2021: What’s to come in the year ahead


2020 was an extraordinary year.

For those in the entrepreneurial world, it was of course a time to contend with various challenges around growth, but almost everyone had to also innovate and rethink how to do business for the new normal. Brands had to devise business continuity plans; the legacy infrastructure and processes were put to serious test; supply chains were disrupted; people changed how, where, and what they purchased, with more and more embracing digital.

And now 2021 is upon us, which will be a year when we can reap the benefits of all that we have learned in the tumultuous year before. So, as we look ahead, here are some trends that can bring further changes to the business landscape.

COVID-19 has greatly accelerated digitalization around the globe, across most industries. Countless digital disruptors have risen to pose considerable challenges to establishment brands. Companies, large and small, have already started implementing digital transformation across functions, avoiding the analysis paralysis that befell more hesitant peers.

To make socially distant work and leisure the norm, so much realignment had to happen. In turn, this catalyzed the growth of ecommerce logistics, health tracking, digital payments, and more, necessitating the creation of new business models. When it comes to customer engagement, marketers have to explore what they can do to bring the personal touch of in-person channels into the seamless convenience that many have come to expect from digital. Moreover, they need to achieve this while being prepared for rising scrutiny around cybersecurity.

As supply chains become more streamlined to maximize efficiency, customer engagement journeys need to do the same. Onboarding consumers on digital is only the first step; brands also need to declutter their marketing processes and avoid contacting customers from multiple channels at once, with no consistency or relevance in the communications that are sent.

Brands need robust identity resolution to effectively figure out the digital identities and profiles of their customers as they interact. This will help deliver a singular profile that combines insights on online and (gradually) offline interactions, which will be very conducive to the delivery of more relevant experiences. This focus on digital identity and a segment-of-one customer view is not new. However, we will see even more investments in these initiatives, which require a more robust data foundation.

In addition, many brands will continue to look for solutions with predictive AI models capable of supporting segment-of-one engagement. These models provide insights into how brands can engage individual customers as well as whether these interactions have generated a win-win situation for that individual and the brand. They allow marketers to make real-time decisions on how best to communicate with their audiences for optimal outcomes.

2021 will be defined by new beginnings, as brands reimagine business models. However, certain fundamentals will remain. The task of orchestrating, optimizing, and analyzing seamless, personalized customer experiences across any number of traditional and next-gen channels will still be as critical as ever. 2021 will be the year for brands who get the essentials of digital transformation right, take risks in a managed manner, and dedicate themselves to creating experiences suitable to the brand new normal.


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