With coronavirus vaccines finally being deployed around the world, we have reason to be cautiously optimistic moving into 2021. But our lives may never quite be the same after this pandemic, and with so many unknowns still on the horizon, developing a digital content strategy for 2021 can feel like a monumental task.
Still, with all the challenges we’ve faced in the past year, we’ve also seen some exciting innovations in the world of marketing and brand communications. The most agile organizations have adapted to their audiences’ changing needs and modes of engagement with fascinating results. And we can fully expect that these new approaches to marketing will persist even after the pandemic has ended.
So let’s take a look at 8 content marketing trends and priorities whose importance was made clear in 2020, and that need to be a part of your 2021 digital content strategy.
1. A commitment to racial and social justice
Nearly 90% of Generation Z supports the Black Lives Matter movement, and 78% have used social media to express that support, according to a June 2020 Yubo poll. And Gen Z is the most populous consumer demographic. For most brands, this means that a significant portion of their customers don’t just care about racial and social justice — they’re actively standing up to injustice, and they increasingly expect the brands they work with to do the same.
That’s why the most successful brands in 2021 and beyond will be those that make a substantive and lasting commitment to diversity in their workforce and equity in their leadership. So take a hard look not just at your organization internally, but at the impact your products and services are having on the world. If you already have a racial justice plan in place for your company as a whole — and your approach to marketing in particular — make sure you have specific commitments to continue it into 2021. And if you don’t have a plan yet, right now is the time.
2. Virtual conferences
The virtual conference landscape was completely transformed in 2020, and while coronavirus concerns will lead to more digital conferences in 2021, it’s likely that many conferences will retain a digital presence even after the pandemic has ended.
Take Adobe MAX: in 2019, it had about 15,000 attendees. But its 2020 virtual conference clocked more than 21 million video views — not to mention 2.2 million site visits and 50 million social-media interactions. The increase compared to the in-person event is staggering, and points to how many more potential customers brands can reach through these events.
That’s why, while future conferences may still retain in-person presentations and exhibition halls, we expect these presentations to also be available on-demand (as MAX presentations still are) and that there will be a virtual booth component to accompany every in-person booth. In fact, we expect these virtual exhibits to become a core component of any successful digital content strategy.
3. High-value content
After such a difficult year, consumers have moved away from those brands whose content fails to deliver real value. That’s because organizations that weren’t clearly thinking about their customers’ needs in 2020 came off as tone-deaf.
So make sure that the content you’re producing in 2021 is something that your audience can walk away from with something real and meaningful that they’ve gained. If it’s a blog post or ebook, they should have learned key strategies or skills they can put into practice. If it’s a social-media post or annual report, they should have learned some useful information via data or stats. And this value shouldn’t just be for existing customers; especially given the strained economy going into 2021, you’ll need to win over potential customers by first proving that you have something to offer.
4. Loyalty-building strategies
After the racial justice protests of 2020, and given the economic challenges we’ll continue to face in 2021, consumers now have higher expectations than ever from the brands they work with. That’s why you’ll need to go the extra mile to build and maintain customer loyalty.
In fact, marketers in the B2C space are already planning to boost spending on loyalty and retention in 2021 by 15%, according to Forrester Research. This will often take the place of marketing that’s focused on products or performance. So think about what drives your customers, and how you can deliver what they need for the long term. Then make loyalty-building a key component of your 2021 digital content strategy.
5. Visual, interactive reports
In the past, annual reports often took the form of printed booklets distributed internally at the office. But 2020 was a breakout year for annual reports in the digital space. These reports are no longer confined to print, or even to 8.5” x 11” pages in PDF form.
Whether they’re using data visualization or illustration, annual reports are now more visual than ever. This allows them to share key takeaways quickly and keep their audiences engaged from start to finish. And they’re increasingly presented as interactive landing pages. That way, they can incorporate everything from clickable graphs to embedded video. The result is a report that delivers a more complete picture than ever of the state of your organization — without miles and miles of text that few people will ever read.
6. New webinar formats
Many of us developed a bittersweet relationship with the webinar in 2020. On the one hand, there were more of them than ever, giving us access to speakers and events that we could have never seen in person. But on the other hand, we spent more time on video conferences than ever, and they could get a little tiring after a while.
That’s why new formats for webinars started to get more common throughout the last year as an essential piece of any digital content strategy. From live interactive graphics to high-quality video and slideshow presentations to multiple speakers, presenters were doing a lot more to keep their audiences engaged and entertained. So just as in every other mode of communication, high-quality visual content will be more important than ever in webinars in 2021. Audiences’ high standards and low attention spans will guarantee it.
7. Online shopping
The pandemic led to a huge shift in the way we shop. According to the US Census Bureau, e-commerce spending increased 31.8% between Q1 and Q2 of 2020. And the new habits we’ve developed are likely to stick around at least until the end of the pandemic.
So make sure that your 2021 digital content strategy includes easy, effective ways for consumers to purchase your products or services online and in no-contact spaces.
8. Empathetic marketing
We’ve said it already, but we’ll say it again: above all, marketers need to be focused on delivering what their customers need in 2021. And that includes their emotional needs too. Your audiences have been hard-hit by economic and social challenges on an unprecedented scale. You can’t just pretend like they’re not struggling.
Empathetic marketing doesn’t just require being a better listener. It might also mean making some big decisions at the core of what your brand does. Could you start offering a lower-cost version of your products or services? A different kind of payment model? Or new features that can help people through these difficult times? You’ll want to ask these questions — and many more.
Guidance for Your 2021 Digital Content Strategy
For more insights on how to develop a winning content marketing strategy in 2021, check out our blog. Or you can watch every session of the Strategic Content Summit free and on demand, including discussions with such marketing influencers as Brian Fanzo and Matt Heinz. And check out our blog post with tips and strategies for B2B marketing in 2021. Best of luck as we move into 2021, and happy new year!