3 digital marketing trends you can’t afford to ignore in 2021

Reimagining the customer journey, increased audience segmentation and interactive content: three major trends that will ride the wave of Covid-fuelled digitisation in 2021.

The digital age has been steadily changing the way we live and do business in India for years, but it’s been given an exponential boost by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

With India’s online sales doubling in 2020 due to lockdowns and social distancing requirements, retailers faced a watershed moment: go online or risk becoming obsolete. Consumer loyalty is also a thing of the past, with 94% of Indian consumers admitting to changing brands, stores and the way they shop, says McKinsey.

The B2B landscape has also shifted, with only 20% of buyers saying they hope to return to in-person sales. The reasons given are not just around safety, but the speed and convenience of remote human interactions and digital self service. Convenience has started to take over from brand loyalty in terms of what customers want.

All of these developments have resulted in a new type of Indian consumer who is, according to Deloitte, “conscious, tech-savvy and empowered”. When building your business strategy around this new type of customer, there are three digital marketing trends that you must adopt.

Reimagine your customer’s journey

In a world where convenience is starting to trump customer loyalty, frictionless, real-time online experiences are crucial for your brand, and technology can help you deliver them.

Take e-wallets for example. Mint reports that digital payment firms such as PhonePe, Paytm and Amazon Pay have seen an almost 50% spike in transactions through their digital wallets in India since the start of the pandemic.

I experienced the appeal of this payment method recently when purchasing a subscription to an online media platform. The longer the subscription period, the more payment options there were, so for one month you could only pay with your credit card, but for a two-month subscription you could use an e-wallet or a credit card and so on. And guess what, I just happen to remember my phone number and not my credit card number offhand and convenience won the two-month subscription for the company.  

Another aspect to consider here is the omni-channel nature of your customer’s journey and that your brand needs to be able to give them the right content at the right time on the channel they prefer. Mobile is the channel of choice in India with 100% of active internet users using their smartphones to browse online. This means that if your mobile experience is clunky, you will disappoint customers. Hence, a mobile-first digital transformation journey will work better.

While you’re considering ways to make the customer experience more practical and convenient, don’t forget that you’re marketing to humans. Humans who, particularly in times of crisis, value empathy above all. So put yourself in their shoes and think about how you can use personalisation to give them what they need, when they need it and how they need it, not just what they want. 

Segment your customer base to provide personalised content

With a population of over 1.3 billion people, brands in India pre-Covid used to follow a “one-size-fits-all” approach to digital marketing by running the same campaigns across all segments. However, this year you can expect to see more campaigns being tailored specifically for smaller segments. 

The reason for this is the trend of internet adoption that’s been accelerated by the Covid lockdowns that are forcing people to stay at home. In a report, consulting firm Kantar estimates that the total of monthly active internet users at the start of 2020 was approximately 574 million – a 24% increase over 2019 – but that this would grow to 639 million by the end of the year.

One area in which personalisation is receiving significant investment is in the localisation of content into the 22 regional dialects that exist in India. 

According to a KPMG-Google report, there will be 536 million non-English speaking users online in India this year – significantly more than the estimated 199 million English-speaking users.

Tapping into this trend are new Indian language content start ups like Lokal – an app that seeks to bring local news and classifieds to 900 million Indians in their regional languages, and ShareChat, a social media platform that serves 60 million monthly users in 15 regional languages.

Whatever form your campaign takes, accurate data is the key to a successful customer segmentation strategy. Every time a customer interacts with your brand whether it’s on your website, in store, via email or on social media, they provide you with valuable data which can be gathered and analysed by specialised software tools. Using this data and technology, you can segment your audience into subgroups and then develop different personalised strategies for each subgroup.

Invest in interactive content

With the shift from a bricks and mortar shopping culture in India to online retail, customer engagement has also increased as have the opportunities to create more interactive experiences.

Interactive marketing is set to take centre stage in 2021 and will take many forms from polls to gamefication, chatbots, voice-activated technology, live video and augmented reality, to name a few. Whatever the format, the goal is always to provide dynamic, relevant and engaging content that draws the customer into a conversation with the brand which builds customer loyalty.

The key to an engaged customer is personalised interaction. Done correctly, interactive content will give you valuable data on what your customers want which you can then use to better target your future campaigns.

The pandemic has forced us all to find ways to better connect with our customers and it has fast-tracked ideas that have been percolating for years. From increased online penetration to 5G implementation and virtual reality, marketers in India have a huge opportunity to embrace the new technologies and societal developments. 

By using a combination of next-gen technology and a sound digital marketing strategy, businesses can respond to the ever-changing needs of customers, build relationships through connected experiences and drive growth in the new digital economy.