2021 Digital Trends Report captures a monumental turning point in history. We share two perspectives: what’s changed since the impact of the pandemic, and what companies are planning for 2021. Download the report for insights and recommendations.
The most innovative period in marketing’s history.
2020 has rapidly accelerated trends that were already on the horizon. 92% of senior executives agreed that the lockdown period increased the priority of digital transformation. In the 2021 Digital Trends Report, senior leaders share their insights of working through this turbulent period.
The new normal will be digital.
In just one year, digital adoption has happened at five to ten times the projected rate. Lockdown periods, economic uncertainty and loss of predictability have forced customers and businesses online in previously unseen numbers. This migration has upset the power balance, with customers now more in control of the relationship and less loyal to brands and products. On top of that, 60% of companies have seen new buying behaviors such as changes to average basket size and product interests. Pandemic disruption has also placed a strain on the b2b sector, causing many businesses to demand a similar level of convenience to consumers. Although Adobe has been emphasizing the importance of customer experience for years, companies that had already invested in CX flourished in the second half of 2020. When we return to normal, there’s no question that the new normal will be digital.
Marketing has a seat in the boardroom.
2020 will go down as the year that marketing was pulled into the boardroom. 80% of senior executives said the role of marketing in setting strategy has expanded since the pandemic. Traditional consumers have moved online, making the digital environment even more important right now. This priority has raised the profile of marketing as companies scramble to understand the digital-first consumer. The battleground for 2021 will be about speed and agility. Now that many companies have treasure troves of data, the difference is how fast they can personalize the experience and respond to consumer behavior. Expect to see more investment and innovation in technology infrastructure alongside marketing.
The rise in working from home.
One of the most profound shifts has been the move towards working from home. The 2021 Digital Trends Report revealed that 28% of marketers were working from home at least 1-2 days per week in the first quarter of 2020. Just six months later, when asked to predict post-pandemic situations, the figure had risen to 80%. Far from experiencing the sharp drop in productivity that some businesses feared, 70% of executive managers reported stable or improved productivity. This poses an interesting dilemma for companies when we return to normal: Some employees can’t wait to get back to the office, while others don’t want to return to a daily commute. According to the majority of companies we surveyed, the preference is for a hybrid approach that mixes remote working with a centralized office. However, it’s likely that companies will advertise their cultural attitude as a competitive advantage.
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Forced agility for 2021.
Businesses had no choice but to respond quickly to challenging conditions. Although not formally classed as ‘agile’, the twists and turns of the pandemic have required executives to innovate on the fly and collaborate to get things done. This has been compounded by working from home, which has cut out distractions and created more time for ‘deep thinking’. For companies like Acxiom, giving people more autonomy to take action and experiment has allowed them to better serve clients and onboard talent. On the other hand, larger businesses are more reluctant to adopt this approach in the long-term; only 28% of companies generating more than £100m turnover plan to continue to be agile, compared with 50% of medium-sized businesses. Regardless of headcount, a return to more stable trading conditions shouldn’t mean running back to the standard practices and silos that previously slowed marketers down.
Employee mindset is an advantage.
The other side of customer experience is employee experience. After realizing the link between an engaged workforce and financial success, many companies are turning their attention inwards by investing in mindset. Companies described as ‘actively trying to foster a strong mindset’ were 40% more likely to have outperformed in their sector. For remote teams, see our tips for how to foster culture from a distance. The 2021 Digital Trends Report also shows that employees who felt supported by their company throughout the pandemic are 50% more likely to be optimistic about their corporate strategy for 2021. As a hybrid work situation emerges, mindset will become even more essential to prevent burnout and encourage home workers to draw healthy boundaries in the evenings and at weekends.
More changes to look out for in 2021.
Empathy is the future of experience.
Customer empathy will be used as a differentiator with brands demonstrating knowledge of their customers and the unique ways they can serve them.
Brand purpose only matters if it matters.
Brand purpose must be more than a slogan. Based on text analysis of more than 800 brand purpose statements, only 40% are authentic and customer-focused.
The acronym for 2021 is MOPS.
Marketing Operations (MOPS) provides a foundation for data, workflow, technology management and other moving parts of the modern marketing organization.