Whether it's fashion, music, or even colors, trends are a great way to explore the zeitgeist of the times and serve as a starting point for your own creative and strategic endeavors for the new year.

And marketing trends are no exception. 2020 brought a year of great unpredictability and change — especially in marketing. Globally, businesses have been asked to adapt at speed, collaborate from dispersed locations, and communicate with their customers at a new speed. No matter the size of your business, being up to date with marketing trends is a must if you want to craft a successful marketing plan and grow your company to its full potential. Whether you own a start-up, a brick-and-mortar shop, or a small business, it’s important to connect with your audience and meet them where they are.

In this article, we explore marketing trends for 2021 that the experts are deploying and how they've adapted in response to the global pandemic and new consumption patterns.

Marketing trends 2021

01. Content marketing

While content marketing is not a new idea, content marketing remains at a critical mainstay within marketing plans across the globe. With the decline of field marketing — due to COVID-19 restrictions — helpful content with purpose is proving to be an effective way for businesses to drive valuable website traffic.

This is also aligned with Google's consistently improving algorithm. Google is getting smarter and delivering a deeper understanding of online content. And marketers are rethinking the way they tailor content in 2021. The focus is now on brand context and precise targeting. There's a new algorithm in Google town, the BERT system, that can understand “natural language” in Google searches. Their recommendation is marketers should center their efforts on crafting in-depth, current, accurate, and well-written content. That’s what the algorithm is giving preference to.

This was also a finding that came out of the 2021 The Executive Marketing Leadership Survey(opens in a new tab or window)where 500 marketing leaders shared how they have adjusted their investments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how they are planning to succeed in the new year.

One way to scale up your content creation is to include visuals in your blog’s long articles to break up the text. Explore Canva blog templates(opens in a new tab or window) and extraordinary collections of curated photos(opens in a new tab or window).

02. Investment in design

Building your brand for a digital-first audience also requires an investment in quality design. No matter what channel you use to promote your message or campaign, consistent design and branding is the easiest way to continue to build visual brand awareness across all your channels.

03. Personalization in marketing

In the digital landscape, if you really want to connect with your customers, a one-size-fits-all approach isn't as effective. That is why personalization — with the support of marketing technology — is positioned to be a big trend this year.

Emails, social media ads and content will get increasingly personal thanks to advanced segmentation methods. Tapping into visitors behaviors and interactions on websites is easier now, so it will be simpler to serve them content based on their niche interests.

You could start by segmenting your user list based on user behavior, purchase history, or other customer interactions so you can send hyper-focused marketing messages. It's what the experts call KYC, after Know Your Customer.

Email is a great way to get on the personalization trend. Get started with one of Canva’s email newsletter templates, like the White and Black Minimalist Tropical Email Newsletter(opens in a new tab or window) or the Light Green Fashion Email Newsletter(opens in a new tab or window).

04. Chatbot marketing

Chatbots, have been around since 2018 and are set to continue to grow further as a marketing mainstay in 2021. Chatbots or bots are the artificial intelligence software that can act as a customer service representative or “concierge.” The benefits are obvious:they are operational 24/7, offer instant answers to queries, and don’t go on vacation. And, with time, they can learn to predict customer needs. “AI is improving chatbots to the point where it’s impossible to tell you’re not talking to a human being and I think this will have a huge impact on marketing,” says Adam Hempenstall, founder and CEO of Better Proposals(opens in a new tab or window).

“AI is improving chatbots to the point where it’s impossible to tell you’re not talking to a human being.”

Chatbots are a great way to offer a high level of customer service to your website visitors. Consider driving traffic to your site via Facebook ads. Get started with one of Canva’s Facebook ad templates, like the Neat Icons Facebook(opens in a new tab or window) Ad or the Sydney Skyline Facebook Ad(opens in a new tab or window).

05. Email marketing

Email continues to be a major marketing channel, but it's moving from generic messages to a more interesting space with the application of personalization. Since email is the final stage to motivate action and retain customers, it is most effectively used alongside remarketing techniques and value-based content.

06. Martech - AI, AR, Automation

Living at the intersection of marketing and technology, here’s a new marketing term, Martech. Martech refers to the software and tech tools marketers leverage to plan, execute, and measure marketing campaigns. It includes cutting-edge technology like artificial intelligence, augmented reality, automation, and machine learning, the ability of computers to improve with experience.

Artificial intelligence. From programmatic advertising, to chatbots, email personalization, and interactive content, artificial intelligence is a force at the heart of many global industries and companies already. “Artificial intelligence is the biggest commercial opportunity for companies, industries, and nations over the next few decades” says Techgrabyte(opens in a new tab or window).

“Artificial intelligence is the biggest commercial opportunity for companies, industries, and nations over the next few decades.”

Augmented reality. While we’ve been hearing about virtual reality (VR) in the entertainment and travel industries, AR is much more visible and commercially beneficial in marketing.

Brands are continuing to use this technology to enhance their consumer experience and trigger sales. L’Oréal was a pioneer when it launched its Makeup Genius app in 2015, that allows customers to try different colors and make up options, without stepping into a store. Since then L’Oréal has acquired Modiface, the software company that developed its app.

Another good use of AR as a martech application is IKEA Place(opens in a new tab or window), which allows users to take a picture of a room in their home and “test” IKEA’s furniture in it.

Automation. Gartner, the global research consultancy firm, predicts that by 2020 over 40% of data science tasks will be automated. By accessing and analysing the enormous amounts of big data that businesses have at their fingerprints, they will be able to refine their marketing tactics across marketing channels.

Developing your own AR technology is an investment. But you could partner with a VR or AR platform. You’ll need to put together a pitch of your idea. Get started with one of Canva’s presentation templates, like the Gold Grayscale Bigger Bolder Better Pitch Deck Presentation(opens in a new tab or window) or the Green Round Hot Neons Gradients (Cont.) Pitch Deck Presentation(opens in a new tab or window).

07. Live video

The power of online video(opens in a new tab or window) compared to text-based content is indisputable. Hopefully it's already part of your media plan. Now, you should consider live streaming video. That sense of anticipation and urgency, can render higher conversion rates among your users. If you pair live video with a partner micro-influencers (the new crop of influencers in niche digital spaces), you may attract a great deal of followers.

Instagram offers a great opportunity to connect with your audience live with their Instagram Live feature, which is part of Instagram Stories. Want to put your best (and most well-designed!) foot forward with Instagram Stories? Get started with one of Canva’s templates, like the Colorful Modern Countdown Instagram Story(opens in a new tab or window) or the Bisque and White Traditional Life Quote Instagram Story.

08. Social messaging marketing

While email and social media channels are here to stay, people are increasingly active on instant messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, and brands are already banking on that opportunity.

According to Statista, Facebook Messenger has 1.3 billion monthly users(opens in a new tab or window); while WhatsApp has reached 1.6 billion.

Marketing through Facebook Messenger generates 10 to 80 times(opens in a new tab or window) more engagement than organic posts on the Facebook News Feed, says Review42. Uses are many:from staying intouch, to delivering information and assistance, to inviting users to events. And keep an eye on Facebook brand new product, Facebook Messenger Rooms(opens in a new tab or window), launched in April, now operational on Instagram also, a new way to bring people together instantly, and another viable platform for brands to include video and interactive content.

09. Voice search and interaction marketing

Hey Siri…? Due to the proliferation of smart speakers or voice assistants like Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa, plus the human desire to connect via voice, verbal interaction with devices is increasing, and brands are taking note.

Digital Marketing Institute(opens in a new tab or window) suggests:“Adopting a voice search strategy isn't just about remaining relevant – it’s also about creating a unique and optimized customer experience that will foster relationships and build brand loyalty.”

“Adopting a voice search strategy isn't just about remaining relevant – it’s also about creating a unique and optimized customer experience that will foster relationships and build brand loyalty.”

Right now, brands in many different verticals, from beverages to package goods and financial services, are using voice search and voice interaction successfully to enrich their customer experience, like tequila Patron which allows users to access personalized cocktail recipes.

Marketers should remember to write in a conversational tone, using keywords that people will speak rather than type.

10. RCS marketing

Welcome to the new wave in SMS marketing:RCS Rich Communication Services, is aiming to replace SMS with a text-message system that can transmit multimedia, like photos, video, and audio, and even group messaging. Performance indicators among early adopters are impressive. “Subway [the fast food chain] sent promotions by RCS with detailed images and as a result, saw an astonishing 144% increase in redemption rate compared to the same promotion using SMS.” says Henry Cazalet, The SMS Works(opens in a new tab or window).

11. Interactive content

More engaging, more memorable, more dynamic, more fun. That is the direction of any type of content, anything that you can click on, swipe, or interact with. And cutting-edge marketing technology is here to help. This year we’ll see more quizzes and polls, augmented reality ads, flipbooks(opens in a new tab or window) and 360-degree videos.

12. Visual search and SEO

VSEO, here’s the new search user experience:now people can upload an image to conduct a search and get more specific results. Pinterest Lens, Google Lens, CamFind and Bing have already launched visual search tools.

Pinterest debuted Lens in 2017, allowing users to take a photo of an item and find out where to buy it online, search for similar products or view related pinboards. It's definitely a brilliant vehicle to search for highly visual products and services – from fashion, to food, art, beauty and travel.

Meanwhile, the old SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is changing into what the experts call Structure Data SEO. It’s data organized in a standardized format to make it easier for search engines to better understand the content and categorize it.

It can deliver a SEO boost(opens in a new tab or window), so your business could rank and appear in that coveted Position Zero, or featured snippet in Google, at the top of the search results – more on this later.

13. Social media marketing

Some social media platform users are getting older, like Facebook. Forbes says that 41% of its users are over the age of 65. Younger demographics are living in more visual and innovative channels like Instagram, Snapchat and the booming TikTok. Instagram, on the other hand, at over one billion users, is the preferred platform for the under 30 demographic. And definitely, consider YouTube(opens in a new tab or window) for your video marketing, a great platform with 2 billions unique users, it’s the second most visited site after Google.

If you want to dive deeper into social media content, read more on Canva’s article “How to create social media content.(opens in a new tab or window)

14. Social commerce marketing

With the rise of e-commerce and the growth of social media, shoppable ad posts are sprouting like mushrooms in people’s feeds.

It grants shoppers the instant gratification of shopping with a click while swiping through their feed. Since Instagram launched Instagram Checkout in 2019, the platform reports that 90% of its one billion users(opens in a new tab or window) already follow active shopping brands, a great way to stay in touch with potential customers.

15. Omnichannel marketing

Omnichannel marketing implements marketing across multiple platforms, taking by the hand your consumers through their purchase journey, for a richer user experience – your website, email, apps, social media. According to ClickZ(opens in a new tab or window), omnichannel marketing can deliver three times as much engagement as a single-channel plan.

The key is being able to keep a consistent and personalized voice, and understanding the needs and behaviors of your customers so they keep on coming to interact with your brand.

16. Deep learning analytics

As AI extends to all aspects of business and marketing, like R&D and production efficiencies, more and more organizations are developing customer data platforms to manage and analyze their behaviours.

Going further, Deep Learning Analytics, initially applied to fields like energy and defense, it’s appearing now in marketing and e-commerce research, providing understandable data-driven answers to research questions, working with better data, better machine learning, and better insights.

17. Privacy marketing

The red flag that comes with the collection of big data is a concern with privacy and security by customers. People want to trust brands and make sure their personal data is safe. Forbes(opens in a new tab or window) notes that brands will have to “‘earn' the contact information of their targets” rather than engage in mass marketing.

In the same vein, website security is non-negotiable in 2020. Since 2014, Google announced that poor website security impacts the ranking negatively in SEO. Sites are now branded unsafe unless they show the HTTPS certification in their url, the S meaning secure. Visitors see a green padlock in the url of the site.

Displaying a security seal of trust or trust badge on your website is another way to reassure your visitors that they can trust your site.

18. Quantum computing

A leading-edge technology based in quantum physics is making an appearance in marketing.

“Traditional computers store data in bits, which can exist in one of two states:one or zero. Quantum computers use a new unit of measurement, a quantum bit, that increases computational power. Gartner explains ““While a classic computer would read every book in a library in a linear fashion, a quantum computer would read all the books simultaneously. Quantum computers are able to theoretically work on millions of computations at once.”

19. SERP position zero

2019 marked the rise of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) position zero, or featured snippets, like this example of “how to grow herbs at home.”

More marketers will invest in SERP SEO, to optimize their web pages hoping to claim that coveted top spot to increase traffic to their site.

20. Branding marketing

Branding marketing is seeing a resurgence in the toolbox kit of marketing tactics. The goal is building a solid brand, with authority, that consumers feel close to and can trust.

Google is part of the reason this is happening, since it is now ranking according to the E.A.T. factor, for Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness, driving brands to deliver a richer customer experience through content.

According to Neil Patel, branding is what is separating companies from their competition. As examples of strong brands he mentions Nike, Ferrari, Tesla, American Express,... and Michael Jordan. “People buy Jordan shoes because they love Michael Jordan. His brand is stronger than ever even though he hasn’t played in the NBA for roughly 16 years.”

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