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Crucial 2021 Digital Marketing Questions, Answered

It’s officially 2021, and just as it does every year—every moment, really—the digital marketing landscape is continuing to evolve, leaving many marketers with more questions than answers. Here, we’ll do our best to fill in the gaps.

Is it time to be concerned about changes to the privacy landscape?

Privacy regulations are tightening. Third-party cookies are crumbling (set to be phased out by Google Chrome entirely by 2022). And though it’s still not time to panic, it is time to start thinking about how your organization will navigate these concerns in the future—particularly your first-party data strategy.

Rather than relying too heavily on third-party data like most have done for years, reassess your brand’s approach to first-party data: The customer data your organization owns. This includes not just how your organization uses first-party data to target its audience with personalized online experiences, but how it collects this data and what data it collects.

Specifically, are you able to easily gather, manage and leverage actionable audience data through your website and CRM? If not, it’s time to start considering new tools and strategies so you can.

How do I capitalize on the growth of video in digital marketing?

In 2020, 81% of businesses used some form of video for marketing—up from 63% in 2019. It’s safe to say that video will still be a dominant creative digital medium in 2021.

High production value video is extremely effective for tactics such as streaming video and YouTube advertising, and we certainly recommend it in many cases for brands looking to generate awareness. But other videos—that take less time and cost less money to produce—can also be powerful, when used in the right medium.

In a time where consumers crave authenticity, there’s ample opportunity to engage them with more spur-of-the-moment videos, shot straight from a smartphone. We’re not recommending Bigfoot sighting-like footage—shaky camera and blurry subject matter—but videos that capture real moments. These videos can be as simple as workers at your healthcare practice sanitizing the office or a birthday celebration at your credit union.

Livestreams and stories—which Twitter introduced in late 2020—are perfect places for authentic videos.

Couple that with the fact that short-form video ads—which, of course, can be more budget friendly than longer-form videos—are growing in effectiveness, and there’s ample opportunity (and reason) for brands big and small to start leveraging video.

Is creating contextualized experiences worth the investment?

Providing contextualized experiences—experiences that communicate effectively on a niche audience or even user level—is among the top ways to engage prospects and leads, moving them further down the conversion funnel.

Personalization—which offers tailored content and messaging to a given user—is an effective way to provide this context and can be largely automated. Also, like digital video, it doesn’t have to be cost prohibitive. It’s simply not necessary to invest in enormous CRM platforms.

Smaller, less-expensive solutions like SharpSpring allow you to segment leads based on common characteristics, automate personalization practices such as using a target’s first name in tailored email marketing communications, and implement just about anything else you need to implement a highly personalized lead outreach and nurturing strategy.

How can we make sure our digital marketing is ready to respond to an uncertain future?

It was always clear that the American consumer was never a monolith, but 2020 really shoved that in the face of the marketing world at large.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold:

  • 76% of consumers have tried new brands or new ways to shop
  • 40% of consumers cited that they’re less likely to spend on discretionary categories
  • 64% of consumers aren’t ready to resume “normal” out-of-home activities, a number that has been fluid over the last few months

Source: McKinsey & Company.

Cases of COVID-19 have been steadily increasing, and sentiment regarding vaccination is all over the place, to say the least. This is not intended to paint a bleak picture, but to say that the future is still uncertain, and marketers will need to be ready to pivot their digital efforts in an instant, just like in 2020.

Whether it’s aggressively pushing telehealth capabilities in case of potential stay-at-home orders, rolling out virtual college admissions events, or anything in between, brands will need to be prepared.

But remember, it’s wise not to limit your digital marketing to any one tactic or mix. The pandemic has showed us—all too clearly—that sometimes, it’s necessary to pull the plug on one tactic and invest heavily in another or introduce new ones entirely.

One thing remained clear, though: The brands that stayed the course, pivoted accordingly, and continued to market came out on top.

If you’re ready to get with the times, let’s talk.

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Chief Digital Officer

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