Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The future of marketing: How teams can deliver stand-out campaigns and stay ahead of the competition

By Saranya Babu, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Wrike

There’s no denying that 2020 was a tough year across the business landscape. For marketers, the pressure was on as shrinking budgets took hold. In fact, industry-wide cut-backs resulted in a dramatic decrease in spending throughout the year, accumulating in the fourth quarter with 24% of marketers recording a further decline as a direct result of the pandemic.

Now, the role of the marketing team has never been more important. At a time when almost every industry is struggling, having a clear and positive brand image can help an organisation to stand out from its competitors and attract new prospects. This is why it’s more important than ever for marketing teams to stay one step ahead. In today’s climate, implementing the most effective marketing tactics and strategies could be the difference between an entire business surviving or collapsing.

But, with so many different areas to think about and with many trends being fleeting, how do marketing teams know where to focus their efforts? Here are three key trends set to lead the way this year and advice on how marketers can get ahead:

1) Content marketing will be key to positive consumer engagements

Content marketing has been a point of focus for a while now. In fact, pre-pandemic, a report from the Association of National Advertisers found that content marketing budgets had increased by an average of 73% over a period of two years. This is not surprising, given that content marketing is one of the most effective methods for increasing audience engagement and developing a brand presence.

However, it’s important to note that content marketing doesn’t just mean blog posts and whitepapers. It’s likely that over the coming months video content, in particular, will continue to play an important role. In fact, The Content Marketing Institute recently discovered that 71% of B2B marketers and 66% of B2C marketers already use this format to connect to their audiences. From short tutorials to live webinars, we can expect to see even more video content this year.

Regardless of the format, when it comes to content marketing, prioritising personalisation and the user journey is key. Today’s consumers expect more targeted and relevant content than ever before. In fact, 66% of consumers say encountering content that isn’t personalised would stop them from making a purchase. Successful content marketing will target customers, without trying explicitly to sell them anything. It should be customised in a way that offers true value to the individual – whether that’s a landing page based on demographics, or pop-up advertisements centered on location. Only then will content marketing enable brands to increase their audience size and encourage loyalty from their customer-base.

2) Social media will continue to integrate with ecommerce

The pandemic – and subsequent lockdowns – acted as a catalyst, speeding up an already-growing shift towards online shopping. With many retailers deemed non-essential and forced to close their doors, ecommerce boomed. In fact, recent reports estimate that UK consumers spent £141.33 billion online last year (up 34.7% from 2019).

Social media platforms have played a key role in this shift. For example, Instagram’s latest application update included a ‘Shop’ feature, strategically placed where users had previously accessed their notifications. Meanwhile, TikTok recently announced a partnership with Shopify, the world’s largest e-commerce platform, in order to enable sellers to advertise. Social media platforms offer brands a unique chance to create multiple consumer touchpoints. That’s why in-app shopping features and partnerships are only likely to increase as we look forward.

However, brands looking to use social media to capitalise on the shift to ecommerce, should be aware that polished posts and perfectly-curated aesthetics are no longer desirable. Instead, consumers using these platforms to connect with an organisation want authenticity. They want a peek behind the scenes and to feel a sense of connection. Therefore, genuine posts which are more ‘human-centric’ will outperform those that are corporation-focused.

3) Email marketing will shift focus from open rates to click-through levels

Measuring the success of an email campaign is not always easy. KPIs have traditionally focused on metrics such as open rate. Open rates are both unreliable and misleading because they are triggered when a user downloads a tracking pixel image in an email. This often means that the email ends up in a spam folder or is blocked by anti-malware tools which, in turn, means that any data around how many users have actually seen the message can become heavily skewed.

Instead, marketers should focus on more effective and informative metrics, such as click-through rates and customer engagement. These will provide much deeper insights which can even help to inform future campaigns.

Much like with content marketing, the crucial ingredient when it comes to email marketing is personalisation. In fact, according to recent reports, 72% of consumers will only engage with marketing messages that are tailored to their interests. When companies ignore this and send mistargeted information and promotions, consumers will often delete, unsubscribe or even categorise the emails as ‘spam’, meaning that the company is effectively blacklisted.

The future is bright

No one can predict what comes next with complete certainty – last year alone is evidence of that. Whilst the road to recovery is set to be a relatively long one for businesses, marketers are taking steps towards a brighter future. After spending 2020 in crisis mode, many are ready to boost their investments. Earlier this month, the CMO Council found that 65% of marketers plan to increase their marketing spend in 2021.

Knowing where to spend that money will likely be a challenge. But regardless of what – email, social or content – trend marketing teams decide to invest in the key will be to think carefully, monitoring efforts in order to understand what works best for the wider business and its key audiences.

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