As the end of 2020 approaches (finally!), it’s time to start thinking ahead to how your business will tackle the coming year. With work-from-anywhere and the ‘Great Digital Migration’ becoming part of the norm, digital needs to be the focus of your 2021 strategy.
To help you with that, we asked leaders in the business what they see as being the most important digital trends for the coming year.
From the way things turned out this year, we know that even the best laid plans can hit stumbling blocks. But, from the information we now have, these will be the key trends in digital to watch:
To kick-start your strategic thinking for 2021, we asked Directors Jon Pittham and Gemma Hayes where the priority for businesses needs to be next year.
Gemma Hayes, Director
“One trend that will be important over the next 12 months is the joining up of systems/tech to reduce friction within organisations.”
Gemma explained that while she sees that this has been happening for some time, Covid-19 has increased the need for this cohesion exponentially.
The lack of face-to-face interaction has impacted sales professionals especially hard and businesses will need to start taking stock of how (and why) they do things going forward. Especially important will be ensuring that the tech stack in use reduces friction rather than introducing it.
Jon Pittham, Managing Director
“The rise of the CIO - Chief Integrations Officer”
From Jon’s perspective, interconnectedness is key. In 2021, businesses will have to focus on having a robust integrations strategy in place.
To ensure that businesses see success in the flexible and remote ways of working that have been implemented, it’s key that planning how systems will work together is taken into consideration. In fact, Jon suggests that integrations and syncing will be essential aspects of the procurement process going forward.
Teams will be focusing on how new software and applications are able to connect and play well with existing frameworks. This means that the future of business will rely heavily on intermeshed and well-linked platforms with wide integration potential.
Client experience (CX) has been one of the major buzzwords over the last couple of years and this is unlikely to change soon. How those experiences emerge, on the other hand, will be more digitally focused. To find out more, we asked Client Strategist, Ellen Adams, to share her thoughts.
Ellen Adams, Client Strategist
“I think it's sifting through and making sure that it's a quality experience - businesses will need to adapt.”
Ellen has been paying close attention to the experiential direction of businesses this year. With her role as Client Strategist, she likes to be on the forefront of what clients will need and want next. In her opinion, virtual events will continue to play a strong role in planning for 2021.
Businesses planning on hosting virtual events will need to take the full experience into account. Ellen suggests intertwining the digital and physical to create a well-rounded experience. Events will continue to need a human touch and it’s up to businesses to ensure they maintain it without the direct human presence.
Technology will play a big role here too. There needs to be a greater union between different software, says Ellen. While engaging in one digital experience, clients will need to be able to share it and interact with it easily. From reviews and feedback to posting on social, it will have to be considered as part of the event package.
Adam Taylor, Head of Design
“From a design perspective, movement and interaction with the brand is key.”
At its highest level, Adam shares that the basic tenets of good design remain unchanged: simplicity and a focus on the user journey is paramount.
For him, the challenge faced by designers is always going to be giving the user enough information without overwhelming them. He lives by the idea of ‘less is more’ and giving users what they need to be empowered to explore and delve deeper.
In terms of specifics, Adam’s view is that there will be greater focus on movement and interaction. The key will be in designing in a way that subtly and elegantly brings a brand to life and doesn’t feel gimmicky.
There will also be steer toward ‘designing for digital’ and movement away from print-ready designs. This will mean that colour palettes are likely to shift toward those that work best for screens instead of paper, enabling brands to be more inventive with the look they achieve. Designing for digital also encourages designers to use typography that works across channels (e.g. Google-safe fonts), and the implementation of video and animation as a design element to draw attention.
As we begin living more digital lives, the importance of web development is going to be greater than ever. To see what the future of websites holds, we checked in with Head of Development, Chris Brown.
Chris Brown, Head of Development
“Big data is here and we are only going to get more and more information that we can use to create a better experience online.”
Chris shares with us that the focus next year will be on developing sophisticated sites that feel personalised. He sees it becoming second nature for businesses to have sites that create tailored experiences providing contextual messaging and content that will be relevant to independent user journeys.
The human focus will continue for developers as they begin to create more sites that can be managed by in-house users, such as marketers. There will also be a more pronounced focus on accessibility as more people find that they spend the majority of their time online.
Content & Communications
To discuss the rapid changes that the world of content and communications is experiencing, we asked PR & Engagement Manager, Kerry Thompson, and Content Specialist, SJ Hood, what they see on the horizon.
Kerry Thompson, PR & Engagement Manager
“I think many strategies and content that were previously deemed more B2C will actually start to become B2B too, because the way we communicate and purchase has changed in all sectors.”
Following a similar line of thought to Adam, Kerry feels that the future will necessitate a ‘less is more’ approach to content as well as design. Instead of creating a constant churn of content, brands will have to focus on the platforms where their audiences already exist and create content that works specifically for that format.
That said, what those formats are is evolving. With LinkedIn jumping on the stories bandwagon, the majority of content and comms strategies will have to incorporate video to stay relevant. The likelihood is that this trend, already growing, will continue to expand over the next five years.
Kerry’s thinking is that video and other strategies that have been relegated to the world of B2C will become important for B2B marketers as well. Producing fun, interactive, personalised content will be key and brands will be taking more risks by exploring creative approaches to new platforms.
SJ Hood, Content Specialist
“As the world outside becomes more difficult to connect in, people will be relying on digital communities more heavily than ever.”
To SJ, it looks like building communities is the way forward. This is an opportunity for businesses to provide value and grow their audience in a way that is natural and empathetic.
This requires new approaches to content and digital experience. In times of uncertainty, people are hardwired to come together in whatever way they can. Because the world is currently limiting our ability to reach out and connect in person, we are finding new ways of doing that online.
Creating communities is not a new notion in marketing - brands that have cult status have been relying on it for years. However, technological advancements and societal needs have stirred up a perfect environment for growing these. Not only can it impact SEO (think user generated content), but it can also position your brand as a leader, an authority, and a trusted friend.
SJ does warn that there will likely be a lot of failed attempts at this approach, but that those failures will come down to a shortfall in one of two areas: a lack of resources or a lack of genuine value.
Obviously, not every brand will be able to dedicate the time and effort that this sort of endeavour requires. Similarly, some brands won’t deliver the value and care that is needed to create a successful community.
As you can see from what our experts are saying, the overarching theme in 2021 is connectedness. From tech and systems to client interaction, every step will need to be tailored to a human, genuine approach that leaves visitors and clients feeling seen and valued.
Ready to start planning for next year? Get in touch with us to see how we can help your business excel in digital.