2021 Business Trends, Predictions, and Insights

Digital Transformation|7 Minute Read

2021 Business Trends, Predictions, and Insights

Business leaders across industries had to grapple with a whole host of challenges in 2020 — many unprecedented and unforeseen.

But there has been an impressive response to the challenges posed during the year:

Many organizations reacted with ingenuity, adjusted to the disruptive business climate created by COVID as best they could, and became more agile and resilient in response.

For a number of reasons, some companies were more successful than others. But the innovation and adaptation displayed by businesses — from SMBs to enterprises — has certainly been inspiring to see.

With 2021 almost here, we thought to share some business trends we see taking shape in the coming months and offer advice to help executives and technology users accelerate their data-driven initiatives, advance their digital transformation efforts, and ensure success in the year ahead.

2021 business trends

2021 business trends: First-party data utilization will grow substantially.

As I recently wrote for CMSWire, the hype around customer data platforms (CDPs) directly correlates with C-suites’ collective realization that first-party data is becoming increasingly important to their overall business success and long-term growth.

Meanwhile, these same leaders are also bracing for the impending cookie-less future.

Given third-party cookies will no longer be available to help businesses target individuals in advertising, first-party data becomes all the more critical to their future marketing success.

With first-party data guiding their strategies in 2021, business technology users can improve the effectiveness of everything from their omnichannel marketing strategies and multi-dimensional segmentation efforts to predictive model deployment and digital product and experience offerings.

Gartner Principal Evan Bakker said first-party data will be an especially valuable resource for marketing in 2021, noting it “will allow marketers to improve the customer experience across sites, apps and email in order to capitalize on an expanding digital audience.”

first-party data

To successfully transition to first-party data — and make the most of the invaluable business resource — corporate leaders need to invest in technology that helps their teams:

  • Easily and efficiently handle the velocity, volume, and variety of data associated with and created by individuals in the digital era
  • Ensure the consent status for all individuals (e.g., those who’ve opted in and out) is constantly up-to-date and federated across systems
  • Eliminate any data-related barriers in the form of time delays, inflexibility, and/or cost (e.g., waiting on IT teams or external agencies)

In other words, C-suites need tech that not only streamlines first-party data collection, but also helps their business leaders capitalize on their data in actual (not near) real time.

Our pure-play customer data platform, for instance, enables modern marketing organizations and other growth-focused disciplines to store their first-party data in unified, persistently updated customer profiles and send that constantly refreshed data to their activation systems whenever they so desire.

BlueConic provides companies with a single repository of all relevant data for individuals and enables marketing to put customer identity at the heart of their engagement strategies.

2021 marketing trends

2021 business trends: Improving business agility is a strategic imperative.

“Successful businesses will focus less on accurately predicting future years in advance. Instead, they will become the kind of company that can adapt as events unfold.”

This insight from Forrester VP, Principal Analyst Brian Hopkins aptly explains the mindset business leaders must have in 2021 and beyond: Be as agile as possible.

A barrier to achieving greater agility for many companies, though, is continued reliance on legacy technologies and the lack of an advanced solution, like BlueConic, that enables greater data access, utility, and confidence for teams across the organization.

Businesses across industries still rely on backward-looking databases like data warehouses and compliance-oriented master data management systems.

The data in these systems are neither stored nor organized in a manner that enables real-time utilization for interacting with customers in digital channels, for example.

Many companies also use execution tools like journey orchestration platforms and campaign management systems that are limited in their data scope and narrow in their activation.

Dependence on these tools prevents business users from efficiently analyzing, segmenting, modeling, and activating their first-party data whenever and wherever they need.

In turn, these functions become less agile, not more, in their day-to-day roles.

strategic marketing plan

The pandemic made increasing business agility even more urgent.

When COVID hit, companies that prioritized strategic enhancements — to their people, processes, and technology — were able to withstand the worsening business conditions.

And that list includes BlueConic customers, who have been able to adjust on the fly amid the pandemic, thanks in large part to the agility our customer data platform affords them.

Take manufacturer Belgian Cycling Factory (BCF), for instance:

  • Due to COVID, bicycle dealers had to temporarily close stores. This sparked urgency among BCF to accelerate its digital transformation and adjust its business model.
  • Specifically, Belgian Cycling Factory developed a new ecommerce store (and in just one week) to help dealer partners shift to online sales — an entirely new channel for them.
  • Prospects who visit the online BCF store are asked to enter their location, which helps the bike business match those individuals them with the closest/most relevant dealer.
  • All in all, BCF was able to shift to this new direct-to-consumer engagement model with BlueConic at the heart of its data infrastructure and technology stack.

The economic and business climates are murky heading into 2021. Increasing agility in ways like this will be paramount for leadership at companies large and small.

operational efficiency

2021 business trends: Efficiency takes top priority as part of overall transformation.

As discussed in the recent webinar I co-hosted alongside long-time CMO advisor and strategist Elizabeth Shaw, operational efficiency is arguably the most important metric when it comes to business technology evaluation today.

And our customer data platform is the solution that increases efficiency for many companies today.

Understanding the advantages a CDP offers business technology users has helped many BlueConic customer recognize the importance of efficient operations on both its teams’ daily performance and the company’s bottom line in the long run.

In 2021 and the years ahead, business leaders and tech decision-makers (e.g., marketing ops) won’t ground their martech decisions not with checkboxes to compare features.

Rather, these executives and technologists will consider the operational efficiency and strategic value a technology will provide to users and teams throughout their organizations.

Looking beyond decision-makers’ improved thinking and approaches regarding tech investments, their reshaped stacks and modernized mix of tools will also lead to a newfound ability to drive true digital transformation across their businesses.

The large-scale transformation initiative launched by VF Corporation is the perfect example for other companies to emulate in 2021 and beyond.

VF Corp. Vice President, Global Digital Consumer 360 & Advanced Analytics Reem Seghairoun noted the real key to her digital transformation success was in understanding how brands under the VF umbrella could make the most of a customer data platform.

digital transformation

Specifically, Reem and her team took the time to pinpoint the exact personnel who would use our CDP daily and ensured they became as familiar and comfortable as possible with it.

Reem had plenty of advice to share with other large organizations looking to digitally transform with a pure-play CDP during our joint MarTech Conference 2020 session:

“Take the time to identify the roles of people who will be using the CDP. Involve them from the very beginning, build your super-user community, put the plan together for your change network and make sure they are provided with the right content and education to keep the journey and adoption of CDP going.”

Onboarding a CDP, of course, is just half the digital transformation battle. It’s how organizations like VF leverage the technology that ultimately dictates their success.

Starting in 2021, the companies that ‘win’ will understand they must deliver bespoke experiences to prove to their target audience they’re truly customer-obsessed — and invest in modern, advanced tech to prove to their teams they’re dedicated to helping them succeed today and in the long term.

Discover how you can improve operational efficiency, increase business agility, become more resilient, and transform digitally with our CDP. Request a BlueConic demo today.

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