Word on the Street: Digital Marketing Trends Are Shifting in 2021

23.06.21 05:42 PM By Layton Judd

Our take on what was said...

A recent article by Search Engine Journal titled "10 Top Digital Marketing Trends to Watch Through 2021" pointed out that previously published predictions into strategies to use in digital marketing may now be outdated. So where does that leave us? If you placed your early bets on data and agility, then you are ahead of the game.

Especially in automotive, the past year has accelerated the pace at which dealers were driven to focus on their digital transformation in what McKinsey & Company calls 'the quickening', with all kinds of playbooks and guides and checklists offered by vendors throughout the industry. As the tide quickly changed, many of these digital marketing strategies "may now be outdated" as consumer behavior continues to also change dramatically.

"We've seen two years worth of digital transformation in just two months."

~ Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft

With inventory short but margins high, many are now playing the wait-and-see game before making any more moves. Shifting our sight towards what works both NOW and establishes continuity for what's NEXT; however, will ensure you stay ahead of the competition (and your marketing budget).

Here we take a look at a few suggestions from the source* article:


No big secret to anyone in the retail space, but especially in the DIGITAL retail arena, that consumer behavior is complex and always changing. You know it and we've been, literally, saying this for over a decade. It's even on our website homepage. SEJ suggests that "the time to pivot and keep up with demand for quick and easy online ordering, curbside pickup, and contactless delivery has passed. Now, companies are looking to build security and resilience for the future." 

But how?

The advice across those in marketing and across the industry lines is this: It's time to re-evaluate your strategy vs. becoming stagnant, or worse yet, paralyzed within the current state of market flux. 

SEJ put it this way, "lay it all on the table" and "plan now for where you want to be in five years post-COVID, not where you thought the organization would be by now before it ever happened". 

Respected automotive industry veteran and internet pioneer, Steven Stauning, encourages dealers to take a "comprehensive review of your current spend to ensure it aligns with what you need to sell cars today and especially tomorrow." He reminds us that "dealers who spent thoughtfully and tactically on marketing during the boom of 2021 will have plenty of options available to 'pull the levers' that can reignite their sales." with "more money in the bank – money they didn’t waste on unnecessary marketing during the boom."


Consumers on your digital properties are constantly telling you exactly what they want. Is your technology set up to listen? Better yet, can your marketing message pivot dynamically in real-time with personalization to activate the engaged consumer intent and maximize the opportunity? "Get the people, processes, and platform in place to put this most valuable customer data to work", says SEJ. 

But it's more than that really. Does your dealership staff need yet another dashboard to manage? Another list to juggle? How the data is presented is just as important as what it says. Otherwise it goes underutilized or worse, unused. Data is messy. You need intuitive analytics to "visualize" your data, reveal key business insights, and draw attention to actionable areas so you can market more effectively and improve customer relationships. Period. 


Kristen Judd, CEO and Co-Founder here at 3 Birds, was recently interviewed on a similar topic where she asked us all to think more about investing in ourselves as well as our customers, staff, technology, and first-party data by natural extension.  She said. "There's often a tendency to want to charge hard and to put money out against something and to conquest and to get more, and I think that that is not necessarily a mistake, and there's always a place for it, but if that's your only strategy, you're missing out in terms of opportunity right there at your fingertips."

"It's never a mistake to invest in your first-party data"

 ~ Kristen Judd, CEO & Co-Founder, 3 Birds Marketing

The more you invest in 3rd party sources, the more you invest in others, the less return you actually own. Integral Ad Science found that 49% of industry professionals listed cookie deprecation as a top media concern in 2021 in their latest Industry Pulse Report; and for good reason and Google, Apple, and others shift to a cookieless digital world. With innovation and the right Consumer Data Platform (CDP), attributable, targeted, dynamic, personalized, and relevant campaigns are still possible. Otherwise, more campaigning is just back to hope and spray of the past. 


We have explored "What a 60 Year Old Woman and a 20 Year Old Man Watching Netflix Have in Common?" in past blog posts. Interestingly enough, a recent survey conducted by Salesforce also used a similar example to illustrate how we can look to leading brands to understand how consumer engagement is changing. Customers expect that companies will have access to their information, be in-tune with their interests, and informed of their purchase intent even before they interact with you directly. It's no longer considered a 'big brother' philosophy as this kind of engagement creates a seamless experience and trust today. "And trust is a true business imperative" according to Salesforce. In fact, 95% of customers say their trust in a company makes them more likely to remain loyal to that brand. Your marketing technology should quarterback that level of insight to your sales team for an equally seamless handoff.

62% of customers say their experience with one industry influences their expectation of others.


Task- and time- driven automation and replicated messaging is no longer enough. Of course these are still important and play a huge part in maintaining efficiency by cutting down on redundant tasks when it comes to customer relationship management as part of the larger consumer data platform umbrella. The pure volume of interactions and data touchpoints requires a more intelligent approach. It's no longer enough to let technology push campaigns based on pre-set algorithms or even respond with assumed scenarios (keys-for-keys remarketing, for example). Machine-learning (ML) is one thing, but those same machines must be able to take action in real-time precisely when the shopper is most receptive to personalized, relevant messaging, suggestions, offers, and recommendations. Otherwise, you've lost them. 


Finally. First thing IS first, after all. And by that we mean first-party data. This is a big one - so take note, you all.

As we prep for January 2022 when Google phases out third-party cookies, marketers look for alternatives in a cookieless world. Behavioral targeting and analytics may become more difficult for most further supporting the importance of generating, cultivating, and enriching your first-party data.  

Plan NOW for what's NEXT. Sound familiar?


At the risk of repeating ourselves, we are more than happy to share thoughts from an outside source. So here it is, in summary: "If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that we need to be agile in our approach to people, technology, and digital trends while being prepared to respond to whatever market conditions come our way next." Well said...by someone else.