5 Questions We Have About the Future of Digital Marketing in 2021

The future of digital marketing is always a bit murky – but it’s especially murky these days. Even as vaccines roll out, COVID-19 has prompted many, many questions around the world, in industries of all kinds. How will we move forward? What will the future of our companies and shopping habits look like?

In a sense, digital marketing is all about understanding exactly what your customers want and need – but right now, those two concepts are in an ever-changing swell due to the virus and economy.

Today, we want to discuss some of the B-I-G questions we have surrounding the future of digital marketing in a post-pandemic world, as well as a few predictions we have that might answer these queries.

Question 1: Will We Still Buy Predominantly from Big Brands?

Let’s start with this: how will consumer shopping habits affect the future of digital marketing, especially when it comes to local businesses versus large chains?

Prior to the global spread of COVID-19, people spent a great deal of time (and money) shopping in-person inside big chains like Walmart and Target. Big supermarkets earned a combined sales of over $700 billion, and Walmart alone earned $388 billion.

Now, things are changing.

People are social distancing, which means visiting shopping centers is more challenging and riskier. Consumers might not be able to access their big chains as they usually do, which has led to many shopping online rather than visiting in person.

During this pandemic, online retailers without brick-and-mortar locations are doing even better than usual. Amazon hit an all-time intraday high on April 30 – and its shares have gained nearly 30 percent this year as people turn to online ordering to avoid setting foot in crowded places.

However, there’s a large chunk of the population that has balked at this transition to spending more with big online retailers like Amazon – as small mom-and-pop or midsize stores have numerous restrictions

Image Source: Bryan Espiritu Twitter

Wondering what this has to do with digital marketing trends? Bear with us.

Throughout 2020, we’ve seen a push toward supporting local businesses over big chains, and this transition is reflected in many advertising techniques. Digital marketing for SMBs has taken a moral stance, showcasing the need and obligation to support local businesses in this challenging time.

Bringing this back around to our original question: will this marketing emphasis on shopping local stick? Or will we be back to clicking on ads from our favorite huge retailers once the pandemic passes?

We can’t say for sure, but we do know one thing, and that’s if they are to survive, local businesses will need to go digital and turn to online marketing.

SMBs must be able to reach a bigger, more global marketplace through the use of digital marketing methods that extend beyond traditional advertising. We expect to see more mom-and-pop, family-owned businesses reach tap into digital marketing services to get their new-age techniques where they need to be.

Question 2: Will Marketing Costs Continue to Escalate?

Over the years, even before COVID-19 made its initial appearance, digital marketing services and ads have been steadily climbing in price. It’s slowly costing more to purchase PPC ads, social media campaigns, and other digital advertising tools.

To show you what we mean, let’s look at Facebook.

In 2020, it accounted for more than 9 percent of all digital advertising. With more than 92 percent of social marketers using Facebook for some kind of advertising, it has become a centralized hub for digital marketing.

As a result, it’s unsurprising that Facebook advertising costs have risen since the mid-2010s. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand – brands are willing to pay more to access the social media’s platform’s enormous base of customers.

However, we’re not just talking about Facebook right now – we’re talking about all digital marketing platforms and services. Google Ad spends already average $9,000 to $10,000 per month – where do we see that going in the next months, years, or decades?

Now more than ever, companies need to advertise online to reach their at-home audiences. Does that mean the increased demand will lead to higher prices in most areas of online marketing?

Our prediction is yes, we will continue to see Facebook, Instagram, Google, and other social platforms with digital marketing capabilities up their prices.

These networks are incredibly valuable, and although they’re currently cost-effective, their value will continue to change the way we pay for advertisements online.

Will this make them less affordable?

That remains to be seen.

Question #3: Will We Continue to Build Goodwill?

The next subject we want to discuss is digital marketing’s current emphasis on comradery and positivity during COVID-19. Where do we see the future of this trend going?

Right now, brands claiming “we’re in this together” or that “these times will pass” are a dime a dozen. The coronavirus has sent shock waves through the entire world – it would be foolish for brands not to acknowledge the virus and its effects with sincerity.

Fortunately, most brands are doing just that. They’re using engaging, emotional advertising tactics to make people feel more at ease during the stress of the pandemic – and for many, it’s a technique that’s working.

A survey conducted in April of 2020 determined that 68 percent of consumers find it helpful when they see ads that have something to do with the current scenario, and 62 percent understand and agree that these companies and their ads have good intentions at heart.

Notice that when you scroll through Instagram or see an ad pop up in your online sidebar, it likely has tones of hope and togetherness. Let’s call it “goodwill” for lack of a better term, and right now, it’s everywhere.

We’ll be honest: this transition toward happier, supportive online advertising has been refreshing. If the world needs anything right now, it’s a sense of comradery as we struggle to face COVID-19 and its aftermath. It feels good to face this together.

But here’s where we get to our third big question: will this sense of “goodwill” persist in digital marketing once the pandemic passes?

We don’t know the answer to this one.

What we do know is that consumers will likely emerge from this global crisis with a renewed sense of what matters: their values, their friends and family, their health, and connection to the rest of the world. Priorities have changed, and marketers can’t ignore that.

As a result, we wouldn’t be surprised to see digital marketing trends tied to “goodwill” continue to permeate much of the online advertising we see on a day-to-day basis, even after coronavirus is no longer at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Brands need to focus on what matters to their customers, and that will shine through in marketing strategies – no matter what.

Question #4: Will WFH Marketing Strategies Still Be Big?

Because of the social distancing orders put in place by most governments, it’s estimated that most employees are working from home now – or spent most of 2020 working from home. Nearly 97 percent of organizations cancelled all work-related travel in an effort to stop the spread of the disease.

Many businesses, especially those that create tech tools and virtual conferencing software, have latched onto this workplace transition with brand new marketing strategies.

Image Source: Microsoft Teams YouTube

You’ve probably seen dozens of advertisements from companies like Zoom, Skype, Microsoft, and Google stating how they can help solve problems with remote work. The topic of “working from home” became a huge digital marketing concept in 2020, and many companies are using it excellently.

“Hire remote web developers”

“Hire remote team”

“Hire remote workers”

^These were a few key phrases that saw a boost in popularity throughout 2020.

Now, it’s not just tech tools that are using WFH strategies to advertise online. Even clothing retailers, like Nordstrom, are advertising “work-from-home” outfits, accessories, and more.

Image Source: Shop Nordstrom

So, this brings us to our fourth question: will we continue to advertise around working from home once the pandemic has subsided?

The answer to this question depends a lot on how we decide to move forward as a society. It’s unclear as to how many people will continue to work remotely, but if we had to take a well-founded guess, we predict that many companies will adopt remote work policies more permanently.

Image Source: Tech Crunch

Industry leaders like Twitter announced long-term plans to work from home, with no signs of returning to a pre-coronavirus setting.

If more companies follow their lead, and we think they will, we will most certainly continue to advertise around remote workers through digital platforms. The concept of advertising to the “traditional” office worker will likely begin to die out.

As people commute less and spend more time in their homes, or wherever they work remotely, we’ll see digital marketing become the strongest way to access potential customers. The days of billboards, newspaper ads, and even television commercials are coming to an end.

It’s time to embrace online advertising as the central method of accessing audiences.

Question #5: Will Customers’ Needs Keep Changing?

At last, we’ve arrived at our final query. Every digital marketer should be asking themselves, “How are my consumers’ mindsets and needs evolving?”

Although this is always a good way to think as a marketer, it’s even more important to do so now that consumers are going through major mental, physical, and economic changes.

As we touched on briefly in question three, customer priorities are changing rapidly as they were confined to their homes and forced to question the safety of their friends and family. Additionally, the dramatic impact of the virus on the global economy has left many consumers taking a second look at their upcoming goals and needs.

Image Source: Customer Communications Group Inc.

During the pandemic, people focused predominantly on staying healthy and managing their stress, as well as paying their bills. As you can see, these are very basic desires fueled toward protecting themselves and their families – and digital marketing has moved to pay more attention to these base needs.

However, whenever we start to recover from the effects of COVID-19, we can expect to see a shift in customer needs and desires.

According to Customer Communications Group Inc., consumers have reported that their biggest focus after the pandemic will be saving money, paying off debt, and earning more money. As you can see, this is a pretty big mindset shift from taking care of your basic needs to growing and protecting your earnings as a customer.

Going back to our question, will customers’ needs continue to change, affecting how we market to them digitally? Almost certainly.

We don’t know what the coming years hold for the future of digital marketing, but we do know that paying close attention to what customers need is the key to marketing to them efficiently. COVID-19 has forced everyone to reevaluate what’s important, and digital marketers must do the same if they’re to provide strong, successful services in 2021 and beyond.

In Conclusion

You’ve just read through our five biggest questions as a digital marketing agency.

COVID-19 has changed the futures of many industries, and ours is one of them. It’s important to think about how and when these huge changes will come to affect how we market online.

Unfortunately, it may be too soon to tell for certain how things will turn out. We’ve done our best to make some well-educated guesses based on social trends and customer needs throughout 2020, but we’ll continue to monitor the state of marketing as we come out on the other side of this global pandemic.

What do you think about the future of digital marketing? What are the biggest predictions, fears, or opportunities you see happening?

About Riley

Riley Heruska is a full-time writer at a E2M Solutions specializing in producing content in the realm of SEO, marketing, and features. Her passion lies in helping others through the use of written word, and she can often be found sharing her travels from around the world.