Top Marketing Trends to Follow in 2021

5 min read • Jan 27, 2021 • Derek Miller

Innovation is an important characteristic of successful businesses. Whether creating new products or exploring uncharted markets, the business owners who aren’t afraid of taking risks are often the same ones dominating industries.

While 2020 has been tough on most businesses, the pandemic shouldn’t prevent you from looking ahead to 2021 and its new opportunities to innovate within your business. Marketing is one of the best departments for innovation—and with the year coming to a close, it’s a great time to start assessing marketing trends.

Here are 5 key marketing trends to consider while planning your strategy for 2021.

1. Some Brands Need to Rethink Their Pricing and Markets

Effective business operations rely on having a balanced marketing mix, or following the “4 Ps” of marketing (price, place, product, and promotion). As brands enter 2021, they may need to reconsider these aspects of their business plan in order to bring consumers back and convince them to spend more. 

To get an idea of how various industries have been affected by COVID-19, McKinsey and Co. conducted a survey to see whether consumers plan to spend more, less, or the same on different products because of the pandemic. Out of 34 consumer-spending categories, only 2 maintained a net positive: groceries and at-home entertainment. 

Even as vaccine distribution begins and the pandemic ends, some industries may take years to rebound, from jewelry and luxury goods to travel. If brands want to make money in the short run, they may need to adjust their messaging, pricing, or products. 

For example, Visit Florida pivoted in September 2020 to market to in-state residents to travel locally instead of encouraging people from other states to visit during the pandemic. It’s safer (and less stressful on the wallet) for residents to take day trips or weekend getaways a few towns over. 

2. Marketing Messages Will Focus on Helping Customers

Almost every person was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in some way, whether they knew someone who had the virus or lost income because of government lockdowns. 

Consumers want to know how companies are going to help them—not what companies need from them. In 2021, brand messaging will continue to have a customer focus, and brands will adjust their resources to provide better customer experiences. 

In its 2021 Global Marketing Trends report, Deloitte found some key insights that indicated the connection between customer behavior and corporate profits:

  • 52% of consumers can name at least 1 brand that pivoted to provide better service during the pandemic.
  • 82% of consumers say that this improved service led them to do more business with that brand. 
  • 25% of consumers who noticed brands acting in their own self-interest walked away from those brands. 

Your customers are paying attention to your actions and messaging during this time. The marketing choices you make this year will determine whether people stay loyal to your brand or turn away from it. 

3. Consumers Will Force Brands to Go Digital

This past year, more consumers went digital. People who were previously averse to trying out new tools and apps downloaded them in droves, from grocery-delivery software to virtual banking apps. The companies that anticipated this online trend have thrived, as well as low-tech companies that quickly adopted high-tech solutions. 

“Companies of all sizes are investing significantly in the migration to digital platforms, including e-commerce, chatbots, email, apps, artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, omnichannel marketing, and augmented and virtual reality,” Kent Lewis writes at SmartBrief.

You don’t have to manage a large enterprise or have a significant budget to go digital, especially in your marketing efforts. Using predictive analytics can help you to target your marketing messages better while investing in automated emails and chatbots can improve your customer service experience.  

4. Video Continues to Dominate Content Teams

Year after year, the consumer hunger for video content remains insatiable. In 2020, Instagram debuted its new Reels feature and Twitter launched “Fleets” to compete with the “Stories” on other channels. TikTok also continues to grow in popularity with quick video content. (Even NPR has a TikTok account.)

According to HubSpot’s 2020 Not Another Marketing Report, which surveyed over 3,400 marketers, video content is the primary form of media that marketers will invest in this year, beating out e-books, blogs, infographics, and case studies. Despite the rise of other video channels on social media, Facebook continues to be the primary target for this video content. 

While video content is still popular, it’s important to note that it was a close race between preferred types of content for the respondents asked. Many companies have a diverse content strategy with a variety of tactics where both written and visual content work together to market to customers. 

5. Voice Search Will Become Even More Widely Used

During the lockdown portion of the pandemic, many people had only themselves and their virtual assistants to talk to. Alexa and Siri became close friends to many when restaurants and nightclubs were shut down. As people move into 2021, they’re more likely to keep using voice search, which has real SEO and SEM ripple effects for brands. 

About 40% of consumers use voice search on their phones, while 7% have a voice assistant on a speaker (and 6% use both). You can expect to see more companies invest in SEO efforts to accommodate full sentences that reflect the queries asked of these digital helpers. You can also expect to see more completed sentences in your SEM efforts, like Google and Bing Ads.

Plan Your Marketing Strategy Now

The pandemic has been part of our daily lives for almost an entire year now. While there’s hope that it’ll end in 2021, brands still need to live with the reality of COVID-19 and know how the virus will impact their customers’ social and economic lives. You may not know what the future holds this year, but you can take steps to be ready for different situations and guide your customers to try out your products.

Derek Miller

Derek Miller is the CMO of Smack Apparel, the content guru at Great.com, and a marketing consultant for small businesses. He specializes in entrepreneurship, small business, and digital marketing, and his work has been featured in sites like Entrepreneur, GoDaddy, Score.org, and StartupCamp.