Digital Marketing Trends 2021 for Local Businesses

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  • Post published:December 17, 2020

Pandemic, elections, and protests, oh my! The past year has been unlike anything we’ve seen before, and many people wished that they could go see a wizard who could make 2020 just… Stop.

In the end there was no wizard, but 2020 has finally come to an end. Make no mistake, though, this past year has changed the world – perhaps permanently.

As brick-and-mortar stores closed down and consumers were confined to their homes for months, it’s no wonder that they turned in record numbers to the one resource left for them – the internet. Let’s find out what this online gold rush means for digital marketing in the new year!

Digital Marketing Landscape in 2021

Digital Marketing Landscape in 2021

Marketing in 2021 will be less about completely new approaches and strategies, and more about the evolution of current technology. You will see many things that seem familiar, but the evolving consumer journey – due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other reasons – will require updated approaches.

The pandemic has also made digital marketing more important for local business owners than ever before. As 76% of consumers have changed brands or the ways they shop, the coming year will be a golden opportunity for your local business to get your foot in a much bigger door.

Video is King

If there is one thing that shows up constantly in marketing experts’ predictions, it is video marketing. Grabyo data shows that 75% of U.S. consumers watch online videos regularly, and this number is only going to grow.

In addition, following the example of the Instagram Checkout service, video platforms are implementing ways for consumers to purchase products directly from the video. This will change shopping habits and streamline the customer journey, as they never have to leave the video platform.

Many businesses, particularly in the retail sector, are going to want to take advantage of these marketing trends to boost both customer engagement and sales. If your local business is not yet producing videos, now’s the time refocus your marketing budgets to reach these new video-based shoppers!

Oh, and when we’re talking about video, we mean short-form video of up to 30 seconds, preferably 15 seconds. So don’t make it too long!

How Will 2021 Strategies Differ From the Past Years?

The biggest difference between online marketing in 2021 and the previous years is the increased importance of successful digital transformation. While having functional digital marketing strategies before was important, it has now become vital.

There’s no way around it, your business needs a digital marketing plan for 2021. Your customers and target audience are online now – your marketers must be there too if you want to reach them.

New consumer data privacy protections – such as CCPA in California and GDPR in Europe – will make consumer targeting and data collection an increasing challenge for brands. But, as you will read later on, this isn’t necessarily bad news – non-targeted messaging might just be one of the new marketing trends for 2021!

Artificial intelligence and machine learning will be much bigger factors for any brand to consider. It’s hard to say what precise impacts this technology will have, but it will be a powerful tool going forward.

Last, but definitely not least, in general trends, there will be an increased focus on inclusivity. The past year brought equality and justice in to a sharper focus than what we’ve seen in decades.

As a local business, your marketing strategy must take this shift into account. Brands are expected to stand up for ethical responsibility – both social and environmental. With these kinds of industry trends, you have no choice but to stay on the ball.

In terms of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Both the way Google works and the ways users use the search engine years ago established a standard that has stood to this day: when a user makes a search query relevant to your business, you want your website to be in the number one position on the search results page.

In 2021, this gold standard will start to crack. Instead, insights from industry experts suggest that you will want to aim for the “number zero” position – also known as Google Featured Snippet.

While this position might not directly funnel traffic to your website, it will establish your company as a trusted industry authority, which can be even more valuable. Digital marketers definitely want to take this valuable opportunity into account.

Getting your content to feature as a Google snippet is doubly important with the emergence of voice search technology, such as Siri and Alexa. Voice search is becoming increasingly popular, and Google relies on its featured snippets when playing voice content back to consumers.

Voice search also ties directly to the growing numbers of smartphone users. If your website is not yet mobile-friendly, you better make sure it will be by January 1!

Local SEO has been a high priority with Google and other search engines for a long time. This is not going to change in 2021 – in fact, it will only increase in importance due to COVID-19.

Since the pandemic has severely limited consumers’ travel opportunities, they are increasingly forced to rely on local businesses. As a local business owner, you will want to stay on top of current local SEO trends.

Finally, with the rise of video that we mentioned earlier, visual SEO has popped into prominence fairly quickly. To stay abreast of business trends favoring video in 2021, you have to ensure your photo and video content is properly search engine optimized.

In terms of Paid Advertising

In paid advertising, targeted PPC will remain relevant for both local and national brands. As 72% of consumers say they will only engage with individualized ads, you will want to keep providing highly targeted personalized ads.

However, personalized content requires collecting user data. With the stricter consumer privacy protections, you must ensure that your business’ data-driven advertising complies with all new legal requirements.

We also mentioned that non-targeted advertising options could become a new normal in 2021. Indeed, at least in the publishing business, tests have shown that providing more generalized, geographically targeted ads increased business revenue when compared to highly personalized ads.

So which is it, increased personalization or a switch to depersonalization? The answer is the ever-so-unhelpful: “It depends.” Based on your business and target audience, your marketers might want to run A/B tests on both kinds of ads and see what works best in reaching your customers.

That said, COVID-19 could tilt the scale toward depersonalization. With stores closed, consumers need to buy more stuff online, including things they wouldn’t normally purchase on the internet.

Highly targeted advertising keeps your range of customers relatively small, while less targeted ads could reach people who have never heard of your business but – because of the pandemic – could suddenly be interested. This is an especially valuable insight for local businesses as with the right marketing action you could easily boost your brand awareness right in your own backyard!

In terms of Social Media

Pick the Right Platform

Social media trends are perhaps in greater annual flux than any others in marketing. Consumers and brands alike keep changing their targeted social media platforms based on where they believe their needs are best met.

In 2020, a massive change occurred in the social media due to one thing – TikTok. Despite the political and economic questions surrounding it, TikTok has seen a massive popularity surge – more than 70% in the year leading up to Q2 2020 – during the pandemic.

That means local brands should absolutely hop on this bandwagon, right? Not necessarily.

Predictions on the most popular social media channels for 2021 show that TikTok will not be ranking highly… Yet! It might be a different story by the end of the year, though, so any savvy social media marketer will start looking at how their brand can benefit from TikTok.

In more established social media platforms, we said that short-form video is the king, and that means Instagram. Data from Hootsuite shows that 70% of businesses will target Instagram in 2021, especially retail brands.

That’s no surprise, given Instagram Checkout which we already mentioned. Additionally, Instagram Reels is another new service that’s looking to grab a slice out of TikTok’s pie and can prove a powerful tool for social media marketing. In short, make sure your brand has a presence on Instagram!

But you can’t forget about good old Facebook either, and for most industries this will be the platform to target. Given the interconnected nature of Facebook and Instagram, focusing on these two will be a safe bet.

If you’re active in the B2B space, though, LinkedIn will be your go-to solution in 2021. It might not have the glamour and public attention that Instagram or Facebook has, but businesses are on LinkedIn and so should you be if you want to reach them.

Customers Want Customer-Oriented Content

On the content side of things, 2021 will be defined by every brand trying to get the best possible ROI to recuperate some of the pandemic losses. One of the most important courses of action to achieve this is to have your brand listen, not speak.

Nearly 70% of social media users think companies don’t share interesting content. That should ring some alarm bells if your brand is active on social media.

User-generated content will be an emerging trend in 2021. It puts the attention on the user, with your local brand acting as the listener, thus humanizing it and building trust. You’ll also be able to slash your content generation budget.

Finally, individualized social content will increase in importance. You will want to integrate social data into your other practices, like email marketing, so you can know whether you’re targeting returning or new customers.

How Can Your Business Prepare for 2021?

How can your Business prepare for 2021

Digital marketers looking to boost their own or customers’ brands in 2021 and engage shoppers in 2021 must naturally start with the basics. If you don’t already have a digital marketing plan – get one!

Even if you already have a strategy in place, you must review what you’re doing in each of the categories you’re active in. In this post we’ve covered the most significant predictions that you need to consider when updating your plan.

In a nutshell, brands will want to diversify their online marketing efforts to reach the customers and shoppers who have moved from physical stores to the internet. Local companies in particular must put the individual first and humanize their brand. Let your customers know that you are there for them, ready to help them with whatever they’re struggling with.

Tricks that worked last year might still create results. But to get the maximum benefits, the key approach for brands and marketers to take is the Three Rs – Review, Revise, and Reorient (if necessary)!

Tools You Need

Without the proper tools, any job will be impossible. This is no different for marketers, and you have to consider carefully what tools you will need in 2021.

In general, if they haven’t already done so, local brands should register for Google My Business. It is Google’s own basic system for creating a profile for your business, and helps you with your SEO and in connecting with customers across all of the company’s services.

Since video will reign supreme in 2021, Instagram Reels will be something to consider if your brand is looking capitalize on the latest social media trends. Particularly important for retail, this service will help you engage shoppers while providing relatable content that build brand awareness.

Marketers should also consider how to implement AI and machine learning into their strategies. For example, a live chatbot can guide shoppers to product and service categories they’re interested in, while helping you build data for your marketing team.

Connected to machine learning, marketing automation will grow in importance. Automated services will help you plan ahead and keep your blog and social media profile active without having to spend hours working on them every day. Your email marketing efforts will also greatly benefit from automation.

Working with an Agency

If you’re a newcomer to internet marketing, all of this can seem daunting. Without in-depth knowledge, you might find it overwhelmingly difficult to plan an online marketing strategy that will work in 2021.

That’s why many companies opt to partner with a professional digital marketing team. Working with experts will ensure that you’re using the right tools in the right way to bring in the maximum ROI on your marketing efforts.

A trusted agency, like TTR Digital Marketing, will be able to guide you through all online marketing categories. Their experts will recommend strategies and tools that will work best for your company, while avoiding potential pitfalls that come with incorrect customer targeting or picking the wrong social media platform.

Not only that, a good marketing agency will report back to you on a regular basis once your marketing strategies are in place. You will be able to monitor your campaign and stay on the ball if 2021 brings something new and unexpected.

If you’re not quite sure how to get started on or how to optimize your online marketing strategy, ask a professional. Working with a reliable agency will be one of the best marketing decision you’ll make in 2021!

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