When we began working on the first draft of this blog post, towards the end of 2020, we were hopeful that we were going to leave the terms COVID-19 and Coronavirus behind us as we looked forward to 2021. However, with cases spiralling once more, it seems that the ongoing health pandemic is going to be with us for a little while longer.
This means that from a digital marketing standpoint, it seems the predicted trends for the year ahead will continue to be heavily influenced by the pandemic. In this blog, we share just a few predictions of what's in store for the next 12 months.
1. Local SEO and Google Local will be more important than ever
If there is one positive thing to come out of the last 9 months or so, it's the recognition of how important local businesses are to communities.
And with lockdowns and restrictions in place for the immediate future, businesses will need to make sure they are doing everything in their power to ensure they are found by local customers.
Having a Google My Business listing allows you to provide valuable information about your company, such as your opening hours (which can easily be updated if they change due to COVID-19), the services and products you offer as well as the geographical location of your business. It’s one of the key factors in search and should not be slept on in 2021.
By having a GMB profile, you increase your chances of reaching more potential customers, increasing your brand awareness and ultimately leading to an increase in visits to your website and your business.
Another way to improve your local search result is to create profiles for your business on local online business directories. Getting that bonus that comes with a local listing of an automatic boost in search results will really help your business be found by potential customers.
2. Virtual events are here to stay
Back in March 2020 when the UK (and the rest of the world) went into lockdowns, businesses had no choice but to pivot and think of ways they could host events and exhibitions virtually. And whilst it may seem obvious to say this as we start the year in another lockdown, we think these virtual events will be here to stay, even when we regain some normality.
As we move through the next year, many events will stay virtual not only because of restrictions and health concerns but also because businesses have learnt to extract real value from them.
Forgetting about the obvious benefits from a welfare perspective, virtual events open themselves up to a far greater reach of customers/clients due to the removal of travel restrictions such as time or cost. It is also a much more cost-effective option for the businesses, which all help achieve that better ROI.
For businesses who have learnt what works and what doesn't during this year, we'd expect to see virtual events and exhibitions continue for the foreseeable future.
3. Increased 'Social Shopping'
Last year Facebook announced their plans to introduce shopping features on both Facebook and Instagram, so it seems a safe bet to assume that the trend of shopping from your social media channel will be sticking around for 2021.
In our blog last year that looked at the importance of social media for your business, there was a statistic that claimed over 3 billion people are active on social media, so it will not be a surprise to see more social media platforms go down the e-commerce route.
For the average business though, not taking the opportunity to offer their customers a chance to go from discovery to purchase without having to leave their social media profile could see them fall behind their competitors.
4. The power of sustainability and inclusivity
2020 was marked as a year of change by many. Whether it was through the Black Lives Matter movement that sparked the conversation of racial equality, or the realisation of the importance of sustainability and protecting the environment, consumers began questioning businesses to ask, "what are you doing to help?"
In 2021, lip service will not be enough to satisfy consumers and businesses will be expected to demonstrate their commitments through their digital marketing activities.
From a sustainability perspective, it will be really important that your communications and branding assure your consumers that environmental issues are at the forefront of your business, to the point it becomes synonymous with your brand identity.
5. The battle for 'Position Zero'
The last trend on our list focuses on the increased importance of landing that all-important 'position zero' on Google SERP's, otherwise known as the featured snippet.
The featured snippet appears at the top of the search results, and it displays a little more information than the rest of the search results, which Google takes from the page in question in an attempt to answer the searcher's query, potentially without them having to click on the link.
There are different featured snippet formats, such as paragraphs, lists, tables and videos, so a big focus for content next year will be creating the right 'stuff' that is aimed at achieving 'position zero'. If businesses want to be seen as thought leaders in their field, bagging that featured snippet could be the way to go.
Expect the unexpected...
With so much uncertainty still surrounding businesses as we begin the new year, perhaps the only thing we can say for certain about this year is that businesses will need to be adaptable to meet the ever-changing demands. However, let's all hope that 2021 ends more positively than in 2020.
If you or your business is planning for the year ahead and would like a chat in the first instance of your digital activity, we'd love to have a chat!