Digital Marketing Trends for 2021

2020 has been downright strange in too many ways to mention. As this overall strangeness translates to the marketing realm, the notion of the ever-changing digital marketing landscape has never been more applicable.

This year in particular, it feels especially important to examine the trends and developments that took place in digital marketing and social media. In 2020, we have seen unprecedented news stories hit our feeds; from a global pandemic to civil disruption and natural disasters. In these turbulent times, digital marketing has required a great deal of tact and sensitivity.  Above all, the ability to read the room is an overarching essential atop everything compiled here.

That being said, we have listed 5 Key Digital Marketing Trends that are on the upswing as we transition into 2021. Many companies are already capitalising on these trends successfully, and with proper strategy and execution, you can too.

The Rise of Social Commerce

Amidst the pandemic, a swell in both online shopping and social media usage has created the perfect storm for social commerce to flourish. COVID-19 has impacted far more than the way we socialise and interact. It has altered the way we work, the way we travel and most importantly for consumer brands, the way we buy. Lockdown measures have accelerated the shift to ecommerce by 5 years and social commerce is riding along with that wave.

Most brands have already embraced digital and consumers are largely accustomed to buying online. With people spending more time than ever on social media, the stage has been set for a huge spike in social commerce. But what exactly will that look like?

A primary appeal of social commerce is hyper-personalisation. For brands, one of the key success factors is knowing how to harness and analyse social data to produce relevant, personalised content and shopping experiences. As 2020 comes to a close, the global social commerce market now weighs in at a hefty $89.4B. It’s crazy to think that we are still in the very early stages of this realm with the market forecasted to cross $600B by 2027. From these statistics, it’s clear that brands who act now will be poised to capitalise on this massive tailwind, while those that don’t risk being left in the dust.

Ephemeral Content

Ephemeral content refers to any media that’s only accessible for a limited period of time before disappearing. This content can take many forms, but usually consists of images and videos. Raw, unfiltered content is now overtaking picture perfect newsfeed posts as the preferred format to engage with. This year, stories and other ephemeral content have continued to explode in popularity across social channels. The disappearing content format has come a full-fledged engagement powerhouse across multiple platforms. Initially beginning with Snapchat; Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, LinkedIn and Twitter have all jumped onboard the ephemeral content train and it’s not looking to slow down any time soon. An overwhelming 88.6% of social media users now post stories on Instagram and 70% view stories daily.

The posts and ads that run in the ephemeral space tend to be more down to earth than the glossy perfectionism we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in the newsfeed. This approach can be a major brand builder with 62% of people indicating that they have become more interested in a product or brand after seeing it featured in a story. Many companies are successfully leveraging this trend, with businesses making up one-third of the top viewed stories on Instagram.

Instagram is leading the pack as the #1 most used story product in the world but other platforms are eager to claim a slice of that pie. In September 2020, Pinterest aimed to get in on the stories-style action with the release of Story Pins, but with one notable difference. Story Pins are not technically ephemeral as they don’t disappear after 24 hours. Rather, they can be saved like regular pins and discovered over time via search.

So, what is it about this type of content that has caused it to gain so much traction? For starters, ephemeral content, by design, is fast-paced and fleeting, creating more opportunities to interact with followers and nurture the relationship with your audience. Stories are also more casual and less staged, allowing the freedom to present yourself in an authentic light.

Video Formats

Video continues to be an essential online medium and now new formats are allowing for increased interactivity and engagement.  For years, video has been steadily rising as the dominant form of online content. But it’s not just video that’s on the rise. Technology is expanding the number of video formats available - increasing engagement, heightening user expectations and allowing brands to cut through the noise more effectively than with other visual content.

Today, it’s not enough to simply talk about video as it now comes in so many different shapes and sizes. We are talking personalised video, shoppable video, animated video, stories… the list goes on. This explosion of new formats has not only changed the way brands utilise video but it has also elevated consumer expectations. Innovation, creativity and interactive storytelling are a must if brands want to keep their viewers engaged and enhance their video marketing footprint. Consumers have now come to expect brands to use video in their social content, with video getting ever-more engagement on social networks.

Did you know that among millennials and Gen Z, 25% look for stories of the products and services they’re interested in buying? To reiterate, stories don’t need to have high production value. Rather, posting authentic and casual video clips can actually resonate with your customers even more.

When assessing video statistics, particularly on social media, it’s important to note that not all views are necessarily quality views. A study found that 78.2% of all Facebook video views were autoplays. This is indicative that not all views are created equal and with attention spans at an all-time low, brands must strive to create truly compelling video content that hooks the viewer within the first few seconds. Furthermore, studies have shown a sharp drop-off in video engagement around the two-minute mark. So, when it comes to creating videos, the notion of short and sweet seems to be the prevailing theme.

As we move into 2021, there’s no doubt that video will remain an essential tool in the digital marketing toolbox. As consumers demand more video content, marketers must ask themselves how today’s video format evolution can be used to accelerate their customer journey. The answer won’t be simple or the same for every single brand but it’s the key to unlocking the full potential of video marketing both now and in the future.  

Data Privacy

What do Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z all have in common? They all care passionately about what companies do with their data. Privacy is on everyone’s mind and the pandemic has only accelerated these concerns, which marked 2020 as a significant year for data management.

As businesses face new technological challenges amid the pandemic, the topic of privacy has drawn an increasingly bright spotlight. By the end of 2019, a firm majority of consumers were uncomfortable with the way social media companies were using their personal data. Since then, this sensitivity regarding data privacy has only been growing and companies are responding accordingly.

In January 2020, Google shook up the marketing world by announcing its plan to phase out third-party cookies in Chrome by 2022. In doing so, Chrome will join Safari and Firefox, who have already blocked third-party cookies. On top of that, Apple announced that come 2021, Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) which is used for marketing attribution, will not track mobile users who haven’t expressly opted in. That, by popular demand, consumers are finally gaining more control over their personal information and the trail of data they leave online.

2020 has seen rapid growth in the market for Customer Data Platforms and this trend will continue to extend through 2021. Why? Fragmented data from disconnected sources poses a significant challenge for data-driven organisations. Given this, the need for unified cohesive customer data has become a mission-critical endeavour.

The recent uproar surrounding TikTok’s potential threats to data privacy has made people even more aware and suspicious of what their smartphone apps can access. This is leading more people to demand greater privacy, especially in the social media sphere. As the TikTok headlines spurred a new focus on data privacy from an international standpoint, there’s a good chance we’ll be seeing some regulatory policies sprout from this.

As 2020 comes to an end, companies need to have privacy at the forefront of their digital marketing mentality and gameplay. The ecosystem is being rebuilt from the ground up, with trust and transparency making up two of its core pillars. Marketers will have to go back to the drawing board and start rethinking the new stream of brand revenue in a post-cookie world. But those that embrace this shift can position themselves to succeed, as regulatory measures will make it a level playing field for everyone.

Niche Social Media Platforms

Branching out and building a presence on niche networks can be the key to unlocking valuable new audiences. Social media evolves rapidly, yet a handful of social channels have consistently dominated over the past several years, giving the appearance of stability. But even with this dominance in the top five social media platforms, you should never get too comfortable in social media marketing. Yes, Instagram and Facebook are powerhouses but TikTok came out of nowhere in the back half of 2019 and soared to 800 million active users in 2020 - illustrating the importance of staying agile.

Previously, the assumption had been that, when it comes to social media, you should focus on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. However, the explosion of TikTok has reignited the topic of how to use niche platforms outside of the top 5 to strategically reach new audiences. Up and coming channels can provide opportunities to tap into fresh segments while also harbouring a unique culture that allows you to reach your target audience in creative new ways.

Diversifying across social media channels doesn’t mean copy and pasting the same post on each platform. Rather, it’s about understanding the differences between platforms then tailoring your strategy accordingly. Your content should depend on the interests, demographics and culture within each social channel which will make going this extra mile in social media efforts truly worthwhile.  

Getting in on the ground floor of newer platforms means it’ll be easier to rise through the ranks before the platform gets too crowded. You’ll have less competition and therefore more opportunity to reach your intended audience. That being said, it is also important to acknowledge when your brand doesn’t align with a given platform. Not every company needs to be on every social channel. At the end of the day, a certain degree of marketing intuition will be required.

Now that you know the ins and outs of fleeting content, data privacy and personalised campaigns, you have the knowledge you need to raise your game in the digital marketing realm in 2021. If you’re interested in developing a creative strategy backed by numbers and leveraging your existing data to better position yourself in the market, please send us an enquiry form. We’d love to hear from you!

More from the blog.

View All
Sep 22, 2023

Optimising Digital Marketing With Artificial Intelligence

The role of AI has grown tremendously over the years, so let’s dive right into AI marketing, future trends and its role of being an essential tool.

Read more
Aug 22, 2023

The Intern Diaries: What I Learnt At TwentyTwo Digital

Gaining experience before entering the industry as an intern is extremely important and provides you with a valuable skillset and marketing knowledge. Let's hear from our intern, Kacy, about her experience at TwentyTwo!

Read more
Jul 13, 2023

Social Media Updates You Need To Know

With so many social media changes, it's hard to keep up with what's hot and what's not. Let's dive to the biggest social media updates for 2023 so far!

Read more