6 Digital Marketing Trends to follow in 2021

If 2020 was the year of coronavirus, 2021 will be the year in which the responses and new behaviours that have emerged following the spread of the pandemic are consolidated. In this article, we list 6 marketing trends and some important considerations to keep in mind in order to set up an effective marketing strategy in 2021.

Every year we look forward to the global report on Digital put together by We Are Social and Hootsuite. A report that we can define as the bible of digital marketing – pages and pages of statistics and data that show the ways in which people around the world use the Internet, social networks and e-commerce.

The reason why we look forward to reading this report is not only because it offers us a truly comprehensive overview of all the major digital channels, both globally and nationally, but also because these data allow us to understand the trends that will drive digital marketing in the coming months.

This year, as well, the two hundred and ninety-nine pages of the 2021 report did not disappoint.

Below we present what, in our opinion, are the most interesting data, from which we have extrapolated 6 digital marketing trends and other useful considerations to keep in mind when setting up our marketing strategy for 2021.

1) Search behaviours are changing

Already last year, when we analysed the 2020 trends, we found that voice search was growing exponentially.

This year’s data confirm this trend, with 45.3% of internet users using voice search and voice commands.

We had already explained the consequences of this but let’s brush up on it: if we want to get a good ranking within the SERP, our contents will have to be increasingly optimized for voice search, as well. How to do that? Let’s start by using conversational keywords, therefore closer to the spoken language, and proximity keywords, thus taking advantage of Local SEO; let’s make sure our site loads quickly and that structured data communicate the correct information to search engines.

Another very interesting fact to take into consideration is that 32.9% of internet users use (from mobile) image recognition tools, that is, artificial intelligence systems capable of identifying a specific image and returning precise information about it.

With marketing increasingly dominated by visual elements, the importance of this trend is clear: ignoring image recognition tools would deprive us of a wealth of important data about user behaviour.

Finally, the report shows that 44.8% of users search for information on brands on social media: the confirmation (if by chance we still had some doubts) of how social networks are now a fundamental touchpoint for any business, to update and monitor in the same way (if not more) than others.

2) Social media usage is growing but a more strategic approach is needed

Speaking of social media, it is interesting to note that, compared to last year, there was a growth in their use by 13%, bringing the total of social media users to 4.2 billion, with a daily average time spent using social media of 2 hours and 23 minutes.

But there are also two other data that I found particularly interesting.

The first is that 40.4% of internet users use social media for business purposes, a figure that includes their use for networking and to follow business contacts, entrepreneurs or business people. Further proof of how fundamental they are for the business.

The second figure to consider is that each internet user has an average of 8.4 social accounts. This does not mean that they are all actively used nor that there is a monthly usage of all the accounts. However, this data leads to a conclusion: user overlaps are highly likely. While it shouldn’t come as a surprise, it’s clear how marketers need to keep this in mind when planning content as well as when deciding on which platforms to be.

The data show, in fact, that being present on one or two of the largest platforms gives us the chance of potentially reaching almost all social media users in the world.

3) Concerns about privacy and the use of personal data is growing

33.1% of internet users worldwide have expressed concerns about the use of their personal data online by companies.

If this figure seems inconsequential to you, just think that the announcement, at the beginning of January, of a change in the privacy policy of WhatsApp, which would favour the transmission of personal data to Facebook, caused the escape of millions of users from the messaging app (in favour of Signal and Telegram, which earned 7.5 and 25 million new users respectively in three weeks). This exodus forced WhatsApp to delay the implementation of the new terms, initially scheduled for February 8, and to release a series of FAQs to better explain the matter.

Another sign of the change that is taking place in terms of privacy comes from Google, which has announced the elimination of third-party cookies on Chrome by 2022. Although this will not put an end to the tracking of personal data (but more likely it will entail a change in the way it is performed), it is clear that this decision is the sign of an increasingly widespread commitment by platforms towards greater transparency in the use of personal data.

All this will cause significant changes in digital advertising technologies starting this year, with programmatic advertising platforms that will have to reinvent themselves based on the new rules.

It is equally clear that this greater transparency in data processing will also be required to companies and anyone doing business online.

4) Mobile’s share of traffic grows but let’s not dismiss multi-device strategies

With 4.3 billion users accessing the internet from mobile devices (basically over 90% of all internet users), it is clear that the future of internet use is on mobile.

In this regard, Google as well has taken a stand, announcing the Mobile Indexing First update that, starting from March 2021, will make all the content optimized only for desktop disappear from the SERP. In a nutshell, we will have to guarantee the same qualitative experience for both desktop and mobile users.

But let’s not make the mistake of forgoing other navigation devices: if it is true that mobile devices hold a share of 52.8% of the daily time spent online, it is equally clear that other devices still play an important role, especially computers. Therefore, excluding them from our marketing strategies would be a mistake.

5) E-commerce is growing and embracing all generations

Forced lockdowns and travel difficulties have given e-commerce a momentum: according to Global Web Index data, 90.4% of users visited an online retail store in the past month and 76.8% purchased a product.

However, not all categories performed equally. If we look at the annual growth by category, we find a great rise in the Food & Personal Care sector (+ 41%) and Fashion & Beauty (+ 27%), while the Travel, Mobily & Accommodation sector, which usually comprises the highest revenue, predictably recorded a -51%.

If we take a closer look at the data, two other trends that we had encountered when talking about social media trends 2021 are confirmed: the growth of the gaming category and the important role played by Baby Boomers in the purchase dynamics.

Not only are internet users of the Baby Boomers generation only marginally less inclined to use e-commerce than other younger generations but they are also very active in playing video games, a sector that has experienced a strong growth, with 86.9% of internet users playing regularly, recording a + 23% in the e-commerce category.

Therefore, as already discussed, these data confirm a series of opportunities that marketers will have to be able to seize: the inclusion of the often-snubbed Baby Boomers generation in communication strategies and the creation of new formats that gives a nod to the gaming world.

6) The rise of podcasts continues

At this point the question arises: what exactly do we do online, besides buying food and clothes or playing video games? What are the contents we consume the most?

Compared to 2020 there are no big surprises: 90.6% of internet users watch videos, 73.2% listen to music in streaming.

The figure that recorded an increase is that relating to the listening of podcasts, which goes from 41% to 44.1%, confirming the growing trend of this format. According to a study by Edison Research and Triton Digital, podcast listeners in the US alone grew by 37.5% in 3 years.

These data open up new perspectives for marketers, who can add this format to the contents to offer to their audience to communicate their brand and products but also to provide an authoritative point of view within their reference sector.

Summing up

If 2020 was the year of coronavirus, 2021 will be the year in which the responses and new behaviours that have emerged following the spread of the pandemic are consolidated.

On a digital level, this means not only taking note of the new dynamics of use of digital tools that we have analysed in this article so far, but also preparing to accept that many of these changes will last.

Many companies will adopt a more flexible working system, in which working from home will remain a valid and often preferred option. This will entail innovations in terms of products and services to support those who work remotely, especially when it comes to communication and team building.

The coronavirus pandemic has also exacerbated an already well-known problem: the spread of disinformation and fake news, which worries 56.4% of online users. While most digital platforms have already taken action against it, an ongoing strong response to counter disinformation will still be expected.

In the context of widespread uncertainty generated by the pandemic, some sectors have attracted the attention of the general public: health, finance and education. Experts expect that these sectors will continue to offer innovative solutions and services to meet the new needs in terms of physical and mental wellbeing, insurance and distance learning.

Finally, in an increasingly politicized digital landscape, which has opened the pandora’s box on ethical issues related to privacy, data, communication and free speech online, we are getting closer to the showdown on antitrust regulations between governments and the Big Tech like Google, Facebook and Amazon. As the author of the Digital 2021 report Simon Kemp wrote, the real question here is whether the Tech Giants will wait for governments to make the first move or if they will beat them to it, changing the scenario on their own terms.

What do you think of these digital trends? Let us know in the comment section below and contact us to learn about our communication and marketing services.

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After graduating in Languages at the Università degli Studi di Milano, my interest and curiosity towards the digital world led me to pursue a career in this field and to get a Specializing Master in Digital Marketing. Today, I am responsible for the definition and application of marketing and communication strategies for both EOS and the ipcm® magazines. In my free time I travel, I read a lot and I binge-watch TV series. A place to visit at least once in your life: Oman. Must read: Lehman Trilogy by Stefano Massini. What you should binge-watch next: Mr. Robot.

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