This past year, we have seen brands shift their digital marketing strategies due to the whirlwind of 2020. Navigating through the COVID era has sparked conversations about new technologies and digital evolution. What will be key for businesses to thrive moving forward into 2021?

To further understand the future of digital, IC SUMMITS Midwest MAX held a virtual panel: New Technology and Digital Evolution. Moderated by Jon Lenz, Founder and Managing Director at Br8kthru Consulting, the panel discussed privacy updates, new emerging technologies and platforms, and the shift in consumer expectations.

The panel consisted of five reputable marketing leaders who lead their teams at Midwest MiQ, Bounteous, Beck Center of the Arts, Carlson School of Management, and Halo Burger. The panelists shed light on these important topics and how their organizations have navigated through these ever changing times.


IC Summit Panel


Getting back to the Basics

Privacy remains a top concern and Google continues to restrict the amount of consumer data marketers have access to. This topic sparked the question: What do these privacy and cookie updates mean for marketers?

The group of panelists concurred, good riddance to third-party cookies. Samantha Zurek, Managing Director at Midwest MiQ said, “This is an exciting time to get back to the basics of marketing.” She explained we need to start using primary data and offer real value to consumers. Using surveys, grabbing testimonials, and leading focus groups are an effective way to get a real understanding of their audience.

Olivia Ross, Director of Marketing at Halo Burger, echoed Samantha and further explained that third-party data really wasn’t going to cut it anyways. At Halo Burger, they offered a free burger for customers who signed up for their app in exchange for their data. Third-party cookies allow for shortcuts and we need to get back to the basics.


Meeting Consumers Where They Are

The pandemic has changed how consumers move through the sales funnel, leading to the next topic of conversation: Spurred by the pandemic, how have user expectations shifted?

Allison Murn, Senior Digital Marketing Leader at Carlson School of Management, reinforced that consumers were already making the shift towards ecommerce. We as marketers have to evolve with the times and ask ourselves, “How do we make consumers' lives easier with technology on the things consumers don’t want to spend their time on?”

Brands that evolved during the pandemic by pivoting their strategies were able to gain significant market share over their competitors. Samantha Zurek explained that consumers were quick to shift and were not particularly loyal to a certain brand. It’s important to meet consumers where they are at. It’s sink or swim, if you choose not to innovate, you’ll be left behind.


Leveraging Technology and Increase Awareness

Technology has been rapidly emerging to meet newfound consumer demands. This leads to the final question: What technologies and platforms are being used?

The standard has shifted and consumers no longer appreciate personalization, rather it has become a non-negotiable expectation. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are being used to better understand consumers. Allison Murn explains that Tik Tok’s algorithm uses machine learning to show users content they are interested in and likely to engage with. Brands ought to pay attention to these new platforms, get creative, and leverage their business.

Michael Bartholow, Director of Marketing & Education at Bounteous, explained how customer demands have changed. Due to the pandemic, there was a 3000% increase in curbside searches along with an 80% increase in local business searches. Leveraging technology like Google My Business and Moz Local should be used to increase awareness for brands.


Moving Forward into 2021

Last year businesses had to shift their digital marketing strategies on a dime to survive through the challenges of COVID. Navigating through this new normal will require brands to get back to the basics of marketing, meet consumers where they are at, and leverage technology to increase awareness.

There is no doubt, it’s essential for brands to evaluate their current strategies and look ahead in order to thrive in 2021.