As a business, we’re sure you’ll echo our sentiments that 2020 is better left in the past. Unfortunately, many businesses of all shapes and sizes faced struggles due to the COVID-19 pandemic, something that was out of everybody’s control. While we’re all hoping for a stronger 2021, it will still take careful planning in product development, marketing, and various other aspects of the business. Today, we’re looking at some of the biggest retail trends to consider this year.
For small and large businesses alike, social media has more than proven its worth over the years, and most definitely in 2020. There are now many reasons to use the likes of Facebook including customer engagement, advertising, paid ads, Facebook Groups, competitions, live videos, and more. 2021 heralds a powerful new addition to this list; the fact that consumers are now using social media for more than just product discovery.
That’s right, a combination of social media advancement and consumer demand means that all users can discover and purchase without leaving their platform of choice. For consumers, the path to purchase is more seamless than ever; in fact, they don’t even need to click through to a landing page. Within moments, they place an order and continue scrolling through their feed.
As a retail brand, we encourage you to adapt to this new world. Many years ago, traditional businesses had to contend with Amazon and the new rules it brought to the market; today we find ourselves in a similar situation. How do you encourage your target market to spend money on your brand? You make it easier for them with this new advanced feature available on Facebook, Instagram, and several other platforms.
In 2020, some of the most successful businesses were able to find positivity in a difficult year because they recognized the importance of customer relationships. Here, we mean the connection between the company and the consumer. One interesting aspect of the pandemic is that businesses and individuals are all in it together. At the heart of a business is people, and consumers respond to people.
This year, some key terms that should summarize your approach include authenticity, transparency, vulnerability, and openness. If you personify the brand, people will see exactly what you stand for, why you exist, and who you stand for.
How do you humanize the brand experience? One of the best ways is through content; this includes video content where consumers meet the faces behind the name. Through video, it’s possible to talk about your main concerns, your selling points, and how you can help the viewer with their own pain points.
With the growth of technology, customers are more informed than at any time in history. Personalization was a key theme in 2020, and we’ll need to take it to the next level this year. In addition to being active with our target market’s current needs we should also inform them of what they may want next. By collecting first-party shopping data, we have the resources to predict what consumers may need in the future based on what they’ve seen or bought in the past.
As time goes on, businesses should be able to use this historical data to improve their ability to more reliably predict future customer needs. Keys to this process will be understanding where customers are in their respective buying cycles and how we can lead them in the right direction. Being ‘where’ the consumers are was an important first step; now we need to tell consumers what they’ll need next and when they should be buying it. Informed leaders are in the best position to attract informed buyers.
For those who missed it, there was good news for Instagram marketers in November; the whole platform is becoming more friendly specifically with regards to search. When using the search bar, you should see relevant suggestions without relying on hashtags. By taking advantage of this new feature and using relevant keywords in all Instagram posts, you’re communicating to the platform exactly what your post is about and who needs to see it.
On a wider scale, Instagram will start to categorize your whole account if you post consistently on a specific topic. For example, keep posting about personal training and Instagram will recognize your page as one within this niche. As long as you avoid posting content from another category, Instagram will easily lead the right people to your page.
While on the topic of Instagram, we also want to talk about Reels, Instagram’s competitor to TikTok. At the end of the year, Instagram released a change to the user interface and put this feature in full view of all users. Often, these short-form clips are more successful than longer videos for many brands. Use a clever caption with the post and it will generate engagement (and gain increased exposure as more viewers find your content).
Say your audience is active on 17 different social media platforms, does this mean you need to be present on each? No, and 2021 is the year that businesses are recognizing the importance of prioritization. It’s much better to put all your efforts into a couple of platforms than give minimal attention to lots of different ones. Especially for those with little time to invest in the first place, focus on the most important channel(s) this year.
With social media, it’s better to be the master of one platform rather than having an inconsequential impact on several. Be known for one social media account and use the others to supplement a strategy as opposed to being a focal point.
If 2020 did anything for retail, it brought companies and individuals closer together. As rules and regulations continually changed, businesses had to update consumers of their opening hours, COVID protocols, and more. Some have discovered live interactions already, but those that haven’t should see this as an avenue to explore.
Immediately, we know some people will scroll right through this trend because of the potential problems with live events. What if something goes wrong with the technology? What if nobody shows up? What if there are no comments? Live events can come with complications, but the benefits outweigh these small problems many times over.
With one single live video, you put a face to the name and give the brand a personality. If people like the host, they’re more likely to stick around. What’s more, you answer the most pressing questions of prospective customers in real-time. Even if it’s only two questions, the two answers you provide could convert a lead into a customer, and this makes the live video worthwhile alone.
If you spotted the advancement in creativity with Facebook Ads, you aren’t alone because it was a growing trend in 2020. This year, the trend is likely to continue with user-generated content, GIFs, and collages. Also, expect a return to text-based ads with the 20% rule now seemingly gone. We’ve seen ads with lots of text, bold fonts, and other experimental designs.
In addition to design changes, the latter half of 2020 also brought a shift in message from businesses. We predict the immediate future of retail to contain light-hearted messages and an overall lighter mood. There’s enough negativity in the world, so it’s time to bring a more positive message. If you can make somebody smile through a paid ad or another form of content, this could be the difference between receiving a click and getting ignored. In fact, this goes for all areas of the business; why not be a positive force in the industry in 2021?
Ultimately, the future of retail and a trend that will serve you well for many years is taking a proactive marketing approach. At the beginning of any year, we see a shift in consumer motivation because the attention turns from buying gifts to buying self-indulgent items. Of course, there are also New Year’s resolutions and a need for self-improvement. Consequently, businesses offer discounts on self-improvement courses and other products/services.
In the middle of a global pandemic, we’ve come to expect the unexpected, and this is the best approach to have for marketing flexibility. With a true understanding of Facebook advertising, for instance, no sudden change in the market will cause major setbacks because you’ll know how to respond and make minor adjustments to keep your approach on track.
Additionally, make sure you understand all privacy restrictions with regards to user tracking while maintaining a flexible approach at all times. One year ago, we didn’t know that every American would need a face mask just to go into a store. Those who were flexible took advantage of the trend and profited from the shift in demand. The more flexible your approach, the better your ability to create relevant content, generate ads that resonate, and ultimately keep customers happy - your primary goal for 2021.
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