Among other lessons, the pandemic has taught us that personal connections matter. As we’ve sheltered in place and kept our distance, we’ve realized how much we truly need each other.
As humans, social interaction is necessary not just to survive, but to thrive. Research shows that creating and maintaining social interactions is vital to our health and wellness: “People who are chronically lacking in social contacts are more likely to experience elevated levels of stress and inflammation. These, in turn, can undermine the well-being of nearly every bodily system, including the brain.” (The New York Times)
That innate need to maintain meaningful connections tells us a lot about how we should be running our businesses and marketing our products and services.
Looking ahead to 2021, marketing trends are leaning toward more authentic engagement, personal connections and relatable brand promotion. Here are a few takeaways about what we’ll see in the coming year, based on an industry report by NextMapping:
More personalized touches using AI. Consumers are seeking more personalized connections with the brands they support. AI can make that happen: The technology will be used to further identify customer personalization and, according to Gartner, will enable businesses to increase profits by 15%.
An increase in crowdsourcing. People like to feel included. A simple way to bring your audience into your inner circle is to ask for customers or subscribers to help create solutions or share their experience with your brand. Using contests, rewarding customers for helping to innovate products or services, and sharing links to receive content like newsletters or blogs, are simple ways to make those connections.
More mobile engagement. According to NextMapping, millennials represent 50% of the workforce in 2020 and in 2025, that number will climb to 75%. Millennials want and are creating a mobile-driven future: Businesses will respond, shifting to integrated communication apps to increase audience engagement and customer service delivery. This carries over to social media connections, with brands placing greater emphasis on timely response to customer needs and comments on these channels.
Continued rise of chatbots. On one hand we might think of the use of chatbots as an impersonal or artificial means of connecting with customers, but these virtual systems are able to provide fast, accurate and high-quality customer service that provides productive brand engagement. With a projected annual growth rate of 24.3%, the global chatbot market will reach $1.25 billion by 2025 (Grand View Research).
A focus on “human” skills. The World Economic Forum cited emotional intelligence, creativity and people management skills as the top three skills needed in 2020. As we look forward to a new year in which we may or may not be back in our offices, employers need to focus on upskilling their teams (through workshops, podcasts, mentoring programs, etc.), helping them increase collaboration and connectivity in a remote workplace. For marketers, this prompts us to think about how we can frame our products or services to bring people together by sharing user experiences, prompting engagement on social media, etc.
In addition to these personal-connection trends, in 2021 we’ll continue to see the continued relevance of video, the importance of content marketing, and more connections via micro-influencers. Stay tuned: I’ll be covering these in upcoming blogs.