2021: What Digital Marketers Need to Prepare

It’s December of 2020. The spring and summer have moved on. We’ve just put a bow on autumn while we welcome winter and the holidays that distract us from what has been the longest year of our collective lives. 

Normally this time of year marks a fury of e-commerce and retail practices, the “big show” of what marketers can do come shopping season. It means budgeting for the new year and attempting to plan for the future. With a year like 2020, how can one possibly plan for the future? 

The equation is intense:

Thirty years of relentless changes in Digital Marketing
THE year of unprecedented elements


The need for a rock solid plan

But the solution is straightforward:  What has been coming all along? 

Whether it’s an idea that has finally solidified (Voice search, anyone?) or the deep dark fear that keeps us up at night (more cookie blocking?), these concepts aren’t a shock. But the way you need to approach them may end up being a surprise. 

1. Ditch the Manual

Automation is now a necessity for efficiency’s sake but also practicality with the capabilities our platforms are enacting. Over the years, we’ve preached about automated bidding, straightforward reporting, and even budgeting tools. If you’ve not explored these, don’t wait for the year to wrap!

Dynamic Ads

One campaign type that it still underutilized, despite the pleas of our well-meaning friends at Google and Microsoft, is the Dynamic Search Ad campaign. Our very own Shannon Macklin has provided a breakdown of how to set up DSAs in Google — surprise, they’re almost exactly the same in Microsoft! — but beyond the ‘how’ you should ask yourself what you’re trying to accomplish that’s new and relevant to 2021. 

We all know searches are on the rise, with over 63,000 Google searches happening every second on an average day. Fascinatingly enough, approximately 35% of queries have 4+ words in them, which makes the fact that around 15% of Google searches have never been searched before pretty believable. Thinking about how DSAs operate, the goal is to catch those variations as they come through and pair them with relevant ad copy and landing pages. A human can’t possibly assess every variation of a search, not to mention the intent the user has subtly shown in their online behavior prior to that search. The concept of query mining isn’t wrong, but for the purposes of optimizing performance in a changing world, they’re not exactly efficient. Dynamic Search Ads are built to capture those details and provide a relevant, even positive experience for the user. Knowing this, we tested DSA’s for our client, Parkmobile, and saw fantastic results in this case study.

Moving into the new year, if you haven’t yet established this campaign type for the purposes of easier access to queries you’ll never be able to expect, now is the time! 

Voice Search + DSA

There are even more unknowns as we see more and more adoption of voice search technology. Many resources speculate on the integration of voice search into home environments and ongoing consumer behavior. As smart speakers continue to grow in popularity, currently estimated by Statistica as a presence in 40% of US households, we anticipate a further reliance for spoken queries. And what do we know? That the unique nature and multi-term combinations, often leading with “how” or “when” or “what,” make it critical instead of fixating on mining individual keywords, we take a step back and let them reveal themselves to us.

As you create your first DSA campaign, be sure to use the tried and true practices. A starting point is how you choose to target and channel your users: You may choose specific landing pages or urls, but you opt for the “Landing pages for standard ad groups” which means the content you’re sharing is already approved for your marketing strategies! You can additionally target categories, but if this is your first rodeo, I’d suggest starting a bit more conservatively with specific URLs or page details. Google lays out these options nice and clearly for easy adoption. 

2. Your platform options are changing – Who should you reconsider?

Many of us pride ourselves in testing. Giving each platform a shot, or at least a well-intended conversation about potential. Where we often fall short is identifying when to revisit this platform, knowing the kinds of advancements pouring through our news feed month after month. 

Facebook Shops

Sure you’ve made the move into FB’s own shopping capabilities, but have you begun leveraging the power of Facebook Shops, a newly present tab in the FB app? The year 2020 has drastically changed how people shop, support small businesses, and interact with social media and this new shopping experience for Facebook and Instagram is a merging of these factors. Facebook Shops is happily awaiting engagement in your business’ Facebook Page or Instagram profile and can also be found through stories or ads.

LinkedIn Stories

Often the development and gains of one platform lead to the creation and offering in another. LinkedIn stories are a fantastic example of that, as Facebook and Instagram have been offering this dynamic way to share since 2016 and LI is just now jumping aboard. As a big Neil Patel fan, I appreciate his breakdown of where to start when incorporating LI Stories into your marketing strategy. With over 700 million global users on LinkedIn, and combining the average branded ‘swipe up’ rate of 15-25% on Instagram, there is tremendous potential to reach your audience in an entirely new way. The big question is: What will your video hold??

For more Linkedin updates, be sure to check our Brainlabs Social Specialist, Noah Lewchenko’s post on the topic, Upcoming LinkedIn Ads Products for B2B Marketers.

Reddit Inventory Expansion

If you’ve hypothesized that Reddit could connect you with your user base but have felt limited by lack of options, fret no longer.  In just the last few months, Reddit’s blog announced a long-awaited update to Inventory types. Now this platform, famously boasting higher unduplicated reach than other social platforms and 430 million+ monthly average users, has more options for how to begin or adapt your marketing journey in the new year. 

Snap First Commercial

We agency folx have come to learn that if you’re going to the trouble of creating an ad, particularly video creative, the best bet is to build variations for all potential platforms. Making a video for Facebook? How might we need an adaptation perfect for YouTube? Or perhaps Instagram? Or could we use it in the new LinkedIn stories? Snap is now  ready for you to debut your best creative with the option of a homepage takeover with First Commercials. Although announced earlier this year, we’re just now seeing brands like Tinder give it a shot and with promising cost efficiency. If you already embrace all that is video, staying ahead of the curve requires embracing all the options, including Snappin’ it up.

TikTok Shopify integration

And last but not least on the “2020 sources of inspiration and joy” list, TikTok has upped its shopping game, integrating with Shopify to allow for more flawless access for consumers. Although TikTok did allow marketers to connect the two platforms before now, it often required tweaking of codes that makes some non-coding marketers a bit jumpy. Now it’s a swift 1-click process that gets the ball rolling that much more quickly.

If you’ve missed out on using this capability for the holiday shopping season (it’s not too late), 2021 should be your time to get onboard with this feature. We’ve still got plenty of e-commerce opportunity ahead of us, with holidays celebrating parents, sharing birthdays, and just making it through a tough year.  

In short, the platforms that may have been brushed aside as “too new” or possessing incompatible offerings are now back in the game. As 2021 kicks off, as the world shifts its focus from pandemics to reentering a socially engaged marketplace, you don’t want to be scrambling to catch up as momentum gains. 

3. Privacy is a real concern and a real opportunity. 

Since 2018, we’ve known how data regulations were going to turn our worlds upside down, particularly as it pertained to third-party cookie data. As GDPR rolled out in Europe, entire marketing strategies were diverted and reconditioned to complement what was left in the data landscape. As the California Consume Privacy Act has taken effect, we know the interest in securing one’s own information is continuing to be of the utmost importance and still an active topic. And on top of the ongoing legislative considerations, tech providers are also driving this progress. Safari was one of our first exposures to the impact of data privacy measures with Firefox and Chrome jumping in as well. 

These changes are out of the hands of marketers, but what we do have is the ability to plan and to pivot. Moving into 2021, take stock of what you know. Take stock of the data you have. Of your (converting) traffic, what is yet to be affected by these inevitable shifts? Did you pay attention to your before/after performance as the Safari blockers breezed through town? While you may have been caught off guard in 2019, you have all the signals to prepare for the next wave, be it through tech providers or legislation. 

The tides have turned — do you have your flotation device?

As you work through your plan for the privacy regulations and restrictions, it can be an overwhelming concept. Looking for an agency to help you with this? Contact the friendly specialists at Brainlabs Digital to talk about how they might assist. But with or without a plan, these changes are coming. 

All in all, your digital marketing strategy for 2021 should be continued focus on moving into the new economic world with social media driving our audiences and automation (in whatever form you embrace) being at the top of the list. And in addition to that, be sure you take time for the priorities you’ve known were working their way down the pike. Few things come as a total surprise anymore, what truly catches us off guard is how quickly time sure passes. Well, in years other than 2020, that is. 

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Best of luck marketers! 


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