9 Visual Marketing Trends To Watch Out For In 2021 (And Beyond)

May 6, 2021
Kyra Goodman

Visual marketing is evolving at a rapid pace. The emergence of TikTok, Reels, YouTube Shorts, and the growing accessibility of virtual reality means there's more than ever to know about visual marketing - read more to get up to date on what's happening.

Visual marketing is a top priority for marketers, with 49% rating it as very important to their overall marketing strategy. And there’s plenty of reason why it reigns supreme as the format of choice for marketing experts.It’s all about brand salience: when a person hears information, research shows they only retain 10% of what they were told three days later. But when the same information is paired with a visual, their retention boosts to a whopping 65%.And as we move through 2021 (and beyond), visual marketing is predicted to hold an even stronger importance (with 51-80% of businesses predicted to heavily rely on visual content in the year ahead).The key to succeeding with visual marketing is to understand what emerging trends you need to watch out for. Keep reading to discover what visual content marketing trends you should be adding to your marketing strategy in 2021 (and beyond).

Mobile video content will grow in popularity

After one glance at social media today, it’ll come as no surprise that mobile video consumption has increased 17 fold since 2012. In fact, many are predicting video will make up 82% of global consumer traffic by 2022.With more of us consuming content on-the-go, the shift towards mobile-optimised video content will continue to be a top priority for marketers and brands. It’s clear that users are craving video-first content, with 54% of consumers looking for more video content from the brands they support.It makes sense: there are more mobile apps and platforms built on video content than ever before. From TikTok to YouTube, consumers are just a few taps away from video content that educates, inspires and entertains.So, what should you keep in mind when creating video content for your mobile audience?

  • Add captions: 80% of viewers watch video content with sound off, so adding captions will ensure they still walk away with your key messages in mind.
  • Resize to vertical dimensions: take up as much real estate as possible by resizing your video content to vertical (rather than horizontal) dimensions.
  • Go live: live video is set to become a $70 billion industry by the end of 2021. So, engage with your audience in real-time and use video content to start powerful two-way conversations by hosting an IG Live Q&A or interview with a guest.

Short, snappy videos will continue to engage online audiences

It might have only been released in September 2016, but the social media platform TikTok has taken the world by storm. The purveyor of bite-sized video content is now the fastest growing social media platform, tipped to hit 1.2 billion average monthly active users in 2021.And it’s clear our appetite for short, snappy video content isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Instagram jumped on the TikTok-style video bandwagon back in August 2020 with the launch of Instagram Reels.For marketers and brands, the dominance of bite-sized video content is an important visual content marketing trend to pay attention to. It highlights the need for video creation to be short, snackable and fast-paced, with a playful blend of video, audio and text overlays to communicate your key message.The faster you can communicate with your key message, the greater chance you’ll have of engaging and ultimately converting your audience.

Visuals will come alive with augmented and virtual reality

While VR headsets have been a feature of gaming conventions for years, they’re now stepping into the mainstream for marketers. These interactive technologies are set to offer exciting opportunities for brands and businesses in 2021 (and beyond).The sale of AR and VR headsets are tipped to grow to $9.7 billion in 2021, with customers reporting they’d be more likely to shop at retailers using this technology.So, why is AR and VR so valuable for brands? This immersive tech allows businesses to surprise and delight customers in innovative ways with visual content marketing.Take IKEA as an example. Rather than simply showing imagery of their latest products, IKEA allows shoppers to use AR tech to see how these products will look in their own home with virtual projections and animated visuals using their IKEA Place app.

Educational ‘how-to’ style visual content goes from strength to strength

The impacts of the pandemic are still being felt across the globe, with one of the biggest changes being the rise of remote working (which is expected to increase by 77% by the end of 2021). But we’re not talking about the dominance of video conferencing and Zoom fatigue (in case you were wondering, Zoom had over 300 million meeting participants every day in 2020).Instead, we’re talking about the rise of educational visual content marketing that teaches your audience something new.It’s clear that e-learning is set to be a significant trend in 2021. The stats show that e-learning has already grown by 36.3% year-on-year in 2020, growing to a value of close to half a billion in 2021.When it comes to social media content, how-to style posts can take many formats. That could be sharing an educational tutorial on your Instagram Story, revealing the key steps to a recipe using an Instagram carousel or even hosting an IG Live to demo a new skill.Plus, there are powerful ways to use visuals to educate your audience throughout your broader content marketing strategy. Infographics are a key way to do this, and have had the biggest boost in usage among B2B marketers over the past four years (now used by 67% of marketers).Infographics are an effective way to boost the chances of success for your audience. Research shows that people who follow text and visual directions do 323% better than those who follow directions without visuals. Clearly, adding an infographic to your next blog post is a great way to engage and educate your audience about the topic you’re discussing.

Users are craving more live video from brands they follow

As all of us have become more comfortable in front of the camera (thanks COVID), our appetite for live video content has also increased. And the major social media platforms are taking notice, with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and even LinkedIn now offering live streaming capabilities to brands and businesses.The stats speak for themselves: 82% of users would prefer to see live video from a brand, rather than a standard social media post. Plus, 70% of users who engaged with live video content watch a live stream at least once per day.From hosting live Q&As with industry experts to hosting virtual summits and events, the opportunities of live video content are endless for brands and marketers.Check out this great example from Allbright:

Allbright running a live Q&A session on Instagram

But to make the most of this emerging visual content marketing trend, you’ll need to thorough plan out your live video strategy in advance. This means:

  • Define who your audience is, what topic or format you’re going to use and where you’re going to host your live stream.
  • Plan an agenda for your live stream with clear talking points, interview questions and segments to ensure you cover the most important information in the time allocated.
  • Promote your live stream ahead of time across your content marketing channels to build anticipation and boost attendance.

Pinterest becomes a key player in organic search and discovery

Pinterest is one of the most unique content marketing platforms, offering brands and marketers a visual search and discovery engine to reach new audiences.After seeing its biggest jump in users in 2020, Pinterst has solidified its position as one of the best platforms for organic reach and discoverability.95% of Pinterest’s top searches are unbranded, meaning brands have a huge opportunity to reach new audiences (without spending thousands on paid advertising). Plus, Pinterest drives 3.8 times more sales than other platforms and 87% of Pinners have purchased a product because of Pinterest.As a visual-first platform, the key to cutting through the noise on Pinterest is to use visual storytelling to inspire and engage Pinners. That means:

  • Clarifying your Pinterest marketing objectives and why you’re using this platform in the first place.
  • Optimise your website for mobile responsiveness and install the Pinterest Save Button to boost your chances of organic discovery.
  • Use keyword research to build your Pinterest content area popular and relevant search terms for your brand.
  • Design your Pinterest boards to align with these key target words to reach new audiences.

Stories format will dominate social media platforms

While Instagram might be the first channel that springs to mind when we talk about Stories, it’s far from the only platform using this new content marketing feature.But let’s start with Instagram. Currently, there are 500 million users engaging with Instagram Stories on a daily basis. Out of those millions of users, a third of them are coming from brands and businesses.Most importantly, branded stories inspire action from users, with 25% of Instagrammers swiping up on Instagram Stories shared by businesses.And the same goes for Facebook, with 500 million users interacting with Facebook Stories every day. These visual pieces of content can be effectively used to deliver quick, bite-sized pieces of information and tips that can help to inform users’ purchasing decisions.And most recently, LinkedIn launched their own version of stories to help businesses and individuals share the behind-the-scenes of their professional lives. Unlike highly curated Feed content, Stories encourage users and brands to build trust and start two-way conversations using more candid Stories content.Plus, the Stories format is designed for mobile-first engagement. With 57% of LinkedIn’s traffic coming from mobile devices, it’s clear that this visual content format is a powerful way to interact with and build relationships with other users.So, what practical steps can you take to improve your Stories game on social media?

  • Get in front of the camera: one of the most effective ways to build trust is to show the human-side of your brand to build powerful rapport with your audience.
  • Leverage video content: focus on capturing fast-paced, dynamic video content in up to 15 seconds per slide to communicate your key messages in memorable ways.
  • Position your brand front-and-centre: the fast-paced nature of the Stories format means you need to capture interest and showcase your brand in the first 3 seconds of your Stories to make the most meaningful impression on users.

Shoppable visual content will grow in prominence on social media

The path from discovery to purchase is becoming even quicker for social media users. While we already knew that 71% of social media users turn to social media for purchase discovery and research, new platform features are making it even easier to convert followers into customers.Instagram’s new shoppable posts features are giving brands the ability to use visual content marketing to sell their products. You might have noticed the rise of shopping stickers on Instagram Stories as well as Product Tags in Feed posts.Here's an example from Lululemon:

Lululemon shoppable post on Instagram

Both of these tools allow users to make a purchase without having to leave the Instagram ecosystem, removing some of the barriers that might cause users to abandon cart along the way.But, in order to capitalise on these new shoppable features, it’s important to create and share engaging visual content that will inspire users to make a sale. That means:

  • Weave shoppable tags into your existing content marketing strategy: rather than sharing posts that push a hard sell, focus on capturing professional, engaging photography that shows your products in a natural, candid setting.
  • Leverage influencer visual content: engaging influencers to capture visual content for your brand builds powerful social proof, while also allowing you to add shoppable tags that strategically prompt users to make a sale.
  • Showcase your product range in one image: capturing visual content that showcases multiple products (and uses multiple shoppable tags) will help you understand what products are resonating best with your audience.

The rise of gamified visual content

After a year of on-and-off lockdowns, users are looking for unique and engaging ways to keep themselves entertained. To do just that, many brands are crafting a new breed of visual content that encourage user interaction of social media: gamified content.This emerging visual content marketing trend is most prevalent on the visual-focused platform Instagram and can take many shapes and forms.

Canva using a gamified post on Instagram

In short, gamified visual content is all about using graphics and text to challenge your audience to take action. That might be taking a fun online quiz, bingo or even a ‘choose your own adventure’ style post. So far we’ve seen tonnes of examples of this style of content, from seeing how many hobbies your followers enjoy to asking your community to choose their perfect #iso meal.These gamified visual templates use relatable anecdotes and a humorous copywriting style to inspire users to like, comment and share this content with their friends. For brands, this trend offers powerful opportunities to use playful humor to expand the organic reach of your visual content on social media.When it comes to emerging visual marketing trends, it’s clear that users are craving bite-sized, mobile-first experiences. From snackable Instagram Stories to shoppable tags, the latest trends are all about capturing interest using visual content and removing friction in the path to purchase. Moreover, video content is only becoming a bigger focus for brands and marketers, meaning it’s time to go live and get in front of the camera and experiment to boost your reach and discoverability across all visual content marketing platforms.

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