2021: Our digital marketing predictions

Ian Harris

Executive Chairman

Industry News

2020 has been a truly unpredictable year, and with Brexit, vaccines and who knows what else looming around the corner, 2021 is set to be another turbulent year.  

Despite this uncertainty, there have been key trends over the last twelve months that we expect to shape the next year in digital.  


You can listen to me, our Head of Digital Strategy Jimmy McCann, Head of Digital (Earned and Owned) Rob Marsden, and Head of Paid Media Pete Whitmarsh, discuss these trends and how we expect them to play out in our latest podcast.  

For those who prefer to read than listen, we have summarised three of the key points discussed below.  

Online shopping is here to stay

The pandemic caused a huge shift in how – and where – people shop; with brick and mortar stores shut for a large part of the year, more consumers have turned to the internet for their purchases.  


While shops are now back open, online shopping is here to stay. For many, the forced closure of stores broke down barriers that prevented them from shopping online – such as it being too difficult or confusing to use. Now consumers have accounts set up and are comfortable with ecommerce, it is very likely that online shopping will have a bigger share than it did pre-pandemic. 

Automation and machine learning will become more accessible

While automation and machine learning has been key in paid media for a while now, it is becoming more accessible for marketers and small businesses who may not have the in-depth knowledge and expertise previously required to optimise their campaigns with machine learning.


Google in particular is leading the way with several updates that aim to make machine learning much more accessible.


For example, one of their recent updates, smart bidding for in-store sales, allows retailers to optimise campaigns towards driving in-store sales. This type of adjustment was previously only available to marketers with the advanced technical knowledge and coding skills needed to build machine learning algorithms.  


As machine learning becomes more prevalent, the role of the agency will become more strategic – what data should you look at and how, rather than the manual managing of accounts.  

The rise of Amazon and non-website shopping

It will come as no surprise to many that the pandemic accelerated the growth of Amazon, and we expect to see an even bigger expansion of marketplaces over the next year.  


We will also see an increase in the number of shoppable platforms where users are able to buy direct from the SERPs or from social media. Instagram’s latest layout change shows a huge push towards in-platform shopping, and we expect other platforms to follow suit.  


We talk much more in-depth about some of these points in our podcast, so if you’re interested in knowing more about the data behind these predictions, give it a listen. We will also be releasing a whitepaper on SEO in 2021 soon, so make sure to subscribe to our newsletter if you want more insights.  

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