We’ve interviewed just some of the immensely talented experts in Etch Growth for key insights into the biggest digital trends of 2021. A lot is changing in digital, and quickly. And whilst you can’t always predict what will happen (who saw COVID coming?) it’s more important than ever for digital marketers to have their finger on the pulse.
James Perrin
James Perrin

We’ve interviewed some of the immensely talented experts in Etch Growth for key insights into the biggest digital trends of 2021. A lot is changing in digital, and quickly. And whilst you can’t always predict what will happen (who saw COVID coming?) it’s more important than ever for digital marketers to have their finger on the pulse.

As we draw a close to 2020, we can look back at what will be remembered as huge leap forward in the digital revolution. Operations pivoted, efforts accelerated; and those who didn’t (or couldn’t) are being left behind.

Racing into 2021, the speed of change isn’t letting up. 59% of the global population are now active on the Internet, and in Northern Europe penetration rate among the population is now at 95% (Statista). Looking closer to home, in 2020 the number of British households with access to the Internet rose to 96% (ONS), and the UK now has the most advanced ecommerce market in Europe (Statista).

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 we have seen huge changes to the way consumers responded to and behaved during lockdown. Data from Think with Google shows trends like localism, home comforts, diverged health & fitness habits, plus an increase in online consumer demands like live chat services, virtual tours, next day delivery, and apps. This tells us the opportunity for development, transformation and optimisation is immense. So, is digital set for its own roaring twenties?

Looking ahead to the next year, our expert team of digital marketing specialists have given us their view on what businesses need to be aware of, and where the opportunities exist.

New shopping behaviours have impacted customer loyalty 

Kat Brook, Digital Strategist 

Covid-19 has changed consumer behaviours, with over 60% of consumers having tried a new shopping behaviour since the first lockdown in March (Internet Retailing). This exploration of new brands and ways of shopping combined with changing priorities has impacted customer loyalty. While the importance of loyalty and customer relationships haven't changed, the means of establishing them have and brands need to adapt to win back customer loyalty.

Image credit: Hakule via Getty Images

What’s the opportunity in 2021?

Customers will be open to establishing relationships with new brands and will have new expectations of the shopping experience. Establishing a strong omni-channel shopping experience which simulates physical environments and improves buying confidence will be key to securing custom. Personalisation will also play an important role; brands optimising the browsing experience using customer data to display the most relevant products to users will be well placed to drive sales and retain customers by showing a true understanding of their needs.

Unprecedented changes in social media usage 

Caroline Hart, Senior Growth Manager 

As we weave in and out of fluctuating states of lockdown and tiering systems, it is unsurprising that we are seeing reports of screen time hitting an all-time high, with UK adults now spending a quarter of their waking day online (Ofcom).

Image credit: Ofcom

Habits that are likely to stay even as lockdown restrictions ease. Whilst social media enables people to keep connected, this also comes with rising concerns over privacy and fake news. Combine this with a whole host of changes to consumer behaviour, marketers should reconsider how to embrace social channels into 2021. 

What’s the opportunity in 2021?

Marketers need to stop seeing social as an advertising channel and embrace it as a collaboration channel, building customer relationships with trust. A conversational marketing approach will empower brands to form relationships through personalised, one-to-one content, whilst leveraging customer opinions and voice. Audiences will also be more socially conscious from issues around mental health, equality and inclusivity - brands need to adopt a culture of transparency and cannot shy away from these topics.

Google Ads search query data 

Beckie Brown, Growth Marketing Lead 

In 2020, one of the most significant changes Google made to their ad platform was to begin hiding search query data that didn’t have significant search volume. This is important for advertisers because the search query report is considered the most vital in the platform for determining relevancy. Here’s the problem; let’s say you’re running ads for a business in the insurance sector, and your Cost per Clicks (CPCs) are £5+, but you can’t see 80% of the searches being made to show your ads because they’re all generating less than 5 clicks. How do you tell Google which ones are relevant?

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What’s the opportunity in 2021?

Google Ads has been moving advertisers away from keyword level data for some time now. Focusing on features such as intent-level audiences and customer data will allow advertisers to regain some level of control by providing more direction to Google on who they should be targeting.

Making the web more delightful for users

Emma Budd, Senior Growth Manager 

In May 2020, Google announced an algorithm update, Page Experience. How a user perceives the experience of interacting with a web page is set to become a ranking signal, combining Core Web Vitals with existing signals. The whole premise behind this is to provide the best user experience possible. This announcement also extends to the removal of the AMP requirement from Top Stories eligibility, a win for publishers with ranking potential here.

Image credit: Google 

What’s the opportunity in 2021?

In November, and with 6 months’ notice as promised, Google announced the timeline for bringing Page Experience to Google Search. And with the information that Google have announced about the update, there’s huge opportunity for digital marketers to get their house in order before the update arrives. We know that Page Experience will be made up of core web vitals (loading, interactivity and visual stability) combined with existing search signals such as mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS-security, and intrusive interstitial guidelines. The search giant has also revealed the tools they’ve developed to help assess the criteria - Search Console’s Core Web Vitals, Lighthouse and PageSpeed Insights. And they’ve given us the greatest gift of all – time.

Whilst no action is required immediately, you should be using the time between now and May to get your site in order. Look at site speed, undertake user testing and run a user experience audit, implement usability updates and look at your competitors in the search engine results pages (SERPs), because those with a better page experience could start outranking you. As always, if it’s good for the user, it’s good for SEO. Now, more than ever.

The growing importance micro & nano influencers 

Simon Johnson, Head of Client Services 

Yes, micro and nano influencers aren’t new. But businesses are leveraging these networks more than ever as they seek to target a more engaged audience with authentic, personalised content. Influencers, and more specifically micro and nano influencers give businesses the ability to do this, and 2021 is set to see growth in this space. The global Instagram influencer market will grow by 15% in 2021, and more specifically, the percentage of brand mentions featuring #ad published on Instagram accounts categorised as micro influencers will rise from 46.4% in 2020 to 50% in 2021 (Talking Influence).

Image credit: Mediakix

What’s the opportunity in 2021?

Micro and nano influencers might have smaller networks of 1000s to 50,000s, but it’s generally people of a much higher engagement with dedicated fans willing to like, comment, watch, share…and crucially buy. The posts can be, and usually are more authentic, plus they fit nicely into the influencer’s portfolio of existing content. That alongside more affordable costs mean it’s an area to look deeper into. Better engagement, more authentic, more affordable, and better targeted, what’s not to love? And more importantly, for Instagram’s algorithm in 2021, engagements will be an important part of feeding rankings.

Wrapping up

If we’ve learned anything from 2020 it’s that organisations will embrace all facets of digital, as they look to innovate, transform and optimise their digital properties in 2021. As businesses compete in an increasingly competitive landscape, being agile enough to not only embrace new digital solutions and technologies, but to take advantage of digital growth opportunities will certainly set businesses apart.

If you’d like to discuss any of the growth opportunities identified above, or to speak to a member of the Growth team about a marketing opportunity assessment or our growth programme, simply get in touch.

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