Three Key Shifts the Tech Space Will See in 2021

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The effects of 2020 will endure for years. McKinsey forecasts that the pandemic has propelled the adoption of technology five years forward.

How will the impact of the pandemic play out this year? Here are three key shifts I see taking place that tech players need to keep an eye on.

Shopping discovery diversifies

While Amazon is winning search-based product discovery, Google is by no means far enough behind to dismiss. According to a study by CivicScience, 49% of U.S. consumers start their online shopping on Amazon, while 22% do the same via Google. The other 31% represent many slivers in the pie chart.

Amazon and Google also lead the smart speaker sales category in the same order. Nearly 160 million U.S. consumers use smart speakers like Amazon Echo Dot or Google Home. And according to Adobe, 75% of them use their smart speakers daily.

What does all of that mean for product discovery? Most obviously, Amazon and Google have an opportunity to further their market leadership by getting folks to search and buy with voice.

To be clear, I am not going to argue that in 2021 voice product searches are going to suddenly overtake text-based search boxes. After all, people predicted that SMS would overtake email, and that hasn’t happened. Rather, the two messaging formats complement one another for the best marketers. People also predicted web ads would replace TV commercials, and that hasn’t happened either. Instead, brands take an integrated approach.

What we will see with voice is a gradual-but-growing diversification of product discovery beyond websites and mobile apps. And voice will increasingly be a part of the mix. Per a study by Capgemini, nearly 70% of consumers worldwide said in late 2019 they will progressively replace visits to a store or bank with their voice assistant by 2022.

Since that survey was conducted, we have had a global pandemic with people wanting to stay germ-free and, ultimately, infection-free by using contactless commerce nearly every day. Contactless commerce is a huge behavioral shift that isn’t going anywhere. All of this means 100% hands-free voice shopping stands to make noticeable inroads in 2021 while becoming a significant part of the marketing mix with online search, in-store, email, SMS, and offline advertising.

Omnichannel is about to get even more complex for retail marketers as they try to be where consumers are either discovering new products or shopping for the best prices. And voice tech will be at the center of it all. Consider that less than one-quarter of brands have a voice strategy — indeed, the sales opportunity is massive. Whether you are a Fortune 100 brand or an SMB, you should take advantage of it.

Attendees of events will embrace ‘my-brid’ model

Let’s jump from B2C to B2B. Everyone is saying that 2020 was the year that the traditional, in-person marketing conference died as we knew it. And they are predicting the tech industry is moving toward a hybrid model where some attendees will be there in person and others will be watching on a computer screen. There’s nothing wrong with that take on the future of events. But I contend that when we get back to somewhat normal life in fall or late 2021 and can have at least limited-capacity offline events again, people will experience them in a more nuanced way that meets their personal needs.

Call it the “my-brid” model. Events marketers and sales teams should acknowledge that 2020 has created a new mindset around conferences. For years, most people attended these shin-digs for three or four days even if they didn’t want to be away from home for that long. But unless they were a C-Suite exec who had the leeway to swoop in, give a speech, and fly right back home, a long stay was the reality. I predict that by the middle to the end of the year we’ll see technologists, marketers, media members, etc., get permission from their managers to only attend the parts of the show that really require them to be there.

In other words, if an event starts on Monday and ends on Thursday but the attendee only really needs to be there on Tuesday for a meeting and a presentation, they just attend for that day. They can catch the rest online at home, spending more time with their friends and family while spending less of their company’s hotel budget.

With so many 2020 webinars in our collective rearview mirror, this behavior will become more commonplace. B2B salespeople will have to make the most of prospects’ time by scheduling meetings more precisely. And post-show, they’ll have to get better at furthering prospects down the sales funnel with digital communications rather than conversations over cocktails.

Personal brands become more digital

Because of the emerging my-brid reality, individual B2B players are going to have to master their personal brand online. A video meeting is no longer a contingency for a cross-country flight and boardroom sit-down. Going forward, the video meeting will literally be part of the deal.

So, level up your Zoom game at the office and in the home office. Think about how your background looks on the screen, think about your digital presentation skills, think about your ability to be authentic when you are not in a room with the people you need to impress.

While your personal brand may never be as powerful online as it is in person, try to close the gap with real digital skills so that the difference is nominal. If you lack the online conversational chops necessary to build your personal brand, now is the perfect time to hone them. The future of personal brands is being powerful in both real-life and virtual settings.

Alex Farr is Founder and CEO of