Missed an episode of Chatfuel School—the podcast where we cover hot topics in the world of bot-building and marketing? Don't worry; we took notes for you. 🤓 The topic for December 23, 2020 was which digital marketing trends your business should plan for in 2021. Here's the full episode.👇 Keep scrolling for a recap of what you missed.

2020 was a year full of the unexpected. And while there will always be factors out of our control, preparing now for 2021 is our best tactic for ensuring that the next twelve months are better than the last. When it comes to growing your business, this new-year prep all starts with special attention to the predicted marketing trends for 2021.

To help you out, we interviewed several top digital marketing experts on our podcast. Here's a collection of six digital marketing trends they recommend watching out for in the new year. Study up and prepare your strategy now, in the closing weeks of 2020 and the first few of 2021!

#1. Short-form content will be king

Video marketing is already a current marketing trend, but it's evolving. Why? Because the average internet user's attention span is a mere 8 seconds. To catch their interest and get your message across, short-form video content is your best bet—and this type of content is expected to explode in 2021.

So where should you start? Instagram marketing expert Emelina Spinelli suggests the 15-second video format, Instagram Reels. She comments on this video marketing trend, saying: "Instagram just rolled out Reels a few months ago in order to be competitive with TikTok. They're giving priority to Reels in the algorithm, so it's producing a lot of growth for so many accounts."

instagram reels
Instagram Reels are set to skyrocket in popularity in 2021. Image credit: Instagram

The good news is that Reels are a highly accessible format, even if you don't have a fancy camera or advanced video-editing skills. Here are a few tips anyone can use to create Reels for their business that attract attention and deliver results:

  • Teach something 💡 "I have seen many, many accounts grow fabulously organically by teaching something that they know," Emelina shares. "This also serves really well in business because, generally speaking, when you teach or educate your audience, it primes them to then buy from you. Teaching is actually one of the fastest ways to gain and grow influence on Instagram." Share knowledge about your field or quick tips for or related to your products or services. Your audience is likely to take notice of this kind of brief but informative content.
  • Give a behind-the-scenes look 🎬 Short-form content like Reels is meant to be informal and friendly rather than high-budget and official. So don't worry about producing a perfect, polished piece of content. Instead, take your audience behind the scenes to show them the challenges, wins, and real people behind the scenes of your business. It's a great way to build brand trust.
  • Make it fun 🥳 Take advantage of Instagram's editing options for Reels. Play with the timing of your clip, add music and text, and experiment with AR effects. Do whatever you can to make your videos more fun and engaging so they get noticed.
"[Instagram is] giving priority to Reels in the algorithm, so it's producing a lot of growth for so many accounts." –Emelina Spinelli, Instagram expert

#2. Chatbots will be indispensable marketing tools

We've analyzed the data and consulted with the experts about future chatbot industry trends and how things will change. The consensus is clear: Chatbots are here to stay. The pandemic has accelerated the adoption and the evolution of chatbot technology. This means Messenger chatbots today are more powerful conversational commerce tools than ever before.

Amanda Stevens, Director of Conversational Design at Master of Code, explains how this marketing trend continues to evolve: "Gone are the days of talking to a bot just to take a beauty quiz or fill out a form," she says. "Consumers are going to be turning to chatbots to get products recommendations, complete purchases, check statuses, troubleshoot, or even upgrade their services—and they'll enjoy the experience every step of the way."

If you haven't yet explored the potential of chatbot automation for your business, there's never been a better time to begin. We recently redesigned our no-code chatbot-building interface to make it even easier to use. Find out how to get started and build your own Facebook bot in minutes. 👇

Then, check out some chatbot best practices and get advice on building a more complex bot to serve the needs of your business and customers:

And remember, one of the key chatbot benefits that makes them so effective and engaging is personalization. Be sure to make the most of this capability. You can build separate chatbot flows for users with different needs. You can customize the experience with user attributes. And, for more advanced users, take Amanda's advice: "Use APIs and artificial intelligence (AI) to understand your customers' needs and wants, and then show only the content that's relevant and interesting to them. This is the key to driving higher engagement and conversions."

"[Personalization] is the key to driving higher engagement and conversions." –Amanda Stevens, Master of Code

#3. Data will power even more marketing decisions

Suhail Doshi, CEO of Mixpanel, once said: “Most of the world will make decisions by either guessing or using their gut. They will be either lucky or wrong.” It's a simple quote that clearly illustrates the necessity of using data to make marketing decisions. And as Roxana Motoc, Marketing Manager at SocialBee, puts it: "If you don't track the results, how do you even know which marketing activity was the best use of your marketing dollars? How much did you spend? How many customers did you get? What was the acquisition cost for those customers compared to how much they spent with you? And the list goes on."

So how can you put this trend in marketing to good use in 2021? Samir Elkamouny, founder and CEO of Fetch & Funnel, suggests using a tool called Hotjar. "Watch those video recordings and see what people are doing on your website," he recommends. "I bet you'll be surprised that half the people don't scroll past 50% down past your website, or they didn't realize that they can scroll on your slider, or some other thing that makes you realize you maybe need to make a change."

Sarah Bond, Senior Director of Marketing Strategy at Lucky Orange, recommends a similar tool: Lucky Orange's Dynamic Heatmaps, which help you get the clearest possible picture of visitor behavior on your website. “And don’t forget to share the knowledge these tools are providing to not only help you be a better marketer, but to help you be a better partner to other teams in your company,” Sarah adds. “The insights you’re gathering about your customers and prospects can help your UX counterparts design better web experiences, the sales team narrow their pitch on the parts of the journey that matter most, and the developers fix technical hiccups getting in the way of conversions.”

Heat map tools like this one from Lucky Orange can help you see what website visitors are doing on your page, and you can use this data to inform your strategies.

And if you're using a chatbot for marketing, Chatfuel offers several ways for you to make data-informed decisions there too:

  • Check the stats for bots built in the Automation-->Flows tab to see how many users saw and clicked each card, so you can fix any drop-off points.
  • Use the Send Analytics Events plugin to visualize (and then optimize) your entire sales funnel.
  • Check out the Teach your bot to respond to custom text input section in the Grow tab. It'll show you which custom messages users are sending to your bot, and how often. From there, you can easily add AI rules so your AI chatbot can respond appropriately to these messages in the future.
You can see how many custom messages users are sending to your bot, and then teach it to respond to them accurately in the future.

#4. Cross-channel marketing will become the norm

72% of consumers say they'd rather connect with brands through multichannel marketing. Plus, Google says that customers who shop across multiple channels have a 30% higher lifetime value (LTV). People are used to being able to reach businesses on whatever channel is most convenient to them. That means that in 2021, your brand needs to be available on all the major platforms—including chatbots, social media, email, and others. And beyond just being available, your voice and strategies for each one need to be consistent and cohesive.

George Hartley, co-founder of SmartrMail, puts it well: "Your marketing channels don't work in isolation." He gives an example: "The most obvious way to combine your chatbot marketing and your email marketing, for instance, is to really optimize for collection of email in your chatbots. If you want to get a bit smarter than that," he says, "you can ask particular questions in your chatbots to segment your customers, which then pushes them into a different customer journey with your email automations." In short, this kind of interoperability between channels is a new marketing trend you can expect to see a lot more of in 2021.

"Your marketing channels don't work in isolation." –George Hartley, Smartrmail

But remember: No matter which channel you're working on, winning conversions is the ultimate goal for most every business. Mary Kathryn Johnson (MKJ), founder and CEO of Messenger Funnels, explains: "And when you build a marketing channel, "conversion first" is your motto. That is what you live by: Where are we leading people? What is the conversion step we need people to take?"

#5. Consumers will seek authentic connections

Due to pandemic safety restrictions, many people have spent 2020 physically and socially isolated from others. We're all craving authentic, meaningful interactions and connections. So if your brand can provide some of this, your audience will likely engage. As Viral Content Expert Austin Iuliano points out: "In the age of the coronavirus, you're going to notice that those valuable personal touch points will do a lot." Here are a few ways your brand can focus on this marketing trend of relatability, approachability, community-building, and connection to engage your audience in 2021:

  • Engage people one-on-one in DMs 👤 Austin recommends this method for brands going into 2021, saying, "With Facebook's ads that go to Messenger and to Instagram DMs, you can generate a ton of trust and a ton of sales by engaging with people back and forth there." We're building new automation tools at Chatfuel to help you manage Instagram DM conversations at scale! Sign up to get notified when we launch.
  • Live stream 🎥 Live streaming on social media is similar to Instagram Reels in that it's typically a more informal content format. That means you'll have the opportunity to showcase the humans behind your brand, and to be more relatable and approachable to your audience. Zack Franklin, founder of AMZKungfu, predicts: "Live streaming is going to keep getting bigger and bigger because people want that authenticity of being with someone else, or writing a comment and having that person see it in real time. I just see it taking off like crazy."
  • Encourage and share UGC 🤳🏾 Encourage your audience to share user-generated content (UGC), like testimonials, or photos of them enjoying your product. It'll benefit your brand, because UGC is a powerful form of social proof. Joshua Chin, CEO of Chronos Agency, explains how this marketing trend works: "One of the common roadblocks and challenges for a lot of our clients is that trust isn't easily built through online channels," he says. "One of the ways that we circumvent that issue is by creating relatability. So things that involve human elements, including user generated content, are going to be incredibly impactful."
Ecommerce brands like Chewy can typically generate engaging UGC quite easily, to connect their audience and build community.
"In the age of the coronavirus, you're going to notice that those valuable personal touch points will do a lot." –Austin Iuliano, Viral Content Expert

#6. Social media ads will keep providing results

Worldwide ad spending on Facebook and Instagram is expected to reach a record-breaking $95 billion in 2021. With people spending more time at home (and therefore on their computers and phones) as the pandemic continues, there are more eyeballs ready to see your ads than ever. A digital marketing trend for 2021 will be that social media ad spend should continue full steam ahead. We just released a feature that makes it even easier to link your Messenger chatbot to your ads! Try out the Facebook Ads Entry Point.

Fernando Angulo, Influencer Marketing Lead at Semrush, emphasizes how important promoting your own content will be in the new year, both through ads and through organic methods. "So this is going to be the golden rule: You should spend 20% of your time on content creation," Fernando explains, "and with that 80% you have left, you need to invest it in promotion."

And don't forget the new marketing trend of forging authentic connections, as mentioned above. It applies even when you're running ads. Alexander Fedotoff, founder of AFMedia, recommends: "Focus on those things that unite people. Even though we're all stuck at home because of the pandemic, people still want to be part of something," he explains. "And if you can incorporate that into your Facebook advertising, then that will provide better user experience—and in turn, Facebook will reward you with better costs and better-quality traffic."

"Focus on those things that unite people. Even though we're all stuck at home because of the pandemic, people still want to be part of something." –Alexander Fedotoff, AFMedia

Plan ahead for a successful 2021

We're all glad that this tumultuous year is coming to a close, and we're looking forward to a brighter 2021. Prepare your digital marketing strategy now to set your brand up for success in the new year.

Ready to build your business a powerful chatbot for marketing in 2021? We can help with that! The function of Chatfuel is to make bot-building as easy as possible. Sign up for a free account on our no-code bot platform today. Then, when you're ready for unlimited users and priority support, upgrade to Pro. Happy new year, and cheers to your success in January and beyond! 🥂