Looking back to the start of 2020, none of us could have predicted the effect of this year, digitally (or otherwise). Marketers have had to adapt to new landscapes, which continue to drastically change as we anticipate life after the pandemic. As a crazy year comes to a close, we’ve done our best to forecast some of the digital trends that we expect to see in 2021.
We’ve seen a meteoric rise in voice search technologies over the past 2-3 years with the introductions of Amazon Alexa and Google Home. It’s now pretty commonplace to have one of these useful little devices stowed away somewhere in the family home. Whilst it’s on the rise, marketers will need to start optimising their content for voice search based on what users will ask these voice search devices. This may be different to usual searcher intent with traditional search engines and with limited information around voice search keyword volumes, it could be a really interesting period for search marketing. Most voice search devices will only read out the top three results from the desired search engine so it’s now more important than ever to be hitting those top three spots.
During the pandemic, social media usage has naturally increased with the emergence of TikTok and Instagram Reels being the biggest beneficiaries of this. Short-form video content has really captured the attention of many,younger social users and with TikTok looking to improve its advertising offering in 2021, it’s certainly one to look out for.
Despite being banned in India, TikTok should surpass the 1 billion monthly user mark in 2021 according to TechCrunch, and should reach 1.2 billion monthly users towards the tail end of 2021. Pretty impressive for an application that was only made available worldwide in 2018.
Twitter and LinkedIn also introduced stories (‘fleets’ on Twitter) to their platforms in 2020 and we expect further developments for these features in 2021, although we don’t expect this to cause an increase in usage for either platform.
Google has announced that their new page experience algorithm is set to launch in May 2021. The new update will consider user experience of sites as a ranking factor. In Google’s latest update, the company said:
“The page experience signal measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page. Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile. We believe this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction.”
Some of the page experience ranking factors will include page load speed, if it’s mobile-friendly, runs on HTTPS, has intrusive interstitials and whether content jumps around as the page loads.
Google will also trial visual indicators in search results that will inform searchers on what kind of user experience that they can expect to have on sites, similarly to how they have previously informed searchers for sites with AMP pages.
Influencer marketing has boomed over the last few years with the emergence of reality TV shows such as Love Island. Big brands, with big money did their best to tie down such influencers as marketers started to incorporate influencer marketing into their strategy at any cost.
Love Island celebrities turning down £350,000 contracts to simply be a brand ambassador is something we’d like to leave in 2020 but influencer marketing doesn’t seem to be slowing down – but it is evolving. We expect to see a shift in strategy in 2021 for marketers, as nano and micro-influencers look set to take over from larger, less engaged influencers.
Brands will look to use smaller influencers with a more engaged following and we expect to see influencer marketing to be part of an ‘always on’ strategy for a lot of big brands – rather than opting to use influencers for certain product campaigns or seasonal pushes.
Chatbots aren’t anything new in digital and have been providing business with customer service solutions for a while – but they’re getting smarter and companies are turning towards these bots to cut costs and reduce overheads. Over 50% of businesses are set to spend more money on chatbots in 2021. These chatbots allow businesses to provide around the clock communication with customers globally and can reduce cost of customer services operations by 30%.
As chatbots evolve, they can be vital for gathering customer data that can be analysed to provide future insights and can be equally as effective in helping sales teams convert quality leads. There’s still a long way to go in chatbot technology development but 2021 could be the year that they become more prevalent than ever.
This year we’ve seen Facebook launch Instagram Shops and Shopify partner with TikTok and it’ll be interesting to see how both Facebook and TikTok develop their e-commerce offering moving in 2021.
We fully expect video content to be the centre of these new functions, with video being the most engaging form of content on socials – with live video driving the highest rates of engagement. We expect to see a rise in use of features such as live shopping – where brands can tag and sell their products using Facebook & Instagram’s live video function.
We expect to see an increase in Facebook Pay usage in the UK in 2021 too, as Facebook try their best to keep users on the app by streamlining customer buying journeys. Facebook Pay allows users to save payment methods within their Facebook profile so they can complete one-click purchases within the app and enables friends to send each other money within Facebook.