What began in late 2004 as an inspired conversation over beverages, has now morphed into a yearly tradition in which the Anvil Media team puts our heads together to predict digital marketing trends for the year ahead. Unlike most marketers who are unwilling to put predictions out to the public for fear of scrutiny, we have the courage to grade the accuracy of our own predictions at the end of each year. 2021 is no exception. Below is our self-assessment of the 2021 Predictions we made in late 2020. Let us know if you agree with our grades.
Post-pandemic behavior changes will take root and change marketing permanently
The pandemic’s impact has been significant and enduring. Consumer behavior has changed and reset, to a degree, permanently. We predict smart marketers will make short and long-term changes to messaging as well as products and services. Specifically, successful brands will focus on value-based pricing and messaging.
[Grade: A-. The Anvil team believes we nailed this one. Many brands changed their business models and audiences due to the pandemic, not just their marketing.]
Digital Transformation will evolve from catch phrase to reality
The pandemic has forced brands to adopt digital channels for product and service delivery as well as marketing. “Digital transformation” has become a popular buzzword since March 2020, and companies of all sizes are investing significant dollars in the migration to digital platforms, including ecommerce, chatbots, email, apps, artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, omnichannel marketing, and augmented and virtual reality.
[Grade: B+. While many companies started or even completed their digital transformation, too many have yet to take the journey.]
Brands will turn to Conversational Marketing in a big way
2020 was a year of desired connection – any connection, including that of consumer and business, as many companies moved to digital communication and abided by health restrictions to limit in-person communication. With that desire came demand for a new kind of marketing: Conversational Marketing. Conversational marketing is a personalized approach that moves buyers through marketing and sales funnels through real-time conversations. Some examples include, but aren’t limited to: AI, chat bots, email marketing, and voice search.
[Grade: C. We were a bit surprised and a little disappointed that conversational marketing platforms like AI-driven chatbots failed to gain traction in a more substantial way.]
Social, environmental and ethically responsible brands will flourish
We’ve long championed authenticity and transparency in marketing with our clients. We predict brands will make significant efforts to clean up business practices and adjust messaging to appeal to enlightened consumers that care deeply about a company’s purpose and commitment to social and environmental sustainability. Research has shown that ethical businesses will be more successful in the long-term, so we expect to see many businesses to join in the movement in 2021.
[Grade: C+. Our largest disappointment, fewer brands embraced socially-conscious business and marketing practices. We hope to see more progress in 2022.]
Targeted advertising will become more regulated, creating challenges for advertisers and forcing them to get creative or expand their audiences/targeting
Data privacy has been a big topic throughout 2020 as the government has been cracking down on advertising platforms like Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Internet users are tracked by advertisers more now than ever on websites and apps. At what point does it become a data privacy issue? With the release of the documentary The Social Dilemma, many people are finally understanding how these algorithms work and the way they target users in a specific way.
[Grade: A+. We nailed this one, well before Apple and Facebook made headlines with new operating systems and policies. 2022 will be the year of pivoting to new modes of tracking and targeting audiences via digital channels.]
Amazon will experience unprecedented competition from online marketplaces
2020 saw the launch of multiple ecommerce marketplaces by American retail giants Target and Walmart. Both companies took a gamble in launching their ecommerce marketplaces to directly compete with Amazon and are offering incentives for vendors to enroll in their platforms by undercutting Amazon’s fulfillment and listing fees. Expect the eCommerce marketplace wars to heat up in 2021 as these three giants compete for market share and attract new vendors.
[Grade: D+. As much as we’d like to see more competition from other retail giants and boutiques alike, Amazon still has over 40 percent of the US retail market and that may not change much for years.]
Google’s “Passage” structured data will gain wide acceptance
When Google First announced “Passage Indexing” there was some confusion from the SEO community on how the process would work. The Anvil SEO team sees this change in the ranking process as an opportunity for a new type of structured data to take shape. We are theorizing that Google’s new structured data formats and corresponding rich results will be released in 2021.
[Grade: D+. This edgy prediction never materialized as we’d predicted. As has been the case with other predictions, we may have been a year or two ahead of our time with this one.]
2021 is (finally) the Year of Voice Search, seriously
SEO experts have been saying “this is the year of voice search” for years now…But we swear THIS is the year of voice search, 2021. The Anvil SEO team believes that by expanding the BERT algorithm to 100% of English language searches Google will be able to gain and use the insights gained from these searches to further improve the context and understanding of voice searches.
[Grade: C-. The Anvil team has been an advocate of voice search since 2017, yet each year we’re disappointed at the adoption rates failing to reach critical mass. 2022 is our year.]
Personalization will become an impactful ranking factor
Creating quality content and providing value takes time and effort, and as Google’s ability to understand language and conversation expands, it will be impossible to stand out from your competition unless your content aligns with how your customers talk. And doing so will help your website rank for voice searches. Because of these additions, a complete and regularly updated Google My Business (GMB) listing that personalized by the owner will have more impact in rankings compared to a weaker profile.
[Grade: B. Personalization in email, let alone search, has been a reality for years. Unfortunately, it has yet to become a meaningful ranking factor.]
The Pandemic will create a permanent reliance on influencer marketing
Brands use social media influencers to present authentic unbiased advertising to a more loyal following group. As more people are using social media and for longer periods of time compared to before the pandemic there is an opportunity for brands to utilize social media influencers more now than ever. With the rise of the platform TikTok with the Gen Z and Millennial population and the continued popularity of Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube brands should be looking at ways to use social media influencers on those platforms to advertise in a creative way.
[Grade: B: We can all agree influencer marketing is here to stay, yet there are still challenges with credibility, authenticity and measurement that keep us from earning an A grade.]
We hope you enjoyed a self-assessment of Anvil’s 2021 digital marketing predictions. If you’d like to know what the Anvil team believes will be trending next year, check out our 2022 digital marketing predictions on the SEMpdx blog.