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paid media advertising in 2021: what’s on the cards?



The last 12 months alone have produced more digital transformation than the past decade. It has been a year of highs and lows with a turbulent digital landscape to match.

We’ve been pushed online like never before. As the main channel for communication and conversions, businesses are striving to better their digital experiences by cultivating deeper relationships with their audience.

But what does all this change jam-packed into one year mean for 2021? Only time will tell for sure, but we gathered thoughts on the digital predictions you should take note of from our paid media specialists.


2021’s paid media predictions

The global pandemic continues to develop with the nation in and out of lockdowns, the majority of the population working from home and high streets closed for the best part of the year. In times of such significant change, it’s no surprise that our shopping behaviours have also adapted and continue to do so.

With more competition and shoppers online than ever before, you need every pound spent to work harder for your business. Guided by data, 2021 is the year to pinpoint your high performing channels and leverage them to not only stand out from your competitors, but also drive the best ROI possible. So, what do we predict 2021 has in store for us?

online retail will go from strength to strength

More than three quarters of the UK now do their food shopping online while roughly 25 percent of the population plan to switch to online shopping indefinitely.

Yes, this year has seen eCommerce shopping increase at a frighteningly fast pace. Small and large merchants alike quickly scrambled to create or improve their digital footprint in a bid to make up for lost revenue from their physical stores.

With a rise in eCommerce comes a battle in online marketplaces. Facing eCommerce giant, Amazon, head on, we expect to see Google intensify its Shopping channel offering, allowing users to buy products on the search results without having to visit a website. Other marketplaces such as Etsy and eBay could also play more important roles in eCommerce strategies to help brands diversify and strengthen their eCommerce presence.

google introduces new insights page

While many of Google’s updates centre around its algorithm, the search engine is also continuously building on functionality to help advertisers improve their paid media efforts.

Back in May, in response to quickly changing customer behaviours, Google released a tool called Rising Retail Categories which highlights fast-growing product searches. Gathering data from this new tool alongside Google Trends data, Google has formed a brand new Insights page. Currently rolling out in beta, the new insights page aids advertisers in identifying market trends and understanding performance.

By showcasing current and emerging trends that are most relevant to your business, you can spot and capitalise on-demand as it begins. According to Google, this update is “…a foundation that we’re going to build on top of in order to offer better business insights directly within Google Ads”.

the use of data and automation is set to increase

If this year has shown us anything, it’s that understanding who your audience is and what they want is critical. Data plays a key role in this, allowing brands to generate a deeper relationship with their audience to produce loyal customers and brand advocates.

However, due to Google’s announcement that they will stop using third-party cookies in Chrome before 2022, less third-party data will be available for businesses to use. The impact? More and more automation. We expect to see a huge rise in machine learning and as a result, improved targeting in Google Ads.

As paid media continues to leverage automation, a number of our specialists predict that advertisers will soon only be responsible for creating strategies and controlling budgets while AI will look after campaign targeting.

Although data is massively important to paid media, we also suspect a shift in focusing more on the quality of ads rather than optimising based purely on numbers. As more and more advertising opportunities arise across digital channels, brands need to find new methods to stand out. One way to cut through the digital noise is to create high quality, value-driven ads that seamlessly fit in with the user’s online experience.

cross channel marketing will become more popular

With our reliance on digital accelerating two-fold, businesses want to see how their marketing investment is impacting conversions – and rightly so.

Heading into the new year, we predict that aligned, cross-channel strategies will be key, allowing advertisers to show the impact across each stage of the buying journey. Taking a combined approach to paid media marketing produces synchronised campaigns that tell the same story across multiple channels creating more effective and powerful engagement. Making the most of the budget you have, each element of digital marketing should be connected and fuelled by data.

In line with this, we expect to see personalisation on websites grow by leveraging this data to show personalised web pages for different people who click on the same link. Using CRO tactics and considering the keywords of your on-page content, landing pages can be tailored for individual keywords such as ‘audi car warranty’ or ‘bmw car warranty’, generating unique pricing, imagery and headlines for the user based on their search intent.

a shift in digital culture

A worldwide pandemic has inevitably caused changes to shopping habits with many of these expected to stick around into the new year.

Given the uncertainty and financial implications that COVID has caused, brand trust could well reign supreme across many industries. The impact of this is longer periods of consideration and more touchpoints in the customer journey. As a result, brands will need to consider how they segment and handle audience data to deliver tailored messaging at each stage of the buying journey.

We’re also expecting to see an even greater increase in people opting for online shopping over the high street. As a result, it’s likely that businesses will invest a greater proportion of their budget into digital marketing. But which digital marketing tactics could be more successful than others?

Some believe TV and radio advertising could drop further down the list due to less people commuting and TV streaming services rising. On the other side of the coin, with users spending more time than ever before at home, could TV advertising see a comeback in 2021?

using the power of social media

The UK was home to approximately 45 million active social media users in 2020 – that’s 66 percent of the total population! Social media has provided consumers and brands with the means to stay in consistent communication through engaging, valuable and personalised content.

We predict that personalised social ads will continue to dominate across customer feeds in a bid to grab their attention and encourage interaction.

looking ahead

Who knew what 2020 would bring? When making our paid media predictions this time last year, a global pandemic certainly wasn’t on the cards. But when faced with change, we have an undeniable ability to adapt fast – both businesses and shoppers.

Always keeping an eye on the ever-evolving digital landscape, we for one look forward to the possibilities a new year can bring. If you’re planning for 2021 and need some support on where your budget could be spent for the best possible ROI, reach out to our team who are more than happy to help.

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