What will 2021 bring? Ashley’s 2021 predictions

2020 taught us that it is impossible to make predictions for the future. Apart from a few weirdos and doom mongers, almost no one on this planet of 7 billion plus people knew how hard and how fast a global pandemic would hit, how it would affect almost all areas of our lives, and how almost everything changed.

 

So only an idiot would attempt to predict what’s going to happen in 2021, right?

 

Wrong, here I go with 4 predictions of what will happen this year and some things I think will change forever – be warned, not that many!

Party people

When the Vaccine is finally rolled out to the under 30’s, expect a massive wave of partying, be that the pub, concerts, festivals, public gatherings - a National Health celebration Bank Holiday weekend in the Autumn, Airbnb house parties, old fashioned street parties, pub re-opening parties and all the rest. People will want to spend all that pent up cash on a massive blowout. The hangover will be horrendous but there will be plenty of companies cashing in at party time. Make your digital marketing preparations early, demand will completely outstrip supply.

Holidays

It’s started already. Everyone will want that sun, sea, sand and s… s… sangria! As soon as travel restrictions are generally lifted, there will be no flights or package holidays available, the over 50’s and 60’s will get them first, expect massive queues in Dover and at the channel tunnel as people try to find any way to get abroad. Airlines will scramble to recommission planes and flight crew and then fail to sort it out. Expect air traffic controllers to go on strike due to overwork, causing more mayhem in the skies. Great news for the holiday companies, if they get their digital marketing strategy and their websites in order and give confidence to travellers by offering money back guarantees in case of Covid related delays.

Exhibitions and conferences

Citigroup’s investment banking boss, Paco Ybarra, said that personal capital, built up by personal interaction will erode quickly over time. So I think the second half of 2021 will be marked by massive attendance of conferences and exhibitions, figures will be boosted by those frustrated by last year’s cancellations, desperate to meet up with the people, deals and ideas they missed. I don’t think this bounce will last long, 2022 may bring about a realisation that business can to a large extent be done remotely. If you run an exhibition or conference start planning new digital revenue streams now.

Christmas Crackers

Christmas 2020 was a disaster for retailers, not only on the High Street. Most retail brands failed to use the hiatus of the early lockdowns to improve their ecommerce web sites. Many wanted to translate their offline brand experience online. That resulted in confusing and frustrating customers at every turn, for example, forcing passwords and password resets on unsuspecting prospects, dropping baskets, logging people out unexpectedly, driving them round and round in circles, expecting them to wait months for delivery and pay for returns. This is why Amazon has taken over, yes it has its faults, but it delivers (pun intended). Many, many traditional retail sites were simply not good enough, reflecting a lack of interest and investment in digital as a channel. My advice is simple, map out your website and app user journey and make it straightforward to buy online. Get your stock sorted and use a courier who can provide an efficient digital experience to the customer, oh, and next day delivery, no one wants to wait a week. Amazon has the set the bar high!

What has Covid changed forever?

Of course, things will never be the same in many ways, people have lost relatives and friends to Covid. But in many ways 2021 is going to be the same, household debt, which has been falling throughout the year, will go up, terrible for the many who lost their job or who had no or low income during the pandemic, but fantastic for cash strapped businesses who will see the spending taps turned on.

A few permanent changes, that’s what I predict:

Masks- just like Asia

Masks and mask wearing will become mainstream in Europe and some parts of America, it will be seen as a sensible precaution against airborne disease and as a marker that you care about the health of others.

Digital meetings stay mainstream

“Digital presence” rather than physical presence will be widely acceptable to businesses and personal interactions. First and exploratory meetings will almost always be by Teams or Zoom. Train travel growth will slow, but there will always be the need to “press the flesh” and look deeply into someone’s eyes - face to face meetings will not go away! To quote Citigroup’s investment banking boss Paco Ybarra again, working from home was a success in 2020 because of “[personal] capital that we have accumulated before” that is, when people met face to face. But Teams and its competitors are here to stay, good job someone thought to install all those cameras on laptops!

Procurement gets an upgrade

The already poor reputation for Government procurement will lead to a radical overhaul of the antiquated and not fit for purpose buying systems for the public sector, from Local Authorities to the UK Govt. itself. Why is it that to sell a few bollards to officialdom you must go through round after round of procurement red tape? But when billions of Pounds of PPE are needed, a nod and a wink to an old friend will do? Procurement will have to change.

Science and technology have saved us

I think there will be greater appreciation of the benefits from a healthy science and technology sector, a greater respect and understanding of the absolute genius the UK has in so many fields, I’m hoping we will listen to “experts” once again and allow them to lead us to a better world. To be fair this may just be wishful thinking, we will probably go back to the age-old distrust of science and technology!

Carnage on the High Street

There is probably no going back for the High Street, habit takes time to create but can be quickly destroyed, I think retail footfall will be low forever unless shops create a little bit of magic that can’t be found online. It’s going to be about unique experiences, touch, sound, smell and (with clothes), fit. In 2021 we will have to think about what we want done with the empty shops.

Digital Marketing eclipses all others

Digital has shown its worth to the world during the pandemic, without the internet, things would have been so much worse. Without online sales and access to services via the web and apps, our lives and businesses would have been infinitely poorer. 2021 could be a turning point for digital and digital marketing, spurred on by the events of 2020, lets hope it is?

Good luck for 2021!

Ash, Managing Director

Ash set up Bolser in 2001 and is renowned for innovation in digital marketing and cycling to work most days!