What lies in store for digital in 2021?

Roughly a 6 minute read by Kate

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2020 was a year to remember for mostly the wrong reasons, but we love to find the silver lining! As people were forced inside and turned to their devices for both necessities and entertainment, the digital world rose to meet the demand with new innovations that would otherwise have taken a while longer to come to the forefront.

From improved delivery services to live experiences and a huge surge in video call service usage, digital was a lifeline for many in staying connected with the world, and will undoubtedly change the way we interact online for the foreseeable future. Here are some of our top trends you can’t ignore in 2021!

Gamification for data collection

Game activations as a vehicle for driving action has always been a firm favourite of ours, combining our passions for web development, marketing and creativity in one! In 2020 we saw better results than ever in gamification campaigns we ran for clients, as we were able to capitalise on lockdowns and social gathering restrictions that drove people online for distraction.

Prize giveaways are always going to yield better results than your average activity, but if in the process you can entertain consumers and give them an experience they remember, then you’ve got yourself a strong potential customer for the future. And if you can acquire their email address or a purchase along the way, you’re onto a real winner! Visit our Gamification Hub to find out more.

Shopping on social

Social commerce exploded in 2020, with retail closures driving more people online to look for purchases. Instagram has led the way with Shopping From Creators, in-app Checkout and Live Shopping all being rolled out in the past year, and TikTok has quickly jumped on the trend too by launching Shopify integration and shoppable live streams.

With consumers increasingly buying into storytelling and creative expression as inspiration for their purchases, brand social channels could become even more crucial for online selling than website product pages.

A push for core web vitals

With core web vitals becoming a confirmed ranking factor in May 2021, website owners and SEO-ers alike are going to have to familiarise themselves with the optimisations that will be required moving out of the first quarter. Historically page speed has been a side thought, however moving forward this will have to be at the core of any SEO strategy.

While this change will undoubtedly create work that some may see as unnecessary, it’s a big win for customers, as one of the most frustrating experiences of using the internet can be a site that takes an eternity to load when mobile signal isn’t at its best.

Those website owners who are both the quickest and most efficient as responding to this will be the ones who reap the benefits. Leaving those who (excuse the pun) are slow to react behind.

A comeback for influencers

Just as it looked like the influencer bubble was on the brink of bursting, the tide has merely turned in a new direction, with Stories and TikTok breeding a new style of more authentic, relatable content.

Micro influencers will play a bigger role, and genuine connection with fans will be key. Brands should be willing to give creative freedom to the creators, so they can make sponsored posts that feel as natural as their organic content.

Social responsibility/sustainability

The world is becoming increasingly conscious of corporate social responsibility, and 2020 only added more fuel to this! Consumers, particularly Gen Z, want to buy from brands that they believe are aligned with the issues that are important to them, whether it be sustainability, diversity or political leaning; 89% of shoppers say they stay loyal to brands that share their values. (Fundera)

Fence-sitting won’t cut it in this market, so brands who don’t find something to stand for should prepare to lose customers to more active competitors. And for the brands that are already doing the work, communicating it to their audience in an engaging way that breaks the tradition of dull corporate pages is key; check out our Sustainability Hub for how it should be done!

Sustainability

Growing popularity for Progressive Web Apps

PWAs have been around for several years now, but we anticipate that their uptake amongst both businesses and users will continue to grow in 2021. PWAs deliver a range of benefits to companies including improvements to speed and load times as well as traffic, resulting in higher conversion and engagement metrics. As usage of mobile devices increases further, we expect to see more brands looking to deliver the benefits of PWAs to their end users.

PWAs are highly performant and highly available (they can run offline) which results in a better user experience and potential for a wider user base. Building them draws on the existing skill sets of many web development teams as they can recreate an in-app experience without the need to learn new languages, which is a leading factor in why PWAs can be delivered at a lower cost than native apps.

Many big companies have already jumped on the train, including Twitter, Instagram, Uber, Forbes and the Financial Times.

Unpolished content

The rise of TikTok, IGTV and Stories has led to a rise in more natural, roughly edited content. Consumers are rejecting aspirational in favour of relatable, therefore the days of perfectly curated grids and professional-level shots will give way to content that feels spontaneous and authentic.

After a year of lockdowns and cancelled plans, in 2021 everyone will be hungry for content that captures moments as they happen. So get creative on photoshoots, and amplify user generated content wherever possible!

Designing with depth

The cyclical nature of design has seen trends come and go, and while Neumorphism can at times feel like an extreme push back against flat design, there has been a definite shift towards interfaces that embrace a more tactile element - whilst still being able to adopt the best practice UX principles that seem to inhibit the Neumorphism style.

The use of translucency, blur, texture, subtle shadows, soft gradients, layering, and even 3D elements has introduced an added dimension to interface design, in what had become, at least after the sharp move away from the skeuomorphism trend of old, a largely two-dimensional affair.

Trends are in no small part influenced by the big players, and Apple’s latest macOS release ‘Big Sur’ has also undergone a visual overhaul that seems likely to accelerate the move towards friendly, rounded interfaces with added depth.

So there you go, our predictions for the top digital trends in 2021! If you need support supercharging your digital strategy this year, take a look at our services or get in touch!

Kate works closely with clients to develop creative campaigns that shine. With a background in content and an addiction to Twitter, there's nothing she loves more than a piece of snappy copy.