10 Key Digital Trends for 2021

What Marketers Need to Know in the Year Ahead

Executive Summary

This year has been rife with uncertainty: a pandemic, social unrest, political division, and a changing digital landscape. For the ninth consecutive year, we have identified the top developments that should be on marketers’ radar.

With the election behind us, will Washington impact the digital landscape?

Before the election, some may have predicted some bolder regulatory moves to come. Instead, expect to see no Big Tech breakups and the passing of some weaker privacy regulations.

Will Facebook and Google continue to dominate digital advertising?

The duopoly is alive and well, that much is certain. That said, its combined market share in the US will actually drop in 2021, fueled by the rise of a new retail media triopoly. You may guess two of these players, but which is the third?

Will the crumbling of the cookie have an impact?

Advertisers will need to evolve their advertising tactics and strategies to address general uncertainty. At the same time, owned channels will benefit from the phasing out of third-party cookies and will place greater focus on marketing efforts with high returns on investment (ROI).

Where will consumers go for their entertainment?

Increasingly, they will be flocking to social media primarily for short-form entertainment, not commerce—which is still not ready for primetime. Consumers will also turn to streamers, including Disney+, which has cemented itself as a power player.

What other long-standing effects has the pandemic and social unrest had on marketing?

Virtual events are expected to take a big step forward in the year ahead, as will brands’ willingness to embrace social causes for motives both altruistic and financial.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report covers the top 10 digital trends that marketers need to track in 2021.

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Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. A Look Ahead to 2021
  3. Prediction No. 1: Big Tech May Be Reined in, but No Breakups in the Immediate Future
  4. Prediction No. 2: A Federal Privacy Law Will Pass
  5. Prediction No. 3: A Retail Media Trio Rises Up to Challenge the Duopoly's Dominance
  1. Prediction No. 4: Advertisers Will Test New Targeting and Measurement Techniques
  2. Prediction No. 5: First-Party Data Will Reign
  3. Prediction No. 6: Virtual Event Shortcomings Will Drive Marketers to Accelerate Event Transformation
  4. Prediction No. 7: 'Brandstanding' Will Become the New Normal
  5. Prediction No. 8: Social Commerce Will Stall at Checkout
  1. Prediction No. 9: Social Entertainment Is Here to Stay
  2. Prediction No. 10: Disney Will Become a Streaming Heavyweight
  3. Read Next
  4. Sources
  5. Media Gallery

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Jeremy Goldman


Ross Benes
Senior Analyst
Paul Briggs
Principal Analyst
Mark Dolliver
Principal Analyst
Blake Droesch
Junior Analyst
Jasmine Enberg
Senior Analyst
Bill Fisher
Senior Analyst
Lucy Koch
Junior Analyst
Andrew Lipsman
Principal Analyst
Nicole Perrin
Principal Analyst
Victoria Petrock
Principal Analyst
Jillian Ryan
Principal Analyst
Sara M. Watson
Senior Analyst
Debra Aho Williamson
Principal Analyst
Yoram Wurmser
Principal Analyst

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