The landscape has shifted. So have your fans. Here are 4 of the most important fan-marketing trends you can't ignore in 2021.

Some background on how we came up with these trends: The information we share here with you combines a mix of data we’ve collected from our own partner surveys, aggregate platform usage data and straight-up experience. If there's one thing we love, it's innovation, and this year, we tested out a ton of new fan engagement formats to learn what lands and what doesn't. We'll share some tangible quick wins along with bigger action items that organizations can take to guide their 2021 strategies.

1. Livestreaming Is Here to Stay

The last year has accelerated changes in consumer behavior and fans are increasingly willing to pay for access to music, videos, and games. It's no secret that Livestreaming has surged as one of the most important tools to meet fan expectations. Despite some events coming back in 2021, there will still be limited capacity and hesitant ticket buyers. This means it will be important to plan the pairing of both in-person and paid Livestream components for your 2021 events.

While Livestreams are a great way to reach fans and increase revenue, they can fall flat when you don’t keep your fans in mind. An immersive fan experience should try to mimic the experience of fans going to an actual show or game, with pre-event and post-event engagement opportunities.

The Opportunity of Interaction

To get the most out of Livestreaming, we need to approach it as a new medium for fan engagement. We need to turn these screened experiences into something more fulfilling for fans. While planning your livestream, think about how you want your fans to think, feel and engage with you. Leverage other interactions including chat, trivia, multiple stream views and interactive overlays.

Additional Revenue Opportunities

While your fans are tuned in to your event, leverage their attention to promote important milestones and exclusives like merchandise. Your livestream has likely drawn in your highest quality leads, so use the chance to upsell them and shout out future projects. Keep in mind that these fans deserve special attention, so if you’re promoting merch, it’s a good idea to make it exclusive to your livestream attendees.

Expert tip: Make your merch sales conversions seamless by leveraging integrations like Shopify Plus which will allow fans to explore your merchandise catalog right within the stream itself without missing a moment of the event.

The use of Livestreaming has transformed since the beginning of the pandemic from a bandaid solution, to a technological feat that connects fans to music and sports in new ways. For more great tips on running your next livestream event, check out our tips for running a best-in-class livestream.

2. Social Commerce Takes the Spotlight

What is Social Commerce and why should you care? Social commerce is simply the process of selling your products directly through your Social channels. The reason you should care is because Social commerce is currently a ~80 billion dollar industry, but it is expected to grow to over ~600 billion dollars in the next seven years. Moreover, we are not only seeing these predictions come from marketing analysts, but we are also seeing the actions of the biggest social networks reflect this. This year, we saw the introduction of Facebook and Instagram's "social storefront", the most dramatic UI change - to support shopping & reels - in Instagram's history, and TikTok partnering with Shopify to bring it's 1+ million merchants the power to sell directly through the app. Although, not "social commerce" we are also seeing similar changes reflected by Google with their introduction of "Buy-on Google" & Free shop listings further indicating that consumer's buying behaviour is shifting and e-commerce is going to be changing dramatically in the coming years.

Now onto the other trends we anticipate seeing in our 2021 horizon. When we polled our partners on what their advertising strategy will look like in 2021, 44% said 'it was a brand new world and anything could happen,' 33% are making plans to advertise more, and only 24% are either looking to advertise the same amount or less. So what does that indicate to us? It indicates that we are going to see an increase in the amount of ad dollars in the market and that the industry is going to be open to experimenting with new ways to reach and engage with fans.

Expert Tip: Create fun in the online buying process. Inspire fans by introducing them to things they didn’t know they needed or wanted.

So what should we be keeping in mind for the upcoming year? Well on the note of Social Commerce, we are predicting a huge opportunity for brands to leverage UGC content for promotion as the full shopping experience is transitioning to social channels where we know that family, friends, and influencers are the top drivers in purchasing behaviour.

Secondly, With the increasing amount of active social media users, data collection and fan segmentation are going to be more key to your digital strategy than ever before so that brands can ensure their personalized ads and messages are resonating with the fans they serve them to.

Thirdly, it will be key to ensure that your digital advertisements leverage an omni-channel presence to ensure you're capturing your fans' - especially the younger demographic - attention where they are. If you're not currently advertising on Snapchat or TikTok then you are most likely missing out on a large segment of the younger demographic that is willing to engage with your brand and the faster you adopt these channels the more likely you will be to benefit from first-mover advantage.

3. The Evolution of Digital Activations

We've seen a large volume of physical in-event activations transform into digital campaigns. In fact, digital campaigns launched by our partners increased by a whopping 92% year over year. A large portion of this can be attributed to the need for digital-only engagement during the Covid19 shutdown. However, we have seen a steady increase in digital fan activations year over year, and expect to see this trend continue through 2021 as sports, music and entertainment groups continue to adapt to the changing landscape and fan behaviours.

The gamification of digital activations continues to grow in popularity with various brands investing in fun new digital activations like Memory Game, Spin to Win, and Live Trivia. More gamified activations invite the fans to engage with your brand and partners in a more meaningful way outside of traditional sweepstakes. These campaigns are great examples of how you can engage fans at home or on the go, while also fulfilling sponsorships in the process.

Expert Tip: It will be important to create new assets for partnership teams to sell to sponsors. We recommend putting together some sort of digital concourse or Bundle campaign where you can showcase past examples or potential opportunities.

AR, VR and Enhanced Virtual Reality Experiences

With more fans on their mobile devices, there's been a huge rise in the use of AR to engage fans who are participating in experiences from home; whether it be a sports game or music festival. This new medium is a great way to attract a younger demographic and leverage new technologies. We are seeing this trend across the board from sports teams to entertainment groups, and artists.
As this technology becomes more mainstream, we are able to see more and more fans embrace an AR or VR experience, whether that be a fun face-filter on Instagram, a sideline view of a Football game wearing a VR headset, or watching a Jill Barber concert that is using AR to replicate a long-closed music venue of the past.

Multi-Screen Engagements

Whether your fan is watching from home, on-the-go, or at your event, having a second screen experience for fans to interact with you will be a key element in ensuring you are creating an engaging experience while also collecting valuable first-party data in the process.
In 2021 and beyond we will see an increase in second-screen (and dare we say 3rd screen?) fan interactions. Younger fans are already consuming sports content through numerous sources during the game, including social media and dedicated apps. Brands will look to capitalize on this and provide a second screen experience for fans to engage directly with the brand and partners during the course of the event.

4. Work Smarter, Not Harder

2020 was a rough year where many organizations had to make some tough decisions and re-evaluate the tools they were using, the resources they had, and their overall strategy. This means that being able to make data-driven decisions is more important than ever. Now is the time to take steps—big or small—to bridge the gap between engagement and fan identity.

For data to be useful, it needs to be digestible and actionable. Most marketing teams utilize a number of tools for customer communication and data. One for display ads, one for Facebook Marketing, and a different tool that manages emails. It’s a lot for marketers and business development teams to keep track of. When you think of segmenting and targeting fans within cvs file upon cvs file, it only gets worse. Approaching this with a strategic mindset, you'll want things to work without friction; ensuring that your first-party fan data collected across multiple networks and experiences funnels into one place. We want to understand the essence of our fans so that we can target effectively and jump on opportunities. We want to market smarter.

When we asked our partners what their biggest challenge of creating more precise audience segments was, 43% said that resources or time was their biggest challenge, followed by 29% stating that lack of data cleanliness was also a blocker. Being able to leverage technology to help you automate your audience analysis and segmentation is going to be key in 2021.

Cross-Channel Engagement and Attribution

It's important to ensure you are making data-driven decisions to determine which of your marketing channels are driving the most engagement and revenue for your business. With smaller budgets and resources, it's time to have some tough conversations about what to start, stop and continue. If you are tracking some channels, but not others, now is the time to start, so you can pull together a cross-channel attribution report at the end of the year.

The key to creating a fundamentally different experience for fans lies in controlling the interactive delivery of content, with the ability to come away with strategic insights. From the moment your fan first engages, to their 3rd purchase of tickets down the road, you need to know your fans so you can continue to enrich your relationship.

What are your goals for 2021? Not sure which direction to take? Contact us for a free fan-based marketing consultation to help you increase sales, impress partners and improve your fan experience.

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