As you celebrate the New Year, it is important to take some time to explore ongoing and emerging trends in digital marketing. To reevaluate your strategy and explore new methods and local marketing tools. Doing so helps ensure that you can keep up with social and technological shifts that impact your market.
Here are five digital marketing trends that we think will be particularly important for local business marketers to watch this year.
2021 Digital Marketing Trends for Small Businesses
Shoppable Social Posts
The development of shoppable posts on social media has been an important advancement for small business digital marketing.
First introduced on Instagram, companies can use tags to create targeted popups on their post that show product information (such as item price). While this is great for product discovery, there are limitations – for example, users still have to leave Instagram and visit the business e-commerce site (or physical store) to make a purchase. However, the need to go to a separate website introduced friction to the customer’s journey. And, as any business owner knows, the more obstacles customers encounter, the less likely they are to complete a purchase.
The most recent advancement to the shopping experience, “Checkout on Instagram,” helps solve this problem. Now eligible US businesses can use their Instagram pages as online shops. Users can shop on the Instagram platform directly instead of having to leave the app to complete a purchase.
Instagram isn’t the only social media platform getting into the e-commerce game. Facebook has recently unveiled its new shop feature which will enable business owners to sell their products directly on Facebook. The “shops” feature will be free for businesses, making it an attractive option for small, local brands who are looking for new e-commerce solutions.
Google is also working to turn YouTube into an online shopping destination. According to Bloomberg, Google has recently started testing new features that will let content creators tag and track products featured in their videos. The data will then be linked to analytics and shopping tools so businesses can sell items directly through YouTube.
Voice Search Optimization
When voice search was initially introduced by Apple back in 2011, it was considered a novelty. These days voice-controlled smart home assistants like Google Home and Amazon Alexa are commonplace in households across the US and voice search is virtually ubiquitous on mobile devices. The convenience of having a fast, hands-free way to manage various tasks has made a growing number of consumers more comfortable with using voice search in their daily lives.
The rise of voice search is forcing marketers to rethink how they approach SEO. Voice search algorithms operate differently than traditional search engine algorithms. To start, people talk differently from how they type, so voice search keywords are longer and conversational. Conversely, when someone performs a voice search, they generally want a short or single answer response instead of a list of options. Voice searches are also much more location-dependent. People are mostly interested in finding something nearby, right at that moment.
This last point means voice search optimization is of particular importance for local businesses. Indeed, a 2018 study found that 58% of US consumers used voice search to find local business information, and 46% of voice search users look for a local business on a daily basis. These numbers have only increased as people have become more familiar with voice technology.
As such, businesses need to update their SEO strategy to take consumer voice search behaviors and preferences into account. For example, when using voice search for local businesses, what consumers want most are: to be able to make reservations, to hear business prices, and to find out what products businesses have in stock. Another criterion for voice-search readiness (VSR) is having complete and consistent business listings across the web (especially Google/Maps, Bing, and Yelp).
Another important digital marketing trend is the automation of communications with AI-enhanced chatbots. Improvements in machine learning and language processing has resulted in sophisticated chatbots that can “converse” more naturally with humans. In Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Artificial Intelligence, 2020, they predicted a 100% increase in chatbot adoption rates in the next two to five years.
The use of AI-enhanced chatbots can greatly improve small business marketing, sales, and customer service workflow. In addition to websites, chatbots can be set up on social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. They are an excellent tool for handling simple, frequently occurring interactions and allow local businesses to provide 24/7 customer service – even on holidays. According to IBM, chatbots can handle 80% of routine tasks and customer questions. If a customer question is too complex for the chatbot to answer, it can refer the user to the appropriate staff member for follow-up.
In addition to immediate service delivery, AI-enhanced bots can help provide a more seamless user experience. For example, when integrated with a CRM system, bots can pull up a client’s history to offer tailored answers based on past interactions. Clients can also communicate with chatbots via voice commands or text messages, allowing for greater accessibility. By reducing the number of users who need to speak with a human, bots can help small businesses avoid scaling up staff or hiring a call center to meet customer demands for instant service.
One thing that came into stark relief during the 2020 pandemic is that relationships matter. During times of crisis, the businesses that endure aren’t always the best prepared, considered an “essential” service, or have protected supply chains. Sometimes businesses, in particular small businesses, survive because they have endeared themselves to their community. They have fostered a strong relationship with their customers and said customers want them to survive.
Building relationships take time and effort, but they pay off during times of uncertainty. And the only way to form these social ties is to get out there and embrace your community. For instance, showcase your business by telling your story and highlighting your local ties. Volunteer at community events and promote other local businesses. Focus on providing a superior human-to-human service experience.
It is also important to find ways to encourage customer participation in ways that go beyond buying a product. For instance, interactive content like project calculators, quizzes, polls, and contests. Ask customers to join discussions about how you can serve them better, write online reviews, or create user-generated content (USG) which you can highlight on your own social channels. The goal is to provide more than customer satisfaction, rather it is to connect with your customers on an emotional level. To make them feel like they are part of your brand. According to the Harvard Business Review, “emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers.”
If your business is not already experimenting with video content, 2021 is the year to get started. People love watching videos and falling data costs has made it possible for them to watch more video content than ever before. According to Cisco, by 2022, online videos will make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic.
YouTube remains the most popular video platform in the US and more than 68% of YouTube users watch videos to make purchasing decisions. As such, you can use YouTube as a channel to build brand awareness, educate your audience, and build trust with customers and prospects.
In Wyzowl’s 2020 State of Video Marketing report, 89% of respondents said that, in general, video marketing has provided a good ROI. For instance:
• 95% said video helped increase user understanding of their product or service.
• 83% said video helped them generate leads.
• 80% said video directly helped increase sales.
Tutorials, vlogs (video blogs), and explainer videos (i.e. short videos explaining products or services) are especially popular among consumers. You can also run paid ads on other YouTube video content to further boost revenue and brand awareness.
Take Your Marketing to New Heights in 2021
Surefire Local provides an all-in-one marketing platform designed around the needs of small and medium-sized businesses. We can help you develop and maintain efficient digital marketing strategies to attract lifetime customers, grow revenue, and broaden reach in your local markets. With our flagship product, Surefire Local Marketing Platform, you can manage your online reputation, SEO, business listings, social media, paid advertising, and content marketing efforts – all from one place. Our powerful tracking and analytics tools ensure you can access and use the data you need to run measurable, multi-channel marketing campaigns. Request your free demo today!