Top 20 Marketing Trends in 2021

The top digital marketing trends for campaign success seen in 2021

The year of the coronavirus has been one which has seen the landscape of marketing change faster than ever before. As a result of shifting behavioural patterns, thanks to lockdowns and people’s own new caution, consumers are interacting with marketing contact points in ways which can evolve intimidatingly quickly.
The good news, is that we have put together a list of the 20 Marketing Trends to watch out for in 2021. We understand that big lists can be overwhelming though, so we’ve split it into two – What’s Getting Bigger, and What’s the Future?

What’s Getting Bigger?

1.    Content Marketing

Content Marketing is the definitive tried and true. If you want to reach consumers, you need a website that plays the SEO game, to make sure that Google keeps putting you at the top of searches. Of course, that means all the same content optimisation considerations as before, but new for this year is Google’s BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) system.

All of a sudden, Google’s search algorithm is going to be looking not just at keywords, but at entire sentences at a time. This means that the savvy marketer needs to be making sure the content they’re putting out is consistently well-written and focussed, if they’re not going to run afoul of the new standards.

2.     Micro-Moments

Micro-moments are something you’ve probably experienced yourself, without even thinking about them. They’re the seconds where people reflexively open up their devices, driven by one of four simple goals:

1. I-want-to-know
2. I-want-to-do
3. I-want-to-go
4. I-want-to-buy

Google has been talking about these since 2016, but making the most out of them is still more art than science. That said, keep watching our blog for more updates, as they’re something we’re planning on talking about more over the next few months.

3.    Influencer Marketing

The blend of authentic grassroots and celebrity that influencer marketing brings to a promotion is commonly recognised as invaluable. This was true even before the pandemic, but with so much of their audience stuck in their homes, influencers have seen a massive spike in engagement.

There are other reasons for this, such as the success many have had in pivoting their content to stay relatable in a way larger companies have struggled to achieve. Whatever the cause, though, the results speak for themselves. Influencers have experienced a 67% jump in likes, and an increase in comments by 51%.

This makes it very interesting for brands looking to buy endorsements that the pricing of their posts is only up by an average of 3%. The sudden increase in the increase in the ratio between cost and return would certainly explain why brands are putting more into their marketing budgets than ever before. Some, like Primark, are even foregoing traditional marketing entirely.

4.  User-Generated Content (UGC)

This leads right into the next growing trend: user-generated content. That’s material which is actually produced by the
audience whom you’re trying to market to, in response to, and in conversation with, your own promotional material.

You’re likely to see brands trying to prompt this by using online competitions, branded social media accounts asking for people to share their pictures and videos, or even companies starting their own meme trends.

This is the Holy Grail of social media content – though it can be risky, as audiences can be fickle, and inviting them in risks embarrassing backfires. When it works, though, this is by far the most effective marketing method, as consumers are always far more likely to trust ‘people like me’ above anything else.

5.    Personalisation in Marketing

Internet users grow more savvy every day, and the thing they’re most inured to is a one-size-fits-all style of marketing. Seeing the same ads that everyone else sees gets exhausting, and most people will either ignore them, or be actively turned off by them. And if your audience is finding your advertising intrusive and irritating, then that’s bad news for you.

The traditional solution to this has been personalised advertising. But with GDPR, and the decline of cookies, the data collection essential for this to work is going to have to change.

Companies now need to be more upfront about their data collection, and if they want to keep their access to user data, that means they’ll need to find a way to bring internet audience onboard with the process.

If they can manage this, and manage to persuade their audience to actively contribute to the construction of the buyer personas that can be used to advertise to them, then there’s the potential for this kind of personalisation to become more palatable to the public, and even more powerful.

6.    Building Online Communities

Online communities are a bit more of a nebulous trend, but definitely one that it’s worth thinking about. Linked to the previous idea of UGC, online communities are an invaluable resource for a brand.

These take many forms, from Apple’s online support community to Sephora’s Beauty Insider space, and it’s easy to see why. By cultivating a space for consumers to engage with your products freely and authentically, you are effectively helping each one become an extremely powerful ambassador for your products, and even building long-lasting loyalty.

7.    Interactive Content

This is a difficult one to get right, but one that we expect will begin to grow in popularity as brands work to get more engagement from those who are visiting their sites. Quizzes, in-browser games, 360-degree videos and other augmented reality tools are all examples of ways brands are trying to build interactive content into their websites.

There are dangers, though, as features like these straddle a fine line between enjoyable and intrusive, and overshooting it is likely to alienate, rather than attract.

8.    Voice Searching

The popularity of voice search been steadily growing over the last few years, partly due to the rapid adoption of Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri. Even though voice search is still far from being the dominant method, by 2025 that could be looking less certain.

Appropriately, it’s time to start thinking about optimising for this new form of internet searching. Ask yourself questions like how people phrase questions differently when they’re speaking rather than typing, and where these might lead them. has been steadily growing over the last few years, and so the use of voice commands to search has.

9.    In-Browser Notifications

You’ve likely seen these around, even if you haven’t thought about them too much. Functionally, they’re intended to replace email marketing, which has been made much less effective by GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations), and they’re already seeing a lot of success.

They have an opening rate 50% higher than email newsletters, and 70% of respondents even feel that push notifications are useful. That means your audience is seeing more of the content you’re putting out, and liking more of what they see.

10.    SERPs

Another established talking point, SERPs, or ‘Search Engine Results Pages’ is something that’s been seen as massively important for the last few years. SERPs are the snippet of information that comes up at the top of popular searches, and provides everything that you’re looking for, without having to do anything so inconvenient as actually open a website.

They have always been a significant consideration for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), but now how they work is changing. As Google’s search algorithm begins to rely more heavily upon the ability of AI to discern search intent, SERPs will be able to rely less upon supporting metadata to corner the coveted top spot.

Anticipate a lot of conversation and speculation about the new ‘best ways’ to make sure your brand sits in the SERPs, as SEO strategies are adapted to the new system.

11.    Privacy and Security

GDPR has been one of the most monumental shifts that internet culture has ever seen, and we’re likely to be feeling the effects forever. Governments are committed to upholding it, too, handing out big fines for noncompliance and data breaches.

More than that, though, because it’s such a part of the public consciousness, working to be data-secure is something that your users will appreciate seeing, and be receptive to. Making sure visitors feel safe on your site is key to retaining them, and so it’s something you can’t risk missing out on.

Luckily, it’s also one that we here at Complex Creative are entirely up to speed on, since we’re members of the Data & Marketing Association (DMA),where our Managing Director is co-chair of the Social Media council.

What’s the Future?

12.    Deep Learning Analytics

Right now, the phrase ‘Deep Learning Analytics’ sounds like something out of sci-fi, but in a few more years it will be so dominant that it’s going to seem mundane. Google has already been busily introducing machine learning into everything from search results (as we mentioned earlier) to African agriculture – now it’s time for it to be more fully integrated into marketing.

What separates this new trend from old tools like Google Analytics is the greater focus on allowing the AI itself to make the decisions about how to react to the data that’s being harvested. New contenders like GoSquared, Heap, and Woopra (among others), all of which look to increase the level of automation in the process. This helps make choices more accurate, and decreases the human effort involved, allowing you to accomplish more.

13.    Google Ads Smart Bidding

In 2021, the way in which paid ads work is seeing a dramatic transformation. We warned you in the last trend that AI would be something that would be making a big impact, and this is one of the major examples.

Advertising on Google is a potential goldmine, but also dependent on tailoring your content to an audience which is incredibly vast and constantly shifting. This can be overwhelmig, and too many decisions to make in a short space of time. So instead, you can outsource the choices of where and how to spend your precious ad money to Google’s Smart Bidding Algorithm.

There’s still a lot of strategy that goes into this, though, and it can take a careful hand to get as much as possible out of these increasingly powerful tools.

14.    Omnichannel Marketing

Omnichannel Marketing is a strategy that we’ve seen brands steadily moving towards, with the growing emphasis on having coverage of all social media platforms, but this is still a relatively rudimentary version of what we can expect the final omnichannel campaigns to look like.

There’s so much more to this idea than just making sure you’re active on everything from Pinterest to Twitter. Marketers have noticed that consumers are now working across multiple channels, both online (websites, apps, social media), and offline (retail stores, events). The goal, then, is to be able to incorporate all of these elements into a seamless experience, which keeps a consumer within the larger ecosystem of your company and makes purchases within it so easy that they’re practically irresistible.

15.    Social Commerce

Social Commerce has been around for a few years now, and is closely linked to Omnichannel Marketing. Another simple idea with far-reaching potential, Social Commerce is the process of selling products directly on social media.

TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest all allow this already, and they have plans to expand and develop how this works on their platforms. The big news, though, is that Twitter is now also beginning to experiment with this new technology, so soon enough its 350 million active monthly users may be shopping by tweet.

16.    Chatbot Marketing

A lot of sites are using chatbots lately, and that’s because, despite the newness of the technology, they’re already getting great feedback from consumers. They’re an incredibly useful tool, as they give each customer the illusion of a one-on-one shopping experience, available all day, every day. Even better, they can learn, for example, to predict customer needs, becoming ever more efficient.

This technology is still noticeably still a bit rough around the edges, as they can often struggle with complicated requests, and miss contextual cues a human would pick up on. However, new breakthroughs promise more sophisticated systems, which should help their utility advance rapidly.

17.    Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) may sound like the humble cousin of Virtual Reality (VR), but for marketing and advertising, AR is likely to be by far the more useful.

Proof of concept for AR can be seen in how companies are already beginning to integrate it into their marketing. While it’s still noticeably a bit crude, consumers are very receptive to the idea of it (just look at the success of branded AR filters), and the technology can only improve.

18.    RCS Marketing

You’ve probably noticed that traditional text messaging is beginning to feel a bit outclassed by modern services like Facebook Messenger, iMessage, WeChat and WhatsApp, which boast features like encryption, group chats, and read receipts.

Apparently, the mobile phone industry has noticed too, which is why we’re now seeing the introduction of Rich Communication Services (RCS), or RCS Chat.

Intended as a worthy rival to the other messenger services, and incorporating many of their features, RCS has been being phased into popular usage since 2007. However, it’s only since 2018 that Google has been championing its adoption, and so we can now expect it to start making real progress. Despite this, RCS has had, and continues to have, plenty of problems, and so it may be a while until it becomes as big a player as the others – if it ever does. Google has failed before, after all.

That said, it would be unwise to bet against them, and those who start building strategies to take advantage of this new technology early will be the ones who reap the greatest benefit. We just have to look at Subway’s extremely successful RCS campaign to see the potential of this – particularly as a replacement for SMS.

19.    Neuromarketing

Neuromarketing is a new movement to try and boil the psychology of advertising down to a true science. Brands that subscribe to this doctrine will work to craft their marketing materials from the ground up to induce specific neurological reactions in their audience, tapping into the subconscious mind to drive purchases.

It sounds far-fetched, but the technology behind it is already being introduced to political campaigns, so the utility of it could be fearsome indeed.

20.    Quantum Computing

Quantum Computing sounds like something incredible – and that’s because it is. We’ve reached the end of our list, and going out with tech trends that we can honestly describe as being high concept. The whats and hows of quantum get pretty baffling, and involve a lot of words like ‘superposition’ and ‘entanglement’, but what you need to know is that it’s promising an almost unprecedented leap forward in the computing power that humanity can harness.

The scope of this is massive, of course, but just for us in the marketing world, what these developments mean is that everything else you’ve seen on this list is set to be supercharged. Just looking at how impressive so many of these developments are already, thinking about what they could be elevated to is something truly special.

Predictions: Digital Marketing Trends in 2022

2020 and 2021 have seen so many developments in marketing tools and strategies, that it’s difficult to predict where they’ll all lead us in the year to come. So many of them have been reactions to the ways in which COVID-19 has caused us to change how we live – and so it will be interesting to see what kind of staying power they have as we return to a kind of normality.

It seems most likely that brands won’t be willing to surrender the advances made over the last year, and that instead we’ll see a lot of doubling down, to entrench them deeper into normal life. That said, let us tell you the trend that we think is going to outstrip everything else in 2022.

Omnichannel Marketing.

No, not just because it sounds like something from the future. We think it represents a total ecosystem shift in how advertising and commerce work, developing the conventional relationship of marketing and services into polished machines which move customers through a seamless pipeline.

It’s important, too, because of how it’s likely to incorporate, and further boost other elements like Social Commerce, Augmented Reality, Chatbot Marketing, and even Neuromarketing. We said something similar about the potential of quantum computing to revolutionise the entire landscape, but the Omnichannel strategy really represents a total mindset shift in what marketing should do.

Whatever the future may hold, though, you can be sure that we here at Complex Creative will be there to help you stay up to speed. Keep watching this space for all the latest news and updates, and make sure to contact us if you’re looking for more help.