The digital and tech trends changing everything in 2021

Ryan Menezes
By Ryan Menezes | 9 December 2020

Ryan Menezes is chief technology and transformation officer at GroupM.

As we head into 2021, there are some key tech and digital advancements on the horizon for all of us in media, marketing and advertising. Some of these, like ecommerce and voice have been accelerating throughout 2020, but for all of them 2021 will be a game changing year.

1. 5G will change our lives forever
The 5G revolution will change the way we live our lives, powering the internet of things (IOT). Beyond speed, it’s low latency will be instrumental in connecting with self-driving cars that communicate with other cars and sensors built around smart cities. 5G will also enhance the long-awaited VR experience when it comes to live-streaming and social gaming.

2. 2021 the year of e-commerce
2020 has seen an accelerated growth of e-commerce with more Australian’s shopping online than ever before – up 31% in April to 5.2 million, when compared to the average in 2019. Based on forecasts, a 200% to 300% increase is expected this black Friday and festive season compared to 2019. While consumers adapt to the convenience and enhanced fulfilment speed of online shopping 2021 will be the year of ecommerce. It’s believed that most brands will see growth in this area and if they’re not selling online, they’re not growing. Brands will strengthen their direct-to-consumer models and work with e-retailers to better optimise retail media and marketing spends. Brands that lead e-commerce will create bespoke products that are only available online. They’ll reinvent their NPD cycles to experiment with product personalisation that meets individual customer needs and test subscription-based business models to drive repeat purchase and loyalty.

3. The rise of e-retailers who are ready to take on the big tech companies
Earlier this year, Woolworths revealed its plans to extract up to $100 million more from supplier trade marketing budgets through an in-store and online media unit called Cartology. Woolworths, Coles and other e-retailers such as Kogan will use the power of their vast first-party and loyalty data to supercharge their media businesses. They’ll create a seamless trading UI (currently powered by Citrus Ads across Coles and Woolworths) for brands to buy cross-platform ad placements across online and in-store environments. What makes this special is that brands will have 100% transparency and control over their media investments while optimising to in-store and online sales. Similar to Amazon’s ad solution, they’ll focus on monetising their data assets to reach customers on their owned environments and across the broader digital ecosystem.

4. The cookie will crumble but digital identity will rise from its ashes
Apple’s introduction of “ITP” and planned IDFA updates, Mozilla’s Firefox “ETP” solution, Google’s Privacy Sandbox and planned third-party cookie changes) and legislation changes to safeguard user data (GDPR, CCPA) will eventually lead to death of the cookie in 2021. The brands that have invested in growing and mining their first party data assets will benefit from the technological evolution into digital identity resolution. While the cookie slowly crumbles marketing content personalisation will be impacted. Brands will need to adapt quickly and align their first party data strategy and technology stack to enable identity mapping. This solution will allow brands and advertisers to target current and prospective customers with personalised and relevant messaging.

5. Technology is humanised
2020 has helped brands identify limitations in technology that’s been over-engineered to deliver cost efficiencies and lower company overheads. Poorly constructed bots that can’t give you the right answer or virtual answering machines that interrogate you with hundreds of questions and you still can’t get a straight answer why your package hasn’t arrived. In some ways technology has gone too far and lost its humanity. Brands need to re-prioritise the customer experience and deliver the right balance of human integrations and personalisation to restore the humanity in technology.

6. Social and commerce are homogeneous
Facebook and Instagram shops will move out of beta testing in Australia, currently prioritising small businesses during this pandemic and gain mass adoption. Brands will embrace the power of social commerce and start connecting content to e-commerce. Payment partnerships will become imperative to deliver a seamless in-app shopper experience. With Facebook Pay unavailable in Australia, Facebook will need to find other payment partners to navigates this space.

7. There’s an AI for that!
Artificial intelligence (AI) powered by machine learning will enable us to process and interpret vast amount of data with ease. This AI revolution will in turn transform the way we connect with customers, giving brands the opportunity to personalise experiences to meet the customers unique and evolving needs. AI will help streamline processes, help us access information quicker and make faster data driven business and marketing decisions to improve marketing ROI.

8. Voice surpasses the point of mass adoption.
Smart speakers and voice enabled smart devices have gone past the point of mass penetration. While users comfort level to interact with these devices increase, especially within the home, commerce will start to evolve from the tip of your fingers to the tip of your tongue. Without a visual display, the growth of voice commerce has been hampered. This has started to change with Google Smart Hub, Amazon Ecko Echo Show and Facebook Portal. Users can now deliver voice commands, then visually interact and soon purchase products via their smart home devices in Australia. Marketers will need to work on creating their unique brand voice and prepare for how they approach voice search.