The year 2020 has been one of the most challenging years for business and humanity as a whole. For commercial organizations, sales and marketing departments were left helpless when their growth projections and plans evaporated into thin air at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the end, many were left holding onto strategies of little value and were forced to rethink their game plan for the uncertain days ahead.
The events that followed thereafter till now when we are approaching the final days of the year were indeed unprecedented. In just one month, for instance, media consumption patterns changed drastically and unexpectedly, shopper traffic to brick and mortar stores faltered, consumers developed new behaviors - some of them puzzling, and purchases from e-commerce sites were at an all-time high, among many other unpredicted trends.
The waves of change were overwhelming for a cross-section of enterprises. Agile organizations quickly adapted to the new dispensation and somehow continued to survive. However, those that were clumsy or had no way out met their untimely fate. They had to close down, killing several job opportunities and livelihoods in the process. The repercussions are bare for all to see.
Regardless of the adversities experienced in 2020, marketing specialists should now start planning for the year ahead in earnest. To this end, environment scanning and insight analysis are top priority areas for any business to stay ahead of the game. At SMD Consulting Associates, we’ve put together this practical crystal ball of marketing trends and predictions that practitioners should watch out for as we transition to the uncharted waters of 2021.
New Consumer Behaviors
The COVID-19 pandemic triggered and forged new behaviors among consumers. These behaviors vary by industry and region. However, some of the general ones identified by various marketing researchers include an upsurge in e-commerce shopping, proliferation in online media consumption, increase in user-generated content, high consciousness of personal hygiene, improved communication between family and friends, among many others.
The key question that all marketers should be concerned with is whether all these new forms of behavior depicted by consumers will persist beyond 2020 or if some will recede. There’s also the possibility of the formation of new behaviors altogether in 2021 as the business environment continues to change every minute. However, you must research the consumer behaviors emerging in your industry and put in place a responsive strategy that will boost business growth.
Shift to Digital Marketing
The containment measures taken by various governments around the world resulted in many people staying indoors. This, in turn, led to positive traction in the numbers of people spending time online and consuming various digital media. While other forms of marketing like out of home (OOH) advertising and even traditional media faltered, marketers with a nimble mindset moved on to leverage this new opportunity that was now a silver lining in an otherwise hopeless situation.
We predict that this trend will continue to hold even in 2021 as more consumers appreciate the power and benefits of digital media in enriching the different facets of their lives. It is therefore important for your businesses to position itself in the coming year to exploit this new trend to generate value not only for the company but for the customers as well.
Social media has emerged as one of the most vital tools in the digital marketing toolkit. Given its cost-effectiveness, the use of social media has become increasingly popular among small businesses. This value advantage got an additional boost when the number of people spending time online increased exponentially for the better part of the pandemic.
With visits to the physical stores scaling back drastically, micro and small retailers who couldn't afford to set up independent e-commerce websites leveraged the social media platforms to continue their business. The good news is that social media companies have gone ahead to provide support to the small traders. Facebook, for instance, has set up Facebook and Instagram shops where businesses can showcase as well as sell their products on the respective platforms.
As a precursor to the future of social commerce, Facebook has introduced its independent e-commerce platform that is embedded within the social network. There is no doubt that social commerce will take root in 2021 and beyond. It’s now more important than ever to pivot your business online and make your products available on social media.
Live Streaming & Collaborations
While live streaming technology is not a new invention, its adoption and pervasive use have been extensive throughout the pandemic lockdowns. If a survey was to be done about awareness of the various live streaming platforms before the pandemic, then most probably the results would indicate significant levels of unfamiliarity.
These platforms have since become mainstream and are already transforming the way we work. When it comes to marketing, live stream technology is allowing businesses to create digital interactive experiences for their customers. In the real estate industry, for instance, property agents are now live-streaming open house events via YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook Live. We've also seen a spike in user-generated content as people try to get creative instead of being idle when in lockdown. In this regard, brands must adapt to live streaming and collaboration in 2021 for purposes of convenience, relatability, and accessibility.
Rationalization of Advertising Budget
At the onset of the pandemic, many marketing departments across various organizations globally saw a significant reduction in their advertising budgets and other promotional activities. This was the response by most companies as demand fell to the ground, leaving many grappling with tiny budgets that they could barely stand on. Some organizations have been able to recover to a small extent. However, for the majority, the ensuing recession has been devastating.
As we prepare to usher in 2021, it may take a while before they return to normalcy and ultimately, on a growth trajectory. Consequently, most organizations are going to rationalize their marketing budgets for the better part of 2021 as they try to find their footing.
As you plan your marketing game plan 2021, keep these trends and predictions in mind. The overarching emphasis, from our standpoint, should be on keeping up with the ever-evolving consumer behavior. We believe that therein lies the greatest potential that will enable you to transform your business in leaps and bounds. Even so, you need to move with speed on these emerging marketing trends to increase your chances of success next year.
At SMD Consulting Associates, we’re committed to guiding you on your business unlocking growth in 2021 and beyond through our strategic marketing services. Click here to fill in your details for a callback. Alternatively, you can call us on 0748 812 310.
Stephen Osomba currently serves as the Lead Partner, Communication & Marketing at SMD Consulting Associates where he helps SME clients deliver value by adjusting the solutions to each company's mission, product, strategy, and industry.