7 Digital Marketing Predictions for B2B in 2021

Sailor looking through a looking glass at the horizon

The novel Covid-19 took the world by surprise—including the B2B sector.  

Forward-thinking companies soon realized that new challenges meant that they would have to generate paradigm-busting solutions if they were ever going to successfully navigate the hazards of doing business while leading through uncharted waters.

This unique occurrence opened an extraordinary opportunity for businesses to take an introspective look at the way they’ve always done things. As a result, the innovation of 2020 has paved the path to what could be an even more dynamic 2021, with better, bolder, and more innovative digital marketing operations. 

What to Expect in the Digital Marketing Industry

Read on for some of our predictions on how digital marketing is shaping up for the new year. 

1: More Digital Adoption 

Marketers had to stay on their toes in 2020 by keeping up with the rapid pace of digital adoption, which increased exponentially because of our new reality. Companies had to quickly move more of their operations to the digital space as people all over the planet learned how to socially distance. 

Enterprises pivoted to Zoom meetings, curbside pickup, and streamlined e-commerce to make online ordering ever more efficient.  

Conventions and expos moved into the online space—where virtual booths were used to capture customers’ attention—complete with lively Q&A sessions and not-too-boring product demonstrations. In 2021, this trend toward moving more traditional business activities will continue unabated. 

This means virtual events are here to stay! 

According to Gartner, by 2023, 60% of businesses that pivoted to virtual events will incorporate real-time or real-space experiential elements into their marketing experiences. It’s up to marketers to figure out ways to make virtual events engaging so they’re not so dry.  

2: A New Wave of Automation Implementation

These days, lots of clients expect an answer to their business-related questions 24/7.  

This is virtually impossible to do without the assistance of tireless chatbots, a type of computer program that uses artificial intelligence to understand and respond to written language. 

Chatbots can vastly improve the customer experience, leading to greater satisfaction and increased engagement. They can also help business owners connect with new leads and better understand customers’ needs for an improved user experience. 

Sophisticated chatbots use machine learning, which means the program continually evolves as it’s used.  The Chatbot market is expected to expand to $1.3 billion in 2024. The explosive growth in this intriguing digital trend means that chatbots are about to totally transform business communications. 

Chatbots will become increasingly conversational, providing more personalized user experiences that will someday eliminate the need for customer service departments. 

3: The Removal of Third-Party Cookies from Google 

Google will roll out its replacement for third-party cookies in April of this year, as part of its overall plan to phase out third-party internet cookies inside the Chrome browser. 

Third-party cookies are typically used to profile a user’s internet activities so they can be served more targeted ads. When used in an ethical way, this method of collecting consumer behavior data is a potent targeting strategy that can immeasurably enhance the customer experience. Used wrongly and without consent, it becomes an Orwellian intrusion into the private lives of unsuspecting web visitors. 

 By relegating third party cookies to the dustbin of history, Google hopes to ensure better privacy for its users.  As many as 63% of internet users choose Chrome as their browser of choice, so it’s essential to be mindful of the expected changes to come with the removal of third-party cookies from Google.  

First-party cookies (the cookies your site creates for visitors) will still work, which means you can still glean actionable insights from your visitors activity on your site. 

But ad retargeting won’t be able to be done the same way because it’s wholly dependent on the use of third-party cookies that track a user from one site to another. Google estimated that third-party cookie elimination could reduce marketer ad revenue by up to 52%

What’s Google’s response to all this? 

The “privacy sandbox” is a way of giving marketers access to aggregated data from anonymized online customer activity. Businesses can serve relevant ads to groups of users instead of tracking users individually. 

The focus on the preservation of privacy is going to change the way marketers woo prospects. This could result in a step backward, causing marketing science to return to a more primitive stage in its evolutionary journey. 

It could also be a magnificent opportunity for advertisers to find other, more creative ways to win over potential customers.  

4: The Resurgence of QR Codes 

One of the most unexpected developments in the world of digital marketing was the rebirth of QR codes. QR, or “quick response codes,” were dreamed up by Japanese innovators during the 90s to track car parts. Bar codes can only hold 43 characters, while their QR counterparts contain up to 2,500 characters. 

This means more useful marketing information can be crammed into one tiny box. 

These relics of an earlier time are making a comeback because they allow for contactless pickup, delivery, and payment.  They’re incredibly useful for digital marketers, who can deploy them to generate first-party data through tracking product packaging, out of home advertising (OOH), and direct mail.  

Brands can combine QR codes with augmented reality to deliver an immersive customer experience. Beauty and fashion e-commerce sites strategically position their wares right next to QR codes so that potential buyers can use augmented reality to visualize using a product before purchasing it. 

5: Better Digital Marketing Efforts 

COVID-19 has caused businesses worldwide to increase the amount they spend on digital marketing. All the digital innovating that companies have had to do because of the pandemic hasn’t sated consumers’ hunger for new technological solutions.  

Instead, customers want businesses to up their game even more. Because of greater expectations, CEOs are planning to significantly increase how much they spend on digital marketing. While the average spending boost is around 25%, many companies are planning to spend much more than that.  

 Businesses that don’t follow suit will soon be left in the dust.  

After a year of COVID-19 lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, stir-crazy customers, tourists, and connoisseurs of fine dining will be spending a lot more in 2021—and spending big. Marketers will need to closely track their target market as they open up their wallets.

Deliver a precisely targeted marketing message when a consumer, newly liberated from societal constraints, most needs to hear it, and you’ll reap the rewards. 

Another trend that savvy businesses need to be aware of is cross-functional integration. By 2023, 25% of organizations will combine marketing, sales, and customer experience (CX) into a single totality.  

By doing this, companies can better nurture customers throughout every stage of their buyer’s journey when all these functions are united into one.  

6: The Increasing Role of AI 

Artificial intelligence (AI) really took off in 2020.  

Major retailers like Stop & Shop are using AI-enabled robots in their stores to spy on shoplifters, report spills, and fulfill deliveries and pickups. Microsoft now has a battle-ready battalion of 400-pound Knightscope K5 robots patrolling its parking lots, rooting out suspicious activity. 

In 2021, your ability to harness the extraordinary benefits of AI will help you deliver an experience precisely tailored for each of your customers. For example, it can analyze consumer or competitor behavior, search patterns, and social media information to help you understand how your clients find your gadgets, widgets, or services.  

AI is also being used to analyze data on customer engagement and behavior to discover those times when a prospect is most active. This helps companies predict the ideal time to engage with a specific customer, which can boost conversions. 

7: Text Messaging Outshines Email 

72% of customers admit that they’re only receptive to those marketing messages that are customized to their unique needs.  

Today’s marketers must forge meaningful relationships with their audience. Surprisingly, text messaging is rising to the challenge. Marketers are sending more personalized text messages that are precisely customized to a consumer’s life experience. 

That’s why, in 2021, text messaging is poised to supplant email as a preferred marketing method. 

Just look at the statistics: 

 In the past, companies saw text messaging merely as a way to send one-off campaigns to prospects.

This year, all that will change as consumers get more texts than ever before when companies unleash the potential of SMS to deliver highly personalized content at every stage of the buyer’s journey. 

You’ll see brands synergistically combine text messaging with other marketing channels in stunningly creative ways. Things like promotions that integrate SMS and email and SMS being used as a customer service channel will be commonplace in the new digital landscape. 

Marketers are realizing that some of the same approaches they use in email marketing also work for text messaging. Consequently, you’ll see more automated text messages, such as those notifying a customer that they abandoned their cart. 

Connect With Our Digital Marketing Team

2021 is sure to bring a new wave of innovative trends and challenges that companies need to be ready to tackle head-on. Don’t let your head fall below water. Enlist the help of an informed and skilled marketing team to lead you into the new year with confidence. Get in touch with the crew at VSSL today to see what we can do for you.