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Long before the pandemic, technological factors were already influencing marketing and molding it towards a more effective future. However, after the pandemic broke out and people started to spend more time than ever before on their smartphones, tablets, and laptops/desktops, both the need and influence of technological trends on digital marketing were profound.

Even though restrictions have been lifted to a great degree in 2021, all reports point to the fact that this has not changed much, as far as tech trends and their influences on marketing as a whole are concerned. As we look over some of the latest tech trends that are influencing marketing strategies and plans in 2021, that statement should begin to make more sense.

Digital Marketing is Having a Greater Influence on People’s Buying Decisions

The relationship between people spending more time on digital devices and the increasing effectiveness of digital marketing strategies is quite self-explanatory. The influencing capabilities of digital marketing tools and strategies is not a secret, and they are not novel either. Ever since its inception, digital marketing is growing every year at an exponential rate in terms of revenue generation. However, the return on investment in marketing for businesses has started to improve in its cost-effectiveness quite substantially, in the span of roughly two years.

In 2020, any marketing strategy created in synchronization with the latest Google analytics data was found to be highly effective in generating high returns on marketing investments, and that trend still continues to be one of the major tech trends of 2021. To better understand the influence of search engine analytics on the cost-effectiveness of marketing, read this post on the Emerson College Blog which answers common questions like, ‘what is a Google analytics certification?’ How does it help a digital marketer? Will proficiency in Google Analytics remain just as valid in the near future as well?

Digital Content Authenticity and Quality is More Important to Customers Now

Google does not like websites with duplicate content, even though it doesn’t mind similar content. This may change in the coming years, but throughout the years, every change that Google has introduced to its algorithms has only favored authentic content more. The principal idea behind the search engine giant’s preference for original, high-quality content is quite understandable, as it improves the quality of their SERPs naturally, improving the overall quality of information provided to the masses via Google. What was noted recently is a fairly new influencing factor though, because the trend has more to do with the customers this time around.

Apparently, customers have also started to prefer and trust authentic, high-quality content over cheap and salesy posts that do not provide them with any value. Customers cannot always know whether the content they are reading is indeed authentic, but Google and other popular search engines are very unlikely to show them duplicate content among the top results. With that out of the way, quality becomes the next factor, and that is where people have a much better understanding than Google’s algorithms of course.

As per analytics data, even if pages with low-value, poorly written and spun content manages to fool the crawlers into showing them as one of the top SERPs, most customers are unlikely to make a purchasing decision based on such content. If anything, customers are far more likely to avoid these pages in the future. Consequently, even if the site’s optimization turns out to be efficient, their conversion rates and digital reputation will suffer because of the poor quality of their web content. This is a trend which is likely to become the norm in due time, as customers grow more familiar with online shopping, while search engine algorithms get better at rooting out duplicate, low-value content.

Chatbots in Marketing: Norm or Trend?

Chatbots have been in the marketing industry for decades now, but they were either used for spamming by unethical and illegitimate companies earlier, or the authentic ones failed to live up to the standards necessary. Even then, chatbots had never really lost their popularity completely, at least for authentic companies.

Things started to take a turn for the better, starting from 2019. However, the tech trend has truly escalated to all new heights in 2021, since almost every major digital interactive interface is now fitted with a helpful chatbot. Although the comparatively smaller businesses are less interested in chatbots for facilitating customer interactions, that will change in the coming years.

The change is inevitable for SMEs because investing in a chatbot is indeed more cost-effective for small to medium sized businesses than their alternatives. To understand why the demand for these bots is increasing in marketing, sales and customer care, we will have to look at both the business and customer end of the tech trend’s influence.

  • According to a 2018 survey conducted by Salesforce, almost 70% of online customers preferred interacting with a chatbot.
  • It is expected that by the end of 2021, more than 80% of all US online consumers will prefer chatbots.
  • The consumer preference originates from the fact that chatbots are always able to answer simpler questions and solve small problems almost instantly.
  • This sudden change in the chatbot’s popularity, on the other hand, originated from the fact that they are now powered by smarter AI, which is getting even smarter with each client/customer interaction and developer update.
  • Chatbots don’t sleep, so they are available 24×7 to assist customers into making the right buying decisions, or even to inform them about offers, options, problem resolutions, etc.
  • All major businesses use chatbots because they decrease their operating costs quite significantly.

Given the preference from both customer and business end, it would be safe to state that this is not going to stay a trend for long and may soon become the norm across marketing, sales and customer support. The only gripe with chatbots right now is their limited, option-based responses, which makes them feel somewhat akin to sorting and filtering options we see on shopping sites. Also, they cannot solve complicated problems which is where the human touch remains infallible.

Voice Search: Is It Still Gaining Traction or Did It Fail?

Voice search did not fail, but neither did it gain sufficient traction on a scale that most hoped it would buy now. There are a few shortcomings of voice search technology which even the most advanced AI search assistants are not able to overcome at this time. Firstly, the accuracy of voice interpretations suffers a lot, especially if the language used is not English, or the user has an accent. Next, we have an even bigger issue of voice searches not being able to deliver results on anything besides generic and simple search results. Voice assistants are also quite poor, if not completely useless when a search is made with words from multiple languages. Most users find that although it takes more time and effort to type and search, the rate of accuracy, wider searchability, and the search engine’s autocorrect/suggestion options make typing worth the extra effort.

All that being said, it cannot be denied that the frequency of voice searches (attempted and successful) has grown significantly enough for the technology itself to be considered as an influencing tech trend for digital marketing in 2021. Thanks to (comparatively) smarter voice interpretations, simple queries such as asking about the time, locale, weather, etc. are almost always successful now, especially in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Smart speakers have made voice searches more popular than they ever would have been in their absence. With so many popular and trendy smart speakers always listening for instructions, the tendency to use them for basic web searches has surged quite a bit. In fact, the smart speaker is the next tech trend and marketing influencer that we are going to discuss.

Smart Speakers and Marketing: Amazon Leads the Way!

Amazon’s Alexa range of smart speakers is crushing the competition in terms of popularity. Even Google Nests can’t catch up in terms of popularity among the consumer sectors. For marketers though, it matters more that voice search is gaining more popularity these days on account of these smart speakers, but the fact that Amazon has a vice grip on the market is not to be ignored either. It indicates that although the influence of voice searches in shaping market trends is not great at the moment, it will most certainly grow. As for how the speakers themselves are directly tied to the marketing tech trends, we need to look at them each separately to get a better understanding of how this works on a separate level.

Amazon Alexa – As mentioned, there are no smart speakers available in the world that have sold more units than Amazon’s Alexa range of speakers (100 million+). This creates opportunities for marketing by:

  • Using and incorporating the technology in one’s own business site, as Amazon offers that option to online businesses
  • Becoming an Amazon-affiliate as one of Alexa’s Skills redirection options

Google Assistant – Google Assistant is not as popular in 2021 as it was even a few years ago. As a result, Google’s own range of smart speakers is sitting next to Amazon’s counterparts as a very distant second. However, the best part about working with Google Assistant as a marketer is that you don’t have to pay extra or put in additional efforts for integrating it into your marketing strategy, if you are already trying to maximize the search engine.

Apple Siri – Siri is in the third position, but Apple’s aged smart assistant has not managed to make their HomePods anywhere near as popular the company’s other devices. Nevertheless, Apple is not affected by that, since the company operates at a different frequency. Consumers can use Siri to do basic Google searches, but when the opportunity presents itself, Siri will seamlessly redirect the user to businesses affiliated with Apple only.

Return of the Desktop OS

Smartphones have overtaken the desktop market in every sector, whether we are discussing online shopping, web browsing, or gaming. However, starting from mid-2020, the desktop OS is fast coming back into focus. Marketers are taking notice, since spending more time at home has led several user groups to start preferring the bigger screens once again, over the smaller screens of their smartphones. This holds particularly true for the gaming sector, but conversion rates from MacBooks and PCs had risen across all sectors in 2020, as compared to previous years.

It is almost as if the lockdowns and the growing work-from-home culture helped consumers rediscover the several advantages which laptops and desktops still hold over smartphones and tablets in general. Expect to see an even bigger growth than 2020, reflected in conversion rates from MacOS and Windows powered laptops and desktops by the end of 2021.

Why Virtual Reality is Not on the List

An aspect of marketing tech trends which had to be excluded from this list is virtual reality, despite the technology promising a great future in all previous years. This is not to say that VR as a marketing tool is lost by any means, but it will take more time before virtual reality can be considered as a viable tech influence for investing in as a marketer or a business owner. There is a very high probability that virtual reality and augmented reality will eventually become the two most influential tech factors in marketing soon, but it isn’t going to happen in 2021 at least.

Virtual reality came out too soon and it offered far too little to the consumer, in respect to the premium for entry it needed. Since that can never be a successful strategy for niche devices such as a VR headset, it has not yet managed to reach the heights that it will in the future. The latest range of Oculus All-in-Ones does offer hope in this department, so we will just have to wait and see how the technology fares in 2022. If the consumers start picking up the more affordable devices, the marketing potential will be unprecedented, as it is one of those sectors that has remained almost completely untapped, despite digital VR being around since the late 1980s.

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Annabel Johnson

Part time gamer, reviewer and blogger. Full time geek and tech expert!

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