As if digital marketing trends don’t move fast enough, 2020 saw a significant and unanticipated increase in users’ time online (eCommerce, Video Conferences, Social Media Time, Email Communication, etc.). Companies were forced to adapt quickly to capitalize on this phenomenon, and the lack of in-person interaction saw the birth of major shifts in what behavior trends this increased time online. Though seemingly unpredictable, a lot of these trends were merely brewing under the surface, and the pandemic was the catalyst that brought them to the forefront. Let’s take a look at what’s here to stay, and which key trends will help your business shift with the digital tide in 2021 and beyond.
- Online Shopping/eCommerce
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. eCommerce sales grew more than 30% between the first and second quarter of 2020. The reason for this dramatic increase is very clear: as citizens remained socially distant at home, they spent more time purchasing products online. However, the sheer volume of online sales astounded even the most prepared and efficient companies. In some cases, sales halted altogether when businesses just couldn’t keep up with the demand of their customers.
No store was safe from the purchasing pandemonium, whether they were brick-and-mortar businesses or strictly online, like Amazon. Toilet paper became a valuable commodity! And because these businesses’ supply chains weren’t prepared for the influx of demand, they weren’t able to replenish their shelves quickly enough. This is a prime example of an opportunity for entrepreneurs to fill a need. Any gap within the business landscape is an opportunity.
Certain companies have adapted to this major shift to online shopping, most notably Instagram, and the substantial updates that were made to the app within the last few months of 2020. Instagram put a heavy emphasis on Reels and their shopping feature, encouraging users to spend directly on the app and giving brands the ability to add a new video-making platform to their marketing strategy.
2. Social Authenticity
As we social distance, there’s an opportunity to close that distance with authenticity, transparency, and relatability. Recognize the problems that your audience could be facing, and connect with them through that recognition. There doesn’t even have to be a concrete solution to the problem – you don’t have to have the solution or the answer. Acknowledging difficult experiences in an honest way can make a monumental difference in the way that your brand is perceived.
3. Companies with Standards
Consumers are actively searching for companies that hold themselves to higher standards, be it ethically, environmentally, socially, etc. They want to give their business to brands that they feel are making a positive impact on the world, and by purchasing from those brands, they are inadvertently contributing to that impact.
4. SEO Changes on Instagram
Instagram is putting less impact on hashtags as a way to explore similar posts and becoming more “search-friendly.” Marketing-wise, this means businesses should focus on including more SEO in their captions – smart use of keywords, instead of just trendy hashtags for increased reach and engagement.
- Reels as a Response to TikTok
Human connection, especially important in times such as these when we have to interact with each other at a distance. With the controversy that TikTok has faced in the past few months, Instagram decided to answer it by facilitating the use of Reels by making it a featured button at the bottom of the app’s homepage. We expect to see more platforms adopting this style of video, including “duet” and response style capabilities.
- Hybrid Events
Activities that once we would never dream of hosting online have now become the new norm. Every business has been forced to adapt and make this adjustment, and while it has introduced many difficulties to the usual processes, there are many positive developments to come out of these hybrid events and work environments.
There are millions of employees all over the world performing their job duties from a remote location, an ability that they never thought possible before COVID-19.
Try hosting your own virtual event! You have the potential to invite new customers who might otherwise have not been involved or showed up in person, but the virtual aspect makes it much more lowkey and convenient.
- Social Media for Customer Service
Don’t be afraid to use your brand’s social media as a method for customer service. There is something very powerful and special about connecting with your customers via social media platforms. Rather than being a company that simply spits out content, interacting with customers through your accounts gives them a sense of importance and satisfaction. It makes people feel sought out and important, and it will also encourage more interaction from your followers, thus raising the engagement on your social media and giving you the potential to get more eyes on your pages.
- Social Monitoring
It will be easier and more important than ever to incorporate social monitoring into your marketing strategy. There are many benefits to social monitoring, including proactive crisis management, determining your brand’s market positioning, understanding the behavior of your customers, etc.
As a means of crisis management, social monitoring will allow you to observe the way consumers are reacting to various events in the world, and gauge how you need to respond to these events in order to make the deepest and most lasting connection with your audience. It keeps you from being tone-deaf and saying something that could put your brand in a bad light. Always be aware of what your particular consumer base is saying about current affairs and never take for granted the value of such knowledge can be.
Social monitoring can also help you understand where your brand is in relation to the market. Listen to the market and to where the demand is, and this will help you locate a particular group of consumers whose needs aren’t being met within the current marketplace. Really listen to what it is that people want/need.
Understanding your target audience’s behavior is essential in order to deliver the best service possible and to prepare for future purchases. If you know your audience well enough, you can predict what their future actions will be, what type of messaging and advertising appeals most to them, and how to turn them into loyal customers.
- Voice Search
Convenience is the name of the game. Make sure your website and social media are optimized for voice search. People are searching the web differently, and video marketing is one of the most affected types of content so far. Voice search is having a big effect on SEO because of the difference in speech patterns versus typed searches. Speech is more colloquial, more free-form, and on the spot, while typing a phrase or question into the Google search bar takes a little more forethought. Most of the time, typed searches involve inadvertently searching keywords or ideas. Voice search is more centered around the thing itself, is often phrased in the form of a question, and is much less rigid or predictable (making SEO more complicated than ever).
- Video Marketing
With so many people working from home, video content has become more frequent and casual, with glimpses into the life of someone who works at home and what a typical day is like. With the freedom and confidence to make more video content, we are seeing a rise in these more interactive posts that will continue to grow as the months go by. The lack of in-person connections has brought about the desire for continued interaction through social media, and what better way to feel as if you could be hanging out in real-time with someone else than through videos?
Certain platforms, most notably Instagram, are beefing up their video features to encourage users to take advantage of this specific type of media. Instagram has been pushing Reels hard ever since TikTok’s privacy policies were called into question, and Reels has even become the main focus on the homepage of every Instagram user.
It is clear that the space provided by 2020 has been filled by what people want, and more than ever, the digital world is being dictated by how the general public (and your future audience) is using their time, melding personal behaviors with business opportunities. Luckily, social platforms are fighting hard to evolve to suit the behaviors of the public, which happens to coincide with an opportunity for business.
If 2020 showed us anything, it’s how quickly things can change/are ever-evolving/adaptable. It’s likely that this list doesn’t cover everything we’ll see in 2021, and the best advice we can offer is to stay vigilant, pay attention to how digital platforms are changing and why, and check in on online consumer behaviour regularly.
Interested in how to implement any of these tactics successfully? Request a free consultation with a DCG marketing specialist today!