photo of 12 Marketing experts share their 2021 predictions - Covid-19 aftermath

If you read our 2020 predictions article last year, you would never think a pandemic was going to hit the whole world even if someone told you. What were the odds?
Well 2020 ended up being the most impactful year of modern history. Every single person was more or less affected and we can't wait to put it behind. Businesses and companies were hit hard, and groundbreaking changes are taking place. 2020 shook our world and the new year brings more uncertainty than ever.
We asked experts to venture a guess about 2021! Let's see how it plays out.

Todd Chambers
Director & Founder at Upraw Media

Google Ads automation and smart bidding technology is finally delivering on the promises it made 5 years ago. It can predict at the precise moment the likelihood of conversion far better than any human
In 2021 Google will turn the screw on automation even further, limiting advertiser visibility and moving more towards a black box solution.

There are pros and cons to this which will affect small and large companies in different ways.

In 2021 large advertisers with vast amounts of data will leverage this automation to their advantage. Handing over more control to Google and leaning into machine learning.

On the flip side, small advertisers will pay a price with less visibility and control over their advertising dollars and limited upside on automation due to lack of data.

Ultimately 2021 will be the year Google moves closer to what we see with social advertising. Less underlying data to make our own decisions and control over where we spend.

Samantha Andrianou
E-commerce Supervisor at Louis Hotels

Covid-19 has changed dramatically how people connect and are influenced. Data shows that consumer behaviour has changed drastically. As people spend much more time online for all aspects of life (i.e distant working, communication with family and friends, online shopping etc) they are much more exposed to online content and ads. As a result, the web has become much more competitive.

Marketers now face a big challenge to find ways to attract and engage more users. The key is the content and the message to communicate to the users. After covid-19 consequences, users are more likely to engage with more inspirational and emotional content. Marketers have to change direction from hard-selling content to more personalised and emotional content. Also, users are much more sensible to sustainability and are more likely to choose eco-friendly products or engage with companies that show a more active sustainability policy.

Beatriz Repiso
Legal translator & interpreter and Digital Marketer
CEO and Director of Otternative Marketing.

2020 has left us with a sour taste, long lockdowns and the inability to really connect has pushed us to evolve online. That is why 2021 is the year for approachable marketing trends, where the big players will be those that manage to be their client’s “pal”.
Focusing on UGC (User Generated Content) gives brands the possibility to re-share the content that other customers have spent their valuable time creating. This adds direct Social Proof and highlights how valuable your brand is to others, validating your message.

Similarly, Meme’s have become a way of life, sharing experiences and feelings in a fun way where people can relate to others. If brands were able to leverage this content tactic they would reach those who tend to be disconnected to more classic marketing strategies. As Elon Musk already said in June 2020, “who controls the memes, controls the universe”, he is a great example of how powerful a well-used meme can be.

One huge player that is STILL being downplayed and sometimes mocked, is Tiktok. A non-sales driven platform (soon to change!) that focuses on organic reach, giving you the possibility of going viral overnight. Even Instagram has tried and imitates Tiktok by adding reels. Months ago, before the pandemic, Tiktok was a teenager heaven, where you could mostly find dances and funny videos. With Covid’s development, millennials flooded the app, making any brand’s potential reach way beyond Gen Z.

Following this same “I need a deep connection to buy” trend, Nostalgia Marketing and Conversational Marketing are also worth your time. Conversational Marketing will 100% increase your conversion by building relationships and create authentic experiences with those who find your brand interesting. Chatbots are a great way to implement this strategy into your e-commerce or blog.

Gaming has always been part of our life, but now, due to lockdowns it has become incredibly powerful, and brands need to acknowledge that. There is a huge connection between all of the above, and the essential connection that gaming creates for the younger generation. Even AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), congress woman in New York decided to stream on Twitch to reach this target market. She reached 435.000 viewers, putting her among the 20 most watched streams ever.

Some other trends worth having in mind will be Podcasts, where old school marketing meets new, great to reach a niche audience and cooperate with other experts in your industry (approachable and direct social proof), socially conscious marketing techniques, SMS Marketing vs Email Marketing (98% open rate compared to 20% on email) and Event Marketing, which will most likely be a boom when things open back up.

Murray Sellars
Founder at Holmegarth Business Support

2021 - the year Digital reached Critical Mass

2021 will be the year that businesses realise that a crisis is not necessarily the agent of change, it is however, always an accelerant! Businesses who invested in the basics of digital marketing prior to 2020 found that as the revenue from "bricks and mortar" operations reduced it was often made up in online business. (In fact, even if the volumes were not entirely there the profit often was because of the lower cost to convert online).
So, for many businesses the dawn of 2021 will see them revamp their digital offering, allocate more budget for paid advertising and hope that it will pull them through when they should be reviewing the changes in the Customer Journey!
A word of caution is required - for any traditional business going into a recession puts less of a demand on your working capital, hiding the fact that profits have decreased. The expected return to growth has the opposite effect and we can expect to see many companies suffering from underfunding in the next year!
For companies in this position, the very least that they should be doing now is establishing a Benchmark of their #digitalrealestate. No more should business owners say, "I don't get digital marketing" and think that is good enough! Someone at Board level must get their head around what is required and take responsibility for it before the next existential crisis.
And one final thing. QR codes were supposed to be dead! Then someone put them on the COVID App, expect to see a whole heap more of them around!

Maria Papadouri
Social media trainer

The vital role of adjustment

2020 has taught us something we already knew: Adjustment. Unless we are able to adjust, we can’t meet progress. During 2021, I expect to see more brands taking steps that were sceptical about the previous years.

Given the current situation, e-commerce will continue growing. Brands will find more ways to adjust to the new trends and be able to serve their clients both offline and online. Many companies already knew the importance of e-commerce but were not willing to climb the learning curve or look for partnerships. This will have to change.

If more business owners are willing to turn to e-commerce, then they will embrace other forms of online communication, like Social Media Marketing, Podcasting, Messenger Marketing etc. In these terms, I believe we are entering in a new digital era, which will lead us to more targeted and promising ways to spread our message, reach our audience, please our customers, and do business.

George Karmpoulonis
Founder at GMK Digital Marketing Agency | Marketing Lead at Coded Lines

Marketing predictions for 2021? The obvious answer would have to be AI, ML and AR, but I consider all of these mainstream trends by now. In my view, they have already been successfully embedded themselves in today’s market reality. The advancement of AI and ML specifically was characterised by gigantic leaps in terms of development and adoption rates by brands both within the B2B and B2C sectors, so now it’s more a matter of effectively implementing, fine-tuning, and capitalising on what these technologies have to offer us. AI, ML and AR should already be a staple in every marketer’s arsenal or at least integral parts of their strategy for 2021.

Instead, I’d want to turn our focus on the natural evolution of the marketing funnel we all have come to know and love. The “traditional” and ubiquitous marketing funnel - in the shape of an inverted pyramid - is based on an outdated model that focuses mainly on new customer acquisition rather than retention, reengagement and repeat clientele. Combine that with the new reality of the Covid-19 era and you can easily identify the new challenges that arise and the gaps that marketers and brands are called to fill.

There is a massive shift to digital, both in terms of internal organisation of the companies and how they manage their workforce and operations, but more importantly regarding the channels they use to sell their products and services to their customer base. Customers are increasingly placing value on digital, and we’ll never go back to pre-pandemic levels.

Brick and mortar stores were on their way out, but the pandemic swooped in and put the final nail in the coffin, accelerating the full transition to digital. Ready or not the demand for digital channels, avenues of communication, and purchasing platforms has gone through the roof, and the projections are only higher for 2021 - 2022.

Brands and marketers must act quickly to adapt to the new landscape and the flywheel model is the only framework that provides a viable model for today’s challenging reality. The flywheel framework puts the bullseye on continuously reengaging with the customer, maintaining an open channel of communication, involving them in the brand’s activities, and even decisions, and keeping the dialogue going 24/7. And let’s not forget that it’s the only model that places strong emphasis on pushing word-of-mouth, which is still the most effective marketing method bar none.

Two-way conversational marketing requires an “always-on” channel and a means of communication with your brand. How does that translate in practical terms? Think of chatbots, personalisation utilising AI and ML, mobile presence, augmented reality experiences, user generated content, (micro) influencers, social media (commerce), semantic and voice search, and finally programmatic advertising.

Brand and marketers need to be able to adjust their strategies with all this in mind if they want to stay relevant now and in the future.

Kevin R. Brown
Founder & Director, Digital Haus
Chief of Operations, HR Innovate

Let’s dive right in… 2021 will see a dramatic rise in online traffic after the holiday and tax season, as businesses who were never online or never took online traffic seriously now see that that they must move their traffic in order to keep pushing forward. As we welcome these newcomers, consumers can expect to see a wild swing in advertising as our new friends find their way. Already in the Recruiting Industry, we see our friends in Digital Marketing sphere overwhelmed with new business inquiries and underwhelmed with people who are not quite ready to put dollars on the table.
We all need to stay focused on the numbers and keep an eye to ROI. This means looking at cost per engagement, bounce rates and tracking high and low performing referral channels. Smaller companies and organizations should capitalize on authentic marketing and SEO, in order to cut through the noise - and not splash out trying to keep up with high gloss advertising that the multinationals produce. Larger tech companies should have a hard look at their budget for behavioral psychology to ensure their AI platforms are performing the way their user wants it to.

Erika Brown
Communications & Marketing Manager, Louisville Water

Jekyll & Hyde? Yin & Yang? However you prefer to envision opposites, it’s prudent to prepare for that reality in 2021. As the COVID-19 virus rages on, the first part of the year will see business, friends, and everyone in between continue to leverage the internet to find human connection and toilet paper. The digital marketplace is saturated and to win the attention of overwhelmed users, you better bring your A+ game. The first part of the year will require marketers to invest heavily in content marketing, SEO, graphic design/video, and platforms that create meaningful opportunities to learn, buy, and sell. I wish I had stock in programs like Canva and Zoom! In addition, businesses need to make life easier for end-users. Modernized user interfaces, customer service chat options powered by bots, and AI-driven search functions are just a few of the best ways to upgrade your website.
However, as important as your digital strategy is for early 2021, it’s imperative to prepare for the complete opposite in the second half. By that point, the COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed to most, and people across the world will be taking a much-needed break from technology. Businesses ought to prepare to also scale their offline efforts in the latter part of the year. How can you pivot your online efforts to also be remembered in a physical environment? Augmented reality, mobile on-the-go gaming, and straight-up grassroots marketing tactics are going to be things to consider incorporating into your outreach strategy. If you want to meet your customers where they are… my guarantee to you is that they’ll be somewhere different than this moment in time.

Alex Galinos
SEO Specialist, Kaizen Gaming (Stoiximan/Betano)

Covid-19 has been kind of a two-fold situation across many industries in 2020. If you take a look at sectors like Travel & Hospitality, the hit was huge. On the other hand, companies in verticals like eCommerce, eLearning, Online Casino, and Comms Software reported a very successful year. With users spending all their time indoors, one might say that Search was benefitted overall.

I do believe that in 2021 many businesses (especially the ones that were negatively influenced by Covid) will turn to SEO, as a lower-cost alternative to paid advertising, what with the big budget cuts and all, that many of those companies suffered due to the pandemic. In that sense, there are several things that I’d anticipate will probably happen.

The first one would be that many companies will start investing in relevant evergreen content and stop limiting themselves only to seasonal Content Marketing campaigns, which will enable them to keep bringing in qualified users for many years afterwards. I expect that many businesses that haven’t done so, will invest in that in 2021 in order to start ranking for certain terms that will attract new users through search engines, as no one really knows how long this health and financial uncertainty will last really.

Depending on the industry and whether it’s SEO savvy or not, I believe there’s some real opportunity in occupying more space in the SERPs through structured data implementation, especially now that Google is pushing organic results further down below with all the features it’s showing above the fold.

Last but not least, I anticipate that companies will probably get more creative in off-site promotion, as link building budgets have probably been reduced as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if that led to some valuable pieces that would get viral and landed natural links as well, as opposed to the usual paid link acquisition practices we’re all used to. 

Vaggelis Gettos
Social Media Manager & Project Manager
Canter for Social Innovation

Suspicion. Everywhere. How come online marketing could escape being doubted, ignored or even rejected by millions of cyber-citizens who are incarcerated in individual quarantine spheres while being bombarded with tones of communication terabytes every day? No way. So, the crucial question for all of us to address is how to overcome suspicion. In other words: how to make people understand that behind pop ads or links in the bottom of native advertising articles, there are no behavioral robots but “real economy’’ people who make their living like anybody else. Being a David Ogilvy’s mentee, I insist on personal contact. Install chat boxes (with real people). Stop redirecting your clients to FAQs and “first-use-this-problem-solving-guide”. And for the sake of marketing: you that don’t have already provisioned telephone lines, just do it. There’s nothing more human than a human voice. As for those you have already done, do your clients a favor: answer the bloody phone!

Guy Moore and Pete Bracegirdle have both left VCCP London to launch a new creative company Creative Coalition.

“Covid has accelerated the trends and pressures we have been seeing for years on the traditional agency model. It has revealed some awkward truths but also a great opportunity to offer marketeers an alternative that is built for the times,” Bracegirdle says.

“The truth is, world class creativity, the stuff that gets talked about and changes the fortunes of brands, is usually the work of 2 or 3 people working with an ambitious client. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. So we have stripped away what doesn’t help so clients can focus their energy and resources where the value is,” said Moore.

Creative Coalition are working with a coalition of talent according to the needs of any given project. “Our model means we can offer clients our focus and experience and bring in exactly the right talent and capability when they need it, ” Moore said.

Ad industry veterans Moore and Bracegirdle first worked together at Simons Palmer where they produced the iconic ‘Parklife’ for Nike. Moore went on to a series of successful creative leadership stints at AMV, W&K, Leo Burnett and Cossette in Canada.
Bracegirdle led the team that delivered Fearless Girl whilst EVP at McCann NY and prior to that he was MD at TBWA\Chiat LA where he led the Nissan account across the Americas and Mars Petcare globally.
Between them, they have an enviable track record of creative and effectiveness excellence including 8 Cannes Grand Prix, the first Cannes Black Lion for Effectiveness and a Grand Effie.

Marios Anastasiou
Position: Account Manager at Google

During 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had a substantial impact on our daily behavior, and, as a result, marketing has changed dramatically as well. Since people had to stay home, they spent more time online, and so digital marketing was considerably more impactful compared to previous years.

Many companies have adapted their products and services in order to cater to consumers’ altered needs and behaviors, which have increasingly involved acquiring and utilizing products and services without leaving their home. What I would expect is the continuation of these behaviors in 2021, with people further adapting to the use of at-home products and services, and, thus, continuing to spend a lot of time on the internet. This, together with the fact that digital marketing is further enhanced by machine learning and other advanced technologies, will make digital marketing the most effective way to promote a product, service, or brand.

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