How Empathy Rules Digital Marketing Trends in 2021
by Savannah Lyons, on Feb 3, 2021 12:00:00 AM
If there’s anything that digital marketing trends for 2021 reveal, it’s that no marketing efforts exist in a black hole. The world around us is the most direct influence on how businesses aim to capture an audience’s attention and provide a solution to a problem.
Looking towards the new year, the common theme is empathy. Refreshing, isn’t it? After 2020 shook every small business and major industry to its core, digital marketing did not coast by untouched as an exception. While brands fumbled to find their footing through pivots and “unprecedented times,” the industry has now found itself using modern tech to go back to the basics: human-to-human interactions.
For smart (and compassionate) businesses looking to keep up with the times, here are three ways that empathy will — and should — affect your marketing efforts this year.
If you have an iPhone (or let’s be honest: know someone who does), you’ve heard the whispers and murmurs about the newest, exclusive app, Clubhouse, that has taken the digital world by storm. The kicker? It’s voice only.
A few years ago, this may have been hard to imagine: an app that is bare of anything except headshots of folks and audio recordings of them speaking. Yet the audio-chat social network is projected to only grow in popularity as individuals like Elon Musk flock to the scene.
[BONUS: Here is a personal favorite voice-centered creation to come out of 2020.]
Likewise, voice search is likely to grow in popularity throughout the year. From Amazon’s Alexa to Apple’s Siri, more than half of all households are predicted to own a smart speaker by next year.
What’s this mean for digital marketers? Now more than ever, it’s important to rank for conversational search queries. Long-tail keywords, or sentences that someone may speak rather than type, are going to be more important than ever to rank for. Which brings us to our next topic.
Marketing 101: Speak to your audience — not at them. The same way that people are going to be conducting online searches via their voice, it’s crucial that online content allows the conversation to continue.
Lindsay Tjepkema, CEO of Casted, told HubSpot: "The content marketing playbook we've been using is at least two decades old. Marketers are still focusing on keyword-heavy blog posts as the main tactic to captivate their audience. But it's a strategy made for Google, not for people."
In order to leverage the conversation in 2021, there are a few different ways to connect with your customers through genuine, real-world conversations:
I know, I know. It can be a scary thought. But the raw vulnerability that a Facebook live sets you in can be endearing to your customers and show that you’re not a cold corporation or a building hiding robots behind its walls.
Live events also invite your customers to ask questions, giving you direct insight into future content your customers crave. And if you’re still not convinced, just know that 82% of people prefer live video from a brand over standard social posts.
Use a Chatbot.
Chatbots aren’t anything new, but AI is allowing them to raise the bar and deliver exceptional customer service and experience. Rather than simply providing robotic “Yes” or “No” answers, chatbots are providing a new opportunity to connect by fostering actual conversations that nurture customer journeys.
This important component of inbound marketing has allowed HubSpot to increase their lead generation by 20% by simplifying adding a chatbot to their website. So, what are you waiting for?
Get Social on Social.
See a notification in your Instagram inbox? Engage! Consumers are growing more comfortable with communicating with businesses through social media platforms’ messaging channels and smart businesses will seize the opportunity.
According to Harvard Business Review, these natural, real-world conversations provide companies “opportunities to cross-sell, encourage sharing, solicit input, and flow seamlessly between commerce and support” more frequently.
Inclusivity & Accessibility
As Gen Z has slowly begun to seep into businesses’ pool of consumers, the demand for authentic, inclusive, and fair companies and corporations has never been stronger. In 2020, we saw Adidas announce that at least 30% of their US positions would be filled by Black or Latinx people and brands like Aunt Jemima be completely reinvented.
An example of businesses failing at this include makeup brands not selling products for skin tones beyond white. The fact of the matter is, if you’re not inclusive, you’re irrelevant. Gender fluidity and a challenge of societal norms is also important to this bright and frankly refreshing generation.
In addition to holding businesses accountable for their sketchy histories and poor hiring patterns, these new consumers are also paying close attention to how brands make themselves accessible to their target audience.
If you’ve gotten lost scrolling through TikTok lately, chances are you’ve noticed how many videos have closed captions on them. The more the person posting is an influencer, the more likely they’re to receive comments asking for closed captions if they’re not already there. Influencer marketing may be increasing in its popularity as well, but it will still be held to the same standards as the big guys.
Despite the hardships faced individually and collectively in 2020, the emergence of empathy-based marketing is a breath of fresh air. By centering our strategies and content around people — truly having conversations, understanding problems, and finding solutions — businesses can grow their sales while improving the customer experience.