Mobile Presents New Opportunities for Marketers in 2021

By Conor O'Malley  | 

It goes without saying that the coronavirus pandemic exposed and accelerated many trends in media and marketing (and beyond) in 2020. From the rise and ease of work-from-home to the importance of frontline and essential workers in our society, Covid-19 showed us who we are and where we’re going. As Warren Buffet famously said, “You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out.” And as the water receded from shores this year, it became clear that several “trends” were more likely the new normal. From customer loyalty to the importance of boomers and the future of Connected TV, no trend stands so clearly poised to continue as the role of mobile devices both as a marketing channel and point of purchase. The consumer, and customer, spends a lot of time on their smartphone and it certainly looks like it’s going to stay that way.

Per eMarketer, 2021 will be a year of digital ad growth by over 17%, a prediction echoed in Gartner’s CMO Spend Survey. App Annie’s “State of Mobile” report notes that the average American is now spending more time on their phone than they do watching TV. This trend is consistent across generations, too, as increasingly savvy generations are taking over the economy and marketers’ attention. It’s also worth mentioning that newer apps like TikTok are drastically demanding more of our attention, creating in some cases even better engagement than Facebook. You can already see Google and Facebook readying their TikTok competitors as the landscape shifts.

As the platforms change and mobile use skyrockets, marketers need to stay one step ahead. As Tim Jones, the CEO of Publicis, told Forbes, it’s important now for brands to pay attention to the personalization and specialization that is going to be required as shopping and advertising move into peoples’ palms. YouTube dominates video streaming, but Gen Z is increasingly skipping ads as a habit. So as marketing channels are flooded with ads, ZDNet points out that one tactic to reach customers is social commerce and influencer marketing: “The brands that did not use social media to drive customer interactions and sales before the pandemic,” they say, will be forced to go digital, and those who were ahead of the game will be at a huge advantage.

Another tactic in a more mobile world is in-app notifications. The more customized, personalized, and “for the customer” the outreach and touchpoints, the more likely it is that the mobile customer will respond. The holiday season saw a massive spike in downloads of shopping apps, a channel to reach customers that should become more valuable as consumer use continues to build. Brands should also consider advertising in-app on platforms like Instagram, which allows customers to shop without leaving the app. Entrepreneur describes the opportunity as an “eCommerce Tidal Wave.”

Confidence will rise as vaccination distribution increases and Covid rates recede, but many 2020 trends are likely to remain. Consumers may well opt for the convenience and safety of shopping from home rather than in store. Brands looking to reach people where they are will find them on their phones, in social-media apps and engaged with streaming services where the media and content are more personalized. As 5G expands, phones get faster, and consumers increasingly enjoy the convenience of digital and mobile purchases, marketers must remain nimble to stay ahead.

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