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The top marketing trends for 2021

We’ve embarked on a new year and are putting 2020 behind us, a very strange year marked by a global pandemic that has changed the world and our habits for good.

Never before have the words agility and flexibility been given so much importance. Companies needed to adapt to these changing circumstances and 2020 was the year digital transformation could no longer be put off or ignored.

With our sights now strictly set on 2021, I have identified 4 marketing trends that will shape the marketing of tomorrow.

1. Building trust through humane marketing

Trust cannot be claimed, it must be earned. And brands need to do just that. If a brand is not delivering on the promises it has made, up to 81% of the consumers would not buy the product. The challenging times of COVID-19 have given a new face to marketing and to gaining customers’ trust.

A lot of brands have taken the opportunity to give back to society and to help hospitals, associations, patients and people in need. An example of this was the collaboration between Delhaize and Colruyt, 2 leading Belgian retailers, who partnered up to ensure the delivery of groceries to medical staff.

Some brands have changed their tone of voice, in an effort to humanize the brand and build real relationships with their customers. Examples of humane marketing campaigns are the Adidas Huddle or the Eva Longoria homemade L’Oréal campaign. Both brands have managed to engage with their audiences, be authentic and relevant and offer content that people were really looking for in these tough times.

Other brands have started to open up, show vulnerability and be transparent about issues they were facing (delays, closed factories or difficult working conditions) due to the lockdowns.

Big marketing campaigns that are not in line with a real purpose, with the consumer values, or do not feel authentic, really do not resonate anymore. Customers want to be heard and have a special connection with brands, hence engagement with brands will become more important to build this trust.

2. Customer experience enabled through technology

A lot of companies have been looking too much at the numbers and too little at the customers. Companies should shift from an efficiency-first to a consumer-first approach. If you focus on the consumer and on delivering a seamless brand experience, performance will follow.

The pandemic has emphasized that online is no longer a standalone destination and companies should really embrace an omnichannel approach. 63% of shopping occasions begin online regardless if the product is then bought in store or online.

As a marketer, you need to make sure your customer has an exceptional experience with your brand across all touchpoints. This can only be done by understanding the needs of your customer and the way they are evolving over time.

Technology helps us bridge the gap between the online and offline world and offer an enhanced customer experience. AI (Artificial Intelligence), AR (Augmented Reality), VR (Virtual Reality) and ML (Machine Learning) might remain a mystery for a lot of people but are already used in a lot of cases today throughout the whole customer marketing funnel to make sure the right message is delivered to the right person at the right time.

For example, Pinterest launched a new AR tool beginning of 2020 that enables users to try beauty products, giving them a more immersive experience. Leading beauty brands like Estée Lauder, YSL and Lancôme have already used this new feature on the platform.

One thing is sure, these technologies will become more mainstream and affordable in the coming years. The AR/VR market is forecasted to reach a value of $1,274.4 billion by 2030, rising from $37.0 billion in 2019, growing at a rate of 43% each year.

3. Data to understand customer needs

I do not need to convince marketers that data is key to being successful. Data enables you to have a better understanding of your customer to offer the right information at the right time to the right person. But data should not just be captured for the sake of it.

Customers have more access than ever to information, since they can easily look up anything on the Internet. This has made them more demanding of brands and they expect an excellent product and service.

Brands should use data to identify the needs and the priorities of their customer. They can identify where their weaknesses lie in relation to these needs and take appropriate action. Data should be used across the whole marketing funnel, from predictive data modeling to AI to improve the customer experience and ultimately convert the prospect into a client.

At The House of Marketing, we talk about Integrated Data (ID) Marketing, to really grasp the unconscious needs of the customer. Indeed, customers do not always know what they want because decisions are made in less than 1 second.

That is why capturing behavioral data from the conception phase on is crucial. Adding neuromarketing research will give you the best results by grasping what your customers really need, instead of going on intuition. This will reduce the chances of failure for your proposition, campaign or launch.

4. Rise of a new selling platform: ‘social commerce’

First, let us have a look at e-commerce. In 2019, e-commerce in Belgium grew by 17% and generated 8.2 billion euros, as stated in our E-commerce Barometer. Without a doubt, 2020 has been another successful year for e-commerce, strongly helped by the pandemic.

Now, what is social commerce? Social commerce is the process of selling products directly on social media. The whole shopping experience – from the discovery of the product, research and inspiration, check-out and even sharing it with your friends – can take place on the social media platform itself.

This taps into the need of the consumers to shop more easily. WeChat – the most popular messaging app in China with more than 1 billion users – has been the initiator of this new way of shopping and other social media platforms are now copying this business model.

Videos are the most preferred content type people are consuming: a staggering 78% of people watch online videos every week. And 64% of consumers say watching a marketing video on Facebook has influenced a purchase decision in the last month.

The biggest players for social commerce in Europe are Facebook (Messenger), WhatsApp, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat but recently also TikTok announced a partnership with Shopify – a leading platform to easily create online shops. Facebook has even launched Facebook Pay to ease the transactions and make shopping on social media even smoother.

These 4 trends will shape the marketing scene in 2021.