2021 is a unique year. Never before have companies faced such a broad set of cultural, political, and economic changes around the globe. These big upheavals have caused businesses and consumers to reassess priorities. Smart companies will pivot as they react to these changes, and digital marketing has to change alongside this.

Start 2021 with the right business strategy by checking out the top 12 digital marketing trends for the year ahead.

Sign that reads 2021 trendsTrend #1: Shoppable Social Media

Word of mouth advertising has always been the best form of marketing. Nielsen’s research found that 83% of people trust the recommendation of a family or friend. Online eCommerce has long battled this disconnect between people browsing on their own online, and that need to shop socially.

Anyone with a pre-internet memory may recall many hours spent as teenagers in shops and malls with their friends. As consumers, we want to engage with our peers, seek out their opinion, and get feedback before we buy. This was true 30 years ago, and it is true today.

Making eCommerce Sociable

The big social media platforms have started to up their game when it comes to shoppable posts on social media. This trend is set to continue as we head into 2021 and technology becomes more sophisticated.

Here’s a short breakdown of what some of the big social media companies are doing to make their content shoppable:

  • Facebook launched Facebook Shops in 2020, encouraging small businesses to open up shops direct on their platform
  • On Instagram, business owners can tag up to 5 products on an image, and link these to their online store
  • Pinterest has introduced buyable pins, adding a buy button to the images that users browse and pin
  • Tiktok is set to be the next hottest shopping platform. This fast-growing company is rolling out shoppable ad features across 2020 and 2021

Discover the social media platform where your customer spends most of their time, and see if you can incorporate shoppable posts into your marketing strategy.

Trend #2: Brands With a Social Conscience

For the last decade, digital marketing, especially paid advertising, has been all about making price, product, and offer center-stage.

A good Facebook advertisement 1 or 2 years ago would have featured a great product video or testimonial. In terms of digital marketing trends, 2021 will see a switch to branding messages that relay a company’s credentials as a socially conscientious organization.

The Political Landscape

If you have read the news in the past few years, it’s easy to spot where this trend came from. Huge global movements such as #metoo and #BlackLivesMatter have pushed far enough to hit the corporate world. Many big brands have released online communications about revisiting their social conscience.

What This Means for 2021

These movements reflect a wider desire from customers to see brands and businesses as more than corporate entities. Your digital marketing efforts in 2021 need to showcase what your business branding is about. How does it fit in the world? What do you give back to society? What principles do you hold?

Customers expect this, and it is something they will be looking for in digital promotions this year. If your business already has a great story to tell about how you are pushing the boundaries to become a socially conscious organization, use PR to get that story and your brand message out to your audience.

illustration of a green brain, representing sustainabilityTrend #3: The Environment and Sustainability

The other big movement making waves over the last few years is all about developing brands that are sensitive to the environment, sustainability, and global warming. Customers care about their carbon footprint, and they are conscious of their actions when they buy a product online.

Communicating your company’s sustainability credentials will become an integral part of advertising in the future, and that trend will begin in 2021.

What Does Sustainability Mean?

Sustainability is about making every aspect of your business work with the environment rather than overusing natural resources. It also means making communities sustainable. This is something that will be important to understand as you grow your business.

Do you know what impact your company is having on poor communities around the world? Can you change your business practices to make these communities better, or more sustainable? When creating your marketing campaigns in 2021, think about your messaging. What are you telling the world about your product and your brand? Will it align with your customers’ values?

Trend #4: SEO for Video

Type any sort of question into Google and you’ll notice that the first results to pop up are videos. Video content has grown in popularity in recent years as countries around the world upgrade their infrastructure to deliver faster internet into homes. Youtube’s user base has grown by 11% in the last 2 years.

With the potential for great search rankings, spending time creating video content and optimizing it for Google is a smart strategy for businesses in 2021.

Ranking on Page 1 for Video

When it comes to getting discovered in Google search results with a video, there are several recommendations to consider.

If your business is new to video, start creating content on YouTube, and focus on optimization within the platform. That means thinking about keywords, titles, and descriptions. SEO for Google becomes far easier once you have figured out optimization from within YouTube.

For Google SEO it’s important to think again about keywords and long-tail keywords. Think about whether the search intent on Google will be slightly different to those searching directly on YouTube (in many cases, the intent will be different, which is why the research is so important). The quality of your video is also important. Splitting your content into sections will help Google to extract the relevant information from your video and show it in the results.

Likewise, making your video accessible by adding things such as transcripts also helps, as it demonstrates higher levels of engagement. Whether you are an information, technology, or product business, video is one of the key digital marketing trends in 2021 that you shouldn’t ignore.

Trend #5: Micro-Influencers

When influencer marketing first took off as a digital marketing strategy, most brands went straight for big-name celebrities. However, the world has learned over the years that as social media becomes ubiquitous, almost anyone in the world can become a celebrity, or an influencer, in their field.

There is a captive audience for every unique and small niche and there is always an influencer speaking directly to that audience. These are the people known as micro-influencers. Influencers with large influence, often in a very specific niche, but with a relatively small following.

Big Vs Micro: Who Delivers the Best ROI?

It looks like micro-influencers are certainly a growing trend for business owners. According to Forbes, 78% of marketers want to work with micro-influencers in the future, demonstrating their power to deliver a great ROI on a marketing campaign despite having a small following.

One of the big plus points for marketers is that micro-influencers offer substantially lower rates. That means you can either test a small marketing budget on a single influencer before committing to your marketing spend, or diversify your marketing and potential audience by connecting with many different micro-influencers on a single campaign.

digital marketing trend data on a computerTrend #6: Personalized, Intelligent Funnels

As automation improves and marketing technology becomes more sophisticated, more marketers are turning to funnels to convert those all-important web visitors into buyers.

However, if you are still relying on a simple opt-in funnel to get people on your email list, you are missing out on some big trends that have been happening with marketing funnels in the last 2 years. To craft a high converting funnel in 2021, there are two key aspects to bear in mind before you set anything up.

Personalized Funnels Are a Must

People are becoming wise to online funnels in the same way that web users developed banner blindness over a decade ago. If you want to wow your prospect, use personalized content to reach out to them.

At the most basic level, this might just be using first names and personalized thank you messages. More sophisticated marketers are taking that a step further with personalized content and sales messages.

Use Intelligent Data Capture and Automation

Automation is the other side of the personalization coin. If you capture data on your customers’ behavior as they travel through your funnel, automation can turn that data into intelligent marketing. By measuring ROI and testing out different marketing messages, you can craft a smart funnel.

That smart, or “intelligent” funnel, will automatically send customers in different directions down the funnel based on their specific interest, engagement level, and previous purchase history.

Trend #7: Shorter, High-Value Content

Not all digital marketing trends in 2021 are triggered by technological change. Some are to do with human behavior. A study found that the internet is gradually reducing our attention span. Most recently, experts predict our attention spans are now around 8 seconds. As a marketer or business owner, this presents you with a challenge. How can you hook your prospect quickly?

Here are some clever ways websites have changed the way they deliver content so that it grabs the easily-distracted reader right from the start.


It’s no surprise that the popularity of video is increasing as attention spans go down. Video is an easy medium to consume. For eCommerce businesses, a helpful demo video of your product works well. For information businesses, summary information on video helps capture your prospects’ attention.


Don’t forget about how useful audio can be in the age of the distracted. People listen to podcasts because they are busy and can carry on doing other tasks at the same time.

Interactive Features

Technological advancements have made it easy for even the smallest business to add interactive features to their website. Polls and short quizzes work great and entice people to continue ahead so that they receive the results.

Great Headlines

Never forget how much power a good headline plays in marketing. This is more important than ever to get the right people to your product.

macbook with video conference on screenTrend #8: Live Virtual Events

The 2020 pandemic helped many people understand that overwhelming need to be connected to others, even when isolated and in lockdown from the rest of the world.

When it comes to digital marketing trends, 2021 will include growing demand for live virtual events. Initially used by the entertainment industry, which suffered greatly from 2020 lockdowns and restrictions, live events have been adopted by the business world too.

The digital marketing community has long used live webinars as a form of promotion, but live events in 2021 have brought the concept of live event marketing to a much wider audience. The good news is that people are extremely receptive to it, especially at a time when our physical connections are narrowing.

Here are some ideas for how you can incorporate live events into your marketing:

  • Run a summit, inviting guest speakers along
  • If you are promoting a product, get an online influencer to host a live event, with a competition to win prizes during the event
  • Online workshops are very popular in the education industry

If you are organizing a live event, make sure you spend time crafting a solid funnel to get the right attendees. There is nothing worse for a marketer than preparing for an event and getting no attendees on the day. Give out tickets to the event with the times and the dates, to show the value and to also serve as a reminder. Record the content and make it available on-demand for the large percentage of your audience who can’t make the actual event.

Finally, if you have a global audience, think about repeating the event 2-3 times to make sure it is available to every time zone.

Trend #9: Ethical Data Capture and Transparency

Back in 2018, the EU launched a new data protection law called GDPR. This was the biggest legal change for any business capturing data on the internet, requiring companies to seek explicit upfront consent from their users before they gather data. During the same period, California introduced the CCPA, greatly strengthening data privacy for consumers online. Data privacy is a trend that no business owner can ignore.

Customers are becoming more aware of how their data is used online, with Facebook and Google notably coming under criticism in the news for the data they keep on users, and how that data is handled. With that awareness comes a desire for change. People want and expect transparency when buying online. Consumers are becoming more protective of their data, and are not so ready to hand it over to any business on the internet seeking their custom. When it comes to digital marketing, that means being honest with customers about how you use their data. Avoid subtlety when it comes to seeking consent; be bold about what you need and why.

This is something that customers are getting used to, and if they have trust in a company they will always give their consent. However, running marketing promotions that have badly worded checkboxes or excessive small print run the risk of irritating your customer base.

In 2021, give a commitment to your audience that as a business you will act with integrity and be open and honest about what data you keep, and what you do with it. Your customers will reward you for that show of ethical business.

illustrations of websitesTrend #10: Content Experience Optimization

If you are planning to do any SEO in 2021, then one major announcement from Google on changes to their algorithm will be of interest.

Google announced the introduction of core web vitals as a way of ranking web pages. These are a set of metrics, delivered in a report that you can get as part of Google’s webmaster tools, that will score your website based on a user’s experience. Here are some areas that you’ll need to address when it comes to user experience search optimization:

Page Speed

One of the most important aspects of the user experience is how quickly the page loads for a browser. There are plenty of page speed tools that will assess how your website is currently performing.

Image Optimization

Large images that take time to load will get picked up by Google. An easy win is to check the images on your site and ensure that they are all well optimized.

Mobile Optimized Pages

Mobile traffic has increased by 222% between 2013 and 2019 and continues to rise. Optimizing your website for mobile is something Google expects as standard.


In 2018, most websites switched to HTTPS when Google started to give Chrome users warnings when landing on a non-secure site. Make sure your website is secure, and the HTTPS certificate up to date.

Trend #11: SEO for Voice

One of the biggest advances in recent years has been in voice detection technology. Web users are becoming more comfortable at using voice to run a search, as errors and misheard phrases become fewer in number.

The most important aspect to understand when it comes to voice searches is how differently we phrase sentences when speaking in contrast to typing search queries. With voice, we are more likely to use full sentences. With a typed search, we tend to avoid grammar and go for the main keywords.

When it comes to SEO for voice, your first step is to structure your content so Google knows where to find the right information. This means using structured markup language for your most important website content. Voice searches are predominantly questions, too. So write short precise information within this structure, that is relevant to questions that your target audience is likely to ask.

Finally, think about phrasing questions in the same way your target audience is likely to ask in a voice search. Use a full question within a heading, and keep the question wording simple; avoid industry-specific jargon.

Trend #12: Automation in PPC Campaigns

Historically, pay per click advertising has been a labor-intensive activity. It required the patience to set up a detailed campaign, monitor the metrics, and make tweaks to slowly optimize your results. However, like with so many advances in technology, the AI that underlies PPC technology is becoming smarter than the human advertising strategies we have spent all these years putting in place.

Automation in PPC advertising now means that you can set up an ad on the platform of your choice, and the platform will do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to optimizing that campaign. Much of this change has come about because of the data profiles that platforms have obtained on users and their activity online.

Platform algorithms can profile a person’s behavior just as well as the most experienced psychologist. They know that people who click link A, like page B, and ignore ad C are the most likely group to respond well to your promotion. The downside to this automation, of course, is that all other advertisers on the platform have the same advantage when it comes to optimizing their campaigns.

This means that when running a promotion, your efforts have to go into the creatives and copywriting. The headlines, images, videos, and promotional landing pages will be the factors that set you apart from your competition.

Are You Ready to Adopt These Digital Marketing Trends?

There is a concept called Accelerating Change. It posits that due to technological advances, change becomes more rapid as time goes on. The world has changed more dramatically in the past 10 years than it has in the previous 30, for example.

Never has there been a better example of this argument than how the world changed in 2020. And when it comes to digital marketing trends, the early adopters and the ones most open to change will be the winners.

It also means seeking out experts to get you the advantage your business is looking for. Our specialists can help you get on top of these trends, so take a look at our marketing strategy services now for how we can support your business.