Top marketing trends for SMEs in 2021 

Last year proved that time can be interminable while also vanishing with a blink of an eye. So, I ask the question, where are we now? And how do we rethink our business and their marketing strategies in this new era? 

For smaller and medium businesses, without enormous budgets and a dedicated creative staff, your marketing might be the first thing to fall by the wayside. Indeed, even big companies have “overhauled” creative talent in the early part of 2020 amid crisis. They have paid the price and have ultimately forfeited what makes their brand different through removing creative talent. 

Especially as brick and mortar stores open and close with the serious fluctuations of public health, it’s an unpredictable battle. But, if anything, it is the best time to refocus your marketing efforts and to use your digital platforms to keep your beloved community in contact. So, here are the most important marketing trends for 2021 for SMEs and how you can use them creatively for your business. 


E-commerce must take into account older markets

Of course, the move to e-commerce has been huge for quite a few years now. However, last year “accelerated the shift from physical stores to digital shopping by roughly 5 years,” according to a Techcrunch report.  Indeed, non-essential retailers’ sales declined by 75% in the second quarter of 2020. 

So, as department stores sales decline and e-commerce is projected to grow exponentially, the digital buying journey must accommodate everyone. All those used to shopping in a store must now go online. It must reflect the buying needs of different sectors, needs, and problems. 

Due to Amazon services and the like, the expectations are set high. This means if you’re setting up online, find the right platform for you and offer secure and efficient delivery services. This is key.

Similarly, when taking into account setting up your online business, know that everyone apart from the ‘silent’ generation are generally very active on social media. In fact, there have now been significant shifts in online buying behaviour.

A whole “32% of never-before seen shopper segments such as UK boomers [which means people between the ages of 56-74] have discovered buying goods online and say they are likely to continue”. This is important to note. New markets are emerging, different needs must be accommodated, and trust must be built with older communities online. 

Embrace social commerce: where the 4 Ps of business are all in one place

Social commerce is the “entire shopping experience from product discovery and research to the check out process — taking place right on a social media platform” Stacey McLachlan from Hootesuite explains. This is one of the biggest digital marketing trends, in fact business trend, of the past few years, which has been accelerated most recently. The end of 2020 brought in Facebook shopping, and Instagram shopping will be soon become available on reels, not just stories and posts. 

Falcon reports that at the end of 2020, “the global social commerce market weighs in at a hefty $89.4 billion” and that the USA comprises “26.9 Billion of that”. And, by 2027, it’s forecast to be worth over $600 Billion. Making purchasing simple, easy, and directly embedded in social media is important. Get on the train sooner to not lose out. 

Facebook shops was launched at the end of last year, which will have a profound impact on SME shops who rely on facebook communities. Falcon predicts that Facebook shops will take on Amazon as the next big competitive marketplace. There’s lots of potential to target local communities in groups and to find out what your customers are thinking about. 

So, it’s now even more important that the steps in the buyer journey are simple, easy and secure. Your 4 Ps of marketing and business, product, place, promotion, and price are all now rolled into one: social media. Make sure you control your social presence, and not control you.

The buyer journey has changed: the consumption moment is now the purchase journey

As Instagram lets you watch a video with a product then check out with a few taps, it allows brands to sell directly to their followers, hashtags and your audience ‘reach’ too. With this comes a completely new purchase journey. It is one that has become so much more simplified. And this digital marketing trend is not going away.  

There a fewer moments to decide what, where, and why to buy when you can see a product or service on your social media and purchase it instantaneously. In The Drum’s interview with Global Chief innovation officer Roy Armale from VMLY&R Commerce, he explains the buyer conscience is changing to a “know what I want before I even know I want it” philosophy. This means: 

“The big change for 2021 is that the variety of purchase decision journey has disappeared. Consumption moments have also become purchase moments (opportunities to sell). We need to understand this shift; the unified commerce approach is making sure that the different channels and ways of selling are linked to individual consumption moments as much as they are linked to the purchase journey. This change won't only affect the way you sell, it’s also going to affect the way you fulfil.”

What does this mean for your business? It means that the focus is on payment, delivery, and availability the most important practicalities of your online business. The expectations are of instant consumption upon purchase. 

A focus on community groups across platforms in the future 

Keep an eye on the growth and development of online groups. Why not create a group for your customers to use as a question forum, if you feel it’s useful? As social platform users, we now search for specific groups that align with our interests as general feeds become more saturated. They give us the ‘inside scoop’ on events, tips, and tricks for particular things. 

Falcon’s marketing trends report reports that Facebook Messenger “has 1.3 billion users worldwide and [that] WhatsApp boasts 1.5 billion” so “creating or belonging to groups and communities around topics and interests has become part of most people’s normal behaviour”.

These groups are also where behaviour is more strictly monitored, posts are controlled by admins, topics must be in line with the group, and ethical behaviour is expected. They are spaces not for promotion, but word-of-mouth style recommendations and conversations. It’s important to keep in mind, that here specific interests can thrive. So, make sure that you stay on the pulse by joining some specific groups on Facebook, Linkedin or Reddit. 

As a bonus, a social group can also provide a small focus group to inform your marketing and business efforts. You can respond to questions, react to content, and direct your attention to important changes more easily. 

Brands that adapt to visual information will get ahead

This may seem obvious, but more so than before, written content needs to have colour, shape, form, and composition to catch your audience’s eye. Coloured visuals increase one’s desire to read content by a whopping 80%. And it’s not hard to believe.

People are also 85% more likely to buy a product after watching a video about it too. And, much of this is down to the fact that our brain processes visuals 60,000x faster than text. Just take that in, in it’s written form. It’s a small difference that can make you totally stand out. It adds the extra bit of quality and glamour to anything you’re making, selling and marketing.

 According to Hubspot blog, “62% of millennials say they are more interred in visual search than any other new technology”. This means that if you can get into Google search results, you may have a much better chance of being found by the next generation of consumers. 

The live video industry (and that’s ‘live’ video, which means stories, reels, webinars etc) is “expected to be worth over $70 Billion by 2021” and, understandably, it’s incredibly popular. If that hasn’t convinced you, people spend 3x longer watching a live video than they do a pre-recorded. 

Marketing Insider Group explains why this is perfectly. They attract viewers because they are one-of-a-kind, never-to-happen-again ‘real’ videos that create a sense of missing out if you don’t watch them. You don’t know whether “a live video is going to contain a tidbit of information that you can’t get anywhere else”, then it’s worth tuning in and waiting for a bit. Make it exciting; make it fun. 

So, bear in mind these digital marketing trends for this coming year. I know that things can change at the drop of a hat, but staying up to date you can control. Let us know what you think, or join our facebook group to share your top tips?


Ruby Griffiths

Written by Ruby Griffiths