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2020 has been a rollercoaster ride for marketers. This year has brought changes and challenges to every industry, including the digital world. One of the many things digital marketers had to deal with was uncertainty – uncertainty about budgets, strategies, audience behaviors/preferences and much more. Marketers had to quickly adapt their strategies to account for major digital shifts.

The magnitude of digital changes is evident in data from eMarketer and Insider Intelligence about 2020’s biggest U.S. forecasting shocks. Most notable:

  • Adults in the U.S. will spend an average of 64 more minutes with media per day in 2020 than we thought they would. Within this, users will spend almost 26 additional minutes per day on their smartphones compared with our earlier expectations.
  • No digital activity will see a significant unexpected decline in time spent in 2020 because of COVID-19.

Looking ahead to 2021 (and beyond), it’s necessary for brands to move out of their digital comfort box to (1) account for the continued changes in digital that are accentuated by the virus and (2) – and quite possibly most importantly – leverage digital to create the best possible customer experience…particularly for brick and mortar business owners who are missing out on face-to-face customer interactions.

Here are four key digital marketing trends to keep in mind when planning out your strategies and programs for the coming year:

1.Make creating owned content a priority

Your website is your most precious asset when it comes to owned media. Developing more home-grown content paves the way for your website to be an informational resource, a magnet for search traffic and a storytelling tool.

Your owned content then fuels other initiatives, including digital ads, organic traffic, social media traffic and optimized search rankings for relevant keywords.

In a truly integrated communications program, planning your owned content (and mapping that content to your goals) is the first critical step in building your strategy. From there, you can determine which digital channels you leverage to share that content, including specific messages and creative assets to support that content.

At Franco, we’re making it a priority to help our clients integrate owned content with digital efforts, and we see this as a major trend moving forward for anyone in a communications and marketing role.

2. Commit to personalizing and segmenting content

You may be tired of hearing about the importance of personalizing, tailoring and segmenting content to your various audiences, but it begs repeating and reminding because too many marketers still aren’t doing this! The one-size fits all approach to digital marketing is one of the biggest mistakes many marketers make.

People get bored of seeing the same emails and/or ads repeatedly…or worse, a completely off-the-mark ad or email.

Use your owned audience to help your paid strategy. Using your email marketing list wisely can pave the way for “smart retargeting.” Smart retargeting is a fresh take on segmenting your audience based on predictive analysis – users most likely to buy, users likely to make recurring donations or users most likely to engage, to name a few.

Analyzing and approaching your audience with personalized emails/ads gives your audience content they can to relate to, like opening a gift and seeing something they like…versus something that will be regifted.

3. Explore new digital mediums

The digital world is constantly evolving. New avenues are opening for marketers to expand their digital horizon and engage with their audience in innovative ways.

Case in point: the rise of podcasts.

More than one-third of Americans are consuming podcasts regularly, with monthly podcast consumers growing by 16% year-over-year. An increasing number of advertisers are now trying to grab consumers’ attention through targeted podcasts. In 2019, roughly 709.1 million U.S. dollars were generated through podcast advertising in the United States.

Connected TV advertising is another growing trend because it combines the ease of online advertising and reach of TV. Tailored ads can be served to target audiences while they are streaming video content through their TVs. CTV ad expenditure saw a huge spike during the recent election campaign and is expected to grow to 14 billion U.S. dollars by the end of 2023.

Streaming services like Spotify and Pandora (to name a few) are highly popular when it comes to streaming music on demand. They provide new opportunities to reach audiences based on demographics and interest. Of Spotify’s revenue in Q1 2020, ad-supported users generated $161 million in revenue, opening yet another gateway for advertisers.

For more on podcasts, read why podcasts should be an integral part of your media strategy.

4. Account for voice search when building digital programs

While the value of voice search for marketing is still a highly debated topic, there’s no denying the era of voice is upon us. 50% of all searches will be voice searches by the end of 2020, and an increased number of users will own a voice activated device in their homes and will no longer use a screen to search for results on search engines.

Digital marketers, especially those working with e-commerce retailers, need to keep the rise of voice search in mind as they’re planning 2021 digital marketing programs. (Read more here about digital marketing strategies for retailers.)

There are a few important things to keep in mind when building out content tailored to voice search:

  • Voice searches often include “who, what, where, when and how.” It’s important your content and keyword phrases include these words.
  • Focus on long-tail keywords. Repeating short keyword phrases consistently throughout an article to gain SEO traction is a thing of the past. Particularly for voice search, you have to figure out how someone would vocalize a question – then translate that into your content.
  • Closely related to the above point, use conversational language in your content to optimize for voice search. Robotic language and keyword stuffing/repetition are both a big no-no for voice search.

While it is necessary to innovate digital marketing programs, it’s equally important to keep track of changes that might affect future strategies. One of the major changes coming to the digital world is Google’s recent announcement to phase out the “cookie” on Chrome browsers by 2022. In the wake of users demanding greater privacy, including transparency, choice and control over how their data is used, advertisers will no longer be able to target users like they have been with the help of third-party cookies.

But fear not! Targeted advertising isn’t going anywhere. The tech giant’s Privacy Sandbox could still serve as a valuable alternative for ad targeting. Our digital specialists at Franco will closely watch developments on this front in the coming months.

If you’re looking for help or guidance to set up an effective digital marketing campaign that’s part of a larger integrated communications campaign, please contact us to learn more about our work and services.

Neekita Singla is a Digital Account Executive at Franco. Connect with her on LinkedIn.