Marketers navigating the complexity of 2021 are facing a variety of new challenges and opportunities. Some, such as social audio apps, came on the scene suddenly, while others, like new state privacy laws, have evolved more slowly.
Here are three key marketing trends to watch this year:
1. The ongoing move toward data privacy
Digital marketing is continuing to trend toward greater data privacy, accelerated by Google Chrome’s announced phase-out of third-party cookies and new domestic privacy regulations starting with California’s CCPA and CPRA. Historically, third-party cookies have been the primary means of improving the user experience and collecting data to target ads to the right audiences. Browsers, including Firefox and Safari, phased out third-party cookies years ago, but Google’s announcement to do the same with Chrome by 2022 was significant because it owns such a high browser market share – 63% globally as of January 2021. Publishers, advertisers, data vendors and technology platforms have been working on alternatives since the announcement more than a year ago.
Meanwhile, privacy regulations have continued to evolve in parallel. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) went into effect Jan. 1, 2020. Similar to the GDPR in Europe, the CCPA set requirements for organizations to inform users about the types of personal information they are collecting and provide a way to opt out. A new law known as the California Privacy Rights and Enforcement Act (CPRA) passed in November 2020. It replaces the CCPA with additional regulations that further define the types of personal data organizations are collecting and gives consumers greater options to control how it is shared.
Implications for marketers:
Many advertising industry experts agree that these trends provide opportunities for marketers to evolve. Those that have relied solely on third-party cookies or hyper-targeted ads can learn more about collecting their own data directly with first-party cookies, or keeping tabs on Google’s new Privacy Sandbox a set of APIs that are being developed to replace cookies with anonymized signals. They can also look for other ways to reach and engage their audience by building up their owned media properties.
2. The move toward social audio
Social audio apps are the talk of the industry in 2021, led by the rise of Clubhouse. The platform, known for its “drop-in audio chats,” surpassed 2 million users in January and is expected to keep growing rapidly. Clubhouse facilitates real-time conversations with social features. It functions similarly to early-internet chat rooms, but rather than instant messaging, it uses real-time audio. Users create “rooms” that others can join. When a conversation concludes, the room disappears along with the audio.
Clubhouse has created a stir during the pandemic with its ability to connect people who are feeling isolated. Other social audio apps are following: Twitter is testing Spaces, a similar platform, and tech analyst Jeremiah Owyang has curated a list of more than 20 other apps in the social audio category.
Implications for marketers:
While there are questions about Clubhouse’s staying power after the pandemic, its quick rise shows that people are seeking alternatives to text-only content and video calls. Clubhouse offers a new way to literally listen to your audience. Marketers can use this momentum to their advantage, establishing themselves as experts on a topic by hosting rooms and leading discussions. They can engage in one-on-one conversations with potential customers and generate excitement around an idea. Even as it works out the kinks, Clubhouse is allowing marketers to establish new connections, seek feedback and provide thought leadership in new ways.
3. The move toward acquiring media companies
On Feb. 3, HubSpot announced that it had acquired The Hustle, a business and tech media startup and newsletter with 1.5 million subscribers. Although it is not the first enterprise tech company to have recently acquired a media company, the deal was notable because of HubSpot’s dominance in the inbound marketing industry.
“I think you’re going to see a convergence of technology companies and media companies. Most media companies are trying to build software and technology as part of their offering. Most really great technology companies are trying to educate and inform their audience. So I would certainly expect that you’re going to see [a convergence] across the space — specifically, the SaaS landscape — over the next couple of years.”
Implications for Marketers:
The trend of acquiring niche media companies shows an increase in the value of subscribers and content that engages them. Businesses that haven’t historically seen themselves as media companies are starting to look for new ways to engage their audiences. This is opening the door to new opportunities to create content and advertise on those platforms. As more businesses start to become nontraditional media companies, they will look for partnerships to grow their audiences. Marketers can find value in these opportunities to connect more deeply with their target customers.