The Year Ahead: Digital Marketing Projections in 2021
Dec 22 2020
This is the time of year where digital marketers tend to start looking past the holiday season in an effort to glimpse which game-changing innovations the future might have in store. As documented previously, nearly every promising trend in 2020 was caught in the wake of COVID-19, causing many businesses to rebuild their advertising strategies according to an entirely new playbook.
Though predicting how the pandemic will impact the future of advertising is far from an exact science, there are a select few trends championing the future of marketing as we know it. Here is our view of the upcoming digital marketing landscape in what is sure to be an eventful 2021.
Voice Search Becomes the Norm
When detailing the potential future of advertising, the continuing rise of voice searches on home devices is a safe place to start. Nearly a quarter of US households already use a smart speaker to conduct daily searches, and the popularity of asking digital assistants like Siri and Alexa for food recommendations, showtimes, nearby gas stations, and sports scores will only continue ingraining itself into everyday life.
By some calculations, voice-based shopping on home search devices like Amazon’s Echo Dot is expected to represent an 18% market share over the next two years. That’s a big piece of the marketing pie for marketers prepared to explore sponsored replies, local recommendations, and increasingly accurate customer profiles.
COVID-19 may have derailed early marketing plans in 2020, but as shopping from home becomes more commonplace, it’s worth noting that 72% of parents who own voice-activated speakers have considered shopping using those devices. From global brands to local grocery stores, the expansion of voice search presents widespread opportunity.
Interactive Ads on Every Platform
Anything that eases the shopping journey for a potential customer is a win — which is probably why Instagram and Facebook made in-app storefronts a reality. The gap between casual browsing and easy checkout has narrowed thanks to this “storeless” economy, already in use by 40% of online marketers. These ads are ideal for eliminating a host of potential pitfalls when directing users to a new landing page and beyond.
Shoppable ads and access to quicker checkouts is a major benefit to advertisers on top of their visual content. However, sacrificing the typical customer journey to your branded website can mean falling behind if users find your creative content lacking. These ads also challenge marketers to tell their brand story and give context to certain products that might be useful to customers almost instantly, or risk a great product being overlooked due to unclear messaging.
Personalized Ads Hit the Mark (Without Being Creepy)
You may as well bookmark this one every year. While there are certainly advantages to broad, “upper-funnel” advertising campaigns, the majority of shoppers respond more positively to ads adapted to their lifestyle and preferences.
Methods to personalize ads will surely change, as most everyone has already experienced with the dawn of cookieless advertising, but the principles will stay the same: knowing the customer and their needs is the way to win. Even when engaging with new users, digital marketing efforts will continue to drive toward tailoring ads to those who’d most like to see them. This year taught us how important the relationship between brand and customer can be — in the unfortunate cases of businesses appearing insensitive or unattentive, COVID-19 caused a hard reset for user priorities and brand preferences.
AI and Programmatic Advancements Change the Game
This is the one we expect most advertisers are anticipating most eagerly. The likely acceleration of programmatic ad capabilities due to adaptive artificial intelligence (AI) could be the solution to all kinds of problems. From using data more efficiently to create better audiences to automating the checkout process, and even to developing new products by identifying a previously unidentified demand, AI has become a blanket-term for anything no longer requiring a marketing manager’s constant oversight.
Its application to ad campaign optimization and audience building could very well create a new baseline for ad efficiency across industries. While still a mystery as to how quickly it will advance and the limits of AI’s capabilities, there’s no doubt it will make waves in the digital landscape as marketers explore practical applications for the technology.