When we published the outlook for this year at the end of 2019, no one could have guessed that the world would be virtually paralyzed by a pandemic shortly after. An economic disaster for many industries. One, however, will still benefit - especially in the long term: The E-commerce industry continues to grow relentlessly, competition among suppliers and shops is increasing, thus marketing is becoming all the more important.
The trends, or rather the importance of existing options for 2021 are mainly influenced by the situation of the past year.
But what does that mean in detail and what does "successful marketing" look like in 2021? And how do marketers find out which strategies work and how potential customers are addressed in the most effective way, while keeping in mind the increasing data protection requirements and supposed "extinction of cookies"?
In this article, you will find some answers to these questions. Therefore, we will take a look at trends and progress within different marketing channels and explain how innovative, data-compliant and, above all, measurable marketing will become successful next year.
1. Social Commerce - Shoppable Posts and Instagram Shops
Social media has replaced all kinds of "outdoor entertainment" for a large part of 2019, and these habits of users will continue to carry on for a while - even when the pandemic is “over”. The already high level of attention on influencers increased even more. In addition to the usual content marketing with product recommendations, competitions and so on, shoppable posts have also increased. Since 2019, it has already been possible for business accounts to directly tag products within their photos and videos and link them to the corresponding product page of their online shop.
This way, the company gets in touch with users in a social context directly and without "middlemen" in form of influencers - the consumers’ journey to the product is "shorter".
This type of advertising will also gain even more importance in 2021, because users have learned to appreciate these convenient options.
Shopping will become even easier and more customized with the new shop functions in Facebook and Instagram. Suppliers can still create a Facebook or Instagram shop free of charge until the end of the year 2020 and link products to their own shop or sell them directly via the platform in the meantime. This works through an in-app checkout, which Facebook already announced in May 2020 as the "revolution of e-commerce" and recently released the feature, which had previously only been tested sporadically, to everyone. The shopping experience thus blends even further and thus almost seamlessly into the use of social media.
Instagram also provides users with personalised offers based on their subscribed accounts and interests with its shop feature on the explore page.
But how can the influence of these advertising activities be measured when Facebook and Co. make it virtually impossible for advertisers to access user-based data? The answer is modeling based on aggregated data. Providers like Funnel.io, for example, collect this aggregated view data and make it available in an automated process. This in turn can then be included in digital attribution to measure the effect of social media advertising on organic channels (paid search, direct, seo). Also, with a glance into the future and considering the supposed "extinction of cookies", attribution based on aggregated data within the framework of Marketing Mix Modeling is a futuristic and promising solution for holistic marketing evaluation.
2. TikTok for Business: Brand Awareness with Generation Z
The relevance of the chinese entertainment app "Tik Tok", which was initially slightly belittled due to its sometimes quite unconventional content, can no longer be denied. Especially for marketers targeting Generation Z, this app became very important. In addition to the use of influencers and content advertising, however, placing ads here was still quite complicated for a long time. Since mid-2020, TikTok has been making it easy for companies to book ads through its own advertising platform "TikTok for Business". With the creation of individual ads or entire campaigns, the main aim here is to generate brand awareness and, ideally, to do so in a highly creative and unique way to target a young group of consumers.
3. Retail Media - Promoting Products
When online shopping is on the rise, so is the number of suppliers. And where competition is greater, customers have to be targeted more effectively. That's why there have never been more sponsored product and display ads on retail platforms than now. For a long time, these ads could easily be included in the attribution via cookie-tracking.
With Intelligent Tracking Preventions in almost all popular browsers, the possibilities of user recognition and targeting are limited for advertisers, as ITP prohibits the setting of third-party cookies and the lifetime of first-party cookies has been shortened from seven days (ITP 2.1) to one day (ITP 2.2).
This is a challenge for attribution because potentially ongoing customer journeys are also greatly shortened, so that the sequence analysis within the multi-touch attribution can become inaccurate. A specific solution to this is to increase the first-party cookie lifetime via the advertiser's backend, as described in this article.
And there are also futuristic possibilities with regards to the ban of third party cookies: Views of display ads can also be included in the modeling on an aggregated basis, just like social views. For clicks, a server-to-server tracking solution is also imaginable. This requires the retail platforms to provide the data.
Incidentally, not all companies and providers are directly affected by these intelligent tracking preventions - this depends on the length of their common customer journeys or the user's browser selection.
4. Smart Bidding - Conversion Boost with the help of AI
Considering increasing advertising opportunities and the associated marketing requirements, more and more processes in this area have been automated over the past few years. With the help of machine learning, Google offers automated "smart bidding" in Google Ads to encourage a greater number of users to click on an ad. Thus, historical data on search behaviour as well as other information (e.g. location, language, time, device) is used to calculate conversion probabilities that can then be used for bidding. Various targets can be defined in advance (e.g. website views, ROAS, CPC optimisation).
The feature is not completely new, but it will become even more relevant in the coming year. For "e-commerce starters", of which 2021 will see many, this AI approach offers a good opportunity to control advertising budgets as efficiently as possible with little resources and experience.
Those who want to enter smart bidding with accurate, transparent data and yet in an automated way, have the opportunity to do so with Adtriba. The transparent data can also be used for smart bidding via a direct connection to Google Ads and a standardized and fully automated export of Adtriba conversions.
5. Omnichannel Marketing and Augmented Reality
Shopping apps are not a new phenomenon in 2021 either, but the connection of online shop and store via augmented reality in the context of omnichannel marketing has so far only been possible within a small number of apps of very large providers. The advantages are obvious and take customer journeys to a whole new level. By scanning barcodes while visiting the store, it is possible to search for alternatives, similar products or matching accessories, which are no longer available locally or are too large for the shopping bag. Also, availability in other shops or delivery times can be displayed. The more marketing channels a company provides, the more its competitiveness and customer loyalty increases - bonus and loyalty programs do the rest. Ideally, channels benefit from each other with corresponding advertising campaigns and promotions.
Measuring the effects of online advertising on in-store sales is possible within omnichannel attribution. Here, companies with customer loyalty programs transfer their in-store data and customer identifiers, which are then included in the digital attribution.
The activities within the shopping app can also be measured through mobile app attribution, which will also face challenges with regards to data protection in the future. And here, too the keyword is once again: marketing mix modelling.
2020, as described at the beginning, has definitely given the e-commerce industry a significant uplift. Competition among providers is increasing, but so are the technical demands of users - after all, this year they have become accustomed to the convenience of online shopping, suitable features and benefits. Especially when it comes to social media, it is important for companies to react quickly to new trends and, in order to remain competitive, to be present across as many different channels as possible. In order to use all these channels profitably, automated processes are crucial - also in terms of their evaluation.
Finding alternatives to tracking via cookies will become one of the biggest issues. However, with the help of aggregated data, marketing mix modeling and unified marketing measurement, marketers will still be able to evaluate holistically and plan efficiently even considering challenges such as ITP and ad blocking.
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