What to Expect in 2021 - Brand, Marketing, & Technology Predictions

Linh Judin, Founder & Managing Director, Open Lock MarketingLinh Judin, Founder & Managing Director
Last year shook us to our core and completely changed how we connect with each other, how we interact with brands, and forced us to look inward and reassess our values. Many Americans have shifted to prioritizing their family, health, spending habits, and overall well-being, with more than 80% of Americans saying they have yet to return to their pre-COVID-19 lifestyles.

While it may seem nearly impossible to predict trends after a turbulent 2020, Open Lock Marketing, a brand agency based out of Austin, Texas, has its finger on the pulse for what’s next in marketing and what the future holds for the digital marketing space beyond this year. In this article, Open Lock Marketing dives into why marketing will look different in 2021 and how evolving customer expectations will shape marketing plans.

Authentic Connection, Accountability Culture & Purpose-Driven Brands

People are craving authentic connections—and not just with other humans, but with brands as well. More than just selling products and services, marketing needs to be intentional and focus on inclusive, empathetic, and people-centric solutions. This is something that Open Lock Marketing will prioritize this year with their clients, helping them find ways to create meaningful change in society while also strengthening their relationship with the customer.

Part of becoming a purpose-driven organization involves taking a stance and responding to important issues, especially in the midst of a global pandemic and simultaneous social and economic crises. After a historical year full of big political moments and cultural movements, Open Lock Marketing says that brands need to up-level their impact and influence.

“Staying out of politics and not getting involved in important cultural issues is no longer an option. We’ll see more brands moving towards a human-centric focus. Companies need to incorporate social responsibility into their marketing strategies, as customers will hold brands accountable for any promises made and for how they respond to the current climate,” said Open Lock Marketing Founder, Linh Judin. In fact, according to Deloitte, 39% of consumers say they will purchase more in the future from brands that responded well to the crisis.

More than ever, 2021 serves as a tremendous opportunity for businesses to define their purpose and create something even bigger—and more meaningful—than the brands themselves.

Online Networking, Agile Marketing & The Influencer Effect

Another big trend that Open Lock Marketing predicts we’ll see in 2021 and beyond is the shift to online networking. Whether it’s connecting with people through Facebook groups or joining virtual conferences, people will continue to foster connections, collaborate virtually, and seek online learning opportunities. The worldwide e-learning market is projected to be worth $325 Billion in 2025, according to Forbes.
While this number represents a great opportunity, Open Lock Marketing recommends that brands get creative when promoting virtual events in order to capture the audience’s attention and break through all the digital noise.

Agility has been a big buzz word for the past few years, but now marketing teams must operate in an agile way so that they can anticipate what’s coming next. “As CMO’s layout their marketing roadmaps for this year, they’ll not only need to have Plan A in place but also Plan B, C, D, etc. since customer needs and expectations are rapidly changing. Now is the moment to leverage digital technologies to accelerate agile marketing efforts. Building processes that allow your business to be resilient and malleable is fundamental to surviving in today’s volatile business landscape,” explained Judin.

Love them or hate them, Open Lock Marketing says that influencers are here to stay and will continue to play an increasingly important role in the way people shop. The influencer marketing industry was worth $8 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow to $15 billion over the next two years. When an influencer shares a swipe-up link on their Instagram Stories, they can generate hundreds of thousands in sales just for that product. Open Lock Marketing cautions brands not to be lured by influencers with massive followings. They should instead focus on establishing partnerships with micro-influencers who have higher conversion rates and a closer relationship with their community.

Intelligent Technologies, Why Video is King & The Power of Personalization

In order for brands to make any of the above happen and stay ahead of trends in marketing, they will have to adopt intelligent technologies that help marketing teams make better, more informed decisions while also saving time and resources. “With the rise of AI technology, A/B testing will become a thing of the past. AI has powerful data collection and analysis capabilities, so marketers will no longer have to spend time testing theories and throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. AI is transforming the digital marketing space,” said Judin.

With the release of Instagram Reels and the explosive growth of TikTok, Open Lock Marketing expects to see a heightened focus on video content. More than email, online articles, or infographics, video format is how the majority of internet users prefer to consume content, and Open Lock Marketing says that video content continues to be kind. In fact, more than 50% of consumers want to see videos from brands, according to a report from Hubspot Research.

Digital ads are also a big piece of the 2021 marketing puzzle. “What’s great about all the available digital technologies is that marketers can get hyper-specific with their audiences and create highly tailored ads that will outperform any generic message. This makes incorporating digital ads into your marketing strategy a no-brainer,” explained Judin.

Lastly, Open Lock Marketing predicts that low-code and no-code tools are gaining traction. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of ease-of-use vs. limited capabilities, these tools are here to stay and the numbers speak for themselves. According to a recent report from Gartner, low-code/no-code tools are predicted to make up 65% of all app development by 2024. These tools will continue empowering marketing teams to streamline their workflows and focus on continuous innovation without having to bog down and rely so heavily on IT teams. They’re a win-win for everyone involved.

What’s your “Why”?

The world has changed and pushed many people—and brands— to question their purpose. As we look ahead into 2021, marketing teams must be ready to pivot at any moment, rebuild their brands, and find ways to connect with their customers on a deeper level. Using the power of technology combined with empathy and inclusivity, businesses have the opportunity of a lifetime to use their platforms and brands to make a long-lasting and positive impact on society.