Last year when so many people wanted to avoid unnecessary trips outside during the pandemic, it seemed like it could be a risk just to go to the store for a six-pack of Pepsi and a bag of chips. But that didn't make you crave the snacks any less.
Shipping soft drinks and snacks to consumers in their homes may not have been a strategy that PepsiCo ever would have ever considered or pursued if it hadn't been for the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdowns across the country and the world. But the shutdowns forced everyone to look for other options and opened up a whole new opportunity for PepsiCo and consumer brands.
"This was an introduction of direct-to-consumer relationships for brands that never had direct-to-consumer relationships before," said Jason Heller, CEO of Transformation Ventures, speaking at the virtual Adobe Summit in April. "All these sites let consumers shop directly for the brands they love as opposed to shopping at the retailer they love."
These sites provided brands with a revenue stream during a time when many businesses were squeezed during shutdowns. But the brands got something else that was maybe even more valuable for their long-term success -- customer data, and an ongoing relationship with customers.
"The more immediate value is that it lets brands engage their most valuable customers, gather data, collect actionable insights," Heller said. "They can test everything from products and packaging, pricing and messaging. It gives brands the permission to engage customers more frequently."
PepsiCo was one of many companies that accelerated its digital transformation strategies in 2020 as the pandemic forced so many retail sales and other business transactions out of the physical world and onto online channels.
Amid these changes, organizations are looking at their digital investments and considering the best ways to build on last year's successes in 2021. Heller and the VP of Adobe's Digital Strategy Group, John Copeland, provided some insights and advice during their virtual Adobe Summit presentation, Biggest Digital Marketing Trends for 2021.
Heller warned that during the pandemic we may have increased our digital presence, but we also lost something in the process.
We've lost millions of in-person personal interactions with customers, and they have been transitioned to generic digital experiences. That poses a risk for businesses' relationships with customers.
Heller said that "personalization at scale" is the antidote, and he recommended that organizations invest in customer data platforms, customer journey analytics, next-best action decisioning, and content factories, and invest in tying all those together with an integrated stack.
"As the pandemic continues to drive more digital engagement, those who are not focused on prioritizing a customer-centric lens in 2021 will lose footing to those who do," Heller said.
Data privacy and regulations
Data privacy rules and regulations have been on the increase over the past few years, and organizations will need to shift how they operate in response, said Copeland. "This year companies will work on approaches to first-party data," he said. It’s an approach they need to take to "thrive in a cookie-less world."
In this environment, contextual and intent-based targeting will grow in importance. For instance, an ad for running shoes might appear in an article about training for a marathon.
Other big trends in digital marketing for 2021 include doubling down on digital transformation with an emphasis on people and shorter paths to value for tech investments; building content marketing agility (including intelligent content at scale) to feed a non-linear and evolving digital customer journey; and a greater percentage of advertising budgets moving to digital in 2021.
The changes of last year have led to a greater focus for brands in 2021.
"In times of multiple crisis over the last year, brands have had to pivot their marketing, their messaging, and their communications to stay relevant and resilient based on current events," Heller said.