A look back at the year that was 2021

Look back at 2021

Phew! What a year 2021 has been. From supply chain issues to Facebook whistleblowers, 2021 was another challenging year. COVID continued to have an impact on the day-to-day lives of people all over the world. We take a look back over 2021 and the big stories that we were all talking about.

Here’s what we’re going to cover:

Supply chains heavily impacted by COVID

At the start of 2021, we had already seen a big shift in consumer behavior - more people were buying goods, and fewer people were interested in services. This makes a lot of sense - several countries were in lockdown with stay-at-home orders.

This increase in goods sales would have likely been manageable during a normal year, but during a crisis that saw factories being shut down in the short term, and less staff available due to sickness, it caused supply chains to crumble. This, combined with people having to work from home and schools closing caused people to shop for things like laptops and home goods. Demand outweighed the supply.

American consumers were not the only ones impacted. Countries all over the world were impacted, as many countries import goods from other countries like China and India.

With shortages of microchips that help cars (and other things like laptops) to function, household goods, and other goods continuing through to the end of 2021, it is only in November of 2021, showing very small signs of improvement.

Because of this, holiday advertising started earlier than ever before, with marketers worried that shortages and delays would lead to consumers being disappointed and not getting deliveries in time for Christmas.

What a year for Google and their 3rd party cookie ban. Apple, Microsoft and Mozilla have already implemented cookie bans stopping advertisers from seeing your online habits and targeting you, but Google is lagging behind.

But why are they taking so long? In short, because they want to replace the system with something of their own making (they are calling it Privacy Sandbox) to enable advertisers to target individuals while still maintaining privacy for the individual.

Google has stirred up a significant amount of controversy, with critics arguing that ad suppliers would have to go directly to Google giving the tech giant an unfair advantage. With the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority already investigating them, they published a blog post citing wanting to get it right as the reason for this delay.

The great resignation: A mass exodus from the workplace

2021 saw a mass exodus of people leaving the workforce in response to the pandemic. It started in the Spring of 2021, and the number of quits has continued to rise steadily. Initially, people from the hospitality and retail industries were the first to start voluntarily leaving their jobs, though since then it has become more widespread across multiple industries, including rather sadly, Santa shortages and potential supply problems with beer and wine.

The pandemic has led people to reassess their working lives, and currently, more than 73% of Americans who are employed are thinking about quitting.

People thinking about quitting
Image source: Joblist

In 2020, the Pandemic and layoffs meant that many people decided to start their own businesses. This year more people have quit to create their own businesses because they want more flexibility.

Instagram trialed affiliate marketing for the first time

Affiliate marketers have been working with influencers since Instagram has been around. This year for the first time Instagram tried affiliate marketing for itself. They enabled new tools for creators to form partnerships and earn commissions on sales the influencer referred to their websites.

Instagram affiliate marketing

hese tools are still being trialed, but this could mean that more and more creators are open to the affiliate payment model in the future and pave the way for more brands.

Affiliate marketing became easier on Instagram

Instagram also made it easier to add links to stories, which means that affiliates are now able to use affiliate links in their stories. Before, you had to add a link in your bio and hope that people would click through and buy. By taking away this step, it makes it easier for audiences to purchase.

Instagram link

Shopify introduces Shop Pay to Instagram and Facebook

Early in 2021, Shop Pay was extended to merchants selling on Instagram and Facebook to simplify the shopping experience and make it easier for customers to purchase directly from social media accounts.

This means higher conversion rates, faster and more secure payments for merchants, straightforward order tracking and management for customers, and carbon emissions being offset on each delivery.

Shop pay vs no Shop pay

Shopify also removed app store commissions for developers

In summer, Shopify also decided to remove app store commissions for developers up to their first million in revenue in a move to encourage app store developers to work on Shopify apps. It’s a win-win. Developers make more money, and Shopify will have more diverse apps on offer.

Google removed last-click attribution as the default

In a move designed to help their advertisers go more data-driven and see which marketing touchpoints contributed to a sale, Google has decided to replace last-click attribution as a default setting. Instead, it will replace it with an AI tool with five different attribution models (including last-click, if you want to stick to that.) Previously this was only enabled for larger accounts, but now it will be available to everyone.

TikTok exploded this year

What a year TikTok had. 2021 brought more than 1 billion users to the TikTok platform, and they introduced several new features for advertisers to go along with it.

Starting with an update to the creator marketplace and API, TikTok wants to make it easier for advertisers to connect with the right content creators for branded partnerships. Another addition is that brands can also list their campaigns and interested influencers can apply to take part. The creator marketplace enables advertisers to tap into first-party data, which is a huge benefit for advertisers.

A huge part of TikTok’s focus is ecommerce and they have already announced partnerships with Shopify, Square, Ecwid, and PrestaShop to improve display options and expand their product listings.

TikTok business page
Image source: TikTok

Influencer guidelines changed in Australia and the UK

In Australia, the Influencer Marketing council AIMCO updated its guidelines around gifting after Ad Standards found that influencers were not making it clear when items were provided for free. This specifically relates to gifting with no expectation of promotional posts, and while this is not written into law, if an influencer is found to be in breach of Australian Consumer Law then it could spell legal trouble further down the road.

In the UK, the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers launched a code of conduct for influencer marketing that they are hoping will create a more transparent advertising environment. It is not a legally binding document, but they are hoping that the industry will utilize the code.

EU VAT reform made international packages more expensive

In July of 2021, the EU passed VAT reform legislation that made receiving packages from outside of the EU more expensive. Previously, if you ordered a package under the value of 22 euros, you would not pay import tax. This legislation hasn’t been changed since 1993, and it gives consumers a choice to pay tax (directly or indirectly), or buy more locally.

Since the legislation was introduced big retailers like Aliexpress, Etsy, Amazon, and Ebay have included the VAT payment at checkout. AliExpress expected to see a decline in their international sales, but in Q3 of this year, they reported a steady profit.

Pinterest rolled out new features for creators

Pinterest wanted to enable creators to earn money from their content by allowing them to tag products in their idea pins (a multi-page video format) similar to Instagram stories. In October they announced that some pins will enable users to try things on, using augmented reality.

Pinterest augmented reality
Image source: pinterest

This makes it much easier for people to shop. While they have been a little slow to the game with investing in video content and creators, this initiative gives advertisers what they need in order to drive more revenue using Pinterest.

Pinterest has also released several other initiatives including creators rewards, where they decided to pay creators for inspirational content and give out micro-grants for different projects. Additionally, they also made it easier for pinners to earn commissions through affiliate links, which we love.

Facebook had an absolute heck of a year-end

The end of 2021 saw Facebook swing from one PR disaster to another and ended with Mark Zuckerburg announcing a rebrand to try and combat the negative press.

In November, Whistleblower Frances Haugen provided The Wall Street Journal with evidence that the tech giant knows it is causing harm. Reports included say they knew that Instagram is toxic for teenage girls and that it is being used to spread religious hatred in India, among others. These files became known as The Facebook files.

Following this leak, Facebook, Whatsapp, Messenger, Instagram, and Oculus all suffered a major outage lasting several hours during routine maintenance. Additionally, it caused internal systems to break and people on site couldn’t get into conference rooms or enter some buildings.

Shortly afterward, Mark Zuckerberg announced that they would be rebranding their corporate company from Facebook to Meta. Meta wants to build the metaverse, which will utilize AR and VR in virtual worlds. They believe this is the future of the internet. Here is their first ad campaign:

Additionally, Apple’s privacy changes in April have impacted Facebook for marketers as well. These privacy changes allow Apple users to block apps from targeting them for ads. Now, 6 months later it has become clear that most users decided to opt-out of targeted advertising. It means that advertising on Facebook has become less effective at targeting customers.

Here’s to 2022

We hope that you enjoyed this piece. Hopefully, 2022 is better than this dumpster fire of a year and that more and more businesses will start, grow, and thrive despite everything. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Ashley Howe

I’m the content strategist here at Tapfiliate. Living in Amsterdam, I like reading books, travel and ramen. You can find me on LinkedIn or Twitter.. You can email me here: a.howe@tapfiliate.com

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