Predicting future trends in marketing is a dicey proposition in the best of times. With a global pandemic that still has no certain end in sight, it would be easy to think that making predictions is a fool’s errand.
Yet one thing that the impact of COVID-19 has taught CMOs the world over is that both business and consumer behavior took a dramatic and irreversible step towards the adoption of digital technology.
What many expected to take years happened in mere months. Starting in March 2020, the vast majority of businesses implemented a work-from-home strategy for their workforce, built on cloud-enabled technologies like video conferencing, direct-messaging platforms, and online collaboration tools. On the consumer side, people stuck at home due to quarantine restrictions spent far more time online, where they were more likely to engage with and place orders with brands, retailers, and restaurants.
So, despite the continuing uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, we at Three Whiskey have identified several key marketing trends CMOs would be wise to invest their time and resources into as they seek to accelerate growth in 2021.
Social media’s greater impact on the sales funnel
The pandemic’s forced isolation of consumers in 2020 meant brands had to find more ways to engage customers online. The dramatic increase in time people spent online affected not only how they researched products but also how brands could engage and sell their products.
One area where CMOs focused their digital spend was on social media marketing. Research from The CMO Survey showed a 13 percent year-over-year jump in Q2 of 2020 in social media marketing as a part of the total marketing budget.
According to data from Hootsuite’s social trends 2021 report, 73 percent of marketers have customer acquisition as the number-one goal for social media. This is a dramatic increase over last year, when fewer than half of marketers said this was their most important social goal.
As other brands increase their online marketing spending and seek to develop it as a customer acquisition channel rather than just a brand awareness exercise, CMOs would be wise to figure out how to create highly personalized experiences for their customers built on authentic, compelling brand content. By creating powerful moments designed to appeal to different stages of the customer journey, CMOs will begin to see their investments gain traction in the form of increased follower engagement, lead generation, and new customer sales.
Voice search will take off
Advances in speech recognition technology mean that voice search is poised to have a breakout year. Consumers have turned to the convenience of voice search in large numbers, with as much as 27 percent of the global population using it on mobile, according to Google. And by 2022, voice-activated speakers are projected to be in over half of US homes.
CMOs would be wise to recognize how voice search is changing how people interact with technology. To stay competitive, brands will have to incorporate voice components into their SEO strategies in order to reach consumers who are relying more and more on voice search to conduct their research and even make online purchases.
To start, CMOs should think about the kind of questions customers might ask and how it should complement their existing keyword inventory. They should also ensure that they provide answers to those common questions. There’s much more to voice search than meets the eye, which means that CMOs should begin querying their internal SEO team, or outside SEO partners, to get ahead of the competition.
We have seen incredible advances in digital marketing over the past few years. Long gone are the days when marketers used to wonder what part of their marketing mix was delivering the best bang for the buck in brand awareness, lead generation, and customer loyalty.
Better measurement to improve customer experience
Thanks to continuous advances coming from Google Analytics, combined with a marketing technology stack built using AI and predictive analytics, we’ve seen a “measurement revolution” that allows us to better understand our customers and create more intimate experiences for them.
As cost pressures increase, the use of analytics tools will increase; in turn, these tools will help businesses figure out where their marketing budget is having the greatest impact, where they can improve performance, and where undiscovered opportunities reside.
The arrival of Google Analytics 4 will almost certainly make these new gains possible. With even more powerful predictive insights, tighter integration with Google Ads, and more data controls, GA4 is poised to deliver a greater ROI to a brand’s marketing program. Not only will its AI capabilities afford a more complete overview of the customer lifecycle; it will also make collecting wider data sets that go well beyond standard user interactions a reality.
CMOs should be ready to come up to speed in 2021 to better understand how GA4 and other new technologies will help give them a true competitive advantage in the year ahead.
Even with the promise of vaccines that will undoubtedly reverse the course of COVID-19 in 2021, we have turned a corner when it comes to adopting the convenience of online technologies. We now rely upon it to do everything from shopping for groceries to working remotely with colleagues around the world to staying connected with friends and family.
Even before COVID-19, however, digital channels and how companies and consumers used them were advancing rapidly and expanding in scope; the pandemic simply accelerated the process.
For CMOs, the greatest challenge of 2021 will be intelligently harnessing these rapidly evolving technologies, and the mountains of data they yield, to accomplish their overarching strategic goal of profitably growing market share.