What will 2021 hold when it comes to marketing—or anything else, for that matter? As we wrap up an entirely unprecedented year, it may be hard to fathom that any of us know where we’re headed. But with the promise of not one, but two, effective vaccines that are beginning to make their way into healthcare facilities across the country and beyond, it’s finally safe to say that hope is on the way—and that the consumer behavior patterns we’ve seen this year will have an impact on marketing even when COVID-19 poses less of a threat. 

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the marketing trends experts are predicting for next year: 

A changed—and lasting—approach to the way we buy and sell. Due to serious concerns about its potential to spread, the coronavirus ushered in a significant shift in the way consumers secure products and services, from medical care to dinner. Having thoroughly enjoyed the convenience of home delivery, chances are this trend will only continue—even when it’s safe to frequent brick-and-mortar locations. Do your marketing practices and purchase options reflect that preference? If not, it may be time to consider a new pathway to improve the buying experience going forward. 

More ads on e-commerce platforms. With consumers buying much, more online these days, it’s only logical that that’s where marketers are meeting them, funneling more of their advertising dollars into e-commerce platforms along the way. Experts estimate that trend will only grow, with advertising on e-commerce platforms reaching 13 percent of the country’s total digital ad spend in the new year. 

Two additional key benefits of this route? Most e-commerce sites are very well equipped to track ROI, and they provide excellent insights on their customers, enabling marketers to better target them. If you haven’t taken this tack yet—or you haven’t invested much in advertising on e-commerce platforms to date—consider making it a real priority in 2021. 

Brands sharing what matters to them. In 2020, a year that was politically charged for so many reasons, we saw brands step up and advocate for the causes they believed in—and many were rewarded with a significant boost in sales as a result. By the same token, consumers demonstrated that they were unafraid to inquire about a business’s priorities or politics and called out those who didn’t seem to practice what they preached. We don’t foresee this changing anytime soon. It may seem outside of your purview—or theirs—but customers will likely expect to hear about your opinions and/or business practices when it comes to what they care about. If you don’t offer that information up front, don’t be surprised when they ask. 

A call to customize, customize, customize. 

Working from home has proven to be more than a situation-specific trend, with a number of companies closing their physical locations thanks to the proven productivity and cost savings a remote team provides. However, they’ll need a way to make up for the distance, and many believe that will come in the form of customization, with personalized marketing taking the place of powerful in-person interactions. Think targeted videos, virtual relationship building and even more of those Zoom meetings we’ve come to accept—if not embrace. As such, ask yourself, What am I doing to make my buyer feel like they’re the only one in the room? 

A greater focus on retention. You probably know that it’s easier (and cheaper) to connect with and maintain the customers and clients you have than it is to recruit new ones, but that doesn’t mean your marketing behaviors align with that insight. This is the moment to make sure they do, as retention has been shown to matter more than ever in the past several months. You’ve got to ask yourself what you’re doing to hold on to your audience, whether that’s through targeted marketing, a stronger focus on strengthening existing relationships or developing a product line that would be of interest to your best buyers. 

As things begin to wind down for the year, take some time to think about how you’ll gear up for the next one. With a marketing strategy that harnesses the potential of these trends—many of which are likely to stick around for years to come—you’ll be well prepared to capture all the success the new year has to offer. And after what has been such a tough time for so many of us, we anticipate that it will come as a more-than-welcome relief

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