Trends and predictions for the media and commerce landscape in 2021

By Nikki Wright

Media and ecommerce have evolved dramatically amidst the political, economic and social turbulence of 2020. In 2021, audience behaviours will be more complex and difficult to decipher than ever. The media world finds itself at a significant turning point – What comes next? Which ecommerce dynamics will stick?

Kantar, the world’s leading evidence-based insights and consulting company, has assessed the landscape in its Media Trends & Predictions 2021, anticipating next year’s media consumer, and identifying a series of macro-trends that can position the media and advertising industry to spark consumer-led economies back into growth.  

The success of brands in 2021 will depend, in large part, on understanding the increasingly important correlation between values, media selection and influencer strategy. This will require a new level of data-driven marketing analytics, informing every aspect of campaign management, from creative and media mix optimisation to broader elements like channel strategies and innovation plans.

Influencer-based content will become an increasingly important feature of the advertising landscape, as ecommerce capabilities become more integrated with social media. Brand investments in social media, therefore, will continue to grow, and brands are likely to become more open-minded and intuitive in their media and communications planning, contending with consumer distrust, breaking down silos to create campaigns that reach across channels, and using influencers strategically.  

Consumers are more likely than ever to be interested in buying products based on the recommendations of their favourite digital influencers. Brands are well aware that millions of people gravitate towards and trust these influencers, and are aware, too, of the facility with which they use their online presence to sway consumers’ opinions and behaviours across the entire sales funnel. Brands will have to reimagine their direct to consumer strategies, integrating influencers and community-powered platforms and leveraging Influencers to create engaging content for brand promotion by granting them creative freedom to appeal instinctively to their fan base, within strategic and thematic guidelines.

Conscious consumerism will be another key driver of market strategy in 2021. Increasingly, consumers are showing loyalty to brands that go beyond providing them with merely a product or service and advocate for values and beliefs that align with their own. Taking an activist approach to social, economic, environmental or political issues enables brands to meaningfully connect with consumers, but actions speak much louder than words. Brands, therefore, will have to move up a gear in understanding how activism plays into brand strength; their purpose and beliefs will be reflected in their specific media choices as well as creative strategies, a greater importance will be placed on the context of where ads appear, how those ads highlight the brand’s social responsibility efforts with calls to action (CTAs), and how they are optimised for those environments.

In the overlapping spheres of ecommerce, digital marketplaces, and physical storefronts, omnichannel and multichannel are the most popular buzzwords. The terms are often used interchangeably. However, they refer to two very different ways of approaching commerce.

A multichannel retail strategy revolves around the product and lets customers engage and purchase natively wherever they shop. Often, with this approach, each channel exists as a separate, independent purchase opportunity. Each channel may be an element of the brand, but they don’t often intersect to help foster a consistent message or user experience.

An omnichannel retail approach, by contrast, revolves around the customer and creates a single experience across the brand by unifying sales and marketing, merging the worlds of websites, emails, retargeted ads, social media marketing, and physical locations to show personalized offers, products, and messages, erasing the boundaries between different sales and marketing channels to develop a unified, integrated whole. With an omnichannel strategy, brand responses are informed by customer behaviour. Each interaction alters the experience. The brand is dynamic, aligning with the customer’s behaviour between and within channels. The distinctions between channels—onsite, social, mobile, email, physical, and instant messaging—fade, allowing for the emergence of a single view of the customer as well as a single experience of commerce.

Omnichannel adapts to the way consumers transition between different devices throughout their day. While their first interaction with a brand might be on their desktop while browsing their email at home, they may return to the brand’s website via their smartphone in the morning during their commute to work. With more consumers moving across various devices, the demand for an omnichannel customer experience will grow in 2021, with media and ecommerce specialists expected to skillfully execute strategies.

By recognising the increasingly important correlation between values, media selection and influencer strategy, brands will achieve differentiation, meaningful connection with customers, and develop a more intuitive sales experience, in a media and ecommerce landscape drastically altered – but abundant in opportunity.

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