What hasn’t already been said about 2020? Time to look forward!

Just like we did last year, we’re kicking off 2021 by connecting with Metric Theory subject matter experts across a number of performance marketing disciplines and topics to find out about their digital marketing predictions, wishlists, and resolutions.

Amazon & Ecommerce Marketplaces

Contributor: Adam VanBaale, Associate Director, Ecommerce

In Q3, 70% of shoppers bought from Amazon.com. Nearly half of consumers say they would be fine if they never shopped in a physical store again according to the Q4 2020 Consumer Trends Report. It’s clear that ecommerce, and specifically ecommerce marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart, and others, are increasingly where brands will sell their products. This will elevate the importance of a brand to have a consistent strategy and brand content across their website, marketplaces, and other platforms.

As brands diversify their online presence, they’ll run into more issues with third-party sellers, making price monitoring and benchmarking critical. Amazon will most likely develop out more ways to help brands with this battle in 2021, but brands will have to take it on themselves to monitor where their product is being sold beyond Amazon. While shoppers start on Amazon for product research, there are also other high-profile websites/marketplaces growing in popularity for them to compare before making a purchase decision.

For big shopping events like Prime Day and Black Friday/Cyber Monday (BFCM), inventory management is becoming a larger challenge to plan around. Production delays may persist, and we predict starting next year the shift to online-oriented shopping will continue for other US sales holidays like Mother’s and Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and more. Brands should start preparing now for the possible pinch points that would create inventory challenges in 2021 to understand what it means for order amounts and timing.

How do brands elevate themselves above competitors in 2021? An increasingly important way is to develop an omnichannel strategy, considering the right mix of owned channels and ecommerce marketplaces. Marketplaces are a source of truth for many people, not only for product selection, but also product validation. In 2021 and beyond, brands that do not have a marketplace strategy on Amazon, Walmart, Target, and potentially more, they risk losing market share to competitors that have a presence there.

Mobile App Advertising

Contributor: Mischa Kregstein, Sr. Manager, Account Services

On top of all the surprises 2020 brought us, Apple jumped in with their own by announcing that IDFA app tracking (“ID for Advertisers”) will be opt-in at the app level on iOS14+. This change is expected to impact advertisers’ ability to accurately target and measure their app campaign performance, as we predict app users will opt out frequently for many apps, leaving a blind spot for attributing installs, in-app purchases, or actions back to their source. Facebook predicted this change could cut revenue by more than 50% for app publishers in its Audience Network.

Mobile app marketers did get some relief when Apple responded to backlash and delayed the rollout of opt-in app tracking until 2021, but we are still waiting on a final date. The delay has given mobile attribution partners and key mobile marketing platforms, like Facebook and Google more time to make a gameplan on how they may operate without IDFA.

On my wish list for 2021 is at least three months’ notice from Apple on when they will be enforcing these changes, and a playbook from mobile attribution partners on what’s working to convince users that opting in will be worth it to them.


Contributor: Hunter Jones-Volpi, Sr. Manager, Paid Social

With Pinterest being a social platform led by positive and aspirational interactions, marketers are making more room for it in their budgets and strategy. My wishlist is long for Pinterest, but I do believe with a few changes, we could see marketer interest and adoption grow even faster in 2021.

First, I’d love to be able to access more data. Though working with reps can help get the data we need for clients, a better self-service option will lead to a better advertiser experience and more budget consideration.

Second, I’d like to see a more developed product for influencer engagement. This year especially has shown the potential of influencer-led imagery, with quality and diverse photography, executed remotely, for a quarter of the price of a photoshoot. A platform for influencers to better collaborate with brands on imagery, video, and even copy would be a key unlock for 2021.

Finally, Pinterest: Let’s. Get. More. Shoppable! More shopping features will make it far easier for more advertisers to jump on board and even test some of the wonderful awareness and upper-funnel ads offered. Facebook and Instagram have doubled down on shoppable formats and shown they can work. It’s time for Pinterest to step up and compete.

One resolution I have with Pinterest is to break out of the stereotyped user profile and find more use cases on the platform with men, younger age groups, and international markets, which are driving Pinterest’s growth!

Paid Search

Contributor: Sarunas Kvederys, Associate Director, SEM

As 2021 begins, I hope the coming year will be a lot more predictable compared to 2020! However, we know we can expect to see further changes in search, like more tracking limitations stemming from user privacy policies, and more automation, with its double-edged sword of greater performance potential at a cost of lower insight and control.

Speaking of automation, 2020 was a great year for performance and adoption, helping win over advertisers who were previously reluctant to embrace it. Advertisers are getting cozy with smart bidding and machine learning-based strategies, and for retailers, Smart Shopping proved to work well in most cases. Google will surely keep pushing its capabilities further.

While not yet ready for prime time in our testing, new products like Auto-Applied Recommendations should improve to the point that they’ll start managing basic account tasks this year or next. Then there’s the new Performance Max campaign type, supposedly “hitting the shelves” next year, that operates across Search, Display, YouTube, and Google Discover placements. This could be the next nail in the coffin for the keyword as primary targeting strategy in search marketing.

Lastly, with all of this automation, I predict we’ll be spending more time developing deeper strategies with clients around audiences, creative, and business data.

Google Data Studio

Contributor: Matt Arabie-Ngo, Sr. Manager, Analytics & Measurement

In 2021, I foresee Google Data Studio growing beyond being a reporting and data visualization platform into more business intelligence features, allowing end users the ability to do deeper data analysis. The foundation for these enhancements can be seen in feature updates rolled out in 2020 and 2019, specifically updates to control components, use of parameter values, and table drill-down functionality to create more dynamic reports that respond to user input in real-time.

In terms of a wish list for Data Studio, continuing on the idea of enhanced BI features, we’re really excited about the potential of incorporating Data QnA (currently in alpha) in the platform interface to empower anyone to instantly answer business questions by simply typing an inquiry. With Google’s advantages in semantic processing, this has the potential to be a major game-changer in the BI landscape. Additionally, providing functionality to insert comments and/or annotations would further knowledge sharing and collaboration for teams and stakeholders.

Account-Based Marketing

Contributor: Geneva Mueller, Account Director

My 2021 ABM resolution is to prevent ineffective ABM campaigns from going live until they’re ready to realistically make an impact on sales, and a lot of this boils down to a list size and efficacy. I know, I know – the next questions is – how big is big enough? For one company, this list might be 2,500 SMBs. And for another, it might be 10 Fortune 500 companies. But I’m also betting that 2021 will be the year personalization becomes a competitive necessity for B2B advertisers, not a nice to have. And if a single company on your list could change company revenue by 10% or greater, they should be getting personalized creative and sales experience. So in 2021, let’s make sure the effort is worth the (potential) outcome, and set it up for success.

On the flip side, I suspect that many companies are currently taking stock of what worked and what didn’t in 2020 in a bigger way than in years past. Because so many companies were impacted by COVID, budgets will likely be flat for many B2B marketers. With that in mind, it’s that much more important media dollars are only allocated to the most impactful segments and industries. So I predict that some form of account-based marketing (OK, maybe ABM-lite) will move from the fringes to the main stage of most B2B strategy sessions for 2021. Everyone get your LinkedIn company size and industry targeting ready – 2021 is coming for you!


Contributor: Robert Shultz, Sr. Manager, Ecommerce

Despite 2020’s challenges for many marketers, it also brought massive growth to much of the ecommerce landscape. As advertisers are now attempting to gauge expectations for 2021, many are concerned with how much 2020’s revenue numbers can really serve as guidance for the coming year. Combine that uncertainty with the growing adoption of automated ad solutions like Google’s Smart Shopping campaigns, and the stage is set for the #1 item on my wish list and my top resolution for 2021, as well.

At the top of my wish list is to get more visibility into Smart Shopping campaigns, specifically search terms. Product feed data management serves as an integral component of success in Google Shopping and other product listing ad campaigns, and it’s imperative to know and understand what searches are driving that success so that we can marry that with title optimizations and other product feed data. Let us give people what they want! It should lead to more successful ads and ultimately more investment in them.

Smart Shopping has brought success to a lot of retailers, but there are also instances where performance has underperformed a manual strategy. As more and more advertisers adopt Smart Shopping, in theory the benefits should at some point begin to decrease and having a manual approach to pivot into could be the way to new performance gains. With that in mind, my resolution for 2021 is to experiment and find the balance between automation and manual control for each retailer.

Conversion Rate Optimization

Contributor: Joel Neustaedter, Sr. Director of Account Services

In our conversion rate optimization predictions from last year, we focused on the future and how advancements in technology were going to play a bigger role in our landing page strategies. We saw advertisers put more emphasis on ensuring that they were pushing out faster pages and we saw landing page builders helping them to do this by enabling features such as AMP pages. While AI in landing page optimization didn’t progress by leaps and bounds as we predicted, platforms such as Unbounce are still offering their “Smart Traffic” feature and we’ve been seeing promising results from it here at Metric Theory.

However, in 2021, we’ll be going back to the basics, with advertisers refocusing on optimizing their landing page forms. While it may seem like a no-brainer to focus on form optimization, all too often we see advertisers testing the more visual elements but leaving their forms untouched. In many cases, they simply don’t realize how many elements of a form can be tested and optimized. Whether it be shifting the form from the left side of the page to the right, testing a multi-step form, or having the form open as an overlay on top of the page, there is no lack in testing possibilities. We’ve noticed an awakening with marketers, who are realizing that form testing is one of the most impactful CRO tests possible.

We’re not done! Our team still has a lot to say about where things are headed with Facebook, emerging channels, technology, creative, and more. Check back soon, or make it easier by throwing your email address in on the right side of the screen, and you’ll get that along with other important voices at Metric Theory and around the web on performance digital marketing, emailed weekly straight to you.