The COVID-19 pandemic has turned things on their heads for both individuals and businesses, not to mention society at large. Within a matter of months, the cadence of life was profoundly altered, with people’s movements and daily activities restricted or changed fundamentally. People have been confined to their homes to a far greater degree than at any point in the last century, and digital interaction has been pushed to the forefront.
In many ways, this sudden shift has been especially difficult for small businesses. Due to a lack of both the immense resource pools and marketing expertise of larger corporations, many companies had traditionally been more reliant on foot traffic and face-to-face customer interactions before the mass lockdowns. The shift has served as sort of a trial by fire for many of these businesses, with their owners and management teams forced to adapt quickly to the new status quo.
Fortunately, many have proven themselves capable of overcoming the challenge, but the year ahead promises many more changes to come. Businesses that are able to foresee and adjust their plans to accommodate new marketing trends and changes will have a leg up. Here is a list of trends your business needs to watch out for in 2021.
1. Automated email marketing personalization
With small businesses unable to entice potential customers with alluring shop fronts and printed ads placed in strategic locations, email marketing has become paramount. It has become the method of choice for driving customer engagement, promoting purchases and fostering brand awareness, even loyalty.
But email marketing can be a double-edged sword. While printed ads and shop fronts are easily ignored, people are more likely to be irritated by email ads that they perceive to be irrelevant to their needs and wants. Thus, personalization, or the tailoring of email ads to customers based on their specific purchasing habits and preferences, will become key. Marketing and analytics software that can identify the optimal audience for a given ad based on customers’ past purchases, click-throughs, and email opens will proliferate.
2. Omni-channel marketing
Multi-channel marketing, which integrates multiple distribution platforms for marketing materials, including, but not limited to, emails, website ads, and social media content, has been on the rise over the past few years. It ensures that consistent, brand-synergistic messaging is sent across the different channels, and even enables a customer to be brought along from one platform to another, ideally culminating in a purchase.
As more and more activity migrates online, omni-channel marketing, which applies these principles across all promotional activities, will see increased adoption across businesses. Likewise, technology for executing such initiatives and tracking customer engagement, will become more widely available.
3. Chatbots and virtual assistants
Many small businesses devote considerable time and resources to cultivating a customer service team that fits their business model and brand strategy. Often, team members are given rigorous training regarding the business’s value offering, thus enabling them to give informative advice to customers regarding potential purchase options. They’re also trained on how to maintain customer engagement, such as being friendly and approachable, informative, and attentive to queries.
This level of interaction with business representatives has largely fallen by the wayside on an online shopping model. Pressing questions can be sent by customers via email or discussed on the phone, but such methods involve lead times and don’t promote the same sense of support as in-store staff would. Chatbots and virtual assistants will go some distance in closing that gap, providing timely and accessible answers to customer queries. They’re not quite the same as a well-trained team of customer service professionals, but for now, they’re the closest thing.
4. Video marketing
Video marketing might just be able to stake the claim as the most increasingly popular form of online marketing out there. In fact, video marketing has been known to drive increased customer engagement, boasting an improved conversion rate compared to other forms of online marketing, as well as being more likely to be shared by potential customers themselves. Fifty-two percent of customers who have seen a piece of video marketing have also expressed greater feelings of security about their purchase.
With improvements in marketing, particularly for search engines, video marketing is likely to become even more dominant. Optimized videos can now be shown directly in relevant searches, and video snippets can be previewed in Google’s carousel. It won’t be long before video becomes the online marketing medium of choice.
These are just among the hottest trends in marketing to look out for in 2021. Call F1 Solutions now to give your small business the leg up in this constantly shifting, increasingly competitive market.