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The process of digital transformation had been a gradual one prior to 2020. The term refers to the replacement of traditional brick-and-mortar processes to those that are virtual or digital in nature. Many businesses recognized a need to shift toward technology in how they interacted with consumers. But depending on the industry and the specific market, the rate by which this change occurred varied significantly. When the pandemic struck, however, those who had invested greater efforts toward digital transformation enjoyed a huge advantage. And for those who hadn’t, they found themselves scrambling to survive in a world that had suddenly changed.

Today, the luxury of choosing the pace by which a business embraces digital transformation is no longer an option. Digital marketing trends are evolving quickly as are many other business technologies. If businesses want to be seen and connect with customers, they will have to adapt to these trends. And they will have to do it well. Not all digital marketing trends and strategies work for every company. For this reason, businesses will have to be selective and smart in their approach to digital transformation. But, no matter what, opting to avoid it is one approach that is guaranteed to fail.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on the weaknesses of all companies not currently embracing digital technologies for both internal operations as well as external sales, marketing and support efforts.” – Paul Schaut, Technology Council Member, Forbes Magazine

Digital Transformation on Steroids

Without question, the marketing and business landscape have changed tremendously within a few months. As noted, lockdowns and social restrictions forced many businesses to pursue digital transformation perhaps sooner than they wanted. This is especially true of some industries such as the restaurant sector. On-demand food delivery and electronic ordering were essential tools to stay afloat. But any business with remote employees working from home felt this impact. Each of these businesses had to quickly develop digital tools and platforms that enabled videoconferencing, collaboration, and information sharing.

In the process of this rapid change, businesses realized that digital transformation had its upsides. Digital marketing trends highlighted the benefits of omnichannel outreach and a seamless consumer experience. These efforts not only provided a means for more targeted advertising communications. But they also enhanced efforts in branding while connecting with consumers in a more fluid manner. Productivity was improved form many firms, and digital strategies often served to reduce operating costs. Not all of the changes forced upon businesses in 2020 were bad ones.

“We believe that 2021 will be full of optimism, with a focus on performance across channels, empowered by improved tracking. Most of the behaviors consumers and brands will adopt are based on core values, authenticity and the efficiency of digital channels.” – Kent Lewis, President and Founder, Anvil Media

Strategies for Digital Transformation in 2021

The landscape for digital transformation is rather vast and involves much more than new digital marketing trends. While digital marketing trends have evolved as well, businesses must adopt a broader perspective. Some of the important areas where firms must advance pertain to things like omnichannel e-commerce platforms, chatbots, mobile applications, and the use of predictive analytics. Artificial intelligence is a must for modern businesses as is data-driven decision making. And without question, virtual platforms and related digital tools to facilitate staff and customer engagement are a must.

A woman working on her laptop next to a plant
For businesses whose focus has shifted almost entirely to the virtual realm, there’s no better time for a digital transformation.

The most important goal for business in their pursuits in digital transformation involves the consumer. The pandemic did more than simply place restrictions on traditional commerce. It changed the way customers wanted to engage and interact with companies. They want flexibility, mobility, and on-demand services as the Come-to-Me Economy materializes. This means companies must consider omnichannel options for digital marketing trends as well as for sales and support. They must also do it in a way that is authentic, respectful, efficient and valued.

“The pandemic has highlighted that companies not able to market, sell and service their customers through anything other than brick-and-mortar channels can be caught flat-footed and unable to service their customers.” – Paul Schaut

Key Digital Marketing Trends Ahead

Like many activities, digital marketing trends took a bit of a hit in 2020 as well with the pandemic. But some have already bounced back, and others are likely to boom in the coming months. For example, podcasting has already seen a nice rebound with consumer search also up in volume. And social media channels are doing extremely well as of late with 40 percent of purchases due social media influences. With nearly 250 million active users, social media will reflect a key part of any business’ digital transformation efforts. These trends as well as a recent boom in video content creation are critical areas where digital marketing is truly hot.

Several digital marketing trends are worth noting as we look ahead into the year. Virtual events have surpassed traditional conventions and trade shows. Thus, some companies will need to explore these opportunities to promote their marketing messages. Likewise, consumers will increasingly value companies with high ethical, environmental and social responsibility. Digital marketing trends favor these approaches for companies. And finally, a seamless, omnichannel message that educates and brings value to customers will be essential. In addition to standard digital marketing strategies, these will similarly need to be considered.

Digital Transformation Doesn’t Just Happen

Prior to 2020, the success rate for companies in their pursuit of digital transformation wasn’t great. In 2018, roughly $1.3 trillion was spent toward these efforts by companies. However, over 70 percent of these initiatives failed to realize their overall goals. In essence, this meant $900 billion of investments were wasted. In the aftermath of the pandemic, businesses no longer have this luxury of taking a chance on a bad investment. They need to hire talent with expertise in digital marketing trends in order to effectively navigate a highly dynamic world. Without a doubt, tremendous opportunities exist. And those who invest wisely in their digital transformation will likely be the ones to rise to the occasion.

 

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