Future of Digital Marketing: 10 Predictions for 2021

Digital marketing is the process of reaching out to potential and current customers through online mediums such as emails, social media ads, and online dialogues. It ensures the smooth running of your business and gets you the visibility. It is cost-effective, and a measurable way for businesses to reach customers.    “(Internet) It’s very exciting because it is...

Digital marketing is the process of reaching out to potential and current customers through online mediums such as emails, social media ads, and online dialogues. It ensures the smooth running of your business and gets you the visibility. It is cost-effective, and a measurable way for businesses to reach customers.   

“(Internet) It’s very exciting because it is going to destroy vast layers of our economy and make available a presence in the marketplace for very small companies, one that is equal to very large companies” – Steve Jobs in 1995 when asked about the future of the internet. 

But this holds true for the future of digital marketing as well. Affordable internet, SEO, and search engine marketing (SEM), along with social media marketing, mobile marketing and content marketing has turned tiny shops into business magnets.   

Smart phones and hand-held devices have broken the glass wall and bridged the gap between customers and businesses. Smarter customers mean researching products in seconds, quick comparisons, and reviews. This has put many sales folks in a pickle. According to Salesforce’s Pardot’s analysis, 70% of a buyer’s journey is complete even before they can reach out to sales. That is the power of digital marketing.   

Many physical businesses have shut down during the pandemic. The first step for any business would be to retain existing customers and stabilize the business. That is where digital marketing steps in.  

With digital ads, businesses can make use of marketing tools to communicate with customers. Focusing on customer experience and retention is easier because ads are personalized, and automated. If you want to create a customer journey and map touch points, you have that too! Spending the right amount of time and money in digital marketing can help a sinking ship stay afloat, while steering it in the right direction.  

Why should you as a business adapt to digital marketing?   

As the digital anthropologist Brian Solis says: “Each business is a victim of Digital Darwinism, the evolution of consumer behavior when society and technology evolve faster than the ability to exploit it. Digital Darwinism does not discriminate.” If you want to compete and thrive, you must adapt to the changes the technologies go through. The past, present and the future of digital marketing is always about finding out information about your customers.

To understand your market:   

What are your customers looking for? What is their current problem? How can your product or service provide solutions? Through customer profiles and behaviors, demographics, psychographics, you will be able to answer these questions. If your business thrived on face-to-face communication earlier, now is the time to use digital marketing to steer your ship forward. Capitalize on those Instagram scrolls!   

To build brand awareness and loyalty:  

Your content is king. Your content marketing is even more so. Build brand awareness with your content–– the trials and tribulations behind the success of a business however small or large, hooks your customers, and increases brand loyalty. The authenticity brings them closer, and the trust grows stronger. Be a marketing soldier.    

Consider adding real video customer testimonials, this will create even more trust and will help your brand grow even more

To compete with bigger businesses:   

Want competition info? Is your content marketing right? Since digital marketing tools provides granular details of your campaigns, you can tailor it to appeal to your customers and position yourself better. Marketers can learn from competitor’s mistakes to stay ahead of them. Trust analytics – your guardian angel!     

The future of digital marketing

Digital marketing has grown tremendously. As the tools grow, businesses adapt newer ways of content creation and communication and feed social media and the cycle repeats.   

According to a 2019 Forrester report, “money spent on search marketing, banner and outstream video, instream video, and email marketing will grow at a 9% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to $146 billion by 2023.”   

Consumers rely on businesses that can deliver their products to their doorstep, and even if they don’t buy from you, be sure they will read about you to know how you are solving their problem as long as they are your target audience. A 2019 statistic from Google’s data team confirms that.  A significant number of customers read about you before they shop your products. 

What is the future of digital marketing?

Content marketing, (consistently publishing relevant information, and distributing it to a target audience online is extremely essential) still plays an important role in how your products are perceived by the users. Marketing strategies are extremely important. Artificial intelligence was unfathomable at one point but is completely rational now. Google listens to all that you say, but hey, voice search is the next big thing in digital marketing. Micro-influencers who target a trusting audience are great sales drivers.

In short, digital marketing using the right content strategy is the future. 

10 predictions about the future of digital marketing: 

1) Artificial Intelligence 

If you didn’t know already, AI has made its way into the mainstream and has taken over many iterative tasks and helped realign focus on strategies at a granular level. HBR predicted that AI would be pervasive, and that this will be marked by an advancement of AI-powered smart devices that can recognize and react to human behaviors such as sights, sounds, and other patterns. 

According to Gartner, 80% of emerging technologies will have AI foundations by 2021. Some AI technologies to make use of:  

  • AI-driven recommendation algorithms 

Amazon’s ‘people who bought this, also bought this’, Netflix’s ‘shows you may like’ and Instagram’s ‘explore’ are some examples of AI powered algorithms. Netflix states that this algorithm saves them about $1 billion each year, and that 75% of what users watch come from those recommendations.  This marketing strategy has saved tons of money for the company.

  • Natural Language Processing (NLP)  

NLP as a branch of AI that deals with the interaction between computers and humans through natural language. NLP breaks down the elemental pieces of the language by categorizing and contextualizing it, analyzing voice commands into text and vice versa.  

The global spending on cognitive systems is set to reach $57.6 billion by 2021. For eg., AI is the evolution of Google’s image and text analysis over the years. From visual text identification processing, it has advanced to real-time text translation, providing businesses, and the marketing industry with an effective way to solve real-life problems.   

Harvard Business Review shows a large percentage of business heads who feel that AI is beneficial for a product’s growth trajectory as seen below.  

2) Bots 

Chatbots or conversational bots can convert visitors to paying customers. Oracle states that messaging apps are a great channel for chatbots, because they cater to customer’s needs precisely, and have all the contextual information. There is clarity, and efficiency through automation. Oracle also notes that chatbots could save $174 billion dollars across many industries.  

As a marketer, chatbots can be programmed for collecting data, and tailoring information according to the customer’s needs. Chatbots are available 24/7. This means they save human time, qualify leads, boost engagement and boost engagement. This means marketing experts can focus on other areas better.  

3) Voice Search   

Voice commerce helps consumers make purchases through voice commands on hand-held or portable devices. The customers use their voice to search for a product or service, and the device picks out a customized list – (based on location, user-reviews, price, etc.,) and reads it out to the user. Stats say that this is a brilliant for a future digital marketing tool.

Voice search technology came into existence in 2010 with IBM’s Watson which was a question and answer computer system. Subsequently, Google launched its voice search, and Apple released Siri. Cortana made ripples in 2014. Now it is smart speakers and device assistants such as Google Home and Echo Dot that have turned customer experience around by translating human language into desirable action. They have also bridged the gap between tech and accessibility. Mary Meeker’s 2019 Internet Trends Report shows a 2x increase in Echo installs in just a year, which means there is a potential future for voice searches and assistants. 

A 2018 study by Juniper Research has concluded just that. The study mentions that there will be eight billion voice search assistants in use by 2023, and smart speakers will rule the world with a 41.3% CAGR. The research also shows that voice commerce will grow rapidly, reaching over $80 billion per annum by 2023. This will bring in more opportunities to marketers who can create targeted ads on Alexa and Google Home based on search results and feed it to the users.  

4) Gaming  

Earlier, gamers were socially distant outcasts, or introverted teenagers. But today, the gaming industry has grown rapidly with AI and Augmented Reality (AR), and the extensive use of mobiles, and mobile-first marketing and technology. Deloitte Insights give a picture of people’s preference towards gaming during the lockdown, and it is only set to increase.   

This (2020) is the ideal time to convert casual gamers to long-term paying customers. Mary Meeker’s 2019 report confirms how the global interactive gaming players have changed the marketing landscape.   

For marketers, there is lot of potential in this industry. Leverage this by: 

  • Using gaming influencers  
  • Catering to a mobile-first world through gaming solutions 
  • Targeting the right audience (45% of gamers are women!)  
  • Creating YouTube videos (48% of gamers spend time watching others play

5) Shoppable Ads

Instagram, and many other social apps provide businesses with the opportunity to sell easily. Instagram has 1 billion monthly active users (MAUs) and the number of US adults who use the app has increased from 35% to 37% in just 2019. According to Facebook’s insights, 70% of shopping enthusiasts turn to Instagram for product discovery.  

Shoppable tags on Instagram are now a thing of the past. Quite recently, the company introduced Facebook Shops and is beta testing it with some known brands.  

Google’s Shoppable ads on Google Images are technology have been designed to inspire shoppers to spend more time looking at products and nudge them to the checkout stage.  

The advantage for marketers – if your user can buy a product without leaving their social app, that’s great. Even better if auto-generation puts together a look for them. Less scope for shopping cart abandonments. Snapchat and other areas of social media are great for event-based marketing, and sales.

6) Micro-influencers  

Businesses have reinvented themselves or have had to shut down entirely during the pandemic. The virtual fitness industry has seen a massive jump, and people seem to be watching and learning from micro-influencers in fitness, and lifestyle areas. A micro-influencer is someone with a medium following such as 10k to 30k followers, but can evoke responses from people, and sell products. Unlike celebrity influencers, their posts are not loaded with sponsorships.  

The influencer marketing consumer survey during the pandemic reveals that more than 63% of US customers spent more time on social channels. Ergo, more scope for micro-influencer marketing!

Digital marketing teams can capitalize on micro-influencers whose posts have a better engagement rate and can individually respond to follower queries – both personal and business-related. As marketers who want to engage and influence, a constant dialogue is important.   

Jumpstart your blogger outreach & Influencer marketing campaign now!

Look at the actual content that influencers have shared before reaching out!

To read more about how top brands are using micro and nano influencers, read What are Nano Influencers? Definitions, Examples & How to Find Them

7) Programmatic Marketing 

Programmatic advertising and marketing uses automation to buy and sell all kinds of ad media. Simply put, human beings are not involved in the ad buying process. Through this you can target the right audience and personalize the communication.

An issue, according to Google’s Product Management Director Phillip McDonnell is that users are constantly moving between multiple devices before buying anything, and gives a disjointed consumer behavior to marketing or other analytics teams relying on these insights, and that even on a single device, different browsers lead you to different purchase paths. 

Real-time bidding is an alternative term for programmatic ad buying. The automation is efficient and faster. By 2022, 80% of the advertising process will be automated, “a threshold that will never be surpassed.” predicts Adobe’s Think Tank, and that future is not far away. The remainder will need human expertise. 

Until recently, programmatically sold ads were worth 106 billion U.S. dollars in 2019. The projections for 2020 said programmatic ad spend will reach 127 billion dollars and further grow by 20 billion by the end of 2021, which is a substantial amount. 

8) Augmented Analytics

Predictive and augmented analysis means data mining and using predictive technology such as machine learning to predict the future. The idea seems to have taken off, especially in marketing trends. It is being used to minimize customer churn and predict business intelligence.  

Gartner, in their 2018 research report said that Augmented Analytics is the future of business analytics, and truer words could not have been spoken. Some systems let the marketers trigger a purchase or launch a marketing campaign, along with the data insights.  

With augmented analytics, marketers can take decisions without depending on an analytics team to feed them information.   

9) Personalization  

The marketing industry has become more precise over the years. Targeted marketing is the backbone of any business. Making use of analytics to drive conversations and understanding buyer journeys and experiences will help achieve success in the near future. Even newsletters have started personalizing the content, segmenting audience groups according to paid and unpaid subscribers, in an attempt to get closer to the audience.

Amazon is always at the top of their data personalization game. Behavioral targeting, predictive modelling and personalization (emails, messages, advertisements). The number of people who buy from Amazon’s product recommendations is at a whopping 44%. For marketers, personalization brings in more business.

10) Augmented Reality

From a marketing perspective, AR is a great tool. This is very much different from the usual virtual marketing. AR is interesting, far easier to implement, and drives sales significantly. AR has replaced stores and transformed shopping experiences.

For eg, Sephora’s Virtual Artist app gives the best 3D experience of picking the right shade of makeup for your face without having to directly try it on, which is a terrific marketing strategy. Apple has taken this up a notch higher and integrated AR in their software with the Measure app, which lets you measure anything around you without using a physical measuring tape.

Augmented Reality makes it easy for potential buyers to try out a product without having to go to a shop. This puts marketing departments at ease, as they can convey exactly what they want to, irrespective of the size of the project or product. 


Is digital marketing the future? AI and automation, technology and personalization, social media, and analytics are some marketing trends that are going to change the way businesses function in the near future. What doesn’t change is how you create and market your content, how you capture your leads, and close new deals, how you retain and engage your customers as we step into this new digital marketing future.

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Swathi Sriram is a Berlin-based writer and editor. She writes newsletters, blog posts, marketing drip-emails and website content for businesses. She edits and critiques short stories. She is also a poet and short story writer at thevirtualparchment.com. She tweets at highqwriter.