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Eight marketing predictions for 2021

2021 might not feel all that different from it's predecessor right now, but things are changing! Here are our eight digital marketing trends and predictions for the new year.

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Posted by Emily
22 January 2021

2020 – the year of lockdowns, social distancing, and endless banana bread! Months of marketing strategy thrown in the bin as businesses across the nation are plunged into chaos. And now, as we head into a new year with new ambitions and a renewed sense of purpose (ha!), we find ourselves asking… has anything really changed?

While it’s true 2021 does feel like a dreary continuation of its equally dreary predecessor, we’re now fortified with nearly a years-worth of experience managing a business through a pandemic. So, it’s time to dive into what we’ve learned from the last year and arm ourselves for the year ahead.

How has Covid-19 affected your business?

Changes in consumer behaviours triggered by lockdowns have seen more people taking to social media and the wider internet to access the goods and services they need.

So, if your website needs updating, if you’re not on social media, or if you’re simply missing out on the many benefits of a strong, comprehensive digital marketing strategy, now is the time to take that leap and fully commit to life online.

Perhaps you’ve already made a great start in adapting your business marketing to suit lockdown living, or maybe your brand needs a big booster shot of innovation? Wherever you are in your digital journey, our marketing predictions for 2021 will help you start out the new year on the right foot. Here’s how we think 2021 will go down…

#1: Businesses improve their UX (user experience)

Ensuring a smooth, simple user journey has always been (and should always be) a top priority! An easy-to-navigate, intuitive website helps retain visitors and drive conversions.

The pandemic has only amplified this need, as an increasing number of people shop for goods and services online. And with more of your competitors racing to become accessible online, competition to retain website visitors is fiercer than ever before!

Your website needs to be quick to load, responsive, straightforward, and your content needs to be easy to digest – otherwise you might just find yourself losing website visitors to your competitors this year.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How old is your website?
  • Does your site look dated?
  • Is it responsive?
  • How do your competitors look in comparison?
  • Does it share all the relevant information?
  • Are there any barriers to interaction that could be removed?
  • How quickly can users find what they need?
  • How strong are your CTAs (call-to-actions)?
  • How are you measuring your website’s effectiveness?

Is a poor website damaging your brand? Find out how to analyse your website’s performance to help you improve your digital footprint.

#2: Local SEO becomes crucial in maintaining visibility

With more businesses online, keyword bidding has become increasingly competitive, meaning costs have skyrocketed. Can you really afford to be paying such high prices for visibility?

Budgets are tight; you’ve got to be smart with the money you do have to spend on brand visibility. And while some agencies might encourage you to up your budget and hold onto those valuable keywords, we recognise the importance of marketing within your means.

We don’t know for sure how 2021 will pan out, so we need to build sustainable strategies for our clients. We’re certain of one thing this year though…

Local SEO is your friend. Locality is already a ranking factor, with search engines filtering results based on your location. Why not give yourself (and your website visitors) a helping hand by optimising your website with local keywords?

Investing in your SEO now will give you a fighting chance against the rise in competition we’ve already seen and will continue to see as this new year unfolds.

#3: Google My Business becomes a vital digital marketing tool

Perhaps an obvious question, but we have to ask. Is your business on Google Maps?

Since we’re talking about local SEO, we need to talk about harnessing Google My Business to your advantage too, as a free-to-use platform that will undoubtedly help your local search visibility. Just like with local SEO on your website, GMB is going to be your friend this year!

Google My Business puts you firmly on the map (figuratively and literally). It’s a quick way for your audience to find out where you are, how to contact you and what you offer - so make sure that at the very least it’s kept updated with accurate contact info and opening hours.

It can also help you build trust with your audience. Encourage your clients to leave your Google reviews to help your business stand out against the competition!

Remember, responding to the reviews – good or bad – is also important in building up your brand’s trusted reputation. It lets your audience know you appreciate all feedback and really care about the service you provide.

Getting bad feedback is never fun, and sometimes it can feel very undeserved – but it’s still important to keep your head when responding. Acknowledge the feedback and thank them for taking the time to share their experience, and if the complaint requires it, move the conversation to a more private space (such as emails or direct messaging).

#4: Brands build trust and empathy through storytelling

This might just be the easiest prediction on our list – but it’s also one of the most important! Successful businesses thrive on the trusting relationship they have with their clients. Without that trust, you cannot hope to succeed.

Throughout 2020, we saw one content marketing trend cause ripples throughout digital space (particularly on social media). The growth in people-oriented, personable marketing is truly a welcome and long-awaited change – and one we’re especially happy to see making waves for B2B brands.

It’s been so wholesome to watch B2B businesses on social media drop the cold, calculated corporate vibes and adopt a humanness that makes their brand feel more accessible and amiable. But this method can be effective for both B2B and B2C – and more importantly, might just be the change that saves your business this year.

Storytelling has always been a great way to engage with others and encourage empathy. It’s one of the most effective marketing tools, and now – as we head into another year of social distancing, automation, and instant digital convenience – storytelling needs to become the cornerstone of your content marketing strategy.

Businesses can no longer afford to be faceless entities! Going forward, we must all find new ways to connect with our audience on a deeper level. Learn the challenges they face, their pain points, their aspirations and how you fit into the picture. And all that starts with developing a better understanding of your audience – here’s how.

#5: Businesses replace face-to-face value with video content

It’s only natural to worry about building and maintaining trust when (for so many of us) we’re missing that all-important face-to-face value. But there are so many ways to build trust in a digital space – one way being through video content.

2021 is likely to see an increase in video content from brands who are (rightly) investing in alternative ways to feel connected with their audience. Have you considered how video might benefit your digital marketing strategy? Whether it’s a testimonial, a step-by-step tutorial, or just a quick update on your offering, video can help freshen up content and make your brand feel more accessible (especially during lockdowns).

Here’s a few other ways B2B brands can build trust:

  • Include testimonials on your website and social media
  • Share case studies to show you can deliver great results
  • Demonstrate your knowledge and expertise with blog posts
  • Show a commitment to a cause (sustainability, sourcing ethically etc.)

And here’s a few more ways B2C brands can build trust:

  • Share customer reviews on your website and social media
  • Show your dedication to excellent customer experience by acknowledging all feedback
  • Commit to social listening and interact with your audience online
  • Make important information about your service readily available (e.g. FAQs)

#6: Brands come under increased scrutiny

It’s time for brands to practice what they preach, and last year we saw businesses come under intense scrutiny, with boycotts rattling companies of all sizes.

Campaigns to ditch Amazon are one thing - but SMEs certainly aren’t immune from criticism and calls to boycott, which can spread across social media like wildfire. Last year, as the focus shifted to supporting and shopping locally, people began to really think about which businesses they want to be backing.

So, what does this mean for your business? Well, our advice would always be to show your commitment to accessibility, inclusivity, and diversity. If you made a statement about social issues last year – such as a show of support for the Black Lives Matter movement – show that you’re still committed to those issues now. And it’s easier said than done, of course, but make sure it’s genuine - people can spot a performative post a mile off.

There will undoubtedly be certain expectations of brands to fulfil promises they made in 2020, so don’t leave your brand vulnerable by not living up to those expectations - or by over-promising only to under-deliver.

Develop an effective crisis management strategy

Being more open and vocal about social movements and commitments to social and global issues, be it dedication to ensuring racial diversity in the workplace, or our mutual responsibility to climate action, does inevitably mean opening your brand up to criticism – but staying silent can sometimes be more damning in the long term.

So, having a solid crisis management plan is vital. In this always-online era, social media users have quickly come to expect speedy responses, and this inflexibility can cause problems for businesses of all sizes. The more time goes by without a prompt and acceptable response, the further the fire can spread.

Of course, it’s all about balance - many a brand have come under fire for a response that was certainly quick, but not so well thought-out. A recent copy-paste statement from Lush over a donation to Woman’s Place UK – a charity that has repeatedly come under fire for having an anti-trans agenda – led to even more outrage, and an even larger serving of apology pie from a brand that usually has a reputation for being pretty progressive.

Throughout 2020, we watched and cringed as brands mismanaged accusations and lost the trust of their customers as a result. But with a strong crisis management strategy, you will feel confident in reacting effectively, and dealing with issues in a way that helps you begin to rebuild the trust you’ve lost.

So, what should a crisis management plan look like?

First of all, who is responsible for ongoing interactions on the issue? Someone with authority to speak effectively on behalf of the brand is key. It shouldn’t just be one person, either - what if they’re not about?

Second, what action is taken internally? How quickly should a statement be made? Should there be an investigation of how the situation arose afterwards? Is a disciplinary process for the person responsible necessary? What form should this take?

We can’t answer most of these questions for you, but we do have some input on the promptness of your response. As we’ve mentioned, speed is one thing - but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the message. Take the time to properly listen - try and see the other side, and avoid coming across as defensive. Don’t try and explain your way out of it by justifying what’s happened. If you need to take external advice, seek out consultants who specialise in helping brands address the issues you’re discussing.

While people expect a statement quickly, before the end of the day is typically an acceptable timeframe - even if it’s a simple confirmation that you’ve heard the concerns, have removed offending posts, and will be following up with more information as soon as you’re able.

#7: Learning and networking continues in digital space

After a few technical difficulties last year (sorry, I didn’t realise I was muted), many businesses are now using digital networking tools to their fullest effect. Digital landscapes have changed for good. Zoom calls and remote working are likely going to stick around even after the pandemic ends – especially in our industry!

Hands up if you attended a virtual event last year! We know we did. Webinars and livestreams have been a big hit this year, and that trend is expected to continue through 2021.

But that does not mean everyone needs to throw together a live webinar series. It’s all about quality over quantity, cornering a niche and providing value that doesn’t already exist in various forms from other creators and brands. If you’re thinking about trying your hand at webinar content or live streaming on social media, consider your own USPs (unique selling propositions).

What are you able to offer that others in your industry are missing? Is there a gap in the market? Do you have something distinctive and engaging to offer?

People will inevitably grow tired of this virtual networking and learning existence, so it’s important that creators, keynote live streamers and digital educators keep things fresh and relevant.

#8: An increase in demand puts businesses under pressure

As we head into 2021, we’re hoping for the best and preparing for the worst – so that if we’re not pleasantly surprised, we’re also not unpleasantly caught off-guard!

We don’t really know when the pandemic will end, but we can take an educated guess on what life will be like when it does. When Covid-19 lockdowns are finally a thing of the past, there’s likely to be a dramatic increase in demand – and not just in the leisure and hospitality industry!

Making long-term decisions during a pandemic can feel daunting, because the future feels so uncertain and hazy. But as we move out of the Covid-19 crisis, it’s likely that people will begin to make those long-term decisions within their businesses and home lives once again.

So, what’s your business’s Covid-19 exit strategy?

Is your business ready for 2021?

We hope our list of predictions has given you some inspiration as we head into 2021 – but remember, they are just predictions. Nobody can tell you exactly how 2021 is going to go down.

While we encourage you to plan and forge ahead into a new year, with confidence and conviction, we’re also here for you if things don’t go exactly to plan. We’re no strangers to throwing out big plans in favour of fast-paced reactive marketing when a crisis throws a spanner in the works!

It’s been a privilege to support our valued clients through the pandemic and help them navigate the challenges of the last year. Find out how we helped Indian restaurant Prashad adapt their fine-dining service to a takeaway, and boost their social media engagement to increase brand awareness and generate orders – see case study.

Get in touch with our friendly team to find out how we can help your business.


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