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  • Sandhya Gulsin

Fast thoughts | A new year for marketing

Updated: Mar 10, 2021

As we enter 2021, some of the fast thinking team have reflected on the last year in marketing and provided predictions for what to expect in the next 12 months.

The fast thinking team

“How did the consumer change in 2020?”

Jack - Customers are spending less money due to the economic crisis and the money they do spend gets spent online on retail sites such as Amazon.

Nick - consumers quite simply moved online during 2020. Clearly, there has been a trend for many years for more and more activities to move online, but the pandemic has greatly sped this up as our ability to visit physical locations has been restricted. Some of this change will be short-lived, but the feeling is that a lot of it is a more permanent shift. In particular, consumers are now shopping, communicating and being entertained more online. Take online groceries as an example, last year saw a huge shift towards buying groceries online and many people who have done it for the first time, discovered that it is highly convenient and perhaps even preferable in some instances. In communications, to ‘Zoom’ has potentially become a verb this year! And streaming services like Disney+ and Netflix have had stellar growth years.

Rich - The lifestyle changes driven by the pandemic has moved consumers online, for retail, content consumption and entertainment purposes. As well as the above obvious behavioural changes, consumers are now spending considerably more time doing activities online that have been (mostly) considered to be in-person, or out of home activities. These include education and fitness & wellbeing (e.g group fitness or yoga classes). These changes have been enabled by the proliferation of technologies that were previously used to facilitate business meetings (such as Zoom) but are now used in ever more creative ways to deliver an ever-expanding array of online services.

Matt - The consumer has clearly made the jump to online through necessity, as our lives have become more restricted and the option of visiting shops is curtailed by anything from outright closures, risks of infection or the prospect of queuing for access. How much of this activity is retained online and lost by the high street will depend on the experience offered by both sides. Online can cement its place with those who are already actively shopping online and importantly convert new shoppers who have transitioned through necessity by providing a smooth buying experience, excellent customer service and seamless fulfilment. On the high street, the need to enhance the shopping experience may well hinge upon a higher level of customer service, exclusive in-store offers and the proximity to other activities, including leisure, fitness and hospitality.

“How did marketing change in 2020?”

Jack - Brands spent a lot of time reassuring us about their Covid protocols.

People no longer want to touch things, beyond tube rails and each other people don’t want to touch newspapers or leaflets. People exist now in a less physical world so marketing has followed that. The internet represents even more opportunity to advertise than it did before.

Nick - 2020 started off normally until March/April when many brands simply switched off or substantially down-weighted their activity as the pandemic hit. By early Summer though, brands were beginning to switch activity back on and it became clear there were winners and losers in this new world. Those that could fulfil online were able to grow quickly and marketing was able to rapidly gain market share when implemented well. In areas where online fulfilment was not possible, it became about dealing with long term strategic projects. Digital transformation was one of the main areas to dominate proceedings, as many more businesses now saw the need to move the entire organisation to be more digital in its makeup. This isn’t a one year project and so the fruits of these endeavours won’t be seen for several years, but it will be interesting to see how many businesses can successfully transform, as it is by no means a given that all will in 2021 and beyond.

Rich - For some businesses, online marketing is yet to catch-up with the behavioural changes that have taken place during the crazy times we’re living through. One of the reasons for this is that much of the new online usage, mentioned above, is taking place behind “walled gardens'' (e.g Zoom, Peleton) and as such marketers have been “locked out” or at the very least, are yet to understand how best these new potential customers can be reached.

Matt - As consumers become less mobile and more active online, the opportunities to interact and influence customers online have expanded. Ensuring that there is a consistency across all channels will be increasingly important moving forward and those who move fast will reap the rewards faster. To ensure the message is relevant it needs to be personalised based on the customer, the channel and the stage of the customer journey.

“What are you expecting in marketing in 2021?”

Jack - There will be a bigger focus on programmatic. The OOH revolution will be put on pause and ‘old fashioned’ online marketing such as display retargeting will regain prominence. Some brands will try and cut costs by reducing marketing budgets, whereas others will increase them to remain competitive and stick out.

Nick - I am expecting more digital transformation projects to take place. More business will move online, with consumers having already shifted their behaviour quickly in this direction. We may see innovation from many businesses in launching new online products or fulfilment, now that life has clearly moved in this direction. That being said, if the vaccine rollout goes to plan and the vulnerable are vaccinated by Easter, then we may also have a rebound in physical activities over the Summer and beyond as people get back to doing many of the things they have missed during the pandemic. Live sports and entertainment may well see a boom once safe to resume them and this will present opportunities for marketers to capture the spirit of the newfound freedom of this time. Once it is apparent that the market is really opening back up, I also expect to see many businesses increase their marketing spend quickly to try to regain their footing as business quickly returns (hopefully!!).

Rich - My predictions for 2021:

  1. More businesses will move at least some of their services/activities online. This will lead to an increasingly crowded marketplace and it will be harder for marketeers to gain cut-through.

  2. The challenges caused to native digital businesses by the increase of non-native companies moving online will also create huge opportunities to support traditional off-line businesses with the delivery of their new online services & activities.

  3. Governments globally will come under increasing pressure to break up big tech as they are becoming too powerful, from both revenue & consumer influence perspective.

Matt - (I hope) marketers will start to take more control of the online experience, align brand objectives with their sales objectives and take more care and time over the consistency of messaging for their customers. For large traditional businesses, this may well need an alignment of the marketing function bringing objectives of the brand and direct response into one. For emerging businesses, they are well set to get this right from the start with a clear strategy, segmented audiences and bespoke creatives.


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