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Marketing 2021: 10 Trends to Watch

Despite a global pandemic to contend with, we've witnessed rapid growth and exponential change in digital marketing in 2020.

We also gained a new definition of local, ultra-fast response times became critical and a new and constantly evolving customer journey emerged. Just to name a few.

Now deep in the first month of 2021, marketers for B2B and B2C brands are planning for even more changes and new competition to contend with. 

With that said, the future of your brand boils down not how product or feature-focused you are, but how customer-focused you are. Brands that are creating a memorable customer experience at all touchpoints are thriving, while the ones who aren't, are being forgotten. 

Based on what we observed and tested out last year, we sat down with some of our industry experts at Uberall. Here are 10 ideas small-and-medium sized companies and large multinational brands may want to consider in their marketing planning for 2021.

1. React instantly to unforeseen situations and retain customers across multiple channels

Norman Rohr SVP, Marketing and Communications

Unfortunately, Corona and its implications for businesses are here to stay. What sounded like a far-fetched prediction back in October last year, is becoming more and more real - that is, an extended lockdown into the (early summer) and some sort of restrictions throughout the entire year. 

What's more, it has become evident that businesses need to take into account the possibility of future pandemics in their business and marketing plans. 

What this means is: businesses of any size, from the small mom-and-pop spots to big chain brands must prioritize and be focused on efficiency. For example: 

  • How to run and market their locations to unleash their full potential
  • How to reduce ramp-up times for new locations to shorten time to profitability
  • How to improve customer acquisition, experience and retention

 . . . All the while keeping down operating expenses.

As well, flexible reactions to unforeseen situations are a new opportunity to engage with customers across multiple channels (in-store, pickup, delivery, pop up store, food truck, etc.) will key to converting interactions into transactions in this new world.

The pandemic has caused more than 100k restaurant closures in the US alone so far. It's economic impact will be felt way beyond 2021. In consequence, in-house marketing teams and external providers alike will see an ever heightened focus on optimization of their customer lifetime value to customer acquisition ratios.

Brand investments will continue to play a role, a somewhat reduced one, though, with priority given to martech and adtech platform solutions that offer proven ROI, superior efficiency in execution and high flexibility.

2. Squash fake reviews and prime your GMB accounts for online commerce

Greg Sterling, VP Market Insights 

This year, the growing problem of review spam and fake reviews bursts into mainstream consumer awareness, requiring the major consumer platforms to implement new reforms and safeguards to bolster the credibility of their content.

This problem is most acute for Amazon and Google in particular. Verified reviews will assume greater importance on Google.

Google has offered online booking and ordering for a few years. But seeking more ways to help local businesses and further its position as mediator between online and offline experiences, Google My Business will continue to expand e-commerce capabilities, enabling local merchants to sell products directly through their local business profiles on Google. 

Other commerce and online fulfillment options for service businesses will expand as well. 

3. Make listening and communication a priority

Krystal Taing Solutions Engineer, Strategic Partnerships

If 2020 taught us anything, it's that brands must make listening and communication a priority. Consumers have a heightened expectation for information and will be loyal to the businesses that deliver this throughout the purchase journey.

For everything from store information, product availability and pricing, to purchase and delivery options, shoppers want to know as much information as possible to plan their shopping trips in advance. In 2021 and beyond,

I think we will also see a rise of experiential commerce, both in person and digitally. While the demand to make purchases and book services as conveniently as possible will remain, I think consumers are going to desire a new and innovative shopping experience.

In a blended retail world, we'll likely see equal parts digital video / chat features and unique in-person shopping events.

4. Ensure you can make hyperlocal changes at scale 

Ehab Aboud, Solution Engineer

The biggest challenges right now are solely surrounded by adaptability and change. Even the best of the location marketing teams have historically had the attitude of “set it and forget it” with their listings, so they could focus on more pressing matters such as advertising.

The last 12 months have substantially highlighted the need to make hyperlocal changes at scale and with very little notice. Even the most efficient teams are not set up for change like this and need every help they can get, such as Uberall's easy to use and speedy platform.

5. Tap into the rapid evolution of consumer behavior

Brad Fagan, Product Marketing Insights Lead

2020 was obviously not an easy year for anyone, but by focusing on the positive aspects that have come from such a time of global upheaval - the increased digitalization of the local business landscape comes to mind - we are able to see the potential that 2021 has to offer.

The digitalization of local marketing has been forced by changing consumer behavior that has shifted online at a rate never seen before. The by-product of such a global shift in consumer search and purchasing trends has forced innovation and new digital communication possibilities - which have morphed the consumer landscape.

So on that note: I am looking to see which players take advantage of the evolution of consumer behavior - consumers have largely been forced online but are still looking for opportunities to connect with local touchpoints offline.

At a personal level, I am interested in finding out what emerging technologies I can utilize as a marketer to keep the conversation moving forward.

What tech is hitting the market in the first quarter of 2021 that will allow me to innovate in the way that I understand, communicate and gain insights from our prospects? And how can we communicate that through our products to improve our own customer experience?

6. Start an employee advocacy program (it's good for your teams and your bottom line)

Nicole Gottselig, Senior Content Marketing Manager

Your employees are your brand's best allies. They're your brand advocates and many are already using their voices to share what you are doing with their professional and personal networks and to help other brands that may be struggling.

And it's not just about how your external audience perceives your brand. It's an impactful way to build strong social connections and bolster team spirit across remote and dispersed teams 

One of my biggest takeaways from 2020 was the power of human-centric, authentic brand and marketing messages. What I mean by that is, in the B2B and B2C space we are inundated with a 'sea of the same sales messages' in the form of webinars, emails, online events and ads all day long. We are becoming more and more resilient to ads and posts that simply sell. 

By expanding your brand messages through your employees, as brand ambassadors with a formal and structured program, you have a significant opportunity to not only connect with your prospects and customers in a more human-centric way but also create community amongst remote teams.  

7. Improve customer experience by integrating online and offline experiences

Bianca Blades, digital consultant

The past year has opened up a huge opportunity for B2C companies to walk the talk when it comes to their omnichannel capabilities. 

Convenience is the key to gaining this competitive advantage, by earning consumer's trust, adding value and making them feel like VIPs. Whether they're interested in loyalty benefits, contactless delivery or making returns at a local store, customers expect real-time responses at every stage of their journey. 

Although we've seen ecommerce accelerate, Google trends show that queries such as 'curbside pickup' are growing 3000% year over year. This means that agile brands have the ability to deliver on their brand promise through a true omnichannel strategy, wherever the consumer is searching or shopping. 

Finally, consumers will make more purpose-driven purchases. We can expect to see people shopping with companies that align with their values, from carbon neutral shipping to buying local. 

8. Create a memorable local experience

Robert Buisard Senior Solution Engineer EMEA

Eight years ago, there was a lot of talk that we'll soon order everything online, and that there is no future for brick-and-mortar companies - quite a pessimistic view of the future.

While that wasn't my opinion, with the COVID crisis, it was natural to think that online was going to be the way.

However, I was surprised by what happened. It turns out that people's behavior was different. So, of course, we have seen a huge increase in terms of online orders, that's a fact. It's also because there were no other opportunities in the time of lockdown.

I have also seen many people being much more concerned, or having much more interest in, in local businesses, more than ever. That being said, once COVID is 'over', I think that consumers will continue to support local businesses more than they did before, especially to help them recover from the crisis.

9. Manage Your Reputation at Each Point of the Customer Journey

Liz Sinclair Product Partnerships Lead

Covid has shown us that ability to adapt is critical and like all major shifts in human behavior, the winners are the ones who listen to the market, adapt with the flow rather than trying to stick to the status quo.

When it comes to the challenges that brands and enterprises may face in 2021, I would have said the same as many other years before. The only difference is that this year round there is more noise to cut through.

The challenge is to become found when a consumer wants something your brand offers. Then to convince that user to use your service / product above all the other options they have.

To do all that brands need to maintain and manage their reputation at each point of the consumer journey. So if your brand has pivoted to meet the new needs, they need to make sure their consumers know about it.

10. Retain brand trust with consistent and up-to-date data

Stefan Talkenberg Solution Engineer

 In unsettling times, it is critical that your customers trust that your information is up-to-date — and worthy of leaving the house for. 

The accuracy of your locations’ online data becomes more and more relevant because your customers are educating themselves online. With frequent changes in local regulations, you need to keep data accurate to give your customers confidence.

For stores with physical locations, the online profiles are becoming an increasingly important touchpoint. To tap into this potential means ensuring their customers can instantly access different shopping options from their phones or computers.

Think ordering online or curbside pickup options, or using  a booking system for services-based businesses with a limit on customers and walk-ins. Offering  convenient options to customers online is enabling businesses to extend the location storefront into the internet.

Nicole Gottselig
Nicole Gottselig

Hailing from Canada, Nicole joined the Uberall team as a Senior Content Marketing Manager in March 2019, and considers Berlin her true home. When she's not writing content, Nicole guides a weekly mindfulness meditation session for her colleagues and heads up the company's employee advocacy program on LinkedIn.