Digital Marketing Trends 2021: 17 Must-Know Predictions
Last updated on augusti 19th, 2021
This article looks at 17 of the fastest growing marketing trends for 2021 – and what you can do to take advantage of them.
For a short version you can have a look at the video below – but if you want the full scoop we recommend reading the whole article!
2020 has come and gone – and it’s time to start to look forward to the new year and what it might bring for advertisers.
In the past year, we saw (yet another) record year for ad spend.
For the first time, Digital ad dollars overtook Offline advertising as the main channel, with 51.5% of the US market, or $106.5B vs. $96B in spending.
The near future of digital marketing is exciting and here we try to spot some of the major shifts we’re seeing in the advertising landscape.
We discuss new emerging formats as well as social media trends and general tendencies in the advertising world.
Hopefully, you’ll get some ideas of where to take your marketing strategy in the year to come.
Because Mobile is the current ruler of everything digital we begin by looking closer at some mobile predictions for 2021.
Let’s get started!
Mobile Marketing Trends
Mobile now accounts for two-thirds of digital ad spend, showing a 30% year over year growth, and a total of $70B for 2018.
It has been said for years now, but you cannot ignore mobile advertising.
The rules are different on mobile – and it’s important to take note of this.
For instance, if you’re wondering whether display advertising is still relevant in 2021 – the answer is yes.
In fact, according to research by Appnexus, display is the most common ad format on mobile – followed by search:
Display advertising is expected to keep growing on mobile in the following years, to reach a total of $53Bn by this year.
With almost 70% of digital ad dollars being spent on Mobile, it’s safe to say you’re missing out if you’re still focusing on desktop.
Even though Search is doing well on mobile the numbers tell us that advertisers still find the best results with display campaigns.
If you haven’t already shifted your campaigns to a mobile-first mentality 2019 is absolutely the year to do so.
But it isn’t enough to run your display campaigns in the traditional, manual way.
Automated, programmatic, advertising is now the standard for any successful marketing strategy.
Artificial Intelligence has revolutionized the way ad dollars are spent.
What used to be a tedious manual process is now handled efficiently and automatically by intelligent tools and software that can help you get the most out of your advertising budget.
If you want to learn more about programmatic advertising you can have a look at our ultimate guide: What is programmatic advertising?
In fact, by 2019, more than four in five US digital display ad dollars will be spent through automatic means.
Programmatic In-app Advertising
As much as 97% of mobile programmatic ad spend goes to in-app advertising.
Most apps today are powered by ads, and it’s hard to imagine anyone having missed the surging trend of advertisements within apps.
The majority of these ads are served programmatically, as this research from Appnexus shows:
Source: Programmatic in-app ad spend
But programmatic isn’t just the latest rage in mobile advertising; it’s taking over the entire advertising landscape.
Intelligent, AI-powered ad delivery is no longer just for display campaigns.
Automatic ad buying is also moving into the previously offline territory of TV and Radio.
Read on to find out more about exciting programmatic opportunities in traditional media.
Programmatic overtaking Traditional Channels
According to a report by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), traditional display advertising is still the biggest field of programmatic, followed by mobile and digital video.
Linear, or traditional, TV only held 12% of the market in Dec 2017, but this number is growing rapidly.
According to eMarketer 77% of all US digital video ad spend will be done programmatically by 2019.
This represents an almost 30% year-over-year growth.
Digital video is one of the fastest growing advertising segments – expected to reach 8.8% of all ads by 2021.
This is a growth rate of 13% – compared to traditional TV ad spending that is only expected to grow with 0.4%.
Is video a part of your marketing strategy in 2019? Maybe it should be?
TV and Programmatic Advertising Trends
If you’re still doing traditional TV advertising, it could be interesting to note that programmatic TV ad spend is expected to increase with 82% in 2019.
Source: eMarketer, Programmatic TV Ad Spending 2015-2019
This growth is largely due to networks launching streaming services and the expansion of Smart TV’s that are always connected – allowing for a more tailor-made ad experience for viewers.
Anyone doing traditional TV advertising in 2019 should seriously consider looking at programmatic options as it allows for more accurate measuring and better ad-experiences for the user.
As with TV, digital radio and music streaming services are leading a revolution in programmatic advertising for audio.
According to research by Wideorbit, 57% of audio ad buyers aren’t using programmatic at the moment, but plan to start doing so within the next 12 months.
When asked what types of radio and digital audio inventory people are interested in buying programmatically, the overwhelming response was Online streaming services.
In fact, in November 2018 the radio giant iHeartMedia announced they’re buying the programmatic radio platform Jelli , and in March 2018 Pandora acquired AdsWizz, another programmatic audio platform for $145 million.
Does your business use a programmatic platform to buy radio or digital audio advertising? If not, 2019 might be the year to start thinking about doing so.
The programmatic revolution is one of the most interesting trends happening right now, and if you haven’t already, 2019 should definitely be the year when you start looking for a programmatic solution to your advertising needs.
Programmatic has already been a part of the advertising landscape for a few years.
But a major shift is happening now, where brands are taking their programmatic ad purchasing in-house.
Instead of letting media agencies do the bidding for them, more and more brands take their ad-buying in-house.
In fact, as many as 45% of brands did their programmatic buying themselves in 2018 – and this number is predicted to climb to 62% by 2022.
With the help of intelligent self-service platforms, like Match2One, brands find it exceedingly easier to do their own ad buying and cutting out agencies as the middle-man.
These tools allow companies to remain competitive with their ad spend while significantly decreasing their marketing overhead costs.
With that being said there are other rapidly growing trends in the advertising world.
The next part of this article talks about emerging opportunities in marketing that could be interesting to look into for any serious marketer.
One major trend in advertising we’re seeing right now is with the rapid rise of E-sports.
This previously rather obscure industry is moving into the mainstream and offers an opportunity to reach millennials that many marketers find difficult today.
Newzoo released a report saying that in 2018 the global e-sports market reached $906 million in revenue.
This is a somewhat remarkable increase of 38% since this 2017.
The industry is expected to reach $1.4 billion by 2020.
E-sports is one of the fastest growing segments of digital entertainment – with a global audience of 380 million in 2018, expected to reach 589 million by 2020.
A big shift can be seen in the growing number of “Occasional Viewers”, meaning that the future of esports is more mainstream and no longer restricted to “Enthusiasts” or super fans.
The main revenue stream still comes from sponsorships, but advertising is gaining grounds and amounted to 22% of revenue by 2017.
E-sports advertising offers an exciting opportunity to reach a segment of consumers that are normally difficult to engage.
The market is growing rapidly and there’s still plenty of opportunities to get in the game early with a well thought out esports marketing strategy.
As audiences grow at a rapid pace, so will advertising dollars.
Another quickly growing trend in marketing is Augmented and Virtual reality.
With advances in computing power and availability of technology, we start seeing Augmented Reality making its way into the mainstream public eye, mainly with the creative use of smartphones.
The next chapter takes a deeper look at the interesting segment of Augmented Reality.
Are you ready for AR and VR?
Rapid increase in Smartphone processing power is bound to transform how we interact with our environment – and a lot of it will come through Augmented Reality.
Augmented Reality is a hot trend in advertising.
Roughly half of all smartphones were AR-optimized in 2018.
This is expected to increase to cover nearly all phones by 2020, when almost half of the global population owns a smartphone.
Source: IAB – Video Landscape Report
Advertisers are seeing a chance to get in on a relatively new medium that offers exciting possibilities for creative and interactive ads.
The AR advertising industry is expected to grow from $428 million in 2018 to $2.6 billion in 2022.
Companies are already doing interesting things with AR.
One example is the Pepsi Max AR experiment at a bus stop in London:
This is a campaign that went viral a few years ago and currently has 8 million views on Youtube.
Augmented reality still has a ”fresh” feel to users, and a lot of exciting things are being done in the field.
Other companies go further and create tools to help brands showcase their products in 3D with AR.
Sayduck is an interesting company that’s integrating AR and furniture design – creating a more interactive experience for customers.
VR ads are less intrusive
Research shows that VR ads are perceived as less intrusive than traditional display advertising – and has a significantly higher recall rate.
This could be because the world of AR and VR is still a relatively new field, and ad fatigue isn’t as widespread yet as with other formats.
Source: Martech Today
AR and VR are still relatively expensive technologies that require a lot of development resources, but as availability becomes more widespread so will the advertising possibilities, even for smaller brands with limited budgets.
Is your brand thinking about adding Augmented Reality to your portfolio? Maybe 2019 is the year when you should?
Next, we will look at the quickly expanding segment of Voice Search and Voice Assistants.
Voice is on the rise
Have you ever asked your phone to do any of these things?
- Navigate Home
- Call Mom
- Call Dad
If you have, you are part of a rapidly growing audience that use voice assistants as a way of interacting with their phones.
Source: Kleiner Perkins Internet Trends
Advertisers are still figuring out how to monetize this shift in user behavior – but an interesting example of a brand integrating with Amazon’s Alexa is the pizza chain Domino’s who are now letting people order a pizza directly through voice commands.
This is a creative way of exploring the possibilities with voice search, and people seem to love it:
Even if you don’t offer a product that you can make available for people to order through their voice assistants you can still optimise your existing campaigns to receive better results through voice queries.
Search Engine Journal has written an excellent guide on how to prepare your PPC campaigns for voice search.
It’s a highly recommended read for anyone who’s interested in receiving better results from voice search.
It’s a very detailed article, but here are the key points:
- Voice search queries are typically longer, generally over 5 or 6 words
- Since voice search is conversational, these searches are often in the form of a question. Think of those main question asking terms: How, What, When, Where, Why?
- Voice has high local worth (think “near me” searches)
As a brand, it makes sense to start out small by adapting your existing website content to better suit voice queries.
Consumers aren’t fully ready to adapt to ordering products through their voice assistants, but especially local businesses should definitely look at becoming more voice-friendly in 2019.
The next section of this article deals with everyone’s favorite time waster; Social Media.
What should you focus on in 2019? Are influencers still relevant? Should you bet your entire budget on Snapchat ads? Read on to find out!
Social Media Marketing Trends
Social media is of course still highly relevant in 2019, and in this section we’ll take a closer look at how the landscape may look in the year ahead.
First, we’ll discuss influencer marketing.
If you haven’t heard of this phenomenon you’ve probably been living under a rock for the past few years, but what does it look like in 2019?
Influencer Marketing in 2019
Yes, influencer marketing is still a rising trend among marketers in 2019, as can be seen in this Google Trends report.
According to research by Linqia, 39% of brands were planning to increase their influencer marketing budget in 2018.
This number is expected to be similar in 2019.
The problem with influencer marketing is that people are unsure whether it’s worth it or not.
76% report difficulties with measuring ROI as the main challenge of influencer marketing.
With all the “loose money” being thrown on influencers also comes the issue of people not holding up their end of the deal.
With great influence comes great responsibility – but some people simply seem to not care:
Source: @letthelordbewithyou via Instagram
Influencer marketing is alive and well in 2019 but there is an obvious wish from brands for accurate reporting and increased accountability.
Another issue with working with living advertising pillars comes from their fans realizing that all their posts are sponsored in some way – putting doubt on how genuine these endorsements really are.
Ad fatigue is a very real risk when working with influencers.
Some brands are counteracting this by focusing on Micro Influencers – those with fewer than 100 000 followers – rather than mega stars.
These smaller, but often more relevant, influencers tend to generate higher engagements with their follower base.
It makes sense to have an influencer strategy in 2019, but the days of randomly throwing money at the biggest star you can find and get a 10x return on your money are certainly over.
The winner of the influencer game will be the brand who creates a measurable and reliable strategy with relevant influencers who generate a lot of engagement with their followers and are picky about who they endorse.
Another growing marketing trend is conversational marketing.
People want to feel like they have a personal relationship with their favorite brands and they expect to be able to talk to a business in much the same way as they talk to their friends.
There are numerous ways of communicating with your customers – but what should you focus on in 2019?
Automated Messaging and Chatbots
According to research by Facebook, people now prefer messaging to other forms of communication.
Source: Facebook Insights
The research also says that 61% of daily messaging app users in the US have messaged a business in the past 3 months.
69% of people also report that being able to message a business help them feel more confident about the brand.
Source: Facebook Insights
Fact is, each month people and businesses exchange 8 billion messages on Messenger alone.
AI is opening up possibilities to automate features in your customer communications.
This is something that would have previously required significant manual manpower. An example of this is the rise of automated chatbots.
Automated customer communication is a steadily growing marketing trend among brands, as can be seen in this Google Trends report:
In fact, according to research from Juniper, chatbots are expected to provide annual savings to businesses of $11 billion by 2023.
For a list of the best chatbot platforms check out this article by Shane Barker.
If you’re not already providing an option for people to message your business – 2019 should be the year when you start – and you might as well do it with an automated chatbot.
When talking about messaging services there’s one app that stands out among the rest; Whatsapp.
Read on to learn a bit more about this platform and the new opportunities it provides.
When Facebook bought messenger service Whatsapp in 2014 for $19 billion, many wondered whether this was a good investment.
At the time the platform “only” had 450 million users.
Today that number has passed 1.5 Billion monthly users, but is still rather undervalued as a marketing tool.
In the age of personalisation, Whatsapp offers an interesting way of getting up close and personal with your customers.
Whatsapp has an app specifically built for businesses where they can automate their messaging and get statistics on their communications.
It is built for small businesses who need an efficient way of talking to their customers, and is a good way of doing something a bit different, especially if you’re operating in a market where Whatsapp is popular.
Get the app here.
Video is exploding as a marketing medium, and if you are thinking about increasing your video advertising efforts (which you should), the next section is for you.
Time to go Vertical
Vertical video used to be taboo in the digital marketing world, way back when desktop was still the main way people consumed content.
This has changed in recent years, as mobile has passed desktop as the primary device for people to tend to their online needs.
A video shot in the landscape format forces users to either watch a tiny version of your video on their mobile screens or awkwardly rotate their phones and hope the video adapts to the new orientation.
According to this Stanford article, people keep their phones vertical 94% of the time.
Vertical video looks good on a vertical phone – and to keep things as easily accessible as possible for your users, staying vertical with your marketing videos is highly recommended.
Get creative with Stories
With Snapchat being dead in the water, one might think that disappearing stories was just a fad that users played around with but has since grown tired of.
But this is not the case. Stories are very much trending in 2019 – with Instagram, Facebook, and Whatsapp leading the way.
Both Instagram and Whatsapp stories now have over 400 million daily active users and is growing rapidly, whereas Snapchat’s entire platform only has 186 million.
This incredibly fast adoption rate from users on two major platforms suggests that people see disappearing stories as a highly relevant and engaging feature.
According to Digiday, more and more companies turned to Instagram rather than Facebook when spending their advertising dollars in 2018.
The Facebook newsfeed has seen decreased viewability, thanks to changes in algorithms and intense competition.
Of course, with a shift in spending also comes inflated prices, which is exactly what has happened to Instagram stories.
Facebook’s story feature is newer and still doesn’t have as big a user base as Instagram, but it is growing rapidly.
An early adopter advertiser might find Facebook Stories a good place to look for an opportunity in 2019.
Keeping up with advertising trends is a major challenge for every marketer, and this gets increasingly difficult every year as new options open up and audience behavior shifts.
Looking at data like user growth and search volume, these are 9 of the major marketing trends we see happening in 2019:
- Widespread adoption of Programmatic advertising across multiple platforms
- Brands taking their ad buying in-house, with the help of self-service programmatic tools.
- Esports is going mainstream and more advertising options will open up to monetize the revolution.
- Augmented reality will continue to grow as mobile phones become more powerful and brands realise the increased engagement and recollection rate of Augmented Reality advertising
- Brands will start to figure out how to successfully monetize the rapid rise of voice assistants
- Influencer marketing is still going strong in 2019, but brands demand more transparency and accountability from influencers and influencer platforms.
- Personalisation through instant messaging and automated chatbots will see a big rise in 2019
- Vertical video will take place as the main format for video ads, as mobile is now the primary way people consume content
- Stories features across multiple platforms will play a major part in any successful social media marketing strategy
Now more than ever it’s important to have a clear view of what you want to achieve with your marketing.
Are you in the right position for a brand-building campaign or does it make more sense to focus on driving revenue or traffic to your website?
How do you communicate with your customers?
Nowadays people expect to be able to reach a business within minutes, at all hours of the day, and to get a personal and helpful response to all inquiries.
A world driven by social networks means people expect everything to be social, and this includes communicating with their favorite businesses as if they were their friends.
The key takeaway for a succesful marketing strategy in 2019 should be; automate what you can, but always stay relatable and engaging in your message.
Do you know anybody that could use a hand in planning their marketing for 2019? Share this article and you might get a hug!