30 second summary:
- In all the turmoil, major marketing trends have emerged that will affect the way small businesses operate in 2021.
- From catalyzed digital transformation and conversational marketing to AI's focus on application and data protection, these are some of the topics that serve as pillars for marketing success.
- Five predictions of how these trends will play out this year.
In 2020, small businesses had to be nimble to grow and survive. As a result, more and more small businesses accelerated their digital transformation efforts to reach customers online quickly and effectively.
Throughout the turmoil, major marketing trends have emerged that will affect the way small businesses operate in 2021. Here are my predictions of how these trends will play out this year:
1. Small businesses step on the gas to transform digitally
According to Salesforce Research's Small and Medium Business Trend Report, one in three small business leaders said the pandemic had accelerated their digitization initiatives, and more than half of growing small businesses said technology drives customer interactions. Small businesses that used to depend on a physical presence adapted to the times and geared towards e-commerce. Even farms that never had an online presence have set up integrated payment systems and chat services to better serve customers.
This year, small businesses will continue their digitalization journey and invest in building and maintaining an online presence. There is a greater focus on tracking the entire customer lifecycle online and using data for decision making. This gives small businesses more opportunities to compete with larger businesses operating in the same markets.
2. Conversational marketing is the focus
Internet traffic has skyrocketed during the pandemic and more and more consumers are talking to brands online. While this is an opportunity for marketers, it has also created a unique challenge. More than ever, marketers are experimenting with conversation marketing to deliver personalized experiences and build deep customer insights. With the release of Facebook's cross-app communications capabilities earlier this year, it's even easier for brands to reach customers where they spend most of their time.
In 2021, small businesses and successful brands will invest in conversation marketing to build brand loyalty and increase sales. Personalization is becoming key and brands that don't offer bespoke communications for customers will fall short. As marketers and small businesses invest in conversation marketing, the adoption of instant chat and messenger services as communication channels will increase.
3. Machine learning and AI are coming in handy for small businesses
In the past, artificial intelligence and machine learning were seen as valuable technologies, but it is only recently that AI and ML-driven campaigns have become common practical tools. Marketing automation is now smart enough to customize messages based on intent signals. However, it requires artificial intelligence and machine learning to achieve this.
This year, artificial intelligence and machine learning are becoming more useful for small businesses to quickly and effectively target and communicate with the audiences they want online. Advances in AI-based chatbot services will take place and consumers will be able to have a full, two-way conversation that will give small businesses massive data and valuable insights in 2021.
4. The pressure on data protection is mounting – small businesses should prepare for it
As Big Tech pulls more government research into how user data is accessed and managed, the demand for privacy and transparency among consumers continues to grow. According to the RSA, nearly half of Americans compromised their personal information in a data breach in the past year. According to a Cisco study, 84% of consumers want more control over how their personal information is managed.
Digital marketing is no exception, and as small businesses continue to fully digitize, they will face the same level of control when managing consumer data. While the acquisition of data is an essential part of successful marketing, in 2021 small companies will have to invest in the implementation of data protection-compliant processes and communicate these transparently to customers. This becomes even more of a challenge as these small businesses struggle to survive in the current economy.
5. The market demand for digital all-in-one marketing platforms is increasing
The demand for all-in-one digital marketing platforms has increased significantly over the past year as more and more small businesses connect with their customers online to increase sales. This has resulted in widespread innovation in various industries including food and beverage, fitness, agriculture, retail, and more. Larger companies are also turning to these platforms to efficiently manage all of their marketing needs in one place.
As the demand for these platforms continues, more companies that offer complementary solutions are becoming partners with companies that offer these solutions to meet market demand. Integrations for payment, sales, help desk and contact management services are becoming even more powerful and user-friendly. Other integrations are also being set up to help small businesses streamline their digital marketing efforts. As more businesses invest in providing helpful solutions for these platforms, a thriving ecosystem is being created where the services offered to small businesses continue to grow in value.
To be successful in 2021, small businesses need to focus on creating seamless online customer experiences. The small businesses that excel in this field and harness the power of creativity are getting stronger than ever.
Steffen Schebesta is CEO at Sendinblue.