“The pandemic has made companies realize the increasing importance of reaching consumers digitally,” says Elaine Chan, marketing expert and associate professor of marketing at Nanyang Business School (NBS) in Singapore.
2020 saw a 30% increase in the online market for food and household goods alone, according to data from McKinsey. In 2021, marketers need a combination of creativity and tech-savvy to connect with consumers who increasingly shop online.
Elaine, who is also academic director of the MSc in Marketing Science program at NBS, part of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), works to integrate the latest marketing trends and developments she witnesses into the MSc program.
BusinessBecause spoke with Elaine to find out what she thinks the year ahead has in store for the world of marketing and five of the hottest marketing trends to look out for in 2021.
1. New platforms will emerge
One important area of growth for marketers in 2021 will be utilizing new platforms like voice marketing: reaching shoppers through their interactions with smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home Hub.
“Voice shopping is going to be a trend,” Elaine explains. “Not only are people spending more time at home, but they’re also becoming more accustomed to interacting with these devices.”
Another important platform will be esports. This growing industry was valued at $1.1 billion in 2020. Big brands like Coca-Cola have already recognized the value of this audience, and became an official sponsor of the Overwatch League in 2019. Elaine expects that other brands will follow suit in 2021.
To help students effectively leverage these diverse channels, the MSc in Marketing Science program at NBS includes a course in integrated marketing communication. In class, students learn how to create an effective cross-channel campaign.
As new platforms continue to emerge, students will learn to assess and harness each channel’s unique strengths and limitations, building the seamless experience today’s customers want.
2. AI use will accelerate
The use of AI will be another trend in 2021. Elaine expects chat-bots to be a particularly important tool for customer service, helping the high number of consumers that e-commerce facilitates.
The same natural language processing technology that underpins these chat-bots can equally help brands to deliver quality written content.
“If AI can generate copy in the right style, it will save a lot of labor, and allow companies to build a strong presence in a short time,” Elaine explains.
The integration of tech and marketing is thoroughly explored at NBS. The MSc in Marketing Science covers developments including virtual and augmented reality, as well as AI.
“Because of NTU Singapore’s background in technology, we have the expertise to offer those courses,” Elaine notes. The program also features regular industry panels, where students can hear how new tech developments are being leveraged by marketers in a real-world setting.
3. Online and real-world experiences will blend
The shift to online shopping is also creating new opportunities for brands to offer memorable shopping experiences.
Elaine expects more brand collaboration with livestreamers to make online shopping more interactive. Consumers will be able to watch their favorite influencers navigate a store, reviewing products in real-time that they can purchase themselves from home.
“Livestreaming commerce is already very popular in China, but it’s expanding abroad—I expect it to be big in 2021,” Elaine predicts. As a business school combining Asian insights with global perspectives, NBS will be well-placed to understand this trend as it spreads.
Cosmetics companies will also turn to interactive experiences to help consumers online. Since in-store makeup samples are no longer an option, Elaine thinks that more brands will develop augmented reality apps where customers can virtually “try on” their products.
4. Data analysis will become more important
In 2021, marketers have access to more customer data than ever before, as the proportion of purchases made online continues to rise.
Elaine believes that developing new ways to harness this data will be another trend in the marketing world. “The more digitally savvy and data-literate you are, the easier it is to find a job in this digital era,” she reflects.
With this in mind, Elaine ensures that the MSc in Marketing Science at NBS equips students with the data interpretation skills required to succeed.
“We offer courses in digital marketing and data analytics so students can hone their analytical skills,” she notes.
Through these learning experiences, students learn data visualization and analysis, using the insights gleaned to reach customers more effectively and efficiently—all while building a stronger brand.
5. Mission-driven marketing will become more prominent
Alongside their innovative use of technology, Elaine expects brands to place even greater emphasis on their values and mission in 2021.
Thanks to online news and social media, consumers are more engaged with social issues than ever before, and want to support companies that share their values.
“Consumers want to see how the company is having an impact and the values it stands for,” Elaine explains. One good example of mission-driven marketing comes from the sportswear firm, Nike.
“During the pandemic, they spread a message of persistence in the face of adversity through their campaigns,” Elaine notes. This powerful messaging helped Nike’s valuation grow from $34.8 billion to $36.7 billion over the course of 2020.
Communicating a company’s mission seamlessly like this is a key challenge, but at NBS, the school mission to empower students so they can lead with impact ensures ethical values are often front and center in discussions.
Because understanding consumer values is equally vital, consumer insights is a key pillar of the MSc in Marketing Science curriculum, Elaine adds. Along with the fundamentals of market research, the curriculum covers the more complex topic of neuromarketing—using brain science to assess the impact of marketing on consumers, resulting in a more accurate understanding of their needs.
These techniques help marketers understand consumers’ subconscious reactions to a brand, which doesn’t always match their professed feelings.
“Our program takes a very holistic understanding of marketing,” Elaine comments. Students also have the chance to apply this holistic approach in a real-world setting through the strategic marketing course. In this class, a company representative presents a marketing issue their business is facing, and challenges students to develop a solution.
“The last strategic marketing project was such a success that the company wanted to hire some of our students as interns,” Elaine reveals.
“We want our graduates to understand who the consumer is and how best to reach them, so they can craft effective marketing campaigns in this digital era,” she says.