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Seven post-pandemic trends for 2021 and beyond

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Adapt Worldwide predict the trends to dominate the advertising industry following the Covid-19 outbreak

During our Digital Marketing Futures series earlier this year, we gave a conceptual view of the marketing trends those in our industry need to keep their eyes firmly trained upon.

Following on from this, we’ve picked out seven specific trends that we’ve seen change or accelerate during the recent lockdown, and that we think you should watch out for over the next 12-24 months. So here’s our list of seven post-pandemic trends to look out for in 2021 – and beyond.

Video marketing

This trend is easy to predict and is one that – hopefully – you have already begun implementing in your campaigns. It’s reported that by 2022, 82% of global internet traffic will come from video streaming and downloads. What’s more, 72% of businesses have reported that video increased their conversion rates.

Video covers such a huge range of mediums, including live streaming, one-to-one videos, long format, short format – the list goes on.

In lockdown, we’ve seen huge gains in people using over-the-top media. The most mainstream example of this is YouTube, but it also encompasses all the paid searches such as Netflix, Amazon, Disney+ and HBO.

It’s no surprise this has increased over lockdown, however what is surprising is why people are doing it. More than half of 13-39 year-olds planned to watch TV series and films on these streaming services as a way to maintain their mental health in lockdown.

Now even TV remotes have buttons installed for Netflix and other streaming services. We can now programmatically get at users with video on these connected TVs through different over-the-top media outlets – and this is pushing forwards the decline we are seeing in linear TV.

Visual search

This again isn’t a trend that’s new to us, but it’s something that has become much more mainstream. Nowadays, 62% of gen Z and millennial consumers want visual search more than any other technology.

We are fundamentally getting much lazier in how we do day-to-day activities, and users now are choosing to search for information through pictures. Google, Pinterest and Microsoft are all leading the way with their various technology features that allow you to find similar products based on things that you upload.

These days, it’s not uncommon for you to take a photo of clothing, furniture or kitchenware at home and then use available systems to find similar products that are available to purchase. Or you can use your camera to take a picture of a barcode and then use a system to find that product online and where you can buy it from.

It’s going to grow as consumers become more familiar with these systems post-lockdown, and it will likely be used by many on a daily basis. You will need to start thinking about how this will play into your marketing strategy over the coming months. To start with you should ensure your structured data is sound and you have high-quality imagery, and make sure your site is optimized for speed.

Voice search

This is a trend that has crept up on us; it’s really everywhere now and demand for it is going to accelerate beyond lockdown. Research shows people are now more comfortable chatting away to Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa or Cortana. Predictions now are suggesting that 50% of searches are expected to be carried out through voice activation over the next few years.

Voice commerce is also expected to drastically increase as these types of sales are expected to hit the $45bn mark by 2022 in the UK and US. Another recently-released survey from YouGov showed that one in four Britons reported owning some sort of smart speaker.

When implementing voice search into your strategy, you need to consider the types of searches that are most common among users – for example, ‘near me’-type searches are huge. In this instance, you should make sure that you’re a local entity and you’ve used localized keywords in your web copy.

From a technical perspective, over 50% of these searches are going to be on mobile, so your mobile site needs to be up to date. With the Core Web Vitals update just around the corner, they become much more important.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI has gone from being a buzzword to very much a reality, and marketers’ use of AI soared to 190% between 2018 and 2020. With the likes of Microsoft Azure’s cognitive services, it’s very much now something that’s within reach of every website and every developer.

The API is there and designed to make it accessible, and from a pure marketing perspective AI is baked into the platforms that we’re using. It’s used to collect data, generate insights and anticipate customer trends and moves.

Until now, we’ve taken this kind of automation for granted. Bidding strategies and responsive ads all use forms of AI and machine learning to adapt to the signals that are coming in to improve results in real-time.

One of the other interesting areas where AI will play a huge part is how it’s currently being explored as an alternative to cookies and other third-party trackers as we transition into this cookie-less world over the coming years.

The IAB is expected to release some guidelines and best practices for the use of machine learning at all the different levels of digital advertising production. In a post-pandemic world, leveraging AI becomes even more important as we see these trends shifting all the time as lockdowns come and go. It’s about them being able to react to those changes in real-time.

The need to lean into AI more means this sector will continue to grow to the point where we’re not talking about AI because it’s something we all expect.

Conversational marketing

Conversational marketing is a way of moving buyers or customers through a marketing or sales funnel by using real-time conversations. It’s about fast, real-time interactions, and a lot of businesses are now turning to chatbots.

Over 50% of customer queries may be managed today via AI chatbots. These bots are not necessarily new, but the uptake has accelerated the technology behind them and it’s helping marketers to establish and maintain relationships during the pandemic.

More and more brands are turning to chatbots and conversational marketing to do some of the heavy lifting exercises around support inquiries or sales, and a great example of this is Facebook’s Messenger bots.

However, these bots can be used for more than just support inquiries. Lidl’s wine bot called Margot informs you of the different types of grapes that are used in their wine and will give you wine pairings based on what you are planning to eat. You’re invited to have fun with these chatbots and use it all the way through the funnel, from sales activation to more of a brand-building exercise. We will soon get to the point where it’s hard to determine whether or not you’re talking to a chatbot.

Extended reality

This may be a new term to you, but it’s actually an umbrella term for three immersive technologies that you certainly know. Those terms are:

  • Virtual Reality – this is where you place a user in a 100% artificial environment, like Oculus Rift.

  • Augmented Reality – this uses overlays to display virtual objects but in a real-world environment like Pokémon Go, where you’re outside chasing Jigglypuff or Squirtle.

  • Mixed Reality – this is a bit of a combination of the first two that goes beyond just overlays by anchoring virtual objects into the real world that you can interact with. The best example of this is Microsoft’s HoloLens.

This is a trend that’s growing at lightning speed, as the global market size of extended reality is estimated to increase 7772% to over $3.7bn by 2025.

These may not seem applicable to the marketing world, but in reality it’s a technology that has been thrust forward in the past 12 months by the reduction in the hardware costs, the availability of them, and the increased demand from people trapped at home looking for some alternative ways of engaging.

It’s not just big, heavy headsets now. It’s using YouTube’s 360-degree videos or the augmented reality filters that come with Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok, all the way through to DIY VR equipment. These are changing the conception of this immersive experience so that it is available to all.

Marketers need to meet this demand quickly by upping their game in terms of engagement, interactive content and the personal experiences they produce. Users can now connect with a brand with the kind of intensity and emotional response that hasn’t been possible with one-way traditional media.

Neuromarketing

For those who are unfamiliar with this term, neuromarketing is a strategy that analyzes and measures people’s brain activity and reactions from their nervous systems to determine which types of content they find engaging.

Essentially, you’re checking when a user has an emotional response to something. Thanks to the advances in tech over the last few years, it’s becoming much more of a reality that these types of tests can be accessible to all.

A good example of this is eye-tracking. This is where you use technology to track eye movements to understand where someone fixates on a particular point of a website, or to count the number of blinks that are occurring, which can be an indicator of how much attention someone is paying to your ad. You can also use emotional response analysis, which is where you use technology to identify whether there has been an emotional response to an ad.

A successful neuromarketing campaign that used emotional response analysis was created by Always in 2014. The brand took the phrase ‘like a girl’, flipped it on its head and turned an insult into a movement of confidence. This brought the emotional response that you would expect, it generated revenue and popularity and even won the Brandon Emmy for their campaign.

Advances mean that this kind of marketing has gone from being a more sci-fi way of marketing to something that’s very much mainstream.

Final thoughts

If you’re looking to get ahead of your competitors in 2021 and beyond, then you should definitely consider implementing these trends into your marketing campaigns where possible.

While these trends have emerged as the ones to watch in recent months, we do have to bear in mind the circumstances in which they have appeared.

One of the key things we will have to do over the next 12 months is identify which of these trends are actual trends and which are just passing fads born out of necessity from lockdown.

Mike Sharp is media ops director at Adapt Worldwide.