Positive trends 2021

The 5 big positive digital trends for 2021

December 2020

It’s time to say goodbye (and many might say good riddance) to 2020 and look ahead to 2021. Whatever happens in the physical world, the digital world will keep on changing, growing and becoming smarter, more accessible and, hopefully, a force for positive change, with sustainability and social value high on the agenda. Here are our predictions for the digital trends to watch in 2021.

Re-commerce: the re-use trend will come full circle

The world is waking up to urgent issues such as climate change, and it’s becoming accepted that current levels of mass consumption and waste are not sustainable. Younger generations care about the planet and expect brands to find ways to “close the loop” – keeping things out of landfill, sourcing sustainably, recycling and re-using.

Younger generations care about the planet and expect brands to find ways to ‘close the loop’

Reselling and buying second-hand is a trend that has been accelerated by Covid-19, as consumers rethink their buying habits – either out of financial necessity or because of a shift in values. According to Thredup’s 2020 resale report, the secondhand market is set to hit $64bn by 2024, with resale overtaking the traditional thrift and donation segment.

The reselling trend has been accelerated by Covid-19, as consumers rethink their buying habits

There are plenty of examples of brands embracing this shift – flat-pack furniture giant IKEA being just one. Its recently launched ‘take-back’ service encourages customers to bring their pre-loved products back to the store to be resold, in return for vouchers. Expect more brands to follow with similar schemes.

Online education is the new school

One of the more positive by-products of the Covid-19 crisis is that virtual learning has become more accepted and more accessible. With schools closed and kitchen tables replacing lecture halls and school desks, remote classrooms became the norm during lockdowns. Meanwhile, adults who suddenly had more time on their hands went online to learn new languages, learn the guitar, or perfect their cookery skills.

Online learning will evolve to meet the needs of eager students

Online learning is a digital trend that is here to stay, and in the next year it will evolve even further to meet the needs of eager students. Micro-learning, where material is broken down into bite-sized mini-lessons (see language-learning brand Duolingo), will emerge as a trend. So will gamification, where education is packaged as play, with interactive content and fun storylines.

Micro-learning, gamification and personalisation are the future

Personalisation is the name of the game in online education – your location, time zone and device becoming immaterial. Whatever the subject, whatever the teaching method, whether game, video or something else – if you want to learn it, you will find it online.

Social values are the heart of the matter

Brands that succeed in 2021 are the ones who pin their social values firmly to their mast. Gender equality, anti-racism, LGBQT rights – these are the issues that consumers care about and they expect brands to care about them too. According to this study brands that are the most ‘meaningful’ find their content KPIs soar – with overall impressions at 80% compared to 42% for least meaningful brands.

Brands that will succeed are the ones who pin their social values to their mast

But it’s not just about showing you have social values. You need to live them. There’s no use saying you care about diversity, for example, if your boardroom is full of middle-class white men. Hypocrisy will be found out, and the young generation is not shy about telling the world about it.

It’s not just about showing you have social values. You need to live them

Transparency and honesty are key, as is a genuine desire to make the world a better place. More brands will get on board with purpose marketing in the coming year, and more will work out how to do it well. As the saying goes, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

More brands will get on board with purpose marketing in the coming year

Voice is the new touch

Over the next year, you might find yourself with a new addition to the family. And, unlike a new puppy or baby, it’s one that is a great listener and does everything it’s told.

Voice assistants have grown in popularity, and 90% of families plan to use them more

Voice assistants such as Alexa or Google Assistant have been growing hugely in popularity. This study found that more than half of families in the UK consider a voice assistant as ‘another family member’ and nine out of 10 of them plan to maintain or increase their usage of voice technology.

Brands have been quick to jump on the voice trend and develop apps to connect with customers

The coronavirus pandemic has helped to drive this digital trend. More consumers – younger ones especially – turned to smart speakers for their news and entertainment during the outbreak, and brands were quick to jump on the trend and develop voice apps to connect with customers.

We predict voice will start to replace touch as the search method of choice

As voice technology becomes more advanced, accepted and trusted, we predict it will begin to replace touch as the search method of choice over the next year.

The new social network is a game

Gamers are sad loners, hiding from the world in their bedroom with only their console, right? That might be the stereotype, but that’s not the reality. Not anymore, and certainly not in the future.

Games tap into an audience with an appetite for virtual social spaces

Game developers have tapped into a huge audience with an appetite for virtual spaces where they can meet people, make friends and hang out. Multiplayer games such as Fortnite allows people to collaborate, chat, create games for each other to play, and even go to gigs. Last year, DJ Marshmello hosted a concert on Fortnite that drew around 10 million people.

Savvy brands can engage with hyper-focused consumers, via immersive in-game ads.

For savvy brands, games are a particularly attractive platform for connecting with customers. Marketers can engage with large, targeted, hyper-focused audiences and the creative possibilities go far beyond just in game ads. Gamers can dress their avatar in Gucci, Louis Vuitton or a host of other fashion brands thanks to a type of product placement, known as “skinning”. Watch as more businesses add gaming into the marketing mix over the next year.

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