1. The Big Awakening
The only constant remains in the second year of the pandemic is change. This also affects consumer and user behavior and thus brands and entire market segments. The world is undergoing an ongoing transformation - from the comfortable and familiar to the new, the frightening and, above all, the perspective. Whereas "love brands" used to be prominent via polished brand messaging and staged social media channels, Covid, if anything at all, has made us rethink our values and understand that meaningfulness, flexibility and resilience are top priorities to re-sort ourselves in the post-Corona world. Gone is the year of "We're hanging in there" campaigns - "Awakening" in the form of a new joie de vivre will take hold in communications, culture and lifestyle by early summer at the latest. What we can already see now: with rising vaccination rates, Google search queries for travel destinations and tickets are also rising - among the winners are those who emerge from the crisis with a high degree of flexibility but also courage and react quickly but also relevantly to developments.
2. Return of Corporate Culture
The crisis has brought about new working models that entail more freedom and trust for and in each employee. In addition to home office or a four-day week, even more companies will say goodbye to fixed attendance times, monitoring, old hardware or outdated corporate management tools in 2021. The necessity of business trips and general appointments in person will also be questioned in the future. The time of new offices, flexible workplaces, new communication and new freedom is beginning. For the first quarter of 2021, open, regular communication with employees about workplace status, expectations and policies around testing and vaccinations will have a positive impact on company culture. Now is not the time to leave employees alone; now is the time for motivation and vision. The most dynamic companies have long since begun this transformation and are already making massive changes to their workplace design and office, in part to motivate and inspire employees to return to the office - because it is the beating heart of corporate culture. It is not only a place of substantial representation, but also a place of encounter that allows interdisciplinary creativity to flourish. Even with the best equipment, a video conference can't keep up.
Employer branding via Zoom Call - can it work? The pandemic did not give birth to the New Work idea; it was merely an accelerator for many companies to align themselves with this vision. Now it's no longer a matter of judgment: without these changes in workplace design, most employees will choose to work mostly from home (if you let them) - losing that all-important connection to the root of the company, the vibrant community, the epicenter of team innovation and interpersonal relationships.
Read here why at digitalwerk, everyone is free to choose where they work from.
3. The Corporate Digital Studio
One of the many learnings from 2020 was definitely that not every meeting has to be in person. In terms of environmental protection (business travel) and efficiency, this insight is definitely valuable. Video calls via Zoom or MS teams will remain - but the demand for professionalism and quality is increasing. As organizations revamp their offices, they will need to take their technical equipment to the next level to be ready for the future. Presentations, pitches, sales meetings, trainings and more will be handled remotely - but on a new level: 4k live streams, professional handling of sound and lighting, green screen and live direction. Branded corporate content starts in your own studio. This expertise can be bought in, but sooner or later it will be anchored in the marketing/communications department.
Read more about our own digital studio and how you can use it here.
4. Advanced Design-Personalization
Personalization remains one of the most important UX trends in 2021. The main goal of personalized design is to make the user feel that the content was created especially for them and in this way increase the conversion rate, which is the goal of all commercial website owners. AI plays a big role in UX without the majority of users even realizing it. This ranges from personalized music suggestions on Spotify, recommended videos on YouTube or Netflix to Amazon's completely personalized home page based on customers' shopping habits, wish list and shopping cart. In the future, interfaces will become even more personalized, allowing them to change and customize their look, position of elements, tone, and behavior in general in the blink of an eye. Personalization is not an easy design trend to follow. Websites might collect and analyze data incorrectly, which can lead to poor results. What's more, building a personalized website is not cheap: you need to collect and analyze information, develop profiles and personal accounts, and ensure algorithms work to create customized interfaces. Last but not least, personalization also requires improved UX texts that convince users to provide their personal data. However, the trend is also towards low-cost, efficient systems.
5. Add real-life to Design
The peak of flat design's popularity was in 2012, although along with minimalism, it's still one of the things that defines modern UI design. At the same time, many designers feel the need for something new and fresh. Although flat objects with smooth and cool gradients are still dominantly represented, a trend is trying to break this uniformity and generate a real-life feeling with uneven textures. Realistic textures make design objects and products more tangible. In an increasingly virtual world, this creates a sense of connection between user or customer and products. The trend towards realistic textures, grains and contours is already very present in modern UI design and has great potential for further development in 2021.
6. Video and Voice-Content is King
Not only have people's values, followers, users and customers changed, so has their need for the type of content: social distancing, homeschooling and home office, long periods of lockdown. All of these have increased our need for authentic content with meaning and for a sense of closeness. Written words to static images have had their day. The credo for good content in 2021 is therefore: video, video, video. Do we need to say more?
Audio-based content continues to grow in relevance, as the recent hype around the social app clubhouse has made clear. The spoken word creates proximity. That's why even big brands are increasingly turning to podcasts - not so much as a sales tool, but as a storytelling instrument to strengthen their brand image. There is also a major trend emerging in the area of voice searches. Here, companies must prepare themselves well, because voice search SEO requires a different approach.
7. Overcoming Boundaries in Digital Marketing
The focus on stricter privacy and tracking policies (WhatsApp/Signal, etc.) that gained traction in 2020 will become even stronger. The release of the new iOS 14 (Q3/2021) will impose massive tracking protection after the shift in 2020. Tracking will be transparently disclosed on behalf of Apple and the user must also agree to this, regardless of whether it is an app or a website. This development will make it more difficult for performance marketing in the future. Also, the coming restrictions on "frequency capping" and ad personalization will lead to a drop in performance in programmatic placements. This is expected to lead to a shift in branding & awareness budgets. The shift in attribution model (no view-through attribution, forced last-click attribution for "SKAdNetwork", etc.) and event tracking restrictions will lead to a significant drop in campaign ROAS.
2021 will be the year of "performance and cross-channel" oriented e-commerce campaigns, with Facebook/Instagram Commerce and Google Shopping as must-haves in any planning.
8. Key factor: Audience Research
SEO remains one of the key success factors in the digital universe. After the Google Core Algorithm Update in December 2020 brought the "Newspocalypse" for news publishers, more updates from Google will follow in 2021. The already daunting AI sitting behind Google's ranking algorithm is so smart that it knows what you're looking for, even if you don't know how to ask for it. Thus, understanding the user and their search intent becomes the focus of any SEO project. It is no longer so much about keyword planning, but rather about user and target group research, which takes center stage and becomes the decisive factor for success.
9. Shifting Onsite KPIs
2021 will also bring something new in terms of on-site optimization: Since the introduction of the WebCoreVitals, speed is no longer sufficient as the only KPI which is why agencies must be prepared to optimize not only loading speed, but also user experience – Google has announced a deadline for this until May 2021. No agency should be without the Google Lighthouse Test or an SEO tool such as Semrush. Headless CMS and PWAS have finally arrived in 2021 as the basis for good performance.
10. Return of Shared-Revenue Model
The role of the digital marketing agency is evolving into the business and sales partner of the client. The goal is no longer the final ROAS squeeze of campaigns, but the optimization of the entire online customer experience. Sales success determines the agency's revenue. For this reason, shared revenue models will become a good option for those who can provide all important capabilities (UX/performance/planning) from a single source.