To stay competitive and relevant in a global landscape, businesses need to evolve their marketing strategies to capture the attention of today’s savvy and technology-focused consumer.
Not only is it vital to know today’s business and market trends, but also what is happening in the digital space as emerging technologies give way to new and innovative communication platforms.
The following are 5 digital marketing trends for 2021 that will allow businesses to thrive in a competitive environment:
1. Direct Messaging/Marketing in Messaging Apps
People are not just using Direct Messaging (‘DM’ for short) as a way of staying in touch with friends and family anymore. With over 1.3 billion active monthly users on Facebook Messenger and 10 billion messages sent between people and businesses on Facebook Messenger every month, there is undoubtedly a large market for DMs.
Businesses are leveraging the power of Direct Messaging to reach their target audience in a quick and effective manner. For example, a realtor in the GTA can search twitter for hashtags from property buyers such as #homesearch and #propertyhunt to seek individuals that could potentially benefit from the realtor’s services. A quick DM sent to a property buyer can go a long way in creating a lead.
Another example is someone who has a home-based crochet business. The business owner can create a page for their products on Instagram and search for posts and hashtags they can interact with- they can then send direct messages to individuals introducing them to their business and the types of products they offer.
It is easy to see the power of Direct Messaging through the preceding examples. The value of social messaging apps is in their personalization and user experience. A business that markets to its consumers using social messaging apps cultivates contact with its customers, delivers information about its products or services, finds new leads, regains customers and provides support. And customers respond positively- it was found in a recent survey that 63% of customers are more likely to return to a company website if it has a live chat. This is the power of social messaging.
2. SMS Marketing
As the name suggests, SMS Marketing allows businesses to reach out to customers via text messages. Businesses use this style of marketing to send blast texts to registered customers, advertise sales and promotions via SMS, announce new products, create appointment reminders, collect customer feedback and more.
Realtors often use this mode of communication to advertise new listings and provide information about certain listings that potential home buyers are interested in.
The benefits of SMS Marketing include: the ability to reach a wide audience, fast delivery times, high open rates and increased exposure. Users are instantly notified of SMS texts and are more likely to interact with them (open, read or delete them).
While SMS Marketing can be an effective strategy, it is important to obtain user consent (ex: ensure user has opted in all communication) before marketing via SMS. Failure to do so could result in hefty fines as per Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL).
3. AR/VR Marketing
The advent of AR/VR technologies has birthed a new way for businesses to market to their audience. These new technologies fuse digital with marketing strategies, allowing for higher user engagement and deeper immersion into their brand.
For example, car companies use this technology on their websites to let users try out different interior/exterior combinations while building a car and controlling the car through a virtual test drive.
Another example of this style of marketing is Amazon’s AI-powered Style by Alexa, which allows users to virtually try outfits from different vendors as they are shopping in the app. Yet another example is the Ikea AR App, which allows users to see how furniture will look like in their homes.
It is exciting to think of where this technology will take us in the next decade and how advertisers will use it to create increasingly personalized and interactive ads for end users. The goal of AR/VR marketing is increasing user engagement and capture users’ attention more effectively.
We really have only scratched the surface of this style of marketing-the best is yet to come!
4. The Rise of AI and Chatbot Software
Chat Robots, or ‘Chatbots’ for short, are Artificial Intelligence (AI) software that uses sophisticated algorithms to provide consumers with useful information. Chatbots are designed to be user-friendly (Think: text versions of voice-based assistants) and interact with end users in a human-like fashion.
Over time, as more end users use a chatbot, the AI collects data insights and learns more about its customers and their needs.
The algorithm behind a lot of chatbots is keyword based: it issues certain replies once it detects particular keywords. For example, if a user types in the question “What is the weather in Brampton?” in a weather chatbot, the keywords “weather” and “Brampton” will be identified by the AI and the chatbot will return with the correct weather report.
Chatbots allow for various tasks, including generating weather reports, answering bank statement queries, providing basic customer support and setting appointments.
The power of chatbots and AI is in their ability to sift through massive amounts of data to understand the customer. AI has now gotten sophisticated to the point where businesses are able to analyze complex consumer behaviour and use data to understand how customers find their products and services. The benefits of using chatbots and AI are plenty:
- Reduced human labour (substantial cost savings)
- 24-hour, live service
- Reduced wait times for customers (instant responses)
5. Video is the Future!
Every generation brings with it deep and transformative changes that rattle industries and often cause a paradigm shift. Take Generation Z, for example: back in 2019, Gen Z surpassed Millenials as the most populous generation on the planet.
As the first generation to have exclusively grown up with social media and technology, Gen Z is paving its own path for social connections, expression and consumption. It is important for businesses to understand what this means in terms of lifestyle and consumer preferences.
According to a recent survey, 98% of Generation Z own smartphones and many have grown up with technology in the form of phones and tablets. An IBM survey found 75% Gen Z individuals consider their mobile/smartphone as their device of choice.
We are looking at an extremely savvy and digitally aware generation that expresses itself and communicates with each other using social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok.
With the rise in digital media usage, the writing is on the wall for traditional news media in the form of print and TV advertising.
Businesses need to leverage social media platforms such as TikTok and use the latest tools to market to this new generation. Pictures and videos are the name of the game here. An example of this is the rise in social media hashtag challenges created by businesses to promote their products.
Users are encouraged to create short, fun clips promoting a particular product (Example: Colgate’s #MakeMomsSmile Challenge) In a way, everyone wins here- users get to be creative and product new content, which furthers their personal brand with each like, comment and share, while other users consume and enjoy their content and businesses watch their products being promoted for free.
Famed entrepreneur and marketing expert Gary Vaynerchuk urges small businesses to use the power of hashtags to engage with social media posts and create new content to generate brand awareness in his videos all the time.
For example, a hairstylist in a community might generate brand awareness by sharing videos of their customers getting haircuts in a TikTok video or starting a fun challenge for women to get curls in the comfort of their home with nothing more than a pair of socks! (See: ‘Sock Curl Challenge’).
The beauty of platforms such as TikTok and Instagram lies in their ease of accessibility: any creative idea can be brought to life and reach a wide audience for essentially free.
Aside from social media, video is also a great way of delivering information. Video marketing is highly engaging and can allow a business to improve their conversion rates, help guide customers’ online purchasing decisions and advertise a new product or service. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then video is surely worth a million!
While technology may be at the forefront in today’s world, it is important to keep in mind what marketing is truly about: communication. A great marketing campaign is about relaying a message to the consumer–relaying your own ‘story’ if you may. As Gary Vaynerchuk puts it:
“..Great marketing is all about telling your story in such a way that it compels people to buy what you are selling. That’s a constant. What’s always in flux, especially in this noisy, mobile world, is how, when, and where the story gets told, and even who gets to tell all of it.”
Gary’s message is simple: while you can use the latest and most advanced technologies for marketing purposes, it is important to bear in mind the human aspect of the consumer. You are telling your own personal story to the consumer through your brand- one that will stick in their minds and strike a chord with them.