Get ready for 2021: AI, video and social are big bets ahead

Guest Column: Sadiya Khan, Founder, Akund Communications, puts together a list of the most significant areas for change in digital marketing, how they've evolved and what lies in 2021

e4m by Sadiya Khan
Updated: Dec 3, 2020 4:06 PM
sadiya khan

Whew, what a year! That's the least we can say about 2020. With a pandemic, widespread disruptions in the way we operate and do business and a more virtually collaborative atmosphere, it has made us adapt and evolve to a large extent.

As a digital marketing expert, I'm putting together a list of the most significant areas for change, how they've evolved and what lies in store in 2021.

Here are the highlights of the year: 

  1. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools and platforms have equipped most businesses to optimise logistics, predict behaviours and patterns and use data to drive revenue. It created and established chatbots, IoT, delivered better analytics, automated campaigns and much, much more.

For digital marketing, it has helped in essential communication (emailers, newsletters, sponsored campaigns), tracking operations, predicting customer behaviours and has led to better customer satisfaction. What else? How about geo-specific targetting in ads? Cadbury's Diwali campaign used this to execute its Vocal4Local plea beautifully. Users could see customised, local store information depending on where they viewed the campaign.

In 2021, this will only go further. Optimised marketing, based on data from online search patterns, preferences and interests, will continue to make digital marketing cost-effective and precise, leading to better conversions. Empower your business with automation, AI and machine learning to reap these benefits. 

  1. Voice Assistance

Voice has been the logical step forward in terms of integrated digital experiences, especially search. 'Okay, Google' and 'Hey Siri' are just the icing - 20% of all queries on Google today are voice searches. And we are not even counting IoT devices like Alexa, Google Home and a host of others yet.

Developing voice assistance for apps, products and services is the next step forward for many brands. Apart from speed and ease of use, it also expands the horizons across boundaries of literacy and disabilities.

Voice also opens the arena for detailed conversations, individualised experiences and compatibility across the arena of similar brand devices.

So, what can we expect in 2021? Improved native search updates, better purchase journeys and hence, comprehensive, voice-based marketing strategies. 

  1. Viral goes local, regional

While most of India has gorged itself on social media consumption during the lockdown days, its click-friendly nature has given rise to several, intensely local viral trends. Case in point, Baba Ka Dhaba, Rasode Mein Kaun Tha and Joshi Uncle's Recycled Bags.

That's just the beginning of a social media revolution, fuelled through brand and influencer interactions on newer, desi replicants for TikTok (after the Chinese app was banned), Stories on Facebook, Instagram Reels and others. The content is also increasingly local, fuelled by Tier II and Tier III cities and ensuring massive adoption.

So, what can we expect from 2021? Brands will focus on these new content creators and consumers, buying into meme-worthy, nostalgic and socially conscious messaging, to act as buoys for their messages. It would be a cost-effective play too.

  1. Video advertising

Follow the eyeballs and you'll hit viewership gold. A lot of brands understood this message in 2020, opting for collaborations on YouTube, with podcasts and on Stories on social media platforms. Alongside this, they also began to adopt video-based advertising aggressively.

Even with trimmed ad budgets, video has consistently shown a higher return, as compared to other ad formats, with Verizon quoting a 40% ROI with in-stream content and 31% with branded content. Quicker capsules - 10 seconds or less- are even better at getting the message across, without being marked as obtrusive.

And the road ahead in 2021? Mobile will fuel aggressive consumption of video ads, either through streaming services or platforms like Facebook and YouTube. Adoption of vertical or square videos will also increase as these are fit to go across all platforms and feeds.

On the whole, 2021 will be a year of recovery for businesses after the massive hits due to the pandemic and global recession. Digital marketers, get ready to adapt and evolve early, so that you can reap the most benefits from it all.


Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of


About Sadiya Khan

Sadiya Khan specializes in PR and digital marketing communications with more than 13 years of experience. She is the founder of Akund Communications. She has worked both in well-reputed PR agencies and corporate communications. Her client servicing experience spans across sectors like Infrastructure, health, start-ups, real estate, IT, hospitality, lifestyle, and entertainment.

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