Almost a century has passed since the advent of radio gave birth to digital marketing. Today, digital marketing is more popular and necessary than any other time in its history. But, due to the constantly changing landscape, staying up to date and relevant in the digital age isn’t an easy task.
As digital marketing agencies begin preparing for 2021, it’s essential to evaluate the success and shortcomings of current trends and technologies. Content marketing, segmentation, and AI-powered personalized communication have made significant strides in 2020, and industry leaders are predicting these trends will evolve in 2021. If you want any hope of meeting the challenges of the future, you must start preparing your digital marketing strategy now.
It’s no secret that 2020 was a tumultuous year for digital marketing. Between the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis, marketing budgets were dramatically slashed and innovation put on hold. At the same time, the current global situation has helped to re-establish the importance of a strong online presence. However, with limited resources at their disposal, digital marketers must be more productive and efficient as they prepare for digital marketing in 2021 and beyond.
Why You Must Prepare for the Future Now
In short, the COVID-19 pandemic devastated the digital advertising industry. Across the board, brands slashed their marketing budgets, and with the global recession looming on the horizon, many businesses decided to put their digital marketing strategies on the backburner. Like a viral TikTok dance, uncertainty was (and to a degree still is) everywhere.
If economic recovery feels overwhelming, know that you’re not alone. The whole world is struggling to find its footing, and the digital marketing industry is no exception. But, a comeback is possible.
How you adjust your business strategy for 2021 will affect your success for years to come. To ensure economic recovery, you must base your digital marketing strategy on the right trends and start preparing for the future now. Brands and businesses who wait until “things go back to normal” are running the risk of waiting themselves into bankruptcy.
This year reminded the digital marketing industry that, since it’s impossible to fully know what the future will bring, it’s imperative to position yourself to adapt and embrace change. Doing so starts with looking at current trends and technologies.
Podcasts and Webinars
Digital marketing may have gotten its start with advertisements on the radio, but this traditional type of advertising is on its way out. Today, consumers want to discover brands through stories that make content marketing an important part of your online strategy. From blog posts and video to podcasts and webinars, content marketing is set to be a foundational element of the digital marketing landscape for years to come.
One of the main reasons content marketing is a trend with staying power is that this strategy works for businesses of all budgets. In comparison to traditional marketing efforts, content marketing costs significantly less and yields more promising results. For example, small businesses with blogs generated 126% more leads than small businesses without them.
So, what kind of content should you be marketing with? Many digital marketers are putting their resources toward creating videos in response to 50% of customers saying they prefer video content over all other types of advertising. However, video is far from your only option. Both creation and consumption are on the rise for podcasts and webinars. One digital marketing trend that could gain traction in 2021 is content creators shifting podcasts and webinars from free to paid as they provide more value and demand increases.
Segmentation and Targeting
According to a Search Engine Watch survey, around 24% of respondents said they were laid off due to COVID-19. With these numbers in mind, it’s no wonder that marketing automation services are gaining popularity. Layoffs and cutbacks are forcing digital marketing teams to prepare for the future with fewer staff. To fill in the gaps and keep up with increasing workloads, automation is invaluable.
In addition to helping to streamline tasks and processes, automation and AI can provide critical customer insights. For example, the proper targeting and segmentation paired with critical thinking skills will assist you in providing more personalized marketing that specifically addresses people’s needs. The days of a one-size-fits-all digital marketing approach are rapidly coming to an end. From tracking how visitors interact with your website to monitoring email open rates, tracking customer insights with the ultimate end goal of segmentation and targeting is imperative to a results-yielding digital marketing strategy.
One trend to keep an eye on and potentially test out in 2021 is social listening. Successful digital marketers know that the more information they have about their target audience the better, and social listening tracks what consumers are saying about your brands and industry on social media for better segmentation, targeting, and personalization. Utilizing AI, you can track keywords, mentions, and topics to help you predict consumers’ needs and behaviors.
Chatbots and Personalized Communication
As with automation, the rise of chatbots in 2020 is part of an industry effort to work smarter and not harder. By 2022, digital marketing experts predict that chatbots will save businesses more than $8 billion annually. But, saving on labor costs is just one part of the equation. Perhaps even more importantly, chatbots are extremely useful in helping to provide the personalized communication that consumers have come to expect from brands and businesses.
Thanks to technological advancements, chatbots are now able to perform a variety of customer service tasks. Using AI, chatbots can answer frequently asked questions in a consistently polite manner. The longer they’re on the job, the more they learn and the better service they provide. Regardless of your specific business, embracing technology is a crucial part of preparing for the future.
One day soon (and, in some cases, that day is here already), chatbots will be able to provide better customer service and more personalized communication than human representatives. Investing in the technology now will allow you to put those financial and personnel resources to use elsewhere while also making a move that is sure to benefit customers.
The Future of Digital Marketing
From chatbots and social listening to up-and-coming types of content, preparing for the future starts with examining current digital marketing trends. With a firm grasp on today’s trends and technologies, you can make a plan for how you will adapt your digital marketing strategy in 2021 and beyond. While COVID-19 has reminded the industry that the future is unpredictable, it’s also emphasized the importance of having a flexible approach built upon productive and efficient tactics.
Bio: Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of subjects but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to business productivity, marketing strategies, and talent acquisition. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.