We need to analyze the status of marketing in 2021 and the new marketing trends for 2021 because we had a very strange year. Covid had a huge impact on consumers’ habits, shifting them into new patterns. The new habits have shifted attention to new problems and new aspects of life. These changes have influenced the impact of advertising and the way the ads are used by all categories of users. The uncertainties linked to the pandemic, however, give us information that is worth exploiting to resume 2021 in a big way.
Be ready to react!
What do we know right now
The pandemic has shown that we are not untouchable. The impact of the virus had a force that no one, until the first months of 2020, had foreseen. Few imagined that the economy would be affected so deeply. This has shaken the aura of optimism and growth that has continued since the last crisis in 2008. Less optimism means more prudent consumers, less prone to spending. But also more attentive to new opportunities and cheaper possibilities.
Despite the confusion that has reigned in the last year, world consumers have shown homogeneous behavior in changing habits. If for some (few in reality) life has remained similar to before, for all the others, the impact has been profound: economic hardship (or prospects of hardship), constraints to travel and travel, the approach forced to new technologies…
All this has led to a change in the consumer’s relationship with purchases and marketing:
1. The Big Online Migration
The most obvious shift, demonstrated by research from McKinsey, KPMG and many others, has been in online consumption habits. Consumers have moved online and plan to stay there. It is no coincidence that the value of businesses that sell greatly online has increased substantially during the pandemic.
2. Back to Basics
The purchase orientations have changed abruptly, driven by the needs and the change in family income that so many have experienced: less unnecessary expenses, more attention to the value of what is purchased.
In general, money has acquired value for the consumer, which is now eager for economic security. However, this situation does not necessarily translate into spending less on everything. In fact, health is among the sectors that have shown improvements in terms of sales (the whole sector dedicated to hygiene is driving the growth trends). The average consumer pays more attention to the healthiness of what he consumes.
3. Rise of the homebody economy
As highlighted by a Nielsen research, the huge online shift has created opportunities in the “homebody economy”. That is the economy generated by those activities that can be done from home: for example online shopping, virtual study, smart working and digital entertainment (all categories that grew dramatically during the lockdown). The lockdowns have forced even the most habitual users to digitize themselves. It seems that these behaviors are destined to persist.
4. Exploration of new brands
A McKinsey research highlighted how consumers have increased the exploration of new brands, driven by more stringent needs. Due to the decreased optimism, they are looking for cheaper solutions to the usual ones. The restricted possibilities to move physically, lead users to look for more accessible alternatives to the usual ones (for example closer or with faster shipping times). Or simply users are looking for products that are more suited to their new habits, perhaps for a greater need for hygiene and health.
5. Brand loyalty still matters
It seems almost a paradox, compared to the previous point, but trust for well-known brands has been fundamental in consumer choices. If a product is of relatively lower value, but is from a reliable brand, it will be more easily chosen as a consumer in the Covid era. In times of uncertainty, consumers rely on certainties.
6. Better to be ready for home and hygiene
In general, there has been a change in the typical cart of users, with sectors that have been heavily penalized (one above all, the travel sector). Others have seen increases in sales or stability, under certain conditions.
For example, the combination of factors has led to an increase in sales of products for the home and hygiene. Those who sold these goods, but failed to digitize themselves in time, suffered the shift of customers. Those who were ready have seen their turnover and customer loyalty grow. While it is too early in many industries to seriously assess customer lifetime value (CLV), the outlook points to an increase in it too.
What should be done now
Crises favor those who are prepared. So these changes can just be a problem. Or they can be an opportunity to change the way we do things, adapt and grow.
Whether the covid continues its course or not in 2021 and beyond, the consumer shift has now occurred. We must therefore enter 2021 with well-defined strategies, in relation to what we have seen before. Some general rules should be:
1. Go digital
Absolutely do it. There are few physical stores that will still be able to move forward without suffering setbacks in the future. Even the groups of users most loyal to offline shopping have now found themselves forced to move.
This does not mean “eliminating retail”. Users have shown the desire to go out, at the end of the lockdowns, pouring onto the streets and shops. They have a great desire for normality. However, a system must also be coupled to the physical store that allows the customer to choose, order and have the goods delivered to their home or business. And not necessarily with Amazon’s speed.
2. Pay attention to trends and data
What is happening is unprecedented. Therefore, the habits that users are developing now may not last indefinitely. Decisions need to be made paying close attention to how things change. Find research, articles and tips on how to proceed. Above all, you have to move in small steps, investing in marketing moderate amounts and analyzing user behavior every time.
3. Create new loyalty
Given the uncertain time, it is necessary to consider the customers already acquired as the best possible guarantee of revenue. In general it is important to make sure that your customers decide to stay with you. But loyalty is an even more fundamental factor in uncertain times, such as those of Covid.
Your customers are there, they want to be with you, and it’s important that you know the reason for this. Losing them at this time is particularly serious damage. If you understand that there is a way, even with a lower profit margin, that makes them stay with you, do it.
Through different systems (we’ll see someone later), it is possible to improve the loyalty of your customers. But a lot can also be done in absolutely specific ways, which depend on the product or service sold, and which makes no sense to list here.
4. Driving change
In uncertain times, it is the prepared business that thrives, as research by Bain & co shows. Those who know how to move on time and wisely, not only reduce losses, but also manage to have important growth. So you need to be bold, don’t stop to bandage your wounds, but already think about the next move to make. There are possibilities for everyone.
Marketing trends 2021: New methodologies and strategies
After this very long introduction, let’s get to the point. Given all the previous facts, what are the trends for marketing in 2021? What new methodologies and strategies does the marketing in 2021 propose?
1. Livestreams and live contents
We are in a period in which, never before, users are glued to the phone. If on the one hand this means more time spent enjoying content, on the other it means that more quickly they run out of interest in what they see. News, images and slogans get uninteresting very quickly. One way to stem this problem and ensure greater fruition is to make live content.
Live content is great for capturing the fleeting interest of users. By its very nature it is content that represents a novelty for users. It breaks the monotony of the landscape with fresh content.
Furthermore, it is still something that can then become “normal” content, which can be spent at a later time. Then it allows you to easily collect the social audience. It is no coincidence that all major social networks allow you to produce and publish live content.
2. Exploit of CRM and lists
As seen in this image of SmartInsights, the positioning of a user at the end of the life cycle can be renewed. This is exactly the methodology for extending the customer life cycle. But how is it done?
First of all, you need to know the life cycle of my client:
- When does he become my client? And why? What convinces him?
- When does he run out of interest in being my client?
- What does he buy? Always the same things? Always the same way?
- What are the signs of stress that he sends?
All these questions and a hundred others are answered in the CRM.
This is the perfect time to start exploiting it, getting information and adapting your strategies. CRMs also provide valuable insights into market behavior in general!
Podcasts are an explosive phenomenon that too many still overlook. They are low-effort content for the user, but which can contain a lot of information. Podcasts can be used even without looking at the screen, for example while cooking or working. They can also compose series, aimed at specific niches of enthusiasts.
A podcast cycle could be just the right incentive to capture or keep a customer.
4. Content updating
It is not necessary to produce novelties at an accelerated pace, due to changing times. Relatively old, but well positioned content can be revamped. In this way, the already well established positioning is exploited. Furthermore, this allows to reduce the costs and times of creating new advertising.
For example, KFC has renewed its advertising, which was previously centered on the concept of being “fingers licking good”, making it more in line with the new reality of hand hygiene and social distancing.
5. Educate and make original researches
What can an airline do in a time when everyone has to stay at home?
For example, it can create expectations, inform, propose. In general, it can make those forced to stay at home dream of the desired trip. Many companies have just enhanced these aspects, trying to exploit the bad moment for a better future afterwards.
Creating educational content (and not only fun-centered contents) is a great way to advertise. Users like to learn, especially about topics they are already passionate about.
If you are able to make a unique and original contribution, that’s even better!
6. Work with Ecosystems
In a great analysis by Accenture, the concept of business ecosystems is analyzed. Ecosystems are “the networks of cross-industry players who work together to define, build and execute market-creating customer and consumer solutions“. In those networks where the additions of value given by an entity that enters them are reflected on all the others already present. For example, the app market and the smartphone market form a mutual value added ecosystem.
These ecosystems can also be built with communities. Communities generally have an interest in interacting with each other. The most classic example is that of different communities dedicated to the same theme in different places around the world.
Their interests unite them, but how do they unite?
If a company acts as an element of union through an event or a sponsorship, all these separate realities come together. For each one that is added, the value increases for everyone, with strong advantages for those who manage the ecosystem in terms of marketing and brand awareness.
7. Virtual showrooms and virtual fairs
One of the sectors that most suffered the wave of changes given by the virus was that of events. But digital events have undergone a major boost, allowing some to recreate their encounters online.
For example Campus Party, the largest event in the world for under 30 innovation, which gathers hundreds of thousands of young people from around the world to talk about technology, innovation, startups and much more. When events could not take place due to the virus, what did they do?
Instead of many local international events (which have only been postponed) they made a big online event, gathering millions of people to listen to the speakers.
We have the technology to do these things! Do not suspend your participation or organization of events! Rather, transfer it online.
8. Explore new social media platforms
Do you know that there is much more than Facebook and Twitter? Hundreds of millions of users are on other platforms.
It is time to discover new platforms, first trying to understand who is the average user who uses them, what their demographic profile is and, basically, their interests.
Are you looking for mothers or teachers? Try Pinterest.
Do you have a business looking for Generation Z customers? They are all on TikTok now.
I bet you will find some pleasant news if you search.
For reference on the dimensions of the “other social” phenomenon, you can refer to this magnificent infographic (which, however, lacks remarkably Quora, which has over 300 million monthly users!).
9. AI use and Data driven marketing
This advice has always been valid, but with the progressive forced digitization of all, it is even more valid. Habits are changing rapidly in this period. But the more time people spend on devices allows us to gather valuable information.
A few years ago it would have been unthinkable to write a research like this you are reading, during the unfolding of the facts, but now it is possible.
Basically: more people connected means more data. More data means that you can do more analysis, and do dynamic campaigns, each time based on the behaviors that are detected. Google Analytics, social platforms and other tracking products already provide valid elements to build dynamic strategies: just listen to them and plan accordingly.
Gamification is one of those issues that have been touched upon for a very long time and yet never fully addressed. It involves an incredible amount of aspects, from teaching, to sales, to marketing, to employee satisfaction, with surprising results. Driven by the growth of digital learning and entertainment systems, gamification has grown even more during 2020.
The reason it’s more important now than ever is the potential competition in online content. The lowering of the attention thresholds of marketing users can be solved with interactivity. Gamification represents an original breaking of the mold compared to traditional use, with a consequent increase in interest from users.
11. Augmented and Virtual Reality
Although it is one of those apparently futuristic themes, it is a well established reality and already supported by most of the latest Android and Apple devices. In the current period, with people forced to stay at home, it can represent a valid alternative to those intrinsically “less online” experiences. For example, a visit in person to a shop, a stand or an exhibition. It is a good way to allow a potential customer to experience the product without leaving the comfort of their home. Fundamental in the world of the homebody economy, certainly useful in the future too!
12. Voucher and gift cards
This is a great time to take advantage of a system that isn’t new, but works very well.
A gift card has one advantage: it “puts on hold” a purchase. There are contexts now, in which, like it or not, the activities cannot be done. For example a trip, or visit a certain shop. The voucher or gift card allows you to anticipate the entry of money. Basically you can already make cash now, actually selling things in the future.
It can be useful to collect money while making an online shop, or in view of the future reopening.
13. Help other selflessly
As Neil Patel shows us through an experience of him, in a moment like this one can ask: what can I do for others?
We are all in the same boat from an economic point of view. Leaving an industry because it is in trouble will hurt everyone in the long run. So Neil opted to give what he could for free.
The result is that the public is receptive to these opportunities now more than ever. This does not mean that, as there is more free material, people stop buying the paid one, but rather understand the value better and shop.
The pandemic does not affect everyone equally. Some countries are hit first and hardest by the waves of contagion.
This means that the changes resulting from these waves undergo the same trends at different times and in different places. For example, restrictions imposed by governments, or people’s desire to do outdoor activities are different.
Using this information in a timely manner can help you avoid harm and target a marketing audience who is actually able to make a purchase.
15. Home products
The homebody economy has caused some markets to change, moving within the homes of customers. You need to reflect on your market and think:
- Can the client use the product in the home?
- It’s possible to buy it from the home?
- Can you assemble it, repair it, move it, clean it in your home?
- Can I highlight these things in a marketing message?
If the answer is yes, you better do it! These are all extremely important selling points right now.
16. “Design system” your stuff
A Design System is a “collection of reusable components, guided by clear standards, that can be assembled together to build any number of applications“, as is well explained by Invision.
Why is this important? Because it makes marketing, or a series of products, easily recognizable.
Why is it particularly important now? For two reasons, both related to brand awareness.
First of all, with the increase in advertising production, having a design system allows you to reduce the confusion of the public. The public always wants to see new things, but it must always be easy to understand who the author is.
The second thing is because “in times of uncertainty, we rely on certainties”. Having a recognizable model is a certainty!
17. Involve communities
Communities represent an incredible resource for those who know how to conquer them. They are among the groups that have best withstood the impact of Covid, thanks to their ability to move liquidly both online and offline. But they are also the places where fans pass information and get advice.
Conquering a community means engaging hundreds of people willing to talk about you in a single moment. A community, for members, is like the favorite team for a soccer ultras. Each of these people is a loyal potential customer, who comes to you just because you’ve considered her community of all. And they will talk about you to all other potential fans who follow the topic with interest.
Furthermore, each sector and each product has at least one local community to refer to. There is no more loyal and interesting group of people to build a user base quickly.
Dropbox used this strategy using the Digg community. They created an explanation video of the file sharing platform key features. They did so by studding it with memes and inside jokes that only the Digg community would understand. This strategy was explosive success and the Dropbox explainer video went viral, switching from 5,000 to 75,000 people on its waiting list overnight. The rest is history.