IAB SA Series Speakers Predict 2021 Digital Marketing Industry Trends

IAB SA Series Speakers Predict 2021 Digital Marketing Industry Trends

IAB SA held a webinar focusing on 2021 predictions in the digital marketing industry, with insights from: Ann-Mari Höfinger (GetSmarter head of product strategy and research), Noah Makholwa (digital lead for Nielsen), Karyn Strybos (Everlytic marketing manager), Jarred Cinman (VMLY&R CEO) and Melissa Kariuki (product marketing at Google).

Below is a summary of their key insights:


We will continue to see clients pivot, and agencies will need to do that with them. Very few organisations managed to dodge the demand and business model disruption that 2020 brought. Motivations have and will continue to change, and being able to keep a very close connection to the consumer will be critical.

Value and quality remain critical as buying decision drivers but purpose is an element that increasingly drives decision making. How brands can authentically connect to this and tell their story in a compelling and interesting way is important.

Opportunity abounds to connect in the moments that matter. The consumer decision journey is often long and complex, and we tend to simplify things too much, rather than truly understanding the challenge we are solving for our consumers. Building your marketing models around this is critical to remain relevant.


I urge the industry to start adopting privacy-centric technologies and methodologies. Look into machine learning and walled gardens for a start. Also, use this period to run parallel testing with existing measurement policies to ensure the results are comparable and reliable.

In 2021 we will be expanding our offering as Nielsen digital. We will look to provide more tools to the industry with the key theme and aim being to showcase to marketers where and how they achieve their ROI. Personally, I look forward to driving growth and the adoption of new technologies within our market and industry.


The KPMG 2020 CEO Outlook: Covid-19 Special Edition clearly showed that CEOs are changing the way of work, with 69% saying that they are going to be downsizing office space. A more flexible working environment opens new challenges on how to keep your employees engaged and your culture alive.

As businesses, we need to create internal communication strategies, so that we are continuously engaging with remote workforces, sharing valuable information, creating and maintaining culture and instilling purpose. We also need to remove as many barriers as we can to ensure that this content is accessible to all employees, even those who are hard of hearing or not tech-savvy.

Data science is booming, and this is a trend that will continue into 2021. We gain immense value from data – analysing transactions, product usage, behaviours and trends – and by getting continuous feedback from customers, we will be able to get a better understanding of their preferences and reactions to changes in the market. Connecting your data to your communication platform allows you to determine the conversations you want to have based on preferences or behaviours, and create automated journeys to manage them. This adds immense value to customers’ lives, as you are providing relevant and hyper-personalised content at scale.

Marketers will become more customer-centric. Acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing customer. So, marketers won’t only be focused on acquiring customers, but on retaining them through unique and meaningful experiences too.


Above all other things, the priority of those who have a lot is to share and extend that privilege to those who have too little. The fibre bubble is just a new kind of ivory tower, and the promise of technology like 5G will mean nothing if it is only enjoyed by the elite.

The most important thing we all have to do is include everyone in this revolution. Thanks largely to Chinese smart devices and Android, millions can now access the internet. Can we use our collective intelligence, knowledge and money to enfranchise those using it? Can we reverse the trends toward inequality and elitism on the very medium that has given voice to the voiceless so many times?

The internet – and the mobile internet in particular – offers this hope. It is up to us to use the influence we have to make it happen. Covid has given this industry a turbo boost, let us not waste it.


Consumers are increasingly demanding diversity. They want to purchase from organisations that represent them, their values and their beliefs. If companies do not adapt, consumers will deprioritise them, or if companies outwardly promote opposing values, consumers will attempt to defame them as we have seen.

To truly achieve diversity and inclusion, we need to embed it as part of our culture. It cannot be a separate, detached department. It needs to be embedded across the organisation and in all its efforts from product design to hiring and marketing. More so, there needs to be shared ownership across members of the organisation. We need to rely more on data and numbers as indicators of progress on diversity and inclusion. As with other business goals, measurable goals drive progress and accountability.