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Top Digital Marketing Trends To Follow in 2021

The Ultimate Guide to Marketing and Advertising Trends To Watch in 2021

Trends 2021

Digital marketing encompasses all that businesses do to reach customers online. The field is becoming increasingly important as internet usage climbs, and it’s continually morphing as the internet evolves.

If you’re a business owner, digital marketing must be part of your business’ overall marketing plan. As a digital marketer, you need to keep up with new strategies. advertising tactics, platforms, and current events. That's a big ask!


📰  Keep up with digital marketing trends like an Embertriber with this list of some of our favorite resources. →

Table of Contents


Websites as a Pillar of Digital Marketing

Automated Communications Are Gaining Popularity

Social Media Is a Major Marketing Platform

Data Guides All Digital Marketing Decisions

Here’s what to know about the digital marketing trends of 2021 so that you can effectively reach customers online.

Topic One

Websites as a Pillar of Digital Marketing

Despite all of the advances that have been made since the early days of mainstream internet usage (all the way back in the 1990s 👵), the internet has steadily risen as a powerhouse in the marketing and advertising space. 

Even with the development of social media and apps, websites still form the bedrock of most business’ digital marketing efforts. People expect businesses to have websites, and the sites serve as a major source of information and a primary way to convert audiences into buying customers.

That’s not to say that today’s websites look like the websites of the early 1990s. Does this home page bring back memories? 👇

Space Jam home page

Changes in technical aspects, site designs and consumer behavior have all led to 2020 sites that look vastly different from their early predecessors.

As an example, consider HTTPS (a secure version of HTTP). Google announced that HTTPS would be a ranking signal in 2014, and customers today know to look for it before they make a purchase on a website. A site that doesn’t have HTTPS isn’t too secure. This security protocol was unheard of in the 1990s or early 2000s, though, and this is just one way that websites have changed.

Let's look at some of the website trends to be aware of in 2021.

Mobile-First Design Features

Website design has progressed from being “mobile-friendly” to “mobile-first” over the past few years. It’s no longer sufficient to build a website that’s can be used on smartphones and tablets, but sites should be designed primarily for these devices and not desktops.

While people certainly still do use desktop and laptop computers, the majority of internet usage is now on smartphones and tablets. Mobile usage is projected to increase sevenfold from 2017 to 2022, and it accounted for 50.44 percent of website page views in May 2020. To not design first for mobile will leave your business without half of its intended audience.

This trend is especially important for businesses that are targeting customers overseas. In countries where traditional computers are less common, many people still have an internet-ready smartphone. Africa and Asia, in particular, have the heaviest ratio of mobile usage. (Businesses that target the United States and Europe still need to focus on mobile, as its usage continues to grow in these regions too.)


Gamification Increases On-Site Interactions

A growing trend toward more interactive content has been slowly emerging over several years, but it’s found its true expression in gamification. Gamification refers to the practice of making a website more interactive through game-like features. This has multiple benefits for businesses’ sites, as it can:

  • Reduce bounce rate
  • Increase average session duration
  • Increase visitor engagement
  • Give clear calls to action
  • Encourage visitors to return

There are several different ways to make your business’ website more interactive through gamification. Some common tactics are features like:

  • Spin the wheel for a prize/discount
  • Log in daily for a reward
  • Scavenger hunt on the site for a reward
  • Host an actual game on the site
  • Quizzes and polls to take

Screengrab of Overstock prize wheel

Even embedded calculators and 360-degree videos can incorporate game-like aspects into a site.

Exactly which features make the most sense for your site will depend on your goals. For example, spinning wheels can increase conversions, daily visits and on-site games can increase return visitors, and scavenger hunts, quizzes, polls and calculators can increase time on site. In some cases, it might make sense to use several of these tactics together.

Push Notifications Share Site Updates

A relatively new development, push notifications have now become mainstream. Most online stores use these notifications, which share site updates even when people aren’t on a site, and many other websites use them too. The notifications can be rich with graphics and texts, and they’re an effective way to recover abandoned shipping carts, increase repeat visitors and generally remain in touch with visitors.

Phone with 3D illustration of push notification

In particular, push notifications are beginning to take on what has traditionally been email marketing’s role.

Email marketing shouldn’t be abandoned altogether, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to effectively reach customers through this medium. People get too many emails, Gmail and other inboxes sort out promotional emails, and the former excitement of AOL’s “you’ve got mail” is long gone. Email open rates tend to range from only 19 to 26 percent, and only a small percentage of those who open an email will actually take action.

Push notifications make it possible to send customers the same messages that you would via email, but to send them through a medium that’s more likely to actually reach its intended audience.

Topic Two

Automated Communications Are Gaining Popularity

While some communication will always need to be handled directly by a person, a growing number of common communications can be automated thanks to advances in campaigns and artificial intelligence.

Automated communications has grown in two major areas recently. 

On-Site Chatbots Assist Customers

On-site chatbots are automated features that use artificial intelligence to answer customer inquiries and direct customers toward helpful resources. These commonly pop up in the corner of a website when a user visits, and their benefits are obvious. With chatbots, even small businesses can:

  • Offer 24/7/365 customer service
  • Instantly respond to customer inquiries
  • Answer simple questions without using labor

The result is better customer service at a reduced cost, and even customers appreciate this. Many customers would prefer to text a chatbot rather than call or email a customer service representative. With these benefits and this interest, it’s not surprising that 85 percent of customer service is expected to be directed through chatbots by 2020. The shift to chatbots for quick customer service is no surprise, especially as customer experience continues become enmeshed with marketing.



SMS Text Campaigns On The Rise

Off-site, SMS texts have become an acceptable way for businesses to reach customers. Whereas customers used to reserve texting for personal conversations with family and friends, the allure of in-text discounts have changed consumers’ minds. A majority of customers are now interested in receiving texts from their favorite businesses after they’ve opted in.

This is an especially significant opportunity for business-to-consumer businesses. According to one study, 54 percent of consumers want marketing texts—but only 11 percent of businesses send them. Considering that consumers check their phones an average of 52 times per day, this is an opportunity that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Topic Three

Social Media Is a Major Marketing Platform

Overhead of people forming a thumb icon

Social media has been steadily growing since The Facebook launched in 2004, and it’s now a major component of the internet. Over half of the world has a social media account, and that accounts for a majority of the 4.57 billion people who use the internet. Social media usage in developed countries has paralleled an overall increase in internet usage.

🗺️ We've got all the info you need to plan your social media advertising road map. 

Exactly what social media platforms are most widely used will change with time, and some platforms have special appeal among certain demographics. There are plenty of platforms that show steady growth among certain groups and globally.

What social media platform your business should focus on depends on what’s being used at the current time and who your business’ target demographic is. Across all platforms, however, there are several common emerging trends.

Sell Directly on Social Media Platforms

Social media is not just for socializing, but it’s a viable and effective way to sell directly to customers. Through features like Instagram Shopping, businesses don’t need to direct customers to a website before making a sale.

FB shops 2

The entire purchase process occurs entirely on the platform, offering users with a seamless in-app shopping experience. 

Post Interactive Content

Interactive content has always been the currency of social media, but it’s especially important to have engaging posts in 2020. As platforms’ algorithms evolve, they heavily favor content that users engage with—and interactive items like quizzes and polls are some of the most consistently engaging content. More brands are even dipping into the waters of virtual reality and augmented reality to give their audiences an enhanced experience. 

Examples of interactive Instagram stories ads

Instagram Stories ads, for example, allow advertisers to use polls to make ads more interactive. Not only is it engaging for consumers, it's also a cool opportunity to get instant customer feedback.

Share User-Generated Content

Social media also continues to be a place where people want to see everyone sharing good content, and this is an easy way to supplement your business’ social content campaigns. Make sure you share user-generated content that’d be interesting to your customers, and they’ll take notice.

Wet N Wild example of user generated content

Wet N Wild Beauty, as show above, often shares makeup looks from their customers on Instagram. This serves the dual purpose of acknowledging customers and advertising their products and brand.

With quality user-generated content, you have access to relatable messages and a fresh perspective for your creative without a lot of extra effort.

Influencer Marketing Has a Proven Track Record

One of the truly new trends on social media is influencer marketing, where businesses sponsor posts by people with strong followings. This is an especially effective way to reach target audiences, as you can choose the audience you target and influencers tend to have loyal followers.

It’s also a method of marketing that’s available to most small businesses. While major influencers might command thousands of dollars for sponsored posts, smaller ones may take just a few hundred (or even less). In many cases, these smaller influencers are even more effective because their smaller audiences are extremely loyal.

Topic Four

Data Guides All Digital Marketing Decisions

Across all of these trends, the one underlying current is data. The amount and accuracy of data that’s available lets businesses always make informed marketing decisions. There are a few key ways that data can help drive your digital marketing campaigns.

A/B Split Testing Maximizes Return on Investment

A/B split testing continues to be a primary way of maximizing return on investment. Two subtly different campaigns can be tracked to see which converts better, and the better-performing one can be used afterward to ensure the highest possible conversion rate on the given investment.

Phone displaying A/B split test

Niche Campaign Reach Targeted Customers

Niche campaigns have gone from micro-websites to full-fledged digital marketing campaigns. Advertisements, social media posts and influencer posts can all focus on a narrow target audience to reach exactly the people who’ll be interested in your business’ products or services.

Personalized Campaigns Reach Customers at the Right Time

Taking niche to the next level, personalized data lets businesses reach consumers exactly where they are in the marketing funnel.

Messages, notifications and other advertisements can all be customized for individual customers as data about them is gathered.

Asics personalized email