Bea Redondo & Julie Paci

// Head of Content & Marketing Manager France @ Mailjet

Would you be shocked if we confessed that we’ve never been more excited to be leaving a year behind? We didn’t think so. There’s an endless list of things we all love arguing about – Did Jack fit on the door? Were Ross and Rachel really on a break? Where did Arya actually jump from? – but for once, we’re going to take a gamble and say we’re all on the same page about this one: 2020, we’re ready to say goodbye to you.

As COVID-19 forces us into an end-of-year season unlike any we’ve ever seen before, every marketer out there is probably asking themselves “How much will everything change in 2021?” and “How do I prepare for the uncertainties of the next few months?” To help you start planning, we’ve asked some of our expert friends for help and put together our own list of Marketing Trends for 2021. Curious? Read on!

What will 2021 look like for marketers?

Let’s be honest. This year has sucked. 2020 will forever be the year in which we all became amateur scientists, doctors, and immunologists, discovered that everyone’s houses looked cooler than ours, and had to get a master’s degree in handwashing and disinfectants.

This year, marketing teams have had to face the unknown and rethink the way they’re connecting with their audience. Well-known digital marketing best practices, like digging into customer needs and wants and strengthening relationships by providing value, have become even more important during this last year.

In 2021, Uncertainty will continue to be the main theme for all of us, marketers included, and a lot of what we’ve learned throughout 2020 will still be applicable… We don’t know when – or if – life will go back to how we remember it, so brands will have to continue adapting to successfully navigate the current climate. But with the medical advancement predicted for 2021, Hope will likely play a big role for consumers everywhere too… and so will the desire to make up for this crazy year.

While there are many unknowns surrounding 2021, here are a few key questions that marketing teams can ask themselves to prepare for it:

  • How have our target markets changed as a result of the COVID-19 crisis?
  • What has worked in 2020 that we should continue doing while the current medical crisis lasts?
  • What have we learned in 2020 that we want to maintain beyond COVID-19?
  • How do we find the right balance between short-term, COVID-influenced strategies and long-term goals?

 

Listen, it’s going to be another crazy year. We know it, you know it. But we’re also hopeful it will be a much better one. Whatever happens in 2021, though, we’ll be here to help with the hard questions and the unpredictable challenges – whether that’s taking your side on the never-ending Rachel vs. Ross argument or gathering an army of marketing experts to help you prepare for 2021.

Interested in discovering what 2021 has in store for digital marketers? We are too, so we’ve set out to gather the main marketing trends to help you plan your online marketing strategy for the new year. We wouldn’t want you to just take our word for it, though, so we’ve asked our friends in the industry to share their thoughts too.

Customer lifecycle: Let empathy rule your campaigns to build stronger relationships

No matter how hard we refuse to accept change, there’s no denying that this crisis has affected all of us. But in a way, it has also been a wake-up call and a reminder that changing our perspective can change our reality.

Many of us have pledged to find purpose and become better, kinder humans in our own personal lives… But what does this mean for brands? How can they change their relationships with customers to adapt to the new reality?

If you work with Product and Design teams, you’re likely very familiar with empathy, because it’s a word that those teams like using a lot in reference to the customer journey: doing user research, figuring out what the right user interface is, and really finding the users problems and solving them from their perspective.

That same kind of mind frame is really useful when designing your email lifecycle campaigns. […] Why do you want to be empathetic in your email lifecycle campaigns? The first reason is to build strong relationships and build a brand that people love. […] The second point is that when you employ more empathy in your emails you’re going to prevent a lot of unnecessary operational headaches. […] And then just, all-important, empathy is the right thing to do. 2020 has been a very hard year for everyone, the least we can do is just try to be a bit kinder and nicer with everything we’re doing.

Alex Patton

Director of Marketing at Customer.io during Email Camp 2020

Other lifecycle marketing trends to watch out for in 2021

In 2020, we’ve all been forced to adapt the way we work and the way we operate. It’s probably been a little bit harder to focus on the bigger picture and our whole customer journey, but 2021 will be the year for us to reflect on how all these changes have impacted the way we relate with our audience.

Here are a few other trends to consider:

  • Build a human experience: In 2020, brands have had to adapt to sudden changes and have prioritized efficiency and productivity over building a human experience. In 2021, companies will need to reassess how they interact with their customers to build a strong, genuine connection with their audience and a better customer experience.
  • Value connection over growth: During uncertain times, it is the relationships we forge with customers that prevail. A big part of creating a human experience depends on building authentic connections with your customer base to increase brand loyalty. Balance self-promotion with legitimate customer benefits and empathy statements to better connect with your users.
  • Focus on what your audience values, rather than just what they need: Having a purpose that your customers can relate to will help humanize your brand and build connections that go beyond your products and services. We’re all going through this together, and consumers value brands that become part of the solution, and not part of the problem.
  • Trust tools and processes that allow your brand to quickly adapt to the changing landscape: With another year of uncertainty ahead of us, it will be more important than ever to rely on those tools that have made our work easier throughout 2020, and to find new ones that will allow us to strengthen our connections with users throughout the customer lifecycle, such as marketing automation platforms or messenger tools like chatbots.

 

Content marketing: Invest in high-quality content to build a resource people trust

You’ve heard all about content marketing for years now. Content is king even became a mantra brands live by. But for a long time, the main focus of content marketing has been search engine optimization. As we move into 2021, the focus will be on building a cohesive resource people trust and keep returning to, as a way to develop deeper connections and increase brand loyalty.

The content you produce will be less about creating independent conversion opportunities and more about creating a cohesive publication that your audience can learn from, return to, and (hopefully) use to inform their purchases.

This will require going above and beyond re-creating what’s on the first page of Google; it will require a lot of unique, rule-breaking content strategy involving experts across your organization as well as highly-specialized content creators.

Following a keyword-driven SEO strategy is crucial for snagging organic traffic, but it is just as important to set your piece apart from the other nine ranking for the same terms.

Allie Decker

Content Marketing Manager at Hubspot

Other content marketing trends to watch out for in 2021

Building a cohesive resource that people trust should be the overarching goal to keep in mind for your 2021 content strategy. More specifically, though, there are other questions to ask ourselves when planning what to create, how to create it, and where to publish and share content.

Here are other important content marketing trends to consider in 2021:

  • Create content that can be repurposed across different formats: A super detailed post can become a webinar, an audiobook, or an infographic. With brands putting all their content marketing efforts into creating longer, high-quality pieces of content, it will be important to find opportunities for repurposing them across different formats.
  • Focus on new multimedia content opportunities: New multimedia platforms and channels are increasing in popularity. Marketers will have to consider formats like live video, podcasts, or audiobooks to reach new audiences and meet their customers where they are.
  • Continue to lean into user-generated content: UGC is not a new trend, but it’s even more relevant in the current climate, as it will allow brands to be more authentic and deepen the human connection with their customers.
    Stay reactive to SEO changes: As always, SEO and content strategies are deeply interconnected. Adaptability to SEO marketing trends will still be key since these changes will eventually shape the way we do content if we want it to rank.

 

Social media: Don’t be scared to join the conversation

There’s no denying that COVID-19, social issues, and politics have dominated the conversation on social media this year. Brands have traditionally tried to stay away from these matters, but ignoring them is no longer a possibility if we want to build authentic relationships with our customers.

In 2020, the rise of social consciousness had a direct impact in society as a whole. Brands will need to stop shying away from social issues to ensure they remain relevant in 2021.

Eva Taylor, Director of Social Strategy, Operations & CSR at Hootsuite shared her views about this in a recent Talkwalker and HubSpot report.

Brands will have to find their place in public dialogue on social, particularly when it comes to social justice. However, words without action are meaningless: demonstrating commitment will matter more than ever when it comes to attracting (and retaining) employees, customers and other key stakeholders.

Eva Taylor

Director of Social Strategy & CSR at Hootsuite

Other social media trends to watch out for in 2021

Social awareness might be the big theme on social media this year, but beyond that, what marketing trends should marketers keep in mind to ensure they connect with their audiences across social channels?

To navigate the new reality on social media, here are a few other trends identified by Talkwaker and HubSpot:

  • Be ready to combat digital disinformation: The uncertainty created by the pandemic has generated an increase in misinformation, which has directly influenced customer decisions. In 2021, brands and social media platforms will have to focus on highlighting the truth and combating ‘fake news.’
  • Turn your social media strategy into a two-way conversation: Human connections are built through interaction and just shouting your messages into the void isn’t enough to build a relationship with your audience. In 2021, engagement and connecting with the stories that matter to your audience will be key.
  • Stay current and adapt to the new content formats: Not long ago, it was all about emojis. Now, it’s all about memes. Social media codes are constantly changing and being able to speak the same language as your audience while remaining authentic is important. Stay current and prepare to adapt as needed.

 

SEO: Keep up to date with the latest technical advancements

If you’re thinking “OK, building connections is great, but what about growth?”, don’t worry – we’ve got you. Staying up-to-date with the latest SEO trends and changes in algorithms can be a headache, but it’s essential to drive traffic and reach a new audience that can eventually turn into new customers.

It is difficult to mention an exclusive trend. Of course, following the Core Web Vitals is key, but there are also three other SEO trends that brands should take into account.

The first is voice search optimization for local businesses, which is becoming increasingly popular. In a recent study by SEMrush, we found that devices from different brands recommend the same businesses when making a voice query. This is because many voice devices extract data from similar directories to answer a local business query.

The second, already announced by Google, is support for mobile devices. For many SEO professionals, this is nothing new, but there are a considerable number of small business owners who do not have a responsive site. Following “mobile-first” best practices will be a must in 2021.

The third is optimization for the People Also Ask feature. In a recent study by SEMrush, we found that question terms generate on average 84% of PAA results and that 59% of the sites in these snippets are not present on the first page. This indicates that there are opportunities for less authoritative sites to get a front-page presence with this strategy.

Ricardo Mendoza

Marketing Lead at SEMrush

Other SEO trends to watch out for in 2021

Voice optimization for devices like Amazon’s Alexa or the Google Home, SERP featured snippets, and mobile-first SEO best practices are three big themes to consider as we head into 2021, but they are not the only ones you should keep an eye on when building your SEO strategy.

SEMrush has put together a great post with SEO trends for 2021, but here are a few we’d like to highlight:

  • Focus on long-form content to help drive traffic and generate engagement: Concentrate on high-quality content that is well-structured and easy to read to achieve higher search rankings and reader engagement.
  • Create content with user intent in mind: It’s not about keyword stuffing anymore. Instead, it’s all about understanding what the user wants to read and optimizing your content for their semantic search queries. Follow a holistic approach when thinking about Content and SEO.
  • Don’t forget about video: Optimizing your video content strategy for SEO will become even more important as the popularity and consumption of multimedia content increases. Optimize your channel and video descriptions and leverage YouTube’s autocomplete features to find the right keywords.

 

Emailing: Stay mindful of people’s inboxes when sending your campaigns

Email is always there for us, no matter what. We love it – obviously – and we know you do too. While some insist on predicting its end as a marketing channel, this year email has proven to be the most effective way to stay in touch with our audience.

In 2021, the trend to focus on human connections and strengthening relationships with customers will also impact our email strategies.

Email has become even more important during the current crisis, as brands have looked for ways to stay in touch with customers throughout lockdown periods in different regions. With an increase of emails in contacts’ inboxes, brands will need to ensure they are sending emails their subscribers really want to receive to avoid a decrease in their engagement metrics.

In 2021, as we continue to spend more time than before on our computers, brands will need to be mindful of people’s inboxes to prevent email fatigue. Adapting our sending frequency, segmenting our email lists based on engagement, and ensuring our campaigns balance valuable offers with legitimate customer benefits will continue to be important as we navigate the pandemic. These best practices will help decrease customer complaints, boost deliverability, and keep readers satisfied.

Kate Nowrouzi

VP of Deliverability at Mailjet and Mailgun

Other emailing trends to watch out for in 2021

Every December at Mailjet, our amazing team of email experts gathers around to predict what the big trends will be for the year ahead when it comes to email marketing and email deliverability.

This year, we’re putting together another great post with all you need to know to prepare for 2021, but here are a few ideas to keep in mind:

  • Optimize your email sending times for better engagement: There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ when it comes to email. Brands will need to consider how consumer behavior trends vary across different demographics to increase engagement. Machine learning will help senders reach their contacts’ inbox at the right time, regardless of whether they are marketing to Gen-Z, millennials, or boomers.
  • Rethink the role email plays in your overall customer experience: With higher adoption of ecommerce and online retail, brands will need to leverage automation tools to build a more personalized experience across all the different marketing touchpoints – including email.
  • Simplify the design to increase authenticity: During 2021, the focus on building more authentic connections with customers will lead us to rethink our messaging and the way we design our emails. Flashy, complicated designs will be a conscious choice rather than a default, and simpler designs like text-only emails will become more popular.

 

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Product marketing: Lean into new data analytics tools

Data. It’s always data, every year. But in our obsession to get all the customer insights available to us, we often overlook what matters most: finding effective ways to analyze and read all of the information available to make informed decisions.

After years of data obsession, in 2021 the focus will be on identifying the right tools and processes to utilize those insights when marketing our products.

In 2020, COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation processes in businesses around the world, something that will continue to be a trend in 2021. New digital transformation strategies will change the way marketers interpret and analyze their customer data to market their products and services more effectively.
Customer analytics can yield tremendous rewards, from customer segmentation to churn prediction, purchase probability, and the ability to provide personalized services that boost acquisition, retention, and conversion rates.

In 2021 any digital disruptor or technology a business uses must have analytics capabilities that make the most of customer data. Digital transformation strategies focus on incorporating new data analytics tools that make it easier to monitor, collect, analyze, and mine customer data for making informed and optimal decisions. Among all, BI software, like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, will be key to navigate through the vast collection of complex data businesses amass.

Marketers can now benefit from understanding customer habits and use statistics and data to back their product marketing strategies.

Andy Peart

CMSO at Artificial Solutions

Other product marketing trends to watch out for in 2021

Marketing in 2021 will be all about balancing our tried-and-tested strategies with the new changes demanded by the health crisis. Our love for data isn’t new – even if the ways we use it are constantly evolving – but in what other ways has this pandemic shaped how we market our products and services?

Here are a few marketing trends that product marketers should keep in mind this coming year:

  • Diversify to adapt to the changing landscape: In 2020, national lockdowns forced many businesses to reinvent themselves, and the situation isn’t likely to change during 2021. While some companies will probably find it easier to go digital, others might need to diversify their products and services to adapt to the current crisis.
  • Focus on building and marketing a seamless online sales journey: The pandemic caught many brands off-guard and forced them to adapt to a digital sales model too quickly. In 2021, companies will need to refine their online sales journey to become truly competitive in their markets.
  • Find ways for your brand to become more agile: Teams have been considering agile strategies for years now, but the pandemic forced marketing teams to become much more reactive in order to adapt. This will continue to shape the way they operate in 2021.

 

Design: Focus on human-centered, artistic design in your marketing campaigns

If there’s something we’ve learned this year, it’s that there’s nothing more powerful and more important than empathy and humanization when it comes to connecting with customers… And this applies to the design of your marketing campaigns too.

In 2020, we’ve seen a real impact of the health situation on marketing practices. People are more sensitive to human and ecological causes and are, more than ever, touched by the authenticity and sincerity of brands. For example, Burger King’s “Order from McDonald’s” campaign breaks the classic competitive approach to meet this need for humanization and empathy.

So how does this context redefine design trends and visual identity? On the one hand, it encourages a design that is increasingly human-centered and that focuses on people’s real needs. On the other hand, it encourages a design that is visually freer and more abstract, with spaces without contours, freed from frames. Also, as if to respond to a need for vitality, textures and organic materials are privileged, and – even if minimalism remains – the nude trend gives way to contrasts and plays of light. Icons and illustrations should simplify the speech in a playful way. In 2021, we are moving away from the traditional marketing identity to dare more hybrid and abstract formats, close to artistic design.

Pierre Girardot

Marketing Manager at Canva

Other design trends to watch out for in 2021

Design trends change the way we build websites, create campaigns, or choose corporate colors to resonate with our audience. In 2021, empathy and humanization will play key roles in the way we visually communicate with our customer base, but they won’t be the only marketing trends to consider.

Here are some general design trends all marketing teams should consider this next year:

  • Harmonize your design system across all marketing channels: While not all channels allow for the same design components, brands will need to reflect on what the acceptable level of degradation is to still ensure they’re providing a cohesive look and seamless experience for the user.
  • Have a more industrialized approach to design production: Finding ways to optimize design processes will allow brands to spend less time on repetitive tasks and to focus on driving growth and conversions.
  • Focus on inclusivity and accessibility in design: Design too will strive to operate in a more conscious and ethical way. Considering the ecological impact of our designs and whether these are accessible for all will become even more important in 2021.
  • Lean into advanced interactivity: With technical advancements, the use of interactive design components will rise, establishing its presence in channels that have generally been less dynamic.

 

Event marketing: Be ready to reinvent your event strategy…yet again

No matter what we predicted for event marketing in 2020, it all went flying out the window the moment the COVID-19 crisis hit. Marketers were forced to quickly adapt and events everywhere were canceled, postponed, digitalized, or transformed as a result of the health measures put in place by different governments and local authorities.

The impressive reactivity shown by marketers everywhere will still be needed in 2021, as we all continue to adapt to the changing landscape and the uncertainty.

At Lyyti we have a concrete idea of the upcoming event trends for 2021. For this, we have conducted a study among 1,000 professional event organizers (asking for example precise questions about their future organization) in order to provide a reliable answer to our customers. To elaborate on a finding of this study, we can say that the event industry has changed in just a few days in the face of the crisis we are going through, and organizers have had to reinvent themselves.

Events are an integral part of the company’s marketing strategy but, before this crisis, they were not integrated into the prospect’s digital journey. The digitalization of events has forced many organizers to adapt to transform their physical events into online events (+50%). For the others, they were canceled or postponed. Many companies remain uncertain and are asking themselves the question of how to organize online events (66% have canceled their events). The event must be an integral part of the marketing content. Whether physical, online or hybrid, it must be integrated into it to improve its business performance. We can therefore say that today our solution ushers companies towards this new event marketing standard.

Tehani Leprieur

Country Manager at Lyyti

Other event marketing trends to watch out for in 2021

2021 will continue to be complicated for events. While the first half of the year will still be challenging for field marketing activities, positive development of the pandemic might allow us to slowly transition into an event strategy that is closer to what we were used to.

With that in mind, here are some other event marketing trends to consider in 2021:

  • Focus on outdoor events: Even if in-person events become feasible again in 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic will not magically disappear and it’s very likely that people will still want to maintain some degree of social distancing and health measures. Outdoor events will allow for a safer environment and will be our best option as we transition into in-person events.
  • Organize smaller, more personalized events: Another way to safely bring back some field marketing activities once the medical situation allows will be to opt for targeted events for a smaller audience.
  • Lean into festivalization to make your events more attractive: Festivals are successful because they offer a variety of shows for people to choose from, all in the same place. The same logic can be applied to events, both online and offline – focus on building a cohesive and comprehensive content offer, and allow your target audience to pick from a range of carefully curated sessions to increase engagement.

 

Start planning your 2021 marketing strategy

OK, let’s be honest. We can’t afford another year like this one. But before we can politely ask 2020 to leave – or push it out the door if you’d rather, we’re not judging – we want to make sure you’re equipped with everything you need to succeed in 2021.

Short on time and can’t read through the whole post? Don’t worry, here are the key digital marketing trends to consider:

  1. Let empathy rule your customer lifecycle to build strong relationships.
  2. Invest in high-quality content marketing to build a resource people trust.
  3. Don’t be scared to join the conversation on social media.
  4. Keep up-to-date with the latest technical advancements in SEO.
  5. Stay mindful of people’s inboxes when sending email marketing campaigns.
  6. Lean into new data analytics tools in your product marketing strategy.
  7. Focus on human-centered, artistic design in your marketing campaigns.
  8. Be ready to reinvent your event marketing strategy…yet again.

 

Also, remember when we pledged to be better, kinder humans? You can start now by sharing these trends with all the desperate marketers you know. And the happy, relaxed, and well-rested ones, too… if you can find any. 😜

Send your 2021 email campaigns with Mailjet
Create and send the best email campaigns with Mailjet. Use one of our predefined templates or design your own with our drag-and-drop editor and send them straight to the inbox.

Create your account now