2020 has well and truly been an ‘unprecedented’ year, and with Brexit underway and vaccines on the horizon, next year is likely to be a chaotic one too.
Through all the uncertainty, some key trends have emerged over the last 12 months that we expect will shape the face of digital in 2021 and beyond.
The pandemic led to massive shift in how – and where – people shop. Lockdowns left brick and mortar stores closed for a large part of the year, so naturally more and more consumers have turned to the internet for their purchases.
While shops are now back open, it seems apparent that online shopping is here to stay. Many of the initial barriers that prevented people from shopping online have been broken down. The forced closure of shops sent consumer online, and now their accounts are set up and they are increasingly comfortable with e-commerce, it is very likely that online shopping will have a bigger share than it did pre-pandemic.
Automation and machine learning is starting to become more accessible to marketers and small businesses who may not necessarily have the in-depth knowledge and expertise previously required to optimise their campaigns with machine learning.
Google is leading the way in this area with several updates that aim to make machine learning much more accessible.
As machine learning in businesses becomes more prevalent, the role of the agency will evolve into being more strategic, helping companies determine what data should to look at and how, rather than the manual day-to-day management of accounts.
The accelerated the growth of Amazon due to the pandemic has been widely reported on, and we can expect to see an even bigger expansion of marketplaces over the next year.
We are likely to also see a rise in the number of shoppable platforms, where users can buy direct from the SERPs or social media. Instagram’s updated layout change highlights a push towards this in-platform shopping, and we expect other platforms to follow suit.
These trends are covered in more depth in our podcast, so if you’re interested in knowing more about the data behind these predictions, give it a listen. You can subscribe and tune in to the Search Laboratory Podcast today on iTunes or Spotify.
With the covid pandemic restricting the flow of human traffic, perhaps one big sector to get hit was the property market. Traditionally, the buying and selling of property has been a physical process - buyers needed to visit the units in person in order to decide if they wanted to make a purchase.
Not that digital tools didn't exist - it was already possible to either film a walkthrough video or dial in prospective clients and conduct a "virtual" tour via a video call. But this wasn't common enough - most buyers still preferred to visit the units.
What the covid pandemic did was to greatly accelerate the pace of adoption of digital tools. 360 Virtual Tours allowed buyers to visit and explore the interior of their selected units at their own pace, without having to be restricted by the camera angles captured by a video maker, or wait for a salesperson's timeslot to conduct a video call.
And this will only become more commonplace - agents and clients need to all get used to the new normal, because moving ahead, clients are no longer strangers to such digital tools - they are going to request for them. And when they do, we need to be ready.