No matter your industry, every brand will benefit from a strong digital marketing strategy.

With technology and the digital landscape innovating so quickly, the most resilient marketing strategies know how to take advantage of growing trends within the market in order to boost online visibility, grow your customer-base and achieve better results for your business.

Here are the digital marketing trends to look out for in 2021.

User-generated content

With a staggering 93% of customers believing that user-generated content (UGC) is ‘very helpful’ when it comes to making a purchasing decision, it’s a little surprising that only 16% of brands have a strategy when it comes to UGC.

UGC has been found to be 9.8 times more impactful than influencer content, with 70% of consumers trusting online peer reviews and recommendations more than professional copy and content.

And it’s not just B2C brands that can benefit from a strong UGC strategy. Within the B2B landscape, brand messages were re-shared 24 times more frequently when distributed by employees rather than the brand itself, with employee-shared content receiving roughly 8 times more engagement.

With well-known brands such as Coca Cola already using UGC to drive engagement, we believe that user-generated content will be the strategy to beat in 2021.

Games and eSports

Did you know that 7 out of 8 internet users play games? That’s roughly 3.5 billion people! And of those billions of people, three quarters of them play games on their phones, opening up exciting new avenues for marketers to grow brand awareness through advertising and partnerships with popular gaming apps.

But beyond disruptive advertising, a fast-growing eSports culture is offering new opportunities for brands to advertise to large communities of gamers and spectators across the globe.

Just like at a football match, some brands, such as Red Bull have even gone a step further than simple advertising, sponsoring tournaments like the ‘League of Legends World Championship’ and hosting events such as the ‘Red Bull Wololo’ Age of Empires II Tournaments.

With a reported 496 million eSports followers in 2020, predictions indicate that numbers will increase to 646 million viewers by 2023, for an average annual growth rate of 10.4%

We’re interested to see what new opportunities marketers will find within this growing eSports culture over the next few years. Perhaps eSports stars will become the new influencers of their generation.

Voice search

45% of internet users now say that they are using voice search and voice commands every month. While many of those searches are reported to be in relation to the date, time or weather, we anticipate that this trend will continue to grow and diversify as the technology evolves.

Currently, 58% of consumers use voice search to find businesses in their area, making it a particularly useful tool for marketing to local consumers.

In order to take advantage of this trend, you will need to optimise your website for local SEO, and must be cited as a ‘trusted’ source by registering with such resources as Google My Business, Bing and Yelp.

Senior internet users

In 2020, a third of internet users aged between 45 and 64 years of age admitted to spending more time on social media as a result of Covid-19 and subsequent lockdowns.

While we’re expecting that the amount of time seniors are spending on the internet will reduce as the world recovers from the pandemic, we believe that many older technophobes will have at last overcome their fear of using the internet.

2021 offers many new opportunities for digital marketers to market to older generations who have had to become more tech-savvy in order to stay in contact with friends and family in 2020.

Google to block third-party cookies

With the announcement that Google would be joining Safari and Firefox in rolling back support for third-party cookies — ultimately phasing them out entirely by 2022 — many marketers are understandably nervous about what the upcoming years will bring.

But with 33% of users reporting concerns about how companies are using their personal data, we believe that this will be a positive change for internet users all around the world.

The death of third-party cookies will revolutionise digital marketing; driving innovation and inspiring creativity amongst marketers as brands try to find new solutions in a less-targeted world.

It’s important to remember that Google isn’t phasing out first-party cookies, meaning that brands will be able to thrive if they can establish strong first-party tagging strategies, encouraging their customers to supply their data in exchange for high quality content.

We’re expecting to see a great deal of experimentation over the next couple of years as marketers test new techniques and technologies. We may even see a shift back towards older techniques such as contextual marketing, where users see ads based on the content that they’re currently looking at, rather than previous activity.

There’s no doubt that the next few years will be a time of uncertainty for marketers, but ultimately we believe the changes will lead to improvements throughout the industry, offering incentives for marketers to produce better and more relevant content, and offering a safer browsing experience for users.

Quality content

The digital sphere is a noisy place, and it’s only getting noisier. With over 4.66 billion active internet users in the world, digital marketers are finding themselves competing, not just with competitors within their industry, but with the general public as well.

With the democratisation of content creation, the boundaries between professional and amateur content have blurred. Faced with growing competition, marketers will need to produce more relevant and better quality content in order to cut through the marketing noise.

And with recent announcements that Google will be making changes to its search algorithm in May 2021, in a bid to speed up loading times and improve the user experience, marketers must be prepared to deliver better quality content, faster than ever before.

2021 is going to present some challenges to brands as they learn to tailor their marketing strategies to meet the expectations of a changing world. Marketers will need to keep an eye out for new opportunities and be prepared to explore new techniques and technologies in order to thrive in this new digital landscape.

Social and environmental responsibility

With 87% of consumers saying that they would purchase a product from a company that advocated for an issue that they cared about, and 76% of consumers saying that they would refuse to purchase from a company that supported an issue that’s contrary to their beliefs, customers are increasingly expecting brands to exercise social and environmental responsibility.

Not only should brands be looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint in 2021, they should also be actively advocating positive change for social and environmental issues that they — and their customers — care about.

Consider the Ben and Jerry’s ‘Unfudge Our Future’ campaign. This is an excellent example of how a brand is taking action against environmental issues that are currently at the forefront of many consumers’ minds. Ben and Jerry’s are working towards a better future while simultaneously demonstrating their environmental awareness and commitment to change.

In 2021, we expect brands to face mounting pressure to be transparent about their beliefs and values, and actively contribute resources to help drive meaningful change throughout our world.

Keep it conversational

2020 saw LinkedIn roll out many new features, such as LinkedIn Live, Polls, Events and Stories. It also saw many users interacting with more conversational content in a bid to replicate the more ‘team’ environment that was lacking while working remotely.

In 2021, we expect LinkedIn to take on a more ‘water cooler’ conversational tone, with brands who can master the art of conversational marketing being better positioned to connect with their audiences on this shifting platform.

Building trust

With 81% of consumers saying that they would trust the advice of their family and friends over the advice of a business, and 92% trusting recommendations from other people — even complete strangers — above all other forms of advertising, customers are trusting companies a lot less than they used to.

In 2021, marketers will need to put more effort into actions that establish trust with their brands, such as maintaining regular communication, developing a consistent brand voice, and incorporating more user-generated content into their digital marketing strategies.

Long term relationships

Recent studies have shown that customer acquisition costs for both B2C and B2B companies have risen by almost 50% in the past 5 years.

Marketers in 2021 will find it both easier and more cost-effective to focus their attention on customer retention, rather than acquisition, with a greater emphasis on a customer’s lifetime value, rather than singular sales.

We’re predicting that customer satisfaction and maintaining a happy base of repeat customers will be the name of the game in 2021. We may also be witnessing the death of the sales funnel — and its focus on singular sales — and a shift towards the flywheel model, with its emphasis on customer retention.

Keep an eye on growing digital marketing trends in 2021

With the digital landscape changing so fast, marketers will need to find innovative new ways to adapt to a changing market. Brands that keep an eye on growing trends in 2021 will be able to take advantage of new opportunities as they arise in order to build better relationships with their customers for better long-term brand health.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can turn the latest trends within your market into a successful marketing campaign that drives your business growth, check out our integrated marketing guide.

In our free guide, you’ll learn how to assess potential opportunities within your industry, and turn them into creative marketing campaigns that drive brand awareness and keep your brand top of mind in 2021.

Download the guide today