E-commerce emphasis, adoption of new platforms are among top content marketing trends

By Jessica Robinson

Globe Content Studio, The Globe and Mail

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

To say the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench into trend predictions in 2020 is an understatement. In place of typical forecasting for next year, it’s worth looking back at patterns from the past six months to better understand what content is resonating with users during an otherwise unpredictable time.

We started by looking at how to test, optimise, and pivot content strategies, no matter what the world throws your way. We spoke with three experts about how to measure the success of a content-marketing campaign and more broadly about emerging trends in marketing and technology that have stood out in the past six months.

The pandemic surfaced new trends for content marketing that will continue to impact the marketplace over the next several months.
The pandemic surfaced new trends for content marketing that will continue to impact the marketplace over the next several months.

The shift toward e-commerce will have big implications for content.

It’s no secret that physical distancing and other pandemic regulations led many brick-and-mortar businesses to launch online. “One thing we have really seen at Shopify is a huge shift to e-commerce,” says Casandra Campbell, the company’s testing and experimentation lead. “We’re talking about 10 years of growth happening in a matter of weeks and months.

“There’s just this huge pivot to everything being online. And in the product space and retail business, that’s very difficult to ignore. But it also has huge content implications.”

The permanence of that shift will have major impacts on content-marketing strategies and branding. While digital content such as videos and podcasts have seen steady growth over the past five years, virtual events and activations will dominate in the absence of physical alternatives. IRL will be a luxury opportunity that few can afford. URL will be the official baseline for content creation.

Brands will feel more comfortable testing out new formats and platforms.

“We live so much of our lives at home now,” Campbell says, “and it’s probably going to be that way for a while. So now is really the time to start investing in other kinds of media, start investing in channels we were afraid of before.”

Matt Celuszak, CEO of Crowd Emotion, echoed Campbell’s sentiment: “We’ve seen a lot of testing new formants. Like, what does my Instagram content look like? What does TikTok look like? What does YouTube look like for us, from a perspective of engagement?

“If we’re going to look at somebody’s day, now that they’re spending 99% of their awake time online, where do I fit in as a brand? More and more, it’s about asking and answering those questions, less in a performance-driven way, and more at the brand level.”

Emphasis will remain on upper-funnel brand messaging rather than conversion.

Ashley Cohen, principal analytical lead at Google Canada, agreed brand messaging will remain at the heart of most marketing campaigns for the foreseeable future. “Any sort of big disruption to the market obviously results in a ton of uncertainty,” she says. “This means every company was revisiting their strategy, which often means re-evaluating initiatives to find efficiencies.

“A great way to become more efficient and demonstrate direct value is aligning marketing with a business KPI rather than your marketing KPI. I found a lot of clients wanted help figuring out how we could speak to their customers from more of an upper funnel brand messaging perspective. They wanted to dive deeper into investing in their infrastructure and measurement, with an increased focus on efficiencies, ensuring that everything we’re evaluating is something the business actually cares about.

“Ultimately, marketers really need to make the case that they are an integral part of the business ecosystem and show that by aligning with what the business cares about, you make a demonstrable impact on the business performance,” Cohen says.

In other words, this shift toward brand messaging is an opportunity for marketers to bring their strategies back to what matters most to a company’s core objectives and emphasise how marketing is crucial in achieving those goals.

About Jessica Robinson

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