The COVID-19 pandemic forced marketers to change their strategy, and fast. Out of necessity, priorities narrowed in on a single goal of rapid digital transformation, and marketers didn’t have the luxury of adequate planning time.

As a result, 78% of US marketers say they now need time to “stop and clean up.” Those who use this time to move on from installing short-term fixes and start planning for long-term success will give themselves a competitive advantage.

Based on our recent research, we’ve identified key learnings from 2020 and offer some suggested priorities for the rest of 2021 and beyond.

Key learnings from 2020

For many, last year provided an opportunity to experiment with new solutions and ways of working. Here are some important insights and corresponding actions you should take going forward.

1. Focus on personalization

One-third of marketers say they increased their focus on personalization in the last year. To get ahead, you may need to amp up your maturity – and start personalizing more effectively. If you’re currently personalizing only one or two digital channels, consider creating an omnichannel environment that connects your online and offline journeys. In a world where most brands are personalizing their content, those who offer the personal touch across every channel will truly stand out.

2. Control your content

Around 40% of marketers took on additional responsibilities for content creation during the pandemic – but many found that they lacked visibility over the content lifecycle, from planning to creation to delivery. Now they’re focusing on how to connect those workflows to make sure their content processes are more agile and efficient.

Those who do so will be able to plan more effectively and harness the full power of their content – personalizing, repurposing, and reusing it to full effect across every channel. This allows brands to make full use of their resources and increase their content marketing ROI: a crucial advantage in the highly competitive recovery period.

3. Embrace the speed of innovation

About 77% of US businesses say they advanced their tech stack more in 2020 than in the previous three years combined. So as things get back to normal, keep in mind what’s possible when your whole team works toward a common goal. The 2020 pace of change may be unsustainable in the long run – but the spirit of experimentation that came with it could be an incredibly useful tool for smart marketers.

Brands who retain this culture will help their teams develop, test, and refine new experiences at the pace customers demand. Gone are the days of dipping your toes into the water – now, forward-thinking brands jump in and find out what works while their competitors are still in the planning stage.

3 priorities for the rest of this year and beyond 

What does the future hold? Focus on these areas to turn last year’s learnings into long-term success.

1. Optimize your tools

The solutions you implemented during 2020 could become the foundation for your ongoing digital transformation – as long as they’re fit for purpose. Analyze them to see whether they can be seamlessly integrated in your processes, and whether their level of usability makes them an asset or a liability. Once you’ve done so, you can optimize your processes to ensure everything is running as efficiently as possible.

Many organizations have started this process already. In fact, 34% are working on integrating multiple tech stacks to streamline processes – something that can be achieved by selecting the right API-first, SaaS-based platform.

2. Go cloud-first

We’re convinced that more and more organizations will be joining the 37% of brands who are moving their marketing technology to the cloud. This is because MarTech deployed in the cloud gives you greater flexibility and provides many potential cost savings – including lower Total Cost of Ownership and a shorter time to value.

Continuous updates ensure new features can be installed and integrated quickly and easily, helping your organization keep up with the rapid pace of change and stay ahead of the competition.

3. Take action with Sitecore

Sitecore’s suite of technology is purpose-built for this moment. Our end-to-end content, commerce, and personalization tools allow brands to deliver real-time, individualized digital experiences. Available in the cloud via Sitecore Managed Cloud Services or SaaS deployment models, our technologies have been designed to integrate easily around existing tools and workflows, or replace patchworks of quick-fix systems entirely.

Ready to meet your priorities for the rest of this year and beyond? Learn how to keep up the digital momentum in our guide.

Paige O’Neill is Chief Marketing Officer at Sitecore. Find her on LinkedIn and Twitter.