Omnichannel shopping has become the “new normal,” requiring a seamless and consistent consumer journey across digital channels and devices. Businesses must continue to embrace long-term digital transformation throughout 2021 as this will be critical to our economic recovery and business growth. Digital channels will help brands adapt to shifting customer needs and expectations as well as prepare for future industry disruption. Thus, eCommerce will remain front and center across the digital landscape next year. Digital Marketing strategies and creative content for 2021 should consider a 70/20/10 marketing approach with an eCommerce focus to stay aligned with changing consumer behaviors and meet customers wherever they are across the digital forefront. This means that 70% of marketing should be safe, standard initiatives that appeal to a larger audience, a solid 20% should be moderately risky in order to entice new audiences, and the remaining 10% of digital spends should be utilized for “experimental” opportunities that allow testing of the latest and greatest market offerings.
Several digital and marketing trends we expect to see in 2021 include:
Enhanced Website Search Function and Product Details
Since online shoppers do not have the ability to physically view, compare, or touch products, they will continue to rely heavily on information from search queries, product descriptions, and ratings and reviews. Consumers are spending more time browsing the web and discovering new products, so brands will need to create a strong online product presence throughout 2021 and provide local retailer information and inventory whenever possible.
Machine Learning (AI & AR) Opportunities
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) will enhance the eCommerce experience by offering personalized content as well as increasing conversions. With the ability to enrich communications, measure and analyze data in real-time, and track consumer behaviors, machine learning allows the most relevant digital content to be presented to the right customers at the right time. Programmatic ads with real-time bidding will continue to utilize this technology. Live, automated chatbots are also becoming more popular on brand sites, as they allow customers to ask questions and provide additional guidance to find the best product to meet their needs. This instantaneous customer support option engages users and gathers data about frequently asked questions and patterns in communication to further personalize user search and chat experiences.
Prioritization of Mobile Functionality
Mobile smartphone users are expected to exceed 280 million in 2021, making it ever-more important for brands to offer smooth mobile experiences onsite and across digital marketing channels. By 2021, mobile eCommerce sales are expected to account for 54% of all online sales and shoppers will expect a seamless checkout experience. In fact, research indicates that reliable click-and-collect pick-up options and a variety of payment methods like online checkout and touchless mobile payments are anticipated throughout 2021. Additionally, updates to search engines like Google and Bing will likely negatively affect websites that are not mobile-responsive. To meet consumers during their moments of intent, businesses should ensure they have adequate mobile capabilities on their website(s) and continue to improve their organic search results through Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Strong product descriptions can be an efficient method to enhance the customer experience as well as SEO rankings. Digital investments in Paid Search via text ads or shopping ads can also increase brand awareness across search engine results pages including on mobile.
Video and Visual Advertising
Video marketing is likely to be the backbone for digital marketers in 2021, as 60% of consumers say watching product videos gives them the confidence to make a purchase. It will be important for brands to create an engaging experience with video ads and video content such as DIY and How-to videos, narrative stories, and product information in addition to captivating video ad units that allow users to watch and shop. Additionally, Visual Commerce will also be a 2021 shopping trend to enhance a touchless shopping experience. Many brands will likely showcase larger images both onsite and in-stores, as well as create 360-degree imagery or videos for top-selling products. A more cost-effective strategy includes repurposing user-generated content on product pages to generate interest and harbor human connection.
Data-driven Insights and First-party Data
In addition to AI technology, there are many ways in which to gather consumer data to enhance the consumer journey. However, it is crucial that consumer privacy remains first in this data-driven approach in order to continue to build trust with customers.Utilizing data for smarter automation and measurement can be very helpful in market fluctuations and gaining high value from digital spending.
Google Tag Manager
Allows more digital advertising customization and ensures the digital campaigns are receiving the most valuable information to guarantee the most effective message is delivered to users.
These can be an effective method for capturing consumer data through product registrations and connecting with customers throughout the year. Post-purchase emails also allow an opportunity for customers to rate products and provide reviews.
Interactive Social Content and the “Anywhere” Conversion
Research has shown that customers are more likely to make a purchase within a streamlined shopping experience. Not only are consumers shopping the latest products and trends across social media platforms, but they are also making purchases via the “anywhere conversion” experience in which they can shop and checkout without leaving their digital environment. While new social platforms continue to push for their spot in the limelight, the top five social media sites include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Whatsapp respectively, and remain the suggested sources for Social advertising throughout 2021. These social messaging platforms are also likely to be a form of customer support for businesses, as they follow the same concept by meeting customers wherever they are and making it easy for them to stay connected.
Voice Search and Commerce
Voice search continues to rise via smart speakers like Amazon/Google and mobile voice queries and can be an effective local lead generator. According to statistics, users are more likely to call the business, visit the website for more information, or visit the store in-person. With the ability to purchase through gadgets like Amazon Alexa and Google Home, research suggests that 70% of all searches will be voice-activated by 2021.
Values-Based Digital Messaging
Values-based messaging may influence shopping and sales trends throughout 2021, as consumers are more likely to purchase from brands that align with their own personal values. An emphasis on health and safety, eco-friendly/green initiatives, and eCommerce messaging such as “curbside pickup” or “buy online, pick-up in-store” are all likely to drive consumer purchases.
Mobile App Options
Mobile app usage has increased by 20% this year and is expected to grow into 2021. Apps will allow businesses to improve service and customer satisfaction while preserving social distancing and decreasing costs by more accurately predicting sales from advanced orders. Mobile apps generally increase sales and purchase frequency, and users are more likely to purchase a wider range of products, especially when apps include loyalty rewards, product information, and push notifications when a user is physically near a retailer.