8 Digital Marketing Trends for 2021: The Definitive List

digital marketing trends

By Dan Barraclough | Updated: 19 January 2021

Digital marketing has been greatly affected by the pandemic, but businesses have learned how to adapt…


The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way we live, communicate, and work. As a result, the landscape of digital marketing has changed, with new techniques surfacing and brands realigning their messaging as a response.

In this article, we discuss eight digital marketing trends you should take into account if you want to get ahead of the competition this year. These trends fall into two categories: techniques and messaging.

We’ve also included some expert tips to help you nail each trend, plus real life examples from big brands to give you an extra dose of inspiration.

Digital marketing trends: Techniques

Below are the most prominent digital marketing techniques and technologies that businesses are now using in response to the pandemic.


1. Live streams

From March 2020 (i.e. when COVID-19 became a truly global issue), Google searches for ‘live streaming platformsincreased by 5x. In the same period, live viewings on Facebook and Instagram shot up 50% and 70%, respectively.

With countries across the globe plunged into lockdown, consumers and businesses frantically turned to live streaming to communicate.

Live streams have helped businesses to:

  • Hold Q&As with audiences
  • Offer live customer support
  • Record ‘behind the scenes’ footage
  • Make special announcements
  • Conduct interviews
Did You Know?

By 2026, the live video streaming market is projected to be worth $149.34 billion.

live stream example
Cosmetic company Sephora hosted a Facebook Live Q&A about beauty tips and trends to keep consumers in the loop

As the live stream marketing example above shows, the easiest way to get started is via the ‘live’ services on social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. It’s an affordable and time-efficient way to connect with your audience in real time, which is exactly what the busy consumer is looking for.

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2. User-generated content (UGC)

What is user generated content? Simply put, it’s content that your users have created themselves, which you then promote online.

It’s a fun (and cheap) way to increase brand awareness, build social proof, and ultimately retain customers. After all, what better way to demonstrate trustworthiness than advertising your customers enjoying your product or service?

If you’re wondering how to create user generated content, you simply need to ask your audiences – via social media and/or email – to send in a piece of content around a particular theme or idea, or ask them to post it online and use your specific hashtags (see the image below).

The most popular types of UGC include:

  • Social media content
  • Reviews and testimonials
  • Case studies
  • Blog posts
  • Q&A forums
Did You Know?

Testimonials can increase purchases on sales pages by 34%.

UGC example
Hilton Grand Vacations asked customers to use #myHGV on their Instagram posts, which were then shared on their official website to demonstrate social proof

3. Data visualisation

During these days of COVID-19 content overload, it’s important that your business sends out easy-to-consume material. Data visualisation is one of the current digital marketing trends that enables you to do that.

It’s all about turning large volumes of complex information, such as market trends, stats, or patterns, into visual media.

The most common types of data visualisation include:

  • Tables
  • Charts
  • Infographics
  • Maps
  • Dashboards

Infographics are particularly effective for communicating messages and influencing purchasing decisions. Research has shown that consumers following directions with text and illustrations do 323% better at remembering text material than those following without illustrations.

In a marketing sense, this means your audience would be more likely to remember your brand message through infographics as opposed to a written email or tweet.

At Expert Market, we’ve researched how COVID-19 has affected workplace communication, and created the infographic below. It's far easier to consume than a long paragraph of stats, don’t you think?

workplace communication infographic expert market
We used data visualisation to make our workplace communication research more digestible and shareable
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4. Social commerce

During the pandemic, mobile ad engagement on social media channels has increased by 15%. This means monetising social media is a must for your next digital marketing campaign.

One of the many ways to make money on social media includes creating a Facebook Shop page, and promoting to the site's 2.60 billion monthly active users (this feature is only available on mobile devices).

Facebook shop example
Online clothing brand Size? created a Facebook Shop to make money directly from Facebook in order to increase overall sales

Does social commerce get results? You bet it does. 55.2% of all Gen-Z internet users in the US say their recent fashion purchases were inspired by social media content. 

In order to find out what or where your customers want you to sell, you can use social listening tools to see what people are saying about your brand online.

Not sure how to create a social media campaign? No problem – you can also hire a digital marketing agency to build and maintain a bespoke one for you while you focus on other areas of your business, reducing the likelihood of a workplace headache.

To get started, all you need to do is tell us your digital marketing requirements, and we’ll match your business with agencies that suit your needs. They’ll then be in touch with more information and no-obligation quotes for you to compare. It’s quick, easy, and free to get started.


5. Video marketing

Like the rise of social commerce, video marketing has become an important digital marketing trend during the pandemic. In 2021, it’s estimated that the average person will spend 100 minutes a day watching online videos.

Remember that consumers now want easy-to-consume content, and it doesn’t get much easier than video. It doesn’t matter whether you’re vlogging or creating training tutorials – we recommend that your business gets in front of the camera to maximise sales and build awareness.

These are our top tips for your video marketing campaign:

  • Make the first few seconds count and hook your audience
  • Focus on a story and don’t push for sales
  • Use captions to increase viewing figures (85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound)
  • Post videos on Facebook (the site generates 8 billion views per day)
  • Include your URL to gain traffic to your website
  • Use user-generated content

We’ve got essential tips on how to create a professional video on a tight budget

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Did You Know?

By 2022, 82% of internet traffic will be online videos.


Digital marketing trends: Brand messaging

Many brands have adjusted their messaging recently, keeping up to speed with the ever changing global conversation around both the pandemic and climate change. Below are the three most important types of messaging.


6. Inclusivity

The most important cultural shift of the past year has been towards inclusivity. In particular, the Black Lives Matter movement has shone the spotlight on racial inequalities within our society – and as an extension, within marketing.

Brands are now placing an emphasis on inclusion and diversity, and quite rightly. Achieving this demands more than just using stock photos of mixed genders and ethnicities, though. Software company Salesforce defines inclusive marketing in its blog:

Inclusive marketing is creating content that truly reflects the diverse communities that our companies serve. It means that we are elevating diverse voices and role models, decreasing cultural bias, and leading positive social change through thoughtful and respectful content.

Recent studies show that this messaging shift is affecting consumer behaviour, with 42% of shoppers saying they’d switch to a retailer that’s committed to inclusion and diversity.

By the same token, businesses that are seen to be non-inclusive, or at least not taking part in the cultural conversation, will likely be negatively impacted.

gillette advert
Gillette joined the inclusive conversation with its ‘Made of What Matters’ campaign, striving to fight against all forms of prejudice within football and society

7. Purpose-driven marketing

In order to help the common cause, brands are centering on a particular purpose or vision that aligns with their audience’s values during these troublesome times.

Many businesses have adjusted their brand message towards goodwill, with alcohol distilleries using their equipment to create and donate hand sanitiser, hospitality businesses offering meals to NHS staff, and fashion retailers designing face masks (see image below). Crucially, the purpose here is to help customers, not profit margins.

If you’re wondering how to start your purpose-driven campaign, a 2021 report from Deloitte says that in order for your brand to find its purpose, you need to be deeply attuned to why you exist, and who you are built to serve. 

new balance advert
New Balance decided to create face masks instead of new shoes with the purpose of helping its customers
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8. Sustainability

Research from IBM revealed that eight out of ten consumers said sustainability is important for them. What’s more, 70% of the respondents who said sustainability is very important were willing to pay a premium of 35% for brands that are environmentally responsible.

With the growing issue of climate change, consumers – particularly the younger generations – have become more environmentally conscious. Nowadays, it’s crucial that brands demonstrate similar passion about helping the environment.

Sainsbury's refill station
Sainsbury’s has teamed up with Ecover to provide refill centres in order to cut down on plastic waste

For your business to get in on this important trend, you don’t need to spend thousands on an entire rebrand.

For starters, you might want to openly discuss environmental issues on your social media pages, tweak your band colours to reflect a green-approach, use biodegradable or recyclable packaging, or just offer environmentally-friendly add-on products, such as tote bags or reusable cups.

Most importantly, you need to make sure your customers know about these offerings!


What next for your business?

The eight digital marketing trends we discussed can help you increase sales and build strong customer relationships. But what’s the best way to get started?

For your business to boom this coming year, we recommend you get creative on social media first and foremost. 

We suggest creating engaging content that taps into the current global conversation, whether that’s live streamed Q&A’s to help customers during lockdown, or selling reusable bottles for antibacterial wash.

Just follow these trends, and you should get your business on the right, sturdy track in these unpredictable times.

The easiest way to get your business on that track is by implementing a forward-thinking digital marketing strategy. If you don’t have the time or energy to do all that by yourself, you can always hire an agency to create a bespoke campaign for you.

We can match your business with leading agencies that suit your exact requirements, who’ll be in touch with free quotes. All you need to do is tell us what you need on our quick web form – it only takes a minute, and it’s free to get started.

Dan Barraclough

Dan’s a Senior Writer at Expert Market, specialising in digital marketing, web design, and photocopiers, amongst other topics.

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