020 is likely to push them in one of two directions: play it safe, or be bold. And it’s the ones that don’t resistant change that will thrive.
Playing it safe is potentially dangerous.
What marketers need to do:
There’s no reason for brands to stop innovating their creativity.
Now is the perfect time to reflect on existing strategies, tools and platforms, to take stock of their brand, to engage with their audiences, to analyse their market position.
Safe brands will do more of the same. The brave ones will take this research and make ambitious plans.
One thing stands out in our 2021 predictions – the focus of customers. They are more vital than ever before, and for every strategy you develop, tightening up your understanding of customers will be vital for 2021.
With changing customer priorities and adapting in competition, how much you understand your customer base will have much higher importance.
If you need any help forming and identifying customer needs, Epix Media run specialist workshops to help draw these out. Contact us for more information.