Decades from now, we will look back at 2021 and recognize the start of a new era. As the pandemic slowly subsides and the smoke clears, the business landscape will look different. That new environment will require a different approach for attracting customers and winning business.

There are many 2021 marketing and advertising trends to explore, but the following four will take precedence over others. You might even recognize them. That’s because, while they’re not brand-new trends, they’ve experienced significant acceleration during the last year. Read on to see how they’ll impact your strategy.

Focusing on the User Experience

As technology advances, consumers become used to smoother experiences. They enjoy sleek iPhones, smart TVs, and a number of other user-friendly devices. Evolving consumer expectations are raising the bar for marketers and advertisers. According to the Brand Marketing Manager at Google, consumers are demanding better experiences out of any interaction with a brand. Companies are realizing that any time a prospective customer becomes frustrated during the buyer’s journey, they might drop out of the sales funnel and start looking at a competitor. And it doesn’t take much; common frustrations include slow-loading websites or difficulty finding information about a product or service.

In 2021, every company’s marketing department will be asking, “How can we be more like Apple?” The answers will vary, but we do know that personalization will happen at a scale like never before. Investment into marketing technology that leverages data and analytics enabling personalization will rise as well. Likewise, virtual events and experiences will become a more permanent fixture as consumers demand more out of brands in exchange for their money.

Relying on Inbound Marketing

Old-school advertising is on the way out (we’re looking at you, junk mail) as inbound marketing becomes the breadwinner for organizations. The focus is now fully on cultivating interest in a product or service over time and attracting customers rather than chasing them. It may take a number of touchpoints, but providing valuable content is what positions your company as a trusted leader in the space. Experts point out that, in 2021, it will be critical to customize that content for each platform rather than just copying and pasting.

Giving the people what they want where and when they want it provides convenience while generating interest. What else do people want? They’re spending their money on more practical purchases rather than luxurious ones, so showcase the sensible benefits of your product. People are also more interested in supporting their health and happiness, especially Gen Zers who have increasing purchasing power. How does what you’re selling make people feel good? Lean into that in 2021.

Leveraging #influencers

Digitalization was already happening to the marketing and advertising space, but the pandemic shot it into another stratosphere. Customers are no longer able to walk into a store to see/touch products as much as they did before. Buyers who were accustomed to conferences or in-person demonstrations of a product or service will not be able to rely on those experiences to inform their purchases for the majority of 2021.

Peer reviews and recommendations have rapidly gained ground in recent years as one of the top factors that go into a decision for any customer. After all, the influencer market was worth $8 billion in 2019 and will rise to over $15 billion by 2023. Microinfluencers with less than 10,000 followers will make an especially big impact this year because they are more strongly connected to their communities made up of friends, family, and other acquaintances vs. the “fans” of celebrity accounts. As a result of this activity, Forbes notes that social will emerge as a top channel for purchasing, not just discovery.

Tackling Racism and Inequality

While they may be old and ongoing issues, racism and inequality in 2020 sparked a fire not seen for decades. Society stood up and said enough is enough. For businesses, this is a highly sensitive topic that must be approached carefully. Studies show that 63% of Americans believe brands need to follow up their talk with concrete action; consumers will see through a company just trying to use the movement as a marketing tool.

A lack of diverse representation is an issue, not just in company board rooms or managers’ seats, but even in communications. It’s important to note that this problem isn’t limited to one aspect of inequality either. Minorities include those of different races, ethnicities, sexual identities, and any other factor they identify with. To put it in perspective, nearly 20% of the population has a disability, yet less than 3% of characters in advertisements have a disability. This lack of representation will slowly be rectified as the year progresses.

It will take time, but brands that take real action and make tangible progress here will be noticed by potential customers. People want to do business with those who treat others with respect and have the same values. Consumers want to give their money to a company that is doing something positive in the world. In 2021, the most successful organizations will be working hard to align their internal operations and outward messages with society’s search for equality.

2021 Marketing & Advertising Trends

As much as we’d all like one, there is no single easy-to-adopt marketing trend that can instantly elevate your sales to the next level. Focusing solely on the user experience while ignoring the problem of racism will backfire. Leaning into social influencers without considering a larger inbound marketing strategy simply won’t work. But take these four trends together, as part of a number of other marketing activities, and 2021 will be a stronger year for your company.

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