Trying to predict anything in 2021 is risky business. We’ve seen our world change and disrupt dramatically this past year, with no clear end to the turmoil as of yet. As we started the deep dive into what we can expect for the second half of this year, we saw a few clear trends emerge, re-emerge and continue. What follows is a reaction to some of the most popular marketing and advertising trends for 2021 and a critical evaluation of its relevance to the South African marketing sector.

The media landscape

According to the We Are Social report published in January 2021, we now have 25 million active social media users, while South Africans are spending an average of 10 hours on the internet daily. They also report a whopping $734 300 000 spent on digital ads in 2020. This clearly points to an overall increase in online activity, with a definite correlation to the pandemic which spearheaded digital adoption for 2020 and 2021.

YouTube continues to show growth in South Africa, trumping both Facebook and Instagram. LinkedIn now reports 8.3 million users in South Africa making them a platform to definitely keep an eye on and start investing in.

Apart from these very obvious and continual trends, we have found a few others that may or may not be of importance to the South African marketing sector.

#1: Hyper-localisation

Marketing professionals have been shouting hyper-localisation from the rooftops for years now, but heading into the second quarter we found that something as simple as vaccinations can greatly differentiate one country from the next. Over the past few months we’ve seen a few tone deaf posts from international brands, not considering the vaccination status of their international followers. Marketers in the second quarter of 2021 will need to focus on geo-segmenting their audience if they want to deliver a tailored message, now more than ever.

In South Africa, it is also (hopefully) an election year. Which means that roleplayers will be targeting consumers by persuasion, interest, demographic and most importantly geographical location. Political support services and commentaries will be following the same strategy to make sure that the money they spend on ads count come election day.

#2: Instagram Plateau

Although we will only be able to say with certainty if the Instagram audience in South Africa is reaching a plateau in a few years, we need to now already start prepping for this reality. If you asked me a few years ago what the future of Instagram would be, I’d definitely say that they will outgrow Facebook. The reality is that Instagram’s uptake has not been as exponential as its older brother, Facebook.

Does that mean we need to quit while we’re ahead? Definitely not! Now is the time to buckle down on those niche audiences you’ve started cultivating on Instagram. These sub-audiences and communities will by the looks of things be the future of Instagram in South Africa with only unique brands and influencers surviving the migration to TikTok.

#3: Discovery Commerce

If this term is unknown to you as a marketer, you need to immediately start investing time in tapping into discovery commerce. To best understand the term, imagine yourself window shopping after pay day. A user visits websites or marketplaces without a defined purpose. This buyer isn’t looking for a specific product, but is open to being pleasantly surprised by exploring an online catalog or receiving suggestions.

Facebook especially has put a lot of time and money behind tools facilitating the discovery commerce experience. Starting on ground-level with SDKs, pixel and apis, they attempt to aid advertisers in establishing the liquidity of their creative and audiences, enabling them through machine learning to show the right ad to the right customer with the least amount of friction to enable discovery, and more importantly, conversion.

#4: Make way for the diet, fitness and travel industries

If you like to browse socials, you’ve no doubt seen a massive surge in diet ads as the world started opening up again. In our office alone, we’ve been bombarded by diet apps, influencers and more to lose those lockdown kilos. On the other side of that coin, we’ve seen apps such as Sweat with Kyla and Strava topping the charts at number 8 and 10 respectively for the biggest consumer spend on apps. This signals the shift of consumers to online fitness solutions as necessitated by lockdown, making this the opportune time to have your brand join in on the conversation.

Remember all those travel plans you had to postpone? Well, the hotels, guesthouses, airlines and restaurants missed you and would like you to return as soon as possible. As the world starts opening up again, we predict a surge in aspirational travel content, as well as targeted ads promoting glamorous locations and promotions.

#5: The advent of digital payments

This year saw the release of both Apple Pay and Garmin Pay, to mention just a few, in South Africa. We Are Social reports an impressive 25,6 million South Africans making digitally enabled payment transactions in 2020. I dare say the time of the wallet might be over.

The report also shows a 30% increase in e-commerce for the fashion and beauty industry, a 29% uptick in food and personal care e-commerce and a 38% increase in the digital music sector. With stats like these, one cannot deny the importance of enabling a frictionless payment experience for your customers. Innovations like local company, Yoco’s, payment links that one can easily share via a WhatsApp Business Account is just one of the ways SMEs can easily tap into the world of digital payments.

For advertisers, the successful integration of marketing materials into the e-commerce marketing funnel has now become the difference between a sale or no sale. The result being that creative, ad platforms, e-commerce shops and payment gates are becoming so interdependent that one bad link sends the whole funnel crashing.

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