This article has been contributed by Ryan Gould.
2021 is just around the corner, which means it’s time to start thinking about new digital marketing trends. In 2020 we saw drastic changes in digital marketing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it appears that 2021 will bring many changes as well.
One of the best ways to be a successful marketer is by staying on top of trends and implementing them into your own marketing strategy. It is critical to ensure your business is never using outdated or ineffective strategies to reach your audience, as this can lead to a spiral of downward events.
This article will share some predictions for the 2021 digital marketing world and provide suggestions to prepare you for what’s in store. There is no better way to stay ahead of your competitors than by educating yourself about the future of digital.
1. Optimize for Voice Search
The creation of products like Alexa and Google Home have created a massive boom in the usage of voice search. These devices rely almost entirely on voice queries to serve customers. Currently, about half the world’s population uses some form of voice search. In 2021, that number is only expected to rise, which it’s why it’s important to make sure your company is ready.
Image source: oberlo.com
Most of us live very busy lives, which has certainly contributed to the rise of voice search. Voice search is a convenient feature that allows users to search for answers to their questions or schedule events hands-free. This is perfect for people who are constantly on the go, since voice search can be done practically anywhere, in just a matter of seconds.
There’s a major difference between optimizing for text search and optimizing for voice search. This means you have to reconsider your search engine optimization strategy as a whole and think in terms of voice queries. Voice searches are typically more conversational than a text search.
This graphic demonstrates how voice and text-based search differ:
Image source: coussins.co.uk
When users search via text they usually just type in a few major keywords such as “pub near me” as this is the quickest way to get to what they’re looking for. Voice search takes a quite different approach. Users are more likely to speak in a conversational manner and use long tailed keywords to get the best answer. These two searches require entirely different approaches and keyword targeting to be successfully seen by the customers who are searching.
One of the best ways to ensure your business is optimized for voice-based search is by ensuring you have an updated Google My Business (GMB) profile. If users are using the voice search feature on Google, the results will only consist of those businesses that have an active GMB presence.
This also means that it’s important to have a fully completed profile on GMB that contains hours, customer reviews and an accurate address. You want to ensure that the customers who voice-search keywords relevant to your business have all the information they need.
2. Beware of Ad Blockers
Social media advertising has allowed many businesses to become big overnight. Targeted and optimized advertisements allow you to create brand awareness and can be incredibly effective in increasing your bottom line. There’s just one issue — many people don’t like to see ads pop up on their feed, so they install ad blockers.
Ads can be overwhelming to some individuals. After all, not everyone wants to be bombarded with new advertisements every time they open their phone. Ads can also slow downloading speeds for some pages, which is another reason that users have made the decision to opt-out.
Image source: emarketer.com
Ad blockers have been around for years. These blockers filter out any advertisements — paid or organic — and stop viewers from seeing ads altogether. As these blockers have become more readily accessible, more and more users have jumped on the bandwagon. According to eMarketer, a quarter of all internet users used some form of ad blocker in 2019, and this figure will grow to 27% in 2021.
If you’re running a PPC or display campaign and the users you are trying to target have an ad blocker installed on the device they are using to search, they won’t see your ads. It doesn’t matter what extensions you try, how many different ad formats you’re using, the quality of your ads – if a user with an ad blocker searches for a keyword you’re bidding on, they simply won’t see your ads. This can cause a huge disruption for digital marketers.
The best way to adjust to the increased use of ad blockers is by staying aware of your audience. If you notice that your target audience heavily uses ad blockers, PPC and display campaigns may not be the most effective approach for your business. While it is likely not a smart idea to entirely eliminate search engine advertising, it might be wise to explore other marketing channels, like email marketing, and consider the benefits they can bring to your business.
3. Tap into Micro-Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing has been a popular marketing tactic for years now. Originally, brands thought it was more beneficial to partner with massive influencers (AKA macro influencers) with millions of followers to promote products.
This approach proved to be very costly and surprisingly, not very effective. In fact, celebrities or influencers who have amassed over a million followers ask for upwards of $10,000 per post. Even with this high price tag, many companies have reported not seeing much of a pay-off. While these individuals have a massive following, their engagement rates are extremely low when compared to smaller tier influencers.
In 2020, micro-influencers became much more popular once people discovered the effect they have on purchasing decisions. Studies have shown that contrary to popular belief, the larger the influencer, the lower the ROI. Micro-influencers offer more of a “cult” following which means most of the time, their followers are more dedicated to actively engaging with their content.
Micro-influencer marketing also offers a far different approach that is typically more effective at reaching those target individuals. These smaller influencers typically have a specific market niche, which makes it easier to find audiences who will actually be interested in your products or service which means they are more likely to convert.
According to a Markerly study, influencers in the 10k-100k follower range offer the highest levels of engagement when it comes to both likes and comments – which are two of the most important components when it comes to an influencer marketing campaign.
Image source: markerly,com
Influencer marketing is only going to increase year over year. It is expected to quickly outgrow more outdated marketing channels such as print and email, which further emphasizes the importance of starting your own influencer marketing campaigns if you haven’t already.
Partaking in micro-influencer marketing is going to be a critical component of your marketing strategy in 2021. Start looking into influencers who have followings that would likely be interested in the products or services your company sells and start outreach today. Due to the recent rise in this form of advertising, many micro-influencers have brand waiting lists that are months long, so it’s wise to hop on this trend before the new year.
4. Use Video Advertising
According to a study done by eMarketer, video ad spending will grow to a whopping $14.89 billion in 2021. In fact, one-third of shoppers will purchase an item after seeing a video ad. This shows the influence videos can have on buyer decisions.
Platforms like Instagram and Facebook, that were once photo-centric have now turned into feeds filled with videos. Advertisers have found that videos are much more effective in pushing customers to convert.
Studies show that 76% of adults in the US, UK and Australia have purchased a product after viewing a video. Video advertisements are especially great for interactive products such as makeup and toys. Video makes it easier for companies to really highlight the benefits and features of their products, which explains the large push towards this tactic.
Despite the proven effectiveness of video marketing, many companies still fail to use the tactic. This means if you add video marketing into your own marketing strategy you may be able to get a leg up on your competition. Many companies avoid video marketing due to the daunting upfront cost of producing video content. Sure, it may not be as affordable as snapping a quick photo and posting it to your company Instagram, but the benefits far exceed the costs.
Video also gives you a better chance to convey your story. It can be tricky to get your message across through photo or text, but using video allows you to tell stories through both sight and sound which makes it easier to connect to your viewer on an emotional level.
Start slowly adding videos in your different social channels, such as Instagram and LinkedIn. Give them a few days and then see how these videos are performing. If you notice an uptick in engagement or views, consider making video marketing a substantial part of your 2021 marketing plans.
Image source: emarketer.com
5. Add a Chatbot To Your Website
Artificial intelligence (AI) has exploded in growth in the last few years. AI helps eliminate repetitive marketing processes and allows teams to focus on more important tasks. Due to the discovery of AI’s many benefits, 2021 will be a year that many companies start to implement it into their marketing efforts.
One section of AI that is expected to rapidly grow is automated chatbots. In the past, customer service associates were hired to resolve any questions or problems that arose. Customers would have to wait on the phone to receive an answer to their issue, which proved to be an inefficient and sometimes frustrating process. Although some companies still rely fully on traditional customer service methods such as phone calls or email, many companies have made the transition to chatbots. While some people prefer talking to a real person, AI is becoming so good that many people can no longer tell the difference.
New artificial intelligence is smart enough to figure out answers to questions that aren’t even programmed into their system. Technology is reaching the point that it can actually outsmart humans. These extremely advanced AI systems are expected to take over due to the many benefits they provide.
AI chatbots are available 24/7 – the same can’t be said about a human. Plus, chatbots are a far more economically friendly choice. While the upfront cost can be daunting, they don’t require a salary or benefits like humans do, which means that in the long run they are far more cost-effective.
With 75-90% of all queries expected to be handled by chatbots by 2022, it is imperative that your company follows the lead. Chatbots are going to become the new standard for the customer service experience, and the last thing you want is for your company to fall behind.
Recent developments in AI have also allowed users to synchronize their chatbot across multiple platforms. For example, the chatbot you use on your website to answer simple queries can also automate answers on your Facebook messenger or Twitter direct messages. This allows customers to have a consistent experience no matter which platform they contact you on.
With chatbots becoming increasingly popular, customers are going to begin seeking them out on sites when they have a question. If your site doesn’t have a chatbot and only offers traditional customer service options, this very well may lead a frustrated customer to look elsewhere for a product or service. Buyers expect a seamless customer experience and chatbots are going to be part of what makes up that experience.
It is important to use a chatbot that is aligned with your customer preferences. Consider starting with a very basic chatbot service. Find one that will answer frequently asked questions and can provide basic services to your customers. If you notice your customers are having positive experiences with the chatbot, it’s time to consider upgrading to a more intelligent bot that can answer complex questions.
All in all, each year always brings about new trends and strategies for marketers to implement. Consumer tastes change by the day which means the best marketing tactics are constantly changing as well.
The key to success is keeping yourself informed and allowing your marketing strategy to be flexible. With the frequency of change in the business world, your marketing plan should never be something that is set in stone. Don’t be afraid to jump on a new trend – you never know what strategy might be the perfect fit for your business.
About the author: Ryan Gould is Vice President of Strategy and Marketing Services at Elevation Marketing. From legacy Fortune 100 institutions to inventive start-ups, Ryan brings extensive experience with a wide range of B2B clients.