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Seven Trends in Online Marketing for 2021

New year, new developments: 2021 will see many changes in online marketing - from search engines to social media to browsers.
Timo von Focht | 21.01.2022
© Timo von Focht

Note: Timo Von Focht will be our guest in the Clubhouse Session on digital marketing. Link Here.


Trend 1: Search engines


2021 will be the year of alternative search engines - due to ongoing privacy and antitrust concerns about Google, more and more users are looking to alternatives. Ecosia is becoming increasingly popular in Europe. DuckDuckGo is gaining market share, especially in North America, and is expected to be swallowed by Apple in 2021, as Apple's deal with Google as the default search on the iPhone fell through. Apple has to close the resulting gap and wants to strengthen its own data ecosystem in the process. At the same time, Asian search engines such as Baidu, which is considered the market leader in China, are growing. 


In addition: So-called no-click searches are playing an increasingly important role in the search engine market. These are image and text information in the upper area of the search results, where all the information is already found. This means that users no longer have to click on the results to get the data they want. The whole thing is even more convenient for users who enter their search queries by voice - digital assistants or voice recognition make it possible. According to TheeDigital, almost one in three Internet users now searches in this way.



Trend 2: Browsers


In the new year, browsers are taking more control. Thanks to DSGVO and adblockers, browsers such as Google Chrome, Safari or Mozilla Firefox now play a key role in the interaction with online users. This is because they decide whether user tracking is possible or not - and thus what information, for example, advertisers can still collect about their users. If the browser suppresses third-party and, increasingly, first-party cookies, it will become more and more difficult to measure the success of digital campaigns via third-party solutions or on publisher websites. Google's planned Privacy Sandbox means that only those who use other Google solutions will be able to track their users in the Google ecosystem.



Trend 3: Social media


Something else is changing: 2021 will be the year of the micro-influencer. Now that some of the best-known influencers have built up as much reach as a medium-sized media publisher and are marketing their success accordingly, the targeting of advertising measures is decreasing with such trendsetters. So in the future, advertisers will rely more on smaller bloggers and social media experts who are close to their product range. In this way, they are trying to build up a network of micro-influencers who are thematically close to their own product range. At the same time, we are seeing more and more so-called "shoppable posts" on social networks: click on the ad, enter payment details and buy the product.


Trend 4: Analytics and tracking


In 2021, user tracking gaps will increase due to GDPR consent requirements, browser tracking prevention and adblocker developments. This is changing the entire online marketing ecosystem. We are already seeing a lot of tracking changes. A pure server-side data integration for campaign tracking is available via the Facebook API, as cookies no longer work. Other such APIs will follow. It is not for nothing that Google is currently trying to catch up here in the area of server-side tag management and tracking compared to the large competitors in the market (such as TagCommander or Tealium) with a payment solution in server-side tag management.


The Schrems II ruling also puts a stop to Google in this regard, as the group can no longer invoke the EU-US Privacy Shield as a basis for data processing at a US company. There are now many lawsuits here - it could be that marketers who rely mainly on Google Analytics/Google 360 for data collection will soon have to delete their existing data(ch)records, as they were not collected in a privacy-compliant manner. A similar fate is likely to befall those who rely on US providers for CRM, DMP and CDP solutions. Here, by definition, personal data is processed and comprehensive user profiles are created, for which there is often no user consent and even more rarely a viable legal basis for storage on servers of the US providers.

Trend 5: Depersonalization


Now that the mantra of personalization in marketing has prevailed for 15 years (to the point of hyper-personalization), more and more marketers and platforms are experimenting with a depersonalization strategy. Let's face it: on the one hand, it's great that the person looking for a garden grill gets grills from 20 vendors in 100 stores displayed minutes later. On the other hand, customers can quickly feel overwhelmed by such a large selection. The incentive to buy then dwindles because the message - however relevant and personalized it may be - is no longer received. In 2021, many marketers will start to play out personalized and depersonalized campaigns and use A/B testing to compare which measure achieves the most success (i.e., contribution margin) for which product and in which target group.



Trend 6: CDP - a new main factor in the marketing stack


For a few years now, so-called customer data platforms (CDP) have been used for personalization, enabling a 360-degree customer view. They can 


campaigns across products, devices and channels, tailored to a customer and automated (or not, if a higher contribution margin or customer value is achieved in the respective comparison group). CDP solutions also have the advantage that they can generally collect unstructured data from all areas and merge it via APIs, first-party and server-side integrations. Traditional DMPs (data management platforms), on the other hand, rely primarily on data from third-party cookies. This causes more CDP vendors to fight for market share in 2021. Web analytics providers, e-mail marketing solutions, and DMPs in particular are trying to jump on the bandwagon here.



Trend 7: Overarching customer value optimization


The CDP advances to the central solution within the marketing suite and customer-centric solution architecture in 2021. As solutions converge toward CDP, many best-of-breed solutions will be absorbed into it. At the same time, machine learning and AI approaches in combination with campaign management within CDP will enable more and smarter automation in customer targeting. In interaction with the data warehouse and CRM, it then comes to the formation of new, even larger solutions that offer interface-based user interfaces for a wide variety of marketing solutions on a big data basis. The real-time database (SQL or NoSQL) is becoming more robust and powerful, allowing it to take on additional tasks. As a result, the different disciplines of web analytics, marketing analytics, business intelligence and customer data management continue to grow together. 


2021 will prove to be the year when marketers achieve many successes based on customer value optimization programs. At the same time, they will recognize the value of an integrated CDP and consent management solution, as this is the only way to meet regulatory requirements. This will also ensure clean processes regarding data deletion requests as well as cross-platform and cross-channel consent management.