Grow your Small Business in 2021: 9 Digital Marketing Trends to Watch

Here's to hoping for anything better than 2020

1. Digitise Your Business

If there is one thing that 2020 has taught us, it is to be prepared for anything. While we are all hoping for Covid to blow over sooner rather than later, we have to face the reality that this might not be our last pandemic. It is now more important than ever to make your business adaptable. Being online is the first step.

If your business cannot fully operate online, be sure that you can at least keep in touch with your customers. In the last 10 months, we have seen firms repurpose and adapt their business models completely- from Pick 'n Pay acquiring the liquor delivery app Bottles to provide customers with same-day grocery deliveries, to virtual events dominating 2020. We also saw, for the first time ever, online sales overtaking retail sales during Black Friday last year.

While some are more optimistic than others about the world going back to normal, it is better to be safe than sorry. If you can't transfer your whole business online, try to think about how you can utilize your online presence to provide value to your customers. Fortunately for you, the rest of this list will give you some headers on how you can do that.

2. Virtual Events

Some might say that this was a fad, necessary for 2020, but we are willing to bet that you might start seeing a lot more virtual events in the near future. According to Forbes, many firms discovered that virtual events have large untapped potential- accessibility. Virtual events allow anyone with an internet connection to attend. It allows businesses to reach a much wider audience while eliminating the high costs for consumers to attend events (such as travel, accommodation, etc.) and for brands to host events. With the ease of access to attend these events coupled with a much higher return on investment, we cannot find any reasons why virtual events will not become more mainstream in the future.

There is more to it than just getting a few speakers and broadcasting them. One-way communication events tend to be less engaging. If you do decide to go this route, it is imperative to be creative and find ways for your audiences to participate and interact with your brand. Otherwise, it's just a long-form Youtube video.

3. Personalisation

Personalization has been around for a number of years, but it is the one trend that most marketers agree will become significantly more important in the future. Personalization includes everything from showing customers ads targeted specifically for them (based on data such as purchase history, location, age, and gender), to writing a custom thank you note for every purchase.

If you feel uncomfortable about personalized ads or think your customers might share your concerns, consider that:

  • 63% of consumers do not like generic ads.

  • 90% of consumers prefer personalization.

Using a customer's personal data to create personalized ads for them is not as devious as it may seem. Let's clear up some privacy issues before we mention good examples of personalization.

Privacy Concerns:

  • A customer should always give consent for a firm to access their data. You, as a business, should also clarify what data you track and how you implement it in your Terms & Conditions. Consumers usually give consent when they create a profile on a page or app.

  • A customer's data is only tracked when they are browsing your site or your app.

  • Personalization does not mean you create an individual profile for each one of your customers. It simply matches their likes and preferences and groups them together with data from other customers with similar tastes. Based on historical data from a large pool of users, it can then predict what other products a customer might prefer.

Personalization goes beyond suggesting other products a customer might like or what next show they should binge. Here are a diverse set of examples showing how personalization can be achieved with or without Big Data:

Examples of Personalisation:

  • Everybody remembers Coca-Cola's "Share a Coke With..." moment. Many a person around the world bought a coke just because it had their name or a friend's name on it. Coke reported their first rise in sales in over a decade during that campaign.

  • Starbucks developed an app that pairs its reward system with the function to customize and order drinks via the apps. The app used the user's location and purchase history to create a personalized experience for each user. Sales through the app now attributes to 22% of their annual US sales- an additional 6 million sales per month.

  • Honey's Real Dog Food takes personalization to a whole new level and is, in fact, the basis of their whole business. Before you even place the order, a Honey's consultant takes the time to ask you about your four-legged friends, their comorbidities, breed, personality, and so on to produce dog food specifically for your pooch. They will even ask for your dog's birthday to send him gifts annually. Furthermore, they even request a picture of every dog they feed to hang up at their headquarters, just to know what their clients look like.

4. Social Media as a Marketplace and not just a Marketing Place.

For a long time, social media platforms have been a space for consumers to discover new products and services and for businesses to market themselves. But since platforms like Facebook and Instagram have introduced their own marketplaces, the potential for social media has expanded greatly. Now consumers can not only discover your product/service through social media, but they can buy from you without ever leaving the app.

There are a couple of reasons why using social media platforms as a marketplace can be greatly beneficial to your business, namely:

it's easier to sell: A lot of companies spend a large amount of money on research and processes to make it as easy and convenient as possible for customers to do business with them. Instagram Shop and Facebook Marketplace make the process to begin a transaction much easier. In short, it can help your business generate more conversions with a lower bounce rate.

creative marketing potential: Marketers can now make their social media campaigns interactive and accessible- from personalized catalogues that appear as posts, to interactive posts that take you directly to the checkout page with one tap or click.

If you are a retailer, 2021 is definitely the year to start taking Instagram shop and Facebook marketplace seriously.

5. Video Content.

We believe in the future of video. It is the fastest-growing form of content consumed on the internet and will soon overtake blogs as the most popular medium. Furthermore, the results from video cannot be ignored:

  • 70% of consumers said they have shared a brand's video.

  • 72% of businesses said video has improved their conversion rate.

  • 52% of consumers say they feel more confident about purchasing after they have seen a product video.

Creating video content has also become much cheaper today than ever before. Video content does not have to be flashy ads with high production value- it can include live Instagram and Facebook stories and 1 on 1 video (sending clients personalized videos thanking them for their support, instead of sending a thank you email).

Video demands more attention from the casual scroller and retains that attention for longer. With the rise of mobile devices, video becomes imperative because it is easier to consume on a small screen than a long written sales pitch.

On the other hand, video can be costly and time-consuming. Yes, you can create video with nothing more than a smartphone and a few apps, but do not expect your video to look like those from the big brands out there- unless you put in the time, effort, and investment to create quality video content. Blogging might be easier to produce and less costly, but it is nonetheless a wise option to plan for a few videos a year and to try and find a budget for video as your business grows.

6. Long Format Content.

Speaking specifically about blogs, it has been a general consensus that short and sweet works best. The statistics show otherwise, indicating that content with more than 2000 words results in better organic results, more traffic to your site, a higher google ranking, a decrease in bounce rates, and longer time spent on your website.

This all aligns with the ethos of content marketing- creating value for your customers. In an age where customers are becoming increasingly aware of how much value a firm provides them, consumers want in-depth knowledge and information. Long-form content (or pillar content) serves this goal because it tends to provide detailed answers instead of giving you a few pointers to raise in conversation.

7. Communications, Chat marketing, and Chatbots

We live in times where we as consumers expect everything to happen instantly. When consumers want to communicate with brands or firms, they want quick or immediate responses. And when it comes to millennials and Gen Z's, they rarely want to make a phone call. They prefer messaging.

We've seen the rise of chatbots, automated responses, and even Whatsapp rolling out Whatsapp Business in the past few years, and marketers predict that it will become a necessity in the next few years for any business.

8. User-generated content

In short, UGC is content (photos, videos, written testimonies) created by your customers that your business eventually shares. You can encourage or incentivize your customers to create and share their own content through discount coupons, competitions, or partnering with them on a good cause.

User-generated content (UGC) hits two birds with one stone. It is an ideal way for users to interact and engage with your brand, and it helps your business create a constant stream of low-cost content. Furthermore, UGC acts as a great visual testimony for your products or service. UGC is especially effective if you are targeting Millenials and Gen Z's.


  • GoPro is a prime example of good UGC. Their social media marketing is entirely made up of content their consumers have filmed with GoPro cameras.

  • During the Pandemic, a UK gym donated 1 Pound to the NHS every time a user took a selfie of themselves working out at home and posted the picture on social media with the hashtag #SweatforNHS.

9. Sustainability

Customers are becoming increasingly conscious about what they consume and how it impacts our planet. With the rise of the internet, consumers are also more educated than ever and expect the brands they do business with to be transparent and sustainable. This is a trend that will only become more prominent as consumers hold businesses accountable for negative environmental impacts.

If your business strives for sustainability, it is important to communicate your goals and commitment to your base. Most sustainable brands make it part of their very identity. 81% of consumers believe that companies should be held accountable for environmental sustainability; if your company has not made it a priority, it is definitely worth implementing sustainability goals for your business.

Need Help? Chat to us!

We hope this article gave you a good idea on how to implement your marketing strategies for the new year. We are also aware that marketing might be a burden to the small business owner doing multiple tasks at once. There are no quick hacks or one-size-fits-all solutions to marketing. It's a long journey that requires research, analysis, and experimentation.

Also, our team at Culture Leader is always here to help out. We are offering free consultations on branding, content creation, and marketing for small businesses and entrepreneurs. You can swing us a message on our contact page.

Have any questions about this article? Ask away in our comments and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.

16 views0 comments