6 Key Trends Shaping Marketing Agendas in 2021
There have been clear seismic shifts in purchasing behaviour over the past year, due to Covid. How might these developments impact longer term on society, the types of products people choose to buy and how businesses opt to market their products?
Here are our key take-outs on some underlying trends affecting marketing agendas today:
Stocking up on essentials to ensure basic needs have been serviced is a clear feature of consumer behaviour in recent months – classic Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – food, shelter and security. With financial resilience at the top of the agenda for many, budgets have tightened for all types of buyer, with a stronger tendency to consider the added value of any purchase and how necessary it really is.
Businesses have also experienced how rapidly demand can be curtailed and how supply chains can be severely challenged, highlighting weaknesses in over-reliance on limited networks and channels to market. In the UK, this is currently further compounded by Brexit, with new logistics alliances being forged. Globally, online trading has rocketed, attracting a wider demographic.
Trust in a brand, product or service has always been an integral part of the purchasing decision, but all credentials – quality, reputation and clear company mission are more important than ever before to gain a share of spend. Marketers are adapting by finding novel ways of engaging with their customers, in order to remain relevant. Whether this is through ‘real lives’ storytelling, individual reward programs or added value service benefits, with even greater customer convenience.
Added Community Value
There needs to be a compelling purpose in order to communicate a compelling message – the 'why'. It can be argued that our sense of community has broadened during the pandemic, to directly benefit local needs. We have seen that companies, and individuals, who touch other people’s lives, or share their expertise, stand out. Take Burger King’s use of its Twitter account to support local restaurants. Or Marcus Rashford’s campaign for free school meals. Or Joe Wicks’ attempts to keep the nation fit during lockdown. All of these have been widely reported and continue to be talked about.
On a global level, even the development of the Covid vaccines has proven that mountains can be moved, through wider community collaboration (despite current setbacks).
There would appear to be a continuing eagerness to support local businesses in order to ensure communities thrive. Looking ahead, this may have longer-term implications for Corporate Social Responsibility programmes, down to the level of local partnering and collaboration initiatives, so that there is a tangible economic and social benefit at grassroots level.
Sustainability and climate change continue to shape political and corporate agendas. Reducing consumption of natural resources, waste and carbon footprints are core messages in many PR campaigns and have the potential to impact upon balance sheets. David Attenborough’s A Perfect Planet continues to draw significant audiences, building upon the reach of Blue Planet, said to have been one of the most watched BBC programmes of 2017, raising consumer awareness of the problem of plastic in the oceans. Both programmes highlight the need to take action.
Products which link their eco-friendly credentials with added social value can potentially differentiate two-fold. It’s not just about doing good for ourselves, but also for the planet and for others – well-being and well-meaning.
As thinking continues to evolve around minimising environmental impact, there is likely to be greater adoption of innovative schemes. A current trend is towards greater use of second-hand clothing within the fashion industry – a market which is projected to double over the next few years. Examples of businesses embracing this trend include Resellfridges' online shop for ‘pre-loved’ clothing, coupled with its Project Earth campaign; also Vestiaire Collective’s online marketplace for pre-owned luxury fashion.
As the popularity of programmes such as The Repair Shop continues to rise, along with material recycling and re-purposing initiatives, from plastic packaging to furniture and even carpets, it is feasible that this approach will extend to more widespread adoption of second-hand products. There may also be scope for more rental in some larger product categories. This has implications for how business models evolve, possibly with customers having less ‘personal ownership’ of some goods?
There are numerous examples of companies, with hitherto traditional B2B models, extending their reach to B2C markets and adapting, during Covid. This has been prevalent in the hospitality and wholesale food sectors during lockdown measures, with home delivery of bulk orders of food and pre-prepared meals (many offering artisan provenance). Clearly, the lines between B2B and B2C have blurred. Some small businesses have been driven to trading online for the first time. A wider range of businesses have also developed an omni-presence, harnessing the power of both their physical and online operations, to seamlessly promote their products and services.
Added to this, the formula of working remotely, with online meetings replacing the daily commute – from ‘room to Zoom’ - has been proven to work for many organisations. This trend may continue, especially as people have adapted their homes to create multi-functional spaces, gaining the precious gift of time to organise their lives as they see fit, whilst still being productive.
A report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development evaluated the impact of the enforced shift to working from home (WFH) for UK employers. For many, the shift has been positive, with almost three quarters of employers reporting improved work-life balance amongst staff, better employee collaboration (43%) and improved focus (38%); it did however flag up issues of mental health and line management.1.
For some creative and digital agencies and other service businesses, this tested model of remote working has enabled them to broaden their horizons. Having to be physically present in, or near to, an organisation’s own premises is no longer perceived as a barrier, as talent can be sourced online from anywhere.
All of this has implications for how companies continue to communicate with their audiences. In general terms, it is likely to require greater fluidity in appealing to 'chameleon customers' as they adapt to their environments. It will require a more flexible approach to the customer journey and that requires rapid data capture and management for more informed and relevant marketing campaigns.
Ultimate PERSON- alisation
Consideration of one’s personal (and corporate) wellbeing appears to be at an all-time high, with open discussion of healthier lifestyles as an holistic issue. Does this mean that even greater value will be placed on products/services which appeal to our emotional, not just our rational selves and which help us to achieve this?
During Covid, many have had the time to consider exactly what they want out of life, to re-assess the importance of family and friends and to decide what ‘fulfilling one’s potential’ actually means. For marketers, this may provide opportunities for products and services which can engage with their audiences as potential ‘partners’, helping them to achieve their life goals.
Despite the importance of remaining digitally connected during the pandemic, we are now seeing that it is becoming fashionable to be more selective on social media channels; to have some down time, to be more ‘mindful’ and to re-evaluate how and where we spend our time. This re-alignment of the relative importance of channels may present a challenge for some organisations, as they consider where best to spend their advertising budgets.
A key theme here is the emergence of more demanding and informed consumers who know exactly what they want. There is already an expectation that goods and services can be precisely customised to our needs. Examples include digital prints within the home decor market, on-demand film services, food and menu ingredients for both humans and their pets, and Apps which deliver personal content and solutions, from Spotify to Strava.
As spending continues to be re-prioritised, services which strike a more personal chord are likely to stand out, although again, the importance of social good cannot be underestimated in marketing campaigns.
Complete digital ‘immersion’
There is rapid growth of Augmented Reality with direct benefit to the marketing and sale of products. Also Artificial Intelligence to manage and interpret large volumes of data, in real time. Expect to see these becoming more mainstream across a wider cross section of businesses, with total integration into the online customer experience. Voice recognition technology has also been a growing trend for some time.
It is now possible to try clothes on ‘virtually’, to try out the latest car model through a remote driving session, to ‘walk through’ your radically re-designed home layout and to vividly place yourself in a virtual holiday setting. Such digital advancements have the ability to blend a number of sensorial online experiences to create strong brand advocates, through highly memorable interactions.
There may also be partnering between tech companies and brands, or potential acquisition of digital firms to enable vertical integration within organisations, utilising in-house expertise.
As these six key trends converge and businesses consider how best to direct their marketing efforts to appeal to today’s re-forged customers, 2021 promises to be an interesting balancing act, with scope for real marketing differentiation.
If you enjoyed reading this, contact us to discuss how we can help provide insightful desk or primary research and fresh ideas to steer your company thoughtpiece.
- Please note that this article is an exploratory thoughtpiece and does not represent one-to-one business advice by Freelance Marketing Ltd for any specific organisation.