Every autumn, Forrester looks ahead to predict the major consumer, business, and technology trends that will shape the marketing landscape for the following year. 2020 has been a year of unprecedented political, social, economic, and healthcare disruption — and 2021 shows no signs of any of these trends slowing down. How, then, should European consumer marketing leaders prepare?

In 2021, European marketers must prepare for a digital ecosystem without third-party cookies and device identifiers, while navigating an unpredictable economy, legislative uncertainty thanks to Brexit, and reduced budgets and headcount — and all against a backdrop of a continued pandemic driving a shift toward digital. This is a lot to take in.

Among many other marketing predictions, let me highlight three big trends in consumer marketing for 2021:

  • Brands that fail to untangle consumer contradictions will lose billions in equity. Consumers’ experiences with COVID-19 will redefine how they behave, consume, and engage with brands as the economic and social crisis peaks in early 2021. Consumers want to support values like the environment, their local community, and equality, but most will have to prioritise price. Consumers will feel frustrated, mistrustful, and disappointed, and they’ll exhibit contradictory behaviour. In 2020, a few brands — like boohoo, CrossFit, and Ubisoft — made major missteps. More will do so in 2021, and they will cripple shareholder value as a result.
  • CMOs will integrate marketing and customer experience as they shift budgets to retention. Customer experience has become the number one priority for European marketers, yet as of Q3 2020, only 33% of marketers in Europe have primary responsibility for customer experience. We expect leading marketing leaders to integrate marketing and customer experience further in the coming months, taking a more holistic view of customer experience beyond acquisition. Consequently, spend on loyalty and retention marketing will increase by up to 30% as CMOs assert control over the full customer lifecycle.
  • Marketers will learn to do more with less as they’re forced to get creative again. To finance the shift to an increased focus on client retention, customer service, and products that drive growth, marketers have no choice but to reduce costs. Cost saving implies slashing media money, traditional advertising, and corporate sponsorships; reduced headcounts; and more pressure on agency partners through performance-based business models. Doing more with less means getting creative, and we expect spending on marketing automation to grow, reducing the time humans spend analysing data to determine what offer, content, or experience best serves customers.

2021 will bring new constraints and opportunities. It is indeed time for bold consumer marketing leaders to reinvent themselves and their teams and hack their business models as they think beyond simply being ambassadors of the brand to become champions for the customer within their organisation. It’s time to get creative again.

To understand the major dynamics that will impact European businesses next year, download Forrester’s complimentary Predictions guide.

To dive even deeper into what we see for the coming year, check out our Predictions 2021 complimentary webinar series and engage directly with the analysts who made the predictions.