After a year that turned the marketing world upside down, here are our predictions about which of those changes are here to stay—and what's up next.
Emphasis on Empathy
We can expect to see an emergence of empathy-based marketing as brands make it an intention to embody an “all in this together” mindset in a year focused on rebuilding. Rather than trying to speak to consumers, brands now need to empathize with them—understanding on a deeper level what motivates them, how they deal with challenges, and what can be done to add value to their lives.
Successful empathetic marketing means “listening with a third ear,” or tuning in specifically to the needs and unconscious thoughts behind what consumers are saying. This will be especially necessary for growing brands looking to build credibility.
Buying on Social
Social platforms have become a primary source of discovery for budding retailers over the past few years, and now the natural next step in building a more seamless customer experience is the widespread integration of purchase capabilities. Some platforms are already acting in this space with features like Facebook Page Shops and Instagram Checkout, and the adoption of these capabilities across all platforms will only grow in 2021.
The more streamlined brands can make the process between discovery and purchase, the better they will be able to connect with their core audience–and for many, that audience lives on social media. We may also notice a growing interest from B2B brands in this space as they navigate selling services on social without physical products.
Remote work has made geo-targeting content to major events a practice of the past. And attempts by marketers to remedy with synchronous virtual events last year have proven tiresome to those virtual audiences (no one’s looking for another Zoom meeting to join these days). Cue the shift to community marketing—using influential voices, specialized events, and interactive platforms to engage a community of existing customers.
A recent report has even shown that using a community marketing approach in the D2C space yields an average of 6,469% ROI. By shifting the focus away from expanding a customer base in favor of nurturing a current base through community engagement, marketers can both save money and create a legacy of loyalty.
Keep it Conversational
Hand in hand with the need for empathetic marketing is consumers’ cravings for authenticity. People are looking for genuine brands to resonate with, and for marketers, that means engaging 1-on-1 with your audience. According to Twilio, a whopping 90% of customers want to use messaging to communicate with brands they engage with.
This is going to mean a hot market for intelligent chatbots that are available 24/7 so that customers can reach your brand for support at the moment they need it. Making yourself available by providing a clear and easy path to support puts the customer experience first, building trust that your followers will remember.
Consumers are now well-aware of the information they’re sharing with the brands they’re loyal to, and with that data comes great responsibility. There is a growing expectation that brands should be helping consumers determine what to buy next. In fact, 61% of Millennials are willing to exchange personal information for personalized shopping experiences, and 72% of consumers expect companies to understand their unique expectations.
Purchase histories and first-party data allow for the consumer to play a role in curating their own experience with their favorite brands, as this information helps the brand predict what the consumer would like to see next. Even as the third-party cookies phase out, consumer data (in whatever form it takes) will remain an increasingly valuable tool to building a two-way relationship with your audience.
Finding Your Voice
As voice technology continues to rise, it’s time to start thinking about marketing strategies that fit the voice environment and how we can use them to drive better customer experiences. 62% of the total US population uses a voice assistant, and 76 million people own at least one smart speaker, such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home.
We expect to see an increasing number of brands finding success in offering audio versions of their content across digital platforms this year, and this has already proven true with the emergence of the latest buzzed-about social platform, Clubhouse, which connects people through audio.
Things change fast in the digital world, and brands have to be prepared to adapt their messaging accordingly. We’re going to see marketers planning ahead to ensure the flexibility to seamlessly pause or change up their content schedules based on the tone of current events and culture. Hootsuite has introduced a feature that allows organizations to suspend scheduled content, giving brands time to pivot appropriately and avoid insensitivity in the event of a crisis.
We expect to see marketers putting time and resources into crisis management plans to protect their brands, and CRMs will likely take advantage of this by following Hootsuite’s lead in rolling out planning tools to help them do so successfully.