What’s Hot and What’s Not: Digital Marketing

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The pandemic has forced many businesses to turn to digital marketing, more so than ever, in order to maintain their customer base. With so much ‘noise’ out there, it means that if you want your business to stand out from everyone else’s, you need to pay attention to your customers’ online behaviour and interests in order to adapt.

Market Research
The pandemic has already had an enormous impact on consumer behaviour and marketing strategies, and some of these changes may be permanent. This is why including renewed market research in your marketing strategy for 2021 is a very wise move.

Each industry has been impacted differently by the pandemic, with some enjoying a boom in business and others experiencing a catastrophic fall in demand. Whatever your industry, for your digital marketing efforts to be successful, it will help enormously to have a clear understanding of how the pandemic has affected your customers so, if you haven’t already, definitely put market research top of your to-do list.

Digital Marketing Trends
Keeping up to date with trends is a definite plus for any digital marketer. However, trends come and go, so don’t attempt to integrate every single trend into your marketing strategy – this will make it seem temporary and become out of date very quickly. On the other hand, you can use certain trends wisely to expand your customer base and attract more interest in your business. This will also allow you to advertise in different, and more effective, ways.

Social Media
Facebook remains the most popular social media. However, as news feed advertising is now more expensive than ever, much of digital marketing is shifting towards advertising on Messenger. As of April 2021, the largest group of Facebook users were aged 25-34 years old. Throughout 2020, the number of 65+ aged users increased from 4% to 9%, while 18-24 aged users decreased from 24% to 26%.

These statistics are similar when looking at the Instagram user base, where the largest age group is also 25-34, closely followed by 18-24 year olds. According to Instagram themselves, about 42% of the UK population are reachable with advertising, and more than 80% of accounts worldwide follow businesses, making the app a vital connection between makers and consumers. Shoppable influencer posts are an upgrade that businesses can take advantage of: This means people can now get to the checkout page of a product on an influencer’s post without ever leaving Instagram, making it more likely for people to buy products as they won’t be taken to a new page.

TikTok, while still being used by mostly 18-24 year olds, is a steadily growing untapped market which can be taken advantage of by marketers. While there currently isn’t too much of an advertising base within the app itself, TikTok is a breeding ground for trends and may hold the keys to success for influencers and brands alike.

Video Marketing
Video marketing is no longer an optional strategy. 86% of businesses use video as a marketing tool, and 93% of those say it’s an important part of their marketing strategy. The most commonly-created types of video are Explainer Videos (short online marketing videos used to explain a company’s product or service) at 73%, followed by Social Media videos at 67%. YouTube has remained the most widely-used platform for video marketers.

Another trend that is becoming increasingly popular is Shoppable Videos, video ads which feature links to the products advertised in the video. Instagram and Snapchat feature a lot of these, but the technique is becoming more sophisticated and convincing.

Chrome Cookies
Google Chrome announced at the start of 2020 that the Chrome browser will stop supporting third-party cookies by early 2022, which will significantly change the way businesses target and track digital advertising. While this doesn’t mean that tracking is going to be impossible, it will require marketers to get to grips with exactly how the lack of cookie support will affect them. After all, a number of other browsers, like Safari, have been blocking third-party cookies for a while now.

However, the most important thing you need to be prepared for when Chrome cuts support is to make the most of your first-party data. While there will be less of this data available as users are growing increasingly privacy-conscious, and first-party cookies require consent, it can provide highly informative insights into your users and customers.

Social Consciousness, Authenticity, Inclusivity and Diversity
With people now actively engaging in conversations around mental health, climate change and equality – both as consumers and employees – brands need to be more aware than ever of how they are perceived in line with these social values. Great products and services are not enough to drive brand loyalty, companies also need to actively support social causes that are aligned with their products. However, brands need to tread carefully in the arena of social issues, as authenticity is equally as important to consumers.

Nowadays, consumers are better than ever at spotting marketing manipulation, which means a well-meaning but inauthentic campaign can easily incite a negative reaction and damage your brand. Social causes can not simply be used as marketing tools. In 2021 more than ever, brands need to have real conversations about social issues, and show that they are working to be part of the solution rather than using a popular topic as a means to market themselves.

This is no less important for small businesses than it is for big ones, and as an SME you can ensure that your marketing is inclusive and diverse by reflecting this in the imagery you use to illustrate blog posts and other content, the topics you elect to cover on social media and even the products you choose to offer.

Final Thoughts
The fact that these different areas of marketing are already getting results, or are becoming more prevalent, suggests that brands and marketers need to be ready to include them in their digital strategies going forward or risk being left behind. People are becoming increasingly reliant on technology in their daily lives, especially during the pandemic, and any business who doesn’t embrace the trend will end up falling behind the curve.

[Abigail King]

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