The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is impacting every part of our lives, from the places we can go to the way we spend our time, to the priorities we have and the way we spend our money.

Of course, this has wide-ranging ramifications for marketing and advertising – as well as a number of other sectors like travel, entertainment and FMCG.

To help marketers keep on top of what this means for them, their jobs and their industry, we’re collecting together the most valuable and impactful stats in this roundup, updated regularly since 20th March 2020.

Read on for statistics on retail sales, adspend, streaming subscriptions, social media use, recruitment figures and much, much more.

Alternatively, head over to our Covid-19 ecommerce stats roundup.

Contents

Advertising

Amazon Advertising CPC is up by more than 50% year-on-year

Analysis from Marketplace Pulse reveals Amazon Advertising costs have soared in the past year as the ecommerce giant becomes an ever more popular place for consumers to shop and retailers to sell their products to a global market.

On average, cost per click on the site reached $1.20 in June 2021, up from $0.93 at the start of the year (a 30% growth) and rising more than 50% compared to June 2020, where rates were recorded at $0.79. While Amazon’s advertising rates have increased to meet higher demand from sellers, it is thought that the delayed Prime Day, which occurred in October last year, combined with Black Friday/Cyber Monday and the holidays helped to boost CPC at the end of 2020, before it continued to rocket in the first half of 2021.

Marketplace Pulse says it has watched more and more brands invest their budgets into Amazon advertising, allowing them to compete more effectively for ad space. As a result, typical customer acquisition costs for brands selling on Amazon has risen from a 15% equivalent transaction fee per order to ones that are typically more than 20%.

The study indicates that the rise in cost per click and for customer acquisition has affected all advertising types offered by the marketplace, and has been mirrored beyond the US into its global markets.

Pent-up demand for experiences and events creates increased sponsorship opportunities for brands

Data from Momentum Worldwide shows that pent-up demand for experiences and events could pose increased opportunities for brand sponsorship deals as lockdown constraints are loosened. Forty-eight percent of consumers that took part in a May 2021 study said they were planning to try new experiences this year, while another 41% said they hoped to try even more experiences than they did before the pandemic.

Currently, 40% of UK consumers say they are ready to return to live experiences and events one month after they’ve been vaccinated against Covid-19, ranking them the second most enthusiastic group behind the US (46%). On average, 35% of the global population say the same.

Consequently, many consumers believe brands should step up sponsorship deals to ensure such events take place as planned, particularly when it comes to sports fixtures. Sixty-nine percent agreed that now, more than ever, sports need brand sponsorships, while another 72% agreed that brands should focus on sponsoring teams and leagues in order to help sporting communities.

With 74% of consumers stating they’d ‘keep an eye’ on the ways brands step up to the plate in this regard, the pressure is mounting on them to play a vital role in helping fund a return to live events

FinTech marketers invested $3 billion on user acquisition in 2020

AppsFlyer’s June 2021 report, The State of Finance App Marketing, found downloads of FinTech apps rose 129% in the UK between Q1 2020 and Q1 2021, as consumers sought alternative ways of interacting with financial services providers.

Marketing-driven installs of these apps grew by 300% in the UK over the same period, significantly further ahead than records from other areas of Europe, where average growth was measured at 170%. The reason for this trend, which is occurring in large parts of the world, is because FinTech marketers have invested a total $3 billion in running ‘aggressive’ user acquisition campaigns over the last year, the study explained.

Demand for investment apps has rocketed in the UK, with installs growing 61.4%. This could be driven by an increased spotlight on zero commission investment apps like Robinhood, which gained traction with amateur investors in late 2020. Meanwhile, globally, installs of apps from digital banking providers have increased 45% year-on-year, and installs of apps offered by traditional banks rose 22%.

Twenty-nine of the top forty financial services apps on all app stores experienced at least a 20% increase in downloads between early 2020 and early 2021, while the average number of downloads in developing countries was 70% higher than those of developed countries. These figures indicate a rising demand for FinTech apps across the world, regardless of market size, as people manage their finances on online platforms throughout the pandemic.

Data shows UK media quality has been compromised amid Covid-19

Integral Ad Science’s Media Quality Report H2 2020, published in April 2021, reveals UK media quality has been compromised amid the unprecedented circumstances of the last year.

The data, which examines advertising campaigns that ran between 1st July and 31st December, shows UK brand risk increased across all media environments analysed (mobile and desktop display and video) compared to the same period in 2019. Desktop display brand risk rose the most over this time, jumping 3.2% to 5.8%, representing the highest level of brand risk in this environment since 2017, a year laden with brand safety controversy. Meanwhile, brand risk on mobile video rose to 8%, making it the highest risk environment of all, but it experienced the smallest change at +0.2% year-on-year.

Of all factors that contributed to this worsening brand risk, hate speech saw the highest rise in share. The share of desktop videos flagged for this issue grew from 0.6% in H2 2019 to 16.5% in H2 2021, and from 2.2% to 17.1% on desktop display.

Additionally, adult content on desktop display made up 18% of all pages flagged for brand risk (up from 3.5%), while share of violent content grew from 10.4% to 21.3% year-on-year. Violent content on mobile display, however, improved significantly, shrinking brand risk in this category for this environment from 40.2% in H2 2019 to 27.3% in H2 2020.

Q1 2021:

Ad spend across top marketplaces and social media platforms rises 31% YoY in March 2021

An infographic released by Mediaocean suggests that ad spend across a group of top marketplaces and social media platforms has risen 31% year-on-year in March 2021 – the highest rate since January 2020. The analysis covers more than 300 advertisers and $3 billion of total ad spend across Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snap and Twitter.

Data shows a consistent return to growth (year-on-year) since September 2020, having dipped significantly between March and August last year. It is interesting to see how events outside of the pandemic have altered the amount spent on advertising across these seven platforms – May 2020, for example, saw a relatively small dent in spending (-7%) as the UK Prime Minister announced plans for the lifting of restrictions after lockdown 1. Then, by June, spending declined sharply to -18% year-on-year as Black Lives Matter protests and the Facebook Ad Boycott came into effect.

The beginning of 2021 paints a rather subdued picture, with January and February experiencing just 9% and 10% year-on-year increases in ad spend respectively. This is compared to a 39% growth in January 2020 on the same month a year before. However, the notable jump between February and March 2021 could be a positive sign of things to come as the ad economy begins to ramp up recovery.

Social Media Advertising Best Practice Guide

UK ad market expected to be the second highest for growth in 2021

Ad spend in the UK could grow at the second highest rate of all global markets in 2021, Dentsu’s Ad Spend Report 2021 predicts. Dentsu expects a healthy recovery for the UK ad market, forecasting a 10.4% year-on-year growth by the end of 2021, with only one other region – India – in front at +10.8%. France, Canada and Italy will also experience healthy growth at 8.9%, 7.2% and 5.9% respectively.

While the US will continue to dominate the total share of global ad spend (37.9%), the UK ranks fourth in this area with a modest 5.1% share, also behind China (17.6%) and Japan (9.9%).

Understanding and predicting which new consumer behaviours will be temporary, and which will be permanent, will be the largest challenge for advertisers in the coming year. However, brands appear to be confident that social, search and video will be the biggest drivers of digital growth in the sector, despite the global outlook remaining uncertain in the first six months.

European digital ad spend rose 6.3% in 2020

European digital ad spend rose 6.3% in 2020 to a total €69.4 billion and overall digital share of advertising grew to 56.5%, according to analysis from IAB Europe. This result was substantially lower than the average annual growth rate since 2006 (19.5%) and notably smaller than the 8.9% increase posted in 2009 – the last financial crash – demonstrating just how much the pandemic has affected the sector.

Four of the twenty-eight markets analysed saw a decline in digital ad spend over the course of 2020, however, in contrast, seven saw double-digit growth despite one of the rockiest years on record. Turkey came out on top, posting a 34.8% growth, followed by Ukraine (26.5%) and Serbia (19.2%). Meanwhile, the UK saw results below the European average for the year at 5.1%.

Drilling down, display advertising experienced a healthy increase over the period at 9.1%, with social display advertising growing 15.9% to €16.1 billion and other display increasing a more modest 2.9% to €15.6 billion. 2020 also marked the first year social has occupied a larger share of display advertising spend than all other display advertising spend combined.

Additionally, the last year saw a prominent shift towards video display advertising, up 10.1%, and a decline in investment in formats like banners and static images (down 1.1%). Audio, in the meantime, continued to occupy a very small percentage of ad spend by comparison to other categories, but grew at the fastest rate of 16.7%, mirroring recent trends.

Top ad agencies make modest predictions for growth of global ad market in 2021

At the close of 2020, Forbes compiled predictions from three top ad agencies, Magna, Zenith and GroupM, on the potential growth of the global ad market in 2021.

There appears to be a consensus that digital advertising will grow at a faster rate than traditional forms of advertising. Cinema advertising is also set to make a steady comeback this year as some regions roll out vaccinations and lift restrictions in an attempt to help life return to normal. With the Olympics in Tokyo on track to take place after being delayed last year, sports advertising will likely see a boost, too.

Magna says it expects to see global ad spend to rise 7.6% in 2021 to $612 billion total, with digital media seeing growth of 10.4% and linear media a much more modest 3.5% (although $42 billion less than in 2019). It also predicts India to be the leader of total ad spend growth across the globe, up by 26.9% year-on-year.

Zenith, meanwhile, predicts global ad spend will reach $634 billion – still less than the total recorded in 2019 – and then by another 5.2% in 2022 to $652 billion. After a big boost from the recent 2020 election, the US could see quite a small growth in ad spend this year, at just 3.3%, compared to other regions like Latin America and the Middle East/North Africa at 10-11%.

GroupM is the most optimistic about the ad market in 2021, forecasting a jump to $651 billion, with the largest rate of growth in Latin America (24.4%) and APAC (14.1%). According to their analysis, digital media could see a 14.1% total rise to $396.8 billion, significantly higher than figures estimated by Magna.

FMCG brands are re-evaluating media strategies as consumers shift to online grocery shopping

2021 projected UK ad spend growth revised down

Data from the latest Advertising Association/WARC Expenditure Report has predicted that ad spend recovery in the UK next year could be slower than originally expected. The previous estimate of a 16.6% return-to-growth in the sector throughout 2021, presented back in July, has therefore been revised down to 14.4%.

According to the report, cinema ad spend is set to make a strong rebound at a rate of 138.3% next year as long-awaited delayed blockbusters like James Bond: No Time To Die are finally released. Meanwhile, healthy growth in OOH ad spend is expected (+57.1%), after being heavily impacted by national and local lockdowns in 2020. Verticals that are underpinned by digital and online formats such as magazine brands and regional news brands are also predicted to fare better than most next year.

Overall ad spend for the whole of 2020 is now due to fall 14.5% on last year to £21.5 billion – a loss of £3.6 billion compared to 2019, with the Q4 period offsetting some of the damage thanks to festive advertising. However, the final quarter is still expected to see a 10.5% fall in ad spend compared to the same period in 2019.

UK ad spend is not expected to recover fully until well into 2022, the report claimed.

Only 23% of executives are confident in the speed at which they’re gaining accurate insights

Only 23% of executives believe the speed at which they gain accurate insights is ‘very strong’, the Digital Trends 2021 report from Econsultancy and Adobe reveals. This explains why agility has been ranked as the second most important development objective for mainstream organisations moving forward, just below innovation.

Data also suggests there is a strong link between the rating of an organisation’s insight agility and the projected budget increases over the next year. Fifty percent of companies that were reported to have a ‘strong’ speed to customer insight are planning a 2021 marketing budget increase in a continued time of uncertainty, as employees are more able to prove the value of marketing within their individual organisations.

Furthermore, 52% and 44% of ‘strong’ respondents, respectively, said they will be expanding their acquisition and retention budgets this year, compared to just 39% and 30% of those with a comparatively ‘weak’ speed to consumer insight. Meanwhile, thanks to their more in-depth analysis of customer insight, CX leaders are significantly more likely to increase their marketing budgets for 2021 (60%) than CX mainstream organisations (39%).

Q4 2020:

Disney’s D2C ad revenue grew 47% in Q4 2020

Ad revenue via Disney’s direct-to-consumer channels, which include online streaming services Hulu and ESPN+, grew 47% year-on-year in Q4 2020, to $882 million, Bloomberg reported in March. This means these revenue streams are close to catching up with, or indeed surpassing, ad revenue recorded by its major linear broadcasting networks like ABC, which saw only a 5% growth over the same period (to $984 million).

The disparity in growth reflects the huge shift in consumer preference towards streaming services versus more traditional forms of television, as accelerated in part by the coronavirus pandemic.

Hulu, which now has more than 39 million subscribers, has created new technology that allows advertisers to be able to buy ads themselves using data, collected by Disney, that indicates what audiences are watching across their owned channels and when. As a result, marketers can make more informed decisions on where their campaigns would best fit within Disney’s ecosystem.

Consequently, Disney says it expects an 80% uplift in automated ad revenue from its online channels by the end of the year. In time, this method could also be implemented across Disney’s traditional channels too: the company believes that, in five years’ time, up to half of its total ad inventory could be bought by marketers in this way.

Video game industry ad spend rose 80% year-on-year in the first two weeks of November 2020

The video game industry spent more than $45 million in ad spend over the first two weeks of November 2020; a rise of 80% year-on-year, according to ad sales intelligence company MediaRadar.

This news follows a bumper year for the gaming industry as engagement amongst its core audience reached record highs and both Sony and Microsoft brought brand new consoles to market. In fact, it was the latter that drove much of the increase in ad spend. According to the data, Sony spent more than $15 million advertising the new PlayStation 5 in the month before its release – more than three times what Microsoft spent promoting its equivalent Xbox Series X. Nintendo also contributed to the rise, with ad spend increasing 138% in the first two weeks of November compared to the two weeks prior – all the better to compete with its rivals.

New games have also been released to coincide with these major new console launches, such as Call of Duty: Cold War and Assassins Creed: Valhalla, causing a 76% year-on-year increase in ad spend from video game titles overall. Additionally, popular gaming retailers increased promotions during these two weeks in an attempt to entice fans to spend throughout the much-anticipated launches.

Global ad spend predicted to have fallen 10.2% year-on-year in 2020

In a November 2020 report, WARC predicted that 2020 global ad spend will fall 10.2% to $557.3 billion compared to results from 2019. The ongoing fallout from the pandemic has meant that traditional media has had its worst year on record and this has had an enormous effect on the industry as a whole.

Drilling down by industry, ad spend in automotive is expected to decline the most severely overall in 2020, with a loss of $11 billion. Travel and tourism could see ad spend drop by a total of 33.8%, but looks set to rebound at the fastest rate next year at +19.5%. After a very volatile year, total retail ad spend could fall 16.2% to $54.3 billion and is only projected to rebound with a 5.9% growth next year – a much slower rate than some other verticals like automotive (predicted +14.1%) and media and publishing (+8.4%). Business and industrial could also struggle, as its forecast growth of 5.3% means investment in this sector could only increase by 2.5% on 2019.

Consequently, WARC says it could take up to two years for ad spend to fully recover to levels seen before the onset of the coronavirus. According to analysis, a 6.7% growth in ad spend throughout 2021 will only be able to make up for 59% of losses that occurred this year. In 2022, ad spend would need to rise a further 4.4% to finally meet 2019’s $620.6 billion.

H1 2020:

UK digital ad spend fell 5% year-on-year in H1 2020

Research from IAB UK, as reported by WARC, has found that UK digital ad spend fell by 5% in H1 2020 compared with figures from the first half of 2019.

Across the sub-categories within the digital marketing sphere, some areas performed better than others. Display advertising grew by 0.3% year-on-year to £2.84 billion, within which video advertising rose 5.7% mirroring increased engagement consumers had with video streaming services over lockdown. Without video’s strong growth, overall digital ad spend results would have been much worse.

Search ad spend, meanwhile, dropped by 3.7% during this period, representing a £143 million fall in revenue on H1 2019. Mobile ad spend also saw a decline, but a much more modest 1%. However, one of the worst affected areas of digital ad spend was classifieds, which saw a massive 33% fall in revenue, decreasing by £235 million to £485 million.

An overview of the third-party cookie crackdown

Q2 2020:

Biggest recorded drop in UK marketing budgets takes place in Q2 2020

The net balance of organisations that have cut marketing budgets fell to -50.7% in Q2, down from -6.1% in Q1. This latest figure is the biggest drop recorded by the IPA Bellwether Report since the report began twenty years ago – including the Q4 2008 financial crisis when marketing budgets were slashed to -41.7%.

Nearly 64% of those surveyed stated they had recorded a decrease in marketing spend between April and June, compared to 25% who recorded a decrease between January and March. Just 13% said they had seen an increase in budget for the same period.

Drilling down, a net balance of -76.6% of organisations reported cuts to their events marketing budgets in Q2, with just 3.6% claiming they had risen. Meanwhile, the reduction in main media budgets dropped to a net balance of -51.1%, the largest decline seen by the report for this metric. Out of all subcategories in main media marketing, OOH budgets unsurprisingly were hit the hardest (-61.2%), followed by audio (-50.0%) and published brands (-49.2%).

Direct marketing and PR budgets were least affected in the second quarter, but still recorded a severe downturn in net balance to -41.6%.

JC Decaux revenue down 63% in Q2 2020

In its H1 2020 results, JC Decaux stated its revenue plummeted by 63.4% in the second quarter of 2020, a figure it claimed was ‘historic’ for the company. OOH advertising has taken a huge hit from lockdowns and stay-at-home orders around the world and JC Decaux’s data reflects the extent of financial losses felt in the industry.

In Q2, the company reported €351.9 million in revenue, down from 1 billion during the same period in 2019. Revenue in Q1 was less badly affected, but still recorded a 13.1% year-on-year drop from €840 million to €723.6 million. Overall revenue for H1 2020 was down by 41.6%.

When it comes to revenue via geographic area, most regions saw relatively similar year-on-year declines. France and North America faired the best with -37.1% and -38.3% revenue growth respectively, while ROW and APAC saw the worst revenue declines of -48% and -43.7%.

The company said it has scrapped its earnings guidance for 2020 in light of the ongoing disruption and uncertainty caused by Covid-19.

Why now is the time to invest in programmatic OOH

Global mobile ad spend soared 71% in Q2

PubMatic’s Mobile Quarterly Index found that mobile ad spend soared 71% year-on-year during Q2, rising to 77% in the Americas, as spending across other areas was slashed.

While APAC experienced lesser year-on-year growth than other geographical areas (+66%) its 30% quarter-on-quarter growth was particularly strong, reflecting both the increasing cost of ads in the region and its advanced position in the timeline of the global pandemic. This could indicate that APAC will see the strongest immediate recovery in this metric as the outbreak subsides.

Despite being heavily impacted at the start of the outbreak, mobile video platform spend has seen a strong and steady recovery since the end of April and is now measuring 116% up on pre-pandemic levels in the US. As of Q2 this year, mobile now has a majority share of video ad spend across APAC (74%), EMEA (70%) and the Americas (60%).

Social media

Q2 2021:

Pinterest now sees more than 5 billion searches every month on its platform

In a blog post, SVP Products at Pinterest, Naveen Gavini revealed that the social app now sees more than 5 billion searches on its platform every month, spurred on by an increase in activity throughout the pandemic.

This figure is up from an average 2 billion searches per month in 2016 – or a 150% increase – according to Social Media Today. The number of searches per Pinner, according to analysis, has increased 31% year-on-year for those in the Gen Z age category, while the overall number of searches made by this demographic rose 96%. Furthermore, product searches on the platform jumped more than 20x at the end of Q1 2021 compared to the same period the year before.

These results are reflective of a sharp increase in Monthly Active Users over the past year, up 30% to 478 million by the first quarter of 2021 as consumers found themselves with more time to search for inspiration and for their next online purchase.

As the world begins to open up again, “searches for outfits, vacations, and home renovations are at all-time highs, and searches for weddings have presumed pre-pandemic levels”, Gavini explained. Indeed, data Pinterest released last month shows searches for ‘vacations’ rose 75% in March 2021, three times faster than the average search volume for the month across the last 2 years. Meanwhile, there was an 85% increase in searches for ‘outfits’ April compared to April 2020, and interest in ‘home renovation’ in Q1 2021 was 65% higher than in Q1 2019.

Mentions of ‘travel’ on social media have increased 37% since restrictions on holidays were lifted

Social listening data from digital marketing agency the tree shows confidence has risen among UK consumers ahead of the typically busy summer holiday period. Mentions of the word ‘travel’ across social media platforms have increased by 37% since the May 7th 2021 announcement that restrictions would be partially lifted on foreign travel from the 17th. Eighty-seven percent of these posts featured positive or neutral sentiment on the topic. Many remaining negative posts cited the latest so-called Indian variant and the wider pandemic.

This follows news that airlines like Ryanair have recently seen bookings rise from 500,000 per week in April to more than 1.5 million per week by late May. When it was revealed Portugal would be on the green list for travel, posts mentioning the region jumped 121%, with 93% of those being positive or neutral in sentiment. The term ‘package holiday’ also saw an increase of 63% as a result.

Despite the clear excitement from social media users, there is still more discussion than usual about vacationing at home this summer. Posts containing the phrases ‘staycation’ and ‘UK holiday’ rose 12% and 8% respectively over the same period.

Q1 2021:

Q1 2021 social ad revenue rockets across the board

Quarterly financial results posted by major social media companies reveal ad revenue is rocketing one year on from the start of the pandemic.

In Q1 2021, Facebook posted a 46% rise in ad revenue to $25.4 billion, driven by a 30% increase in the price of ads and a 12% rise in the number of ads served on the platform. The figure is substantially higher than year-on-year revenue increase for Q4 2020, which, amid the rush of holiday advertising, was reported at 31%. Growth in Monthly Active Users on the platform, meanwhile, appears to have slowed to 10% from 12% the previous quarter.

YouTube has revealed an even stronger ad revenue growth of 49% to $6 billion, while Twitter posted a very healthy 32% incline after mixed results last year. Perhaps the most surprising of all was a 66% rise in overall revenue reported by Snap, as well as a 22% increase in Daily Active Users (reaching 280 million), marking the platform’s largest growth in more than 3 years.

Ad revenue in Q1 2020 began to take a hit as the uncertainty of the coronavirus outbreak took its toll, causing these most recent results to appear slightly inflated. However, this notable increase in revenue performance also signifies a renewed confidence in social media advertising and the rapid recovery of marketing budgets.

Social Media Strategy Best Practice Guide

Influencer #ad posts decline 14.9% year-on-year in Q1 2021

A Q1 2021 Socialbakers study reveals the quantity of influencer content containing the #ad tag (and similar tags like #promo #sp and #paid) has dropped almost 15% year-on-year, highlighting the damage Covid-19 has wreaked on the industry.

Data analysis shows #ad posts reached an annual holiday peak around Christmas 2020, before falling again in early 2021 – a typical pattern – except the number of posts containing sponsorship hashtags has not yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

Despite this, interactions with well-known influencers rose by 7% over the course of the year, indicating that social media users are still invested in these individuals regardless of the frequency of sponsored posts on their feeds. Writers saw the largest median increase in interactions between March 2020 and March 2021 at 50%, followed by DJs at 40.6%, broadcasters (20.9%) and sports stars (13.8%). In contrast, musicians saw the biggest decrease in this metric at -18%, while actors (-2.3%), artists (-2%) and singers (-1.2%) also experienced slight declines.

A sustained interest in influencers during the pandemic, combined with the gradual reopening of the hospitality and travel sectors across the world, paints a positive picture for the influencer marketing sector as it attempts to recover its losses.

TikTok was the most downloaded app of Q1 2021

Latest statistics from App Annie have found that TikTok came out on top, once again, for global app downloads in Q1 2021, increasing its rapid growth that has not faltered since the start of the pandemic.

As many consumers remain under full or partial lockdown restrictions across the world, it is clear that people of all ages are continuing to flock to the app for entertainment and a bit of escapism.

Of course, download numbers do not always correlate with high usage. According to analysis, TikTok ranked eighth for Monthly Active Users in the first quarter of this year, below the likes of competitors Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter. It is worth noting, however, that its Monthly Active Users have now surpassed Netflix, emphasising the power of video content on social media. Additionally, global TikTok users spent the second largest amount of money in-app between January and March 2021, just behind YouTube.

Q1 2021 also saw the massive growth of MX Takatak, India’s TikTok equivalent, which is making waves in the region since TikTok was banned by the Indian government. The app topped the charts for quarter-over-quarter download growth, and jumped 21 places in worldwide download numbers for the three-month period.

Facebook is still top among social media sites for daily visits, according to Pew Research

Pew Research’s Social Media Use in 2021 report, which surveyed more than 1,500 U.S. adults by telephone between 25th January and 8th February, has found that Facebook is still the most frequently-visited social media website, with 49% of adults who use the site indicating that they visit it several times per day.

Second in the ranking was Snapchat, which despite having a narrower demographic appeal than Facebook (65% of 18 to 29-year-olds surveyed reported using Snapchat, versus just 2% of users aged 65+, 50% of whom use Facebook) enjoys high engagement among its userbase, with 45% visiting it several times per day. Instagram ranked third, with 38% of its users making several visits per day. TikTok was not included in the ranking, despite being featured elsewhere in the report.

Also of note is the finding that among the social media sites included in Pew Research’s report since 2019, only YouTube and Reddit have achieved “statistically significant” growth in the percentage of Americans who use them. Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter’s growth among U.S. respondents has been mostly level since 2019, while LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and WhatsApp have seen relatively small increases.

By contrast, the percentage of Americans that say they use YouTube has grown by eight percentage points since 2019 (from 73% to 81%) and Reddit has grown by seven percentage points, from 11% in 2019 to 18% in 2020. TikTok is currently used by 21% of U.S. respondents, but was not included in the survey prior to 2021.

More influencer marketers now use TikTok than Facebook

More influencer marketers now use TikTok than they do Facebook, according to a new report from Influencer Marketing Hub.

The study, titled the Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report 2021, found that 45% of brands currently use TikTok for their influencer marketing campaigns, compared to 43% that use Facebook. Last year’s report saw Facebook rank second place, behind Instagram (which still holds the top spot this year), but TikTok’s recent rise in popularity among social media users has knocked Facebook down to third place.

Even more notably, the use of TikTok by influencer marketing teams was so insignificant at the start of 2020 that it didn’t warrant its own category, and instead fell under ‘other’. This proves marketers have been able to spot and respond to social trends in an agile way, moving their budgets and focus to where their audiences are, rather than sticking solely with safer and more familiar platforms.

Overall, Facebook saw a small decline in influencer marketing use (-3%) between early 2020 and 2021. Winners, on the other hand, include LinkedIn, which saw use grow from 12% to 16%, and Twitch, which has now separated itself from the ‘other’ category by attaining a substantial 8%. Meanwhile, interest in YouTube for this purpose remained flat at a healthy 36% and Twitter saw a seven percentage point decline, from 22% to 15%, ranking it sixth – and below LinkedIn for the first time.

Perhaps the most striking statistic of all is that the most significant decline was experienced by Instagram, dropping from 80% last year to 68% this year. With more than two-thirds of influencer marketers planning to spend more on TikTok campaigns over the course of 2021, it is likely that the gap between the two will continue to tighten, spelling trouble for Instagram’s long-held reign.

Digital Shift Q1 2021 Chapter 1 – TikTok

UK consumers spend an extra day online per month so far in 2021

Internet users in the UK have so far spent an extra day online per month so far in 2021, according to data from We Are Social and Hootsuite. The average time an individual spends online everyday now totals 6 hours 26 minutes compared to 5 hours 28 minutes in 2020.

There is no doubt that the prolonged UK lockdown has accelerated this behaviour, forcing many to stay in touch with friends, family and the outside world via the internet. As of the end of December, Google took the highest share of UK online traffic, followed by Wikipedia, BBC.co.uk and Amazon.

Thanks to the increasing time spent on social media since the onset of the virus early last year, the average number of minutes spent per day on social media platforms and apps only increased slightly from 2020 to 2021 – from 1 hour 42 minutes to 1 hour 49 minutes. YouTube and Facebook rank 5th and 6th respectively for share of total web traffic so far, the only two social media platforms to appear in the top 10.

Expectedly, mobile internet use has grown to 2 hours 44 minutes from 2 hours 7 minutes last year (an increase of 29%). Meanwhile, the number of mobile internet users as a percentage of all internet users rose from 85% to 89.3%, exhibiting the huge and necessary shift of the population to online devices. However, share of web traffic on mobile dropped by 3.3% vs. 2020, and this migrated instead to laptop and desktop devices, which saw traffic increase by 5.7% – bucking the usual year-on-year downward trend.

Global social media ad spend was up 50.3% year-on-year at the height of the 2020 holiday season

SocialBakers’ Q4 2020 Social Media Trends report has found that global social media ad spend grew 50.3% year-on-year during the peak of the 2020 holiday season (Around mid-December), rising to a massive 92.3% growth in North America.

Across nine different sectors analysed, average social spend increased by 33% in Q4 2020 compared to levels seen the quarter before. Most industries invested a substantial amount more during this quarter, except for accommodation, which has been particularly negatively affected by the pandemic. Ecommerce brands spent the most on advertising across social platforms (24.8% up on Q3 2020), reaching nearly double  spending seen in Q1 2020. Fashion, auto, beauty and alcohol companies also markedly ramped up their ad spend.

With this increase in ad spend comes an increase in CPC. Globally, CPC rose 9% year-on-year at the highest point of the golden quarter, while average CPC across key industries grew 27.4% in Q4 versus Q3.

There was a particularly large increase in CPC for ads placed in the Facebook News Feed, climbing 12% since Q4 2019 to $0.107, however, Instagram Feed placement remained the most expensive despite declining overall year-on-year.

Pinterest saw highest growth in revenue in Q4 2020 vs. other social platforms

Pinterest saw the highest year-on-year revenue growth in Q4 2020 versus other major social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat.

According to its Q4 2020 financial statement, the platform acquired over $705 million in revenue over the three months to December 31st, a 76% increase on the £399 million reported in the same period of 2019. While this total revenue is notably less than other giants in the sector, it marks Pinterest as the fastest growing social platform for ad revenue.

Snapchat comes next with a 62% growth rate, reaching $911 million in revenue compared to $560 million in Q4 2019. Meanwhile, Facebook reported a 31% growth to $27.2 billion and Twitter a 28% growth to $1.3 billion.

It is interesting that smaller and more commonly overlooked social platforms are making such gains in this area. Pinterest has attributed its fourth quarter success to ‘continued product innovation, execution and an earlier and longer holiday season’, while also reporting it had welcomed an additional 100 million monthly active users over the course of the calendar year.

As the likes of Snapchat and Pinterest grow their user bases, even more advertisers are likely to flock to the platform to reach a wider demographic – spelling a positive future for the platforms.

Snapchat revenue rose 62% year-on-year in Q4 2020

Snapchat has announced in a financial statement that its fourth quarter revenue rose 62% year-on-year to $911 million. Operating cash flow also improved by $14 million to $53 million compared to Q4 2019.

Global Daily Active Users increased by 47 million over the period to 265 million in total – a 22% growth on the year before – and the average Snapchatter opened the app 30 times per day.

The social platform’s investment in its Discover tab and AR capability appeared to pay off, with more than 90% of users in the Gen Z age group watching Shows and publisher content during the quarter, while 200 million Daily Active Users engaged with AR filters every day. Interestingly, there was also a 30% increase in time spent viewing Shows and publisher content in Snapchatters over the age of 35.

Meanwhile, its Spotlight tab (similar to Instagram reels) has garnered 100 million Monthly Active Users in January 2021 alone, proving the company’s decision to incorporate short-form video onto its platform very successful so far.

Snapchat expects its Q1 2021 revenue to reach between $720-740 million, up from $462 million in Q1 2020, and equating to a maximum 60% year-on-year growth.

More than 1 in 5 Millennials are using social media less than they used to

More than 1 in 5 (22%) of Millennials, globally, are using social media less than they used to, according to data collected in Q3 2020 and published by GlobalWebIndex in Q1 2021. This is despite a spike in social media usage and engagement recorded since lockdowns took effect in March 2020. While many are using the apps to connect with people they cannot meet face-to-face, Millennials seem slightly more conscious of its effects on their mental health, and are taking more action.

Sixteen percent of Millennials claimed that the platforms were making them feel anxious, the report found. However, those with this sentiment have been found to mostly use the platforms for ‘social reasons’ – as opposed to other activities like shopping – making them 19% more likely than others in their cohort to ensure they aren’t missing out on anything being posted.

Like others, over a quarter of Millennials also worry about the amount of time they are spending on social media. But they appear to be taking more action to rectify this, with 26% setting up their devices to monitor screen time vs. an average 23% across other age groups.

Despite the negative effects of these platforms, Millennials are surprisingly the most optimistic about social media’s role in society – on average, 38% say these platforms are ‘good for society’, rising to 45% in particularly heavy users.

TikTok beats Facebook for the first time on average monthly time spent per user in 2020

The average amount of time spent on the TikTok app among its UK users, per month, has nearly doubled between 2019 and 2020, according to analysis from App Annie. On Android devices alone, monthly average hours increased from 11 to 19.9, vastly outpacing Facebook’s 16.6 hours across 2020 and cementing its place as one of the most rapidly growing apps for engagement.

While almost every app in every market saw an increase in usage last year, thanks to the pandemic, the unprecedented popularity of TikTok has seen the growth of all other social media apps pale in comparison – Instagram recorded just an 8-hour average per month.

The report also claims that TikTok is due to surpass 1.2 billion active users by the end of 2021, having been the most downloaded app of 2020 in all major North and South American regions, as well as China, Australia, Germany and the UK.

This is big news for the Chinese app, which has faced huge controversy and several (attempted and successful) bans over the past year – we’ve already seen its format being imitated by rival social platforms and its influence is unlikely to stop there in the years to come.

Events of 2020 have changed brand social media priorities for 2021

A Hootsuite report – Social Trends 2021 – has identified how the events of 2020 have changed brands’ priorities in social media marketing for 2021. Conducted throughout Q3 2020, the survey interviewed more than 11,000 marketers from across the globe.

Between July and September this year, Instagram’s advertising reach increased by 7.1%, more than three times that of Facebook’s, which saw a 2.2% growth. Despite this, Facebook is viewed by 78% of brands as the most effective way of achieving business targets.

Instagram’s 2020 growth in reach can’t be ignored, however, and is reflected in the fact that 61% of brands are planning to increase their budgets for this platform in the coming year. Facebook ranks second (46%), followed by YouTube in third (45%). Interestingly, despite the huge popularity of TikTok since the pandemic started, only 14% hope to increase their budgets for the channel, making it second least prioritised social media platform after Snapchat (4%).

When it comes to businesses’ social goals for 2021, increased acquisition of new customers is the clear winner, with 73% of organisations citing this as a top objective compared to just 46% last year. Increased awareness of their brand was also considered important by 64% of respondents, as was driving more conversions (45%).

Social CX and Customer Service Best Practice Guide

Q4 2020:

One in four online purchases are now made via an interaction with a social media platform

Analysis commissioned by Visa, which studied shopping habits over the six months to October 2020, found that one in four online purchases in the UK are now made as a result of interacting with a social media platform.

Furthermore, close to a fifth (17%) of consumers purposely turn to social apps for shopping. Of those that do, 35% cited convenience as a key purchase driver, while 26% also said they liked how quick it is to check out. However, more than half (57%) admitted to neglecting online security by not always reviewing third party ratings for the websites they were purchasing from.

More often than not, data shows, consumers are disappointed with the goods they receive when shopping via social platforms. Fifty-eight percent of respondents claimed they were dissatisfied with their purchases and 38% were in the process of trying to process a refund or return of such items. Worryingly, with more than half (54%) failing to check the refund/returns policies of social retailers, just one-fifth said they have received a full refund via the method with which they first paid and 88% said they have been left out of pocket for at least one purchase.

These figures highlight the potential risk associated with purchasing from lesser-known retailers that advertise on social media. The way in which social media lends itself to more impulsive spending, particularly with the addition of speedy checkout, also appears to mean that shoppers are less likely to make the necessary security checks that they might usually do when landing on a webpage directly from search results, for example.

Q3 2020:

Global social ad spend rises 56.4% quarter-on-quarter in Q3 2020

SocialBakers’ Q3 2020 Social Media Trends Report has found that global social ad spend rose 56.4% in Q3 2020 compared with figures recorded at the end of Q2. This figure increases to 61.7% in North America, with the widespread Facebook ad boycott in this and other regions throughout Q2 partly responsible for the sharp upturn in Q3.

Central America saw the second highest growth between these two periods at 55.6%, while Western Europe came third (50.4%). By the end of September, the average global ad spend on social media was nearly double that of its lowest level at the end of March when many Western lockdowns were first imposed.

Encouragingly, the report indicates overall global ad spend on social has returned to levels similar to those seen in Q3 2019, and marketers predict that it will continue to improve over the holiday season as brands try to entice consumers to shop for gifts via social platforms.

Zooming in, social ad spend saw the highest jump across the FMCG food (+61.3%), automotive (+59.4%), finance (+35.3%) and ecommerce sectors (+27.5%). However, spend in the accommodation industry remained volatile throughout the quarter amid a second wave of the virus, ending with comparable spend levels to those seen in the latter part of Q2.

Q2 2020:

TikTok reveals more than a 181m growth in global MAUs throughout H1 2020

TikTok divulged its user growth for the first time in late August as it filed a lawsuit against the US government over its potential banning in the region, CNBC has reported. The figures revealed that its global user base reached nearly 700m monthly active users (MAUs) in July 2020, a 181m growth since December last year. It is estimated more than 100m of those are based in the US.

The app’s biggest spike in global popularity occurred between January and December 2018, when it  first began its ascent to social media fame in the West, jumping from 54m to 271m MAUs. User growth has continued to rise at a healthy trajectory since; steepening slightly this year due to increased interest amid the coronavirus pandemic and marking an almost 800% rise in MAUs between the start of 2018 and July 2020.

This comes as findings from an IPA report confirm that the social media platform more than doubled its reach to 15-24 year olds throughout the coronavirus lockdown, up from 14% to 30%. Meanwhile, other social apps increased their reach to this age group only modestly; YouTube, for example, climbed just three percentage points to 63% during the same period.

Customer experience

Consumer confidence in June 2021 at highest level since 2016

As of June 2021, consumer confidence is now at its highest level since 2016, as UK citizens become more optimistic about the future post-Covid. A YouGov poll has revealed that overall consumer confidence index gained 3.1 points on the month before, reaching 113.6 (up from a negative 96 points 12 months ago).

Outlooks on job security and personal finances for the next year have hit record highs, which could point at a healthy amount of disposable income ready to be spent with retailers, entertainment venues and the like as they look to recover their losses from the pandemic. Typically, households are optimistic that their improved financial situations will continue over the next 12 months, and the same can be said of their expectations about house prices.

Employees are also feeling positive about workplace activity. Confidence in this area grew to 127 on the index, up by 3.8 points on May 2021 – reaching the highest level recorded in the last five years. This barometer mirrors of a number of other reports which suggest demand for products and services is booming as lockdown restrictions lift further.

Overall, not a single metric decreased compared to the month before, reflecting a changing public mood and a more positive outlook for brands and businesses.

3.7 million UK adults used online banking for the first time during the pandemic

Covid-19 has been the most major factor in the widespread adoption of digital services over the course of the last 18 months. New research from SYZYGY, which monitored digital acceleration in the UK and US throughout the pandemic, has found 3.7 million UK consumers used online banking for the first time since March 2020 (to March 2021), equating to 7.1% of adults in the region. Uptake of this service was slightly less in US as a percentage of the population, where 6.7% began online banking at some point during the crisis.

Even more UK adults (13.8%) turned to online doctors for the first time, while 7.3 million began using telehealth services for new or existing health conditions. A further 7.8% started online fitness classes to stay healthy and active during lockdowns.

This rapid surge in the usage of digital services also spanned outside of essential lifestyle, financial and health categories into leisure and entertainment. Virtual visits to museums and galleries are on the rise, with 1.4 million UK consumers exploring one via a digital device since the pandemic started. Meanwhile, a massive 4.1 million began streaming movies and TV to pass the time, rising to 20.4 million in the US, and 1.8 million UK adults took up online gaming, with a further 10 million Americans doing the same.

Q1 2021:

1.5 million more UK citizens have begun using the internet in the last year

Lloyds’ 2021 Consumer Digital Index has found 1.5 million more UK citizens have begun using the internet over the last 12 months, thanks to increased reliance on digital services since the onset of the pandemic. This equates to 95% of the UK population now being online.

Predictions cast before the onset of coronavirus suggested that it would take until 2025 for 58% of the population to obtain what is known as ‘high digital capability’, but the rapid acceleration of online activity has meant 60% now have this degree of capability in 2021.

The report found, in the last year, 72% of consumers made an online purchase from a brand they had never purchased from before, 67% visited a news website for the first time and a further 65% made their first ever video call.

Although there has been a huge uplift in digital activity since the pandemic began, a considerable proportion of UK internet users (29% or 14.9 million people) have very low digital engagement scores. This means 14% or less of their spend is online, rarely via mobile devices, and they often don’t use email or online banking services. This segment has shrunk by just 4 percentage points since 2020, and 2.6 million consumers still remain completely offline, signifying that there are still several unsolved barriers to increased digital engagement.

Data shows that those in these two groups are more likely to be older (just one in ten people who are offline are under 50 years old) and earn less than £20,000 a year. Analysis also indicates that digital poverty has been intensified by existing social and financial vulnerabilities more than ever in the past 12 months. As a hybrid online/offline approach to work and lifestyle is expected to continue past the pandemic, digital poverty and inclusivity become ever more important topics to address.

Customer Journey Mapping Best Practice Guide

US and UK social media users most likely to advocate for a brand on price and/or value for money

A Brandwatch report on Customer Loyalty has found US and UK social media users were most likely to publicly advocate for a brand on price and/or value for money than any other purchase driver over the course of 2020. Approximately 40% of consumer brand advocacy discussion on social media platforms in these regions mentioned fair prices or good value for money over this period.

Two additional reasons were consistently cited as causes for brand advocacy by respondents – quality of products received, as well as a great delivery experience, perhaps due to the increased demand on delivery services in 2020 as customers shopped online. Each of these reasons accounted for 20% of positive brand mentions on social media.

When it comes to detraction from a brand on social media, however, consumers are far more likely to post about a poor delivery experience than anything else, followed by the negative treatment of employees and the quality of a product they received. Poor customer service came surprisingly quite far down the list but ranked above complaints about value for money.

Notably, data shows brand detraction brand post volume in the UK and US was 20% higher than the number of posts advocating brands, indicating that social media users prefer to post about negative experiences than positive experiences.

Consumers have become more trusting of brands for health and wellness advice

Consumers are becoming increasingly more trusting of brands than ever for health and wellness advice, according to data from a recent Forrester report titled The Trust Imperative.

The research indicates that consumers across the regions of the US, UK, France and India are now more trusting in brands than they are in their local and national governments and the mainstream media in their areas. In fact, close to half of consumers in the US and UK say they have faith in brands to give them advice on how to stay healthy, while an additional third (32% and 33% respectively) accept guidance from them on topics of mental wellness, like anxiety and stress.

On the other hand, if a brand goes against a customer’s strongly-held values, a growing proportion of them will stop purchasing their products or services. Just over one-quarter (26%) of French shoppers agreed they would do this, followed by 23% of those based in Singapore and 18% of those in the US.

6 in 10 UK brands don’t rank customer satisfaction as a top priority for 2021

Research from customer engagement platform Braze has found that 6 in 10 UK brands don’t rank customer satisfaction as a top priority in their 2021 business strategies.

The vaccination programme currently being rolled out offers hope that both life and business will return to normal in the second half of this year, and marketing budgets are set to rise alongside this for 50% of companies that took part in the study. However, it appears that marketers plan to prioritise this investment in Artificial Intelligence tools (47%) more than in customer analytics (45%) or customer satisfaction (43%).

With the massive disruption to customer loyalty that has been experienced by businesses across the globe in the last 12 months, this smaller than expected focus on customer satisfaction could spell trouble for brands looking to improve rates of repeat purchases and/or ROI. Although Artificial Intelligence can have some impact on the way marketers can respond to customer behaviour, which will in turn help revenue in the short term, it is equally or more important that they ensure their customers are happy with their experience to achieve long term success.

Additional data from the study highlights a further lack of precedence for customer experience among these organisations. Just 3 in 10 companies share a company-wide understanding of how to define customer engagement, while a further 77% struggle to demonstrate levels of customer engagement through tangible business outcomes. Despite this, 79% still feel confident in their customer engagement strategies for 2021.

James Manderson, GM and VP of Success at Braze EMEA explains, “While it is positive to see that UK companies are upping their marketing budgets this year, it is imperative they place it into customer engagement strategies and tools that impact revenue.

…2020 was a wake-up call to marketers who learnt that products or services alone are not enough to win customer loyalty. Today, customers are in the driving seat and want to be communicated with in a way that suits them – it’s important companies respect that and take action.”

So what exactly does customer experience (CX) mean?

CX leaders were three times more likely to outpace the mainstream on company performance in 2020

Organisations defined as ‘CX leaders’ were three times more likely to outpace organisations in the ‘mainstream’ on company performance in 2020, according to the Digital Trends 2021 report from Econsultancy and Adobe.

In total, 71% of CX leaders (who comprised 18% of respondents and were defined as having very advanced approach to CX) claimed they had ‘significantly’ or ‘slightly’ outpaced average performance in their sector last year compared with just 43% of the mainstream (those whose CX capability ranged from ‘immature’ to ‘somewhat advanced’). Meanwhile, double the number of organisations reported to be on pace for performance were CX leaders (43% vs 22% in mainstream).

CX leaders performance - Adobe Digital Trends Report 2021

CX leaders also appear to have greater insight into the motivations and challenges that their customers are facing, due to the long-term development of their analytics functions in the years before the pandemic began. As a result, they are more than twice as likely to report that their customers have had a positive digital experience with their brand than others with lesser insight. They are also able to make more empathetic decisions, data suggests.

Fifty-three percent of CX leaders say they have detailed insight into the drivers of loyalty/retention for customers organisation, compared to just over one-fifth of companies in the CX mainstream, while similar numbers were reported across insights into mindset of customers and friction points in the customer journey.

The CX mainstream performed marginally better against its competitors when it came to knowledge of purchase drivers (25% vs. 49% of CX leaders). However, there is still plenty of room for improvement, as 60% of client-side respondents across all companies admitted that they would still ‘definitely’ or ‘possibly’ get frustrated were they a customer of their own organisation’s experience.

25% of brands will see ‘statistically significant advances’ to their CX quality in 2021

As customer experience, particularly through online channels, was thrown into the spotlight for most of 2020, renewed focus on this core business aspect will enable vast developments throughout the course of 2021, according to predictions from Forrester.

Twenty-five percent of brands will see ‘statistically significant’ advances to their CX quality next year, despite budget cuts, thanks to increasingly improving customer experience competencies on the back of short-term fixes generated at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak. As a result, this move could save companies hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars, the data forecasts.

Forrester also expects spending on customer loyalty and retention will increase by 30% over the next year, after acquiring plenty of new online customers during the 2020 ecommerce boom. Brands can expect to see their CMOs taking more control over the full customer lifecycle in order to improve CLV amid the uncertain financial climate ahead. Many CMOs are likely to integrate marketing with CX to create a more joined up experiences that encourage customers to stick around.

82% of UK consumers are still recommending brands during the pandemic

Research from MentionMe reveals that, although there has been a rising trend of consumers abandoning brand loyalty over the course of the coronavirus crisis, brand advocacy remains as strong as ever in the UK.

Eighty-two percent of consumers that took part in the study said that they had recommended a brand over the last year, and more than a third have in the past month alone. Many of these referrals were for home improvement brands selling furnishings, DIY and garden products, which have also seen a huge rise in sales across lockdowns. Other sectors with high referral rates included food and drink (up 10% on 2019), subscriptions and technology, and, unpredictably, holidays and travel.

After a year of uncertainty, 65% of consumers now place the trustworthiness of a brand as the top reason for referring them to a friend or relative, followed by great customer service (58%) and free delivery or returns (51%). However, there were aspects that became much less important over this period. Brands that ‘surprise or delight’ consumers and those with innovative products, fell by 22% and 17% respectively from previous figures in 2019.

Consumers also appear to be considering the wider impact of their purchasing decisions, particularly as home delivery has become so commonplace. As a result, nearly one-third of respondents said they would be more likely to recommend companies with ‘green credentials’.

Q4 2020:

47% of British consumers have had issues with parcel delivery since the onset of coronavirus

An October 2020 survey of more than 2000 British consumers, commissioned by Citizens Advice, has found that nearly half (47%) of British consumers have had issues with the delivery of parcels since the first lockdown began in March.

With the UK having been in full or partial lockdown for much of this year, 51% say they feel more reliant on having products delivered to their homes. The increased numbers of people now shopping online, whether for necessity or convenience, seems to have thrown retailers’ logistical issues into the spotlight.

Of all respondents, a whopping 96% claimed to have ordered products that require parcel delivery since March. Three in 10 of these have experienced shipping delays, making it the biggest issue cited by consumers. A further 18% said they had lost out financially due to a home delivery gone wrong or missing, with 40% of those losing out by more than £20.

As a result, nearly one in four admitted they had lost confidence when ordering goods from online stores.

Citizens Advice has said views of its webpage providing advice on parcel issues had more than doubled to 208,000 between March and October this year compared to just 94,000 over the same period last year.

How has the overwhelming shift to online impacted retailer returns strategies?

US shopping app downloads slowed to a 4% year-on-year growth in Q3 2020 after a Q2 spike

US shopping app downloads slowed to a 4% year-on-year growth in Q3, following a spike in Q2, according to Sensor Tower’s Mobile Retail Trends Analysis, published in Q4.

Across the Apple App Store and Google Play, shopping app downloads in the region surpassed 150 million. The ranking of most downloaded apps remained mostly unchanged throughout Q1-Q3 this year, with Amazon, Wish and Walmart remaining in the top three, in that order, as they did last year. However, three new retail apps entered among the remaining seven spots, mirroring their successes in the US market this year – Shop (by Shopify) rocketed to fourth place overall, while fashion retailer SHEIN ranked number seven and Nike crept in at number 10.

Sensor Tower data also revealed that US app download growth for top brick-and-mortar retailers between Q1-Q3 this year was almost double that of top online-only retail apps (+27% vs. +14%). Downloads for stores that also have a brick-and-mortar presence also dropped off less sharply over the Q3 period compared to those of online-only retailers.

This suggests US consumers found a new way to shop with their favourite high street stores in 2020 under unprecedented circumstances. Customers who favour flexible shipping policies and contact-free pickup particularly reaped the benefits of apps from these kinds of retailers.

Customer experience trends in 2021: What do the experts predict?

Workplace impact

Q1 2021:

45% of US ad executives say they would attend live events in Q3 and Q4 2021

Optimism for in-person events is growing among US advertising executives, Marketing Dive has reported based on findings from an Advertiser Perceptions survey. In April 2021, forty-five percent of respondents said they would physically attend events taking place in Q3 or Q4 2021 if invited, up from 37% in February.

A further 13% said they would be willing to attend live events from Q1 2022 and beyond, suggesting that the majority believe the worst of the pandemic will be over by that period, and in-person conferences and awards ceremonies will be able to resume as normal.

It seems that ad executives are not only willing to simply participate in live events in the near future, but back them too. Thirty-one percent now claim that they would begin sponsoring these events in either Q3 or Q4 2021, a figure that has risen from 27% in February. An additional 30% say they are now planning and creating in-person events for the second half of the year as a result of heightened optimism surrounding the end of the pandemic.

While many events this year are still scheduled to be digital-only affairs, for example the much-anticipated Cannes Lions awards, evidence suggests the advertising industry is keener than expected to return to live events by the end of the year.

Confidence amongst employees in US travel and entertainment sectors soars

New research from LinkedIn, published in April 2021, indicates confidence amongst US employees in the travel and entertainment sectors has been soaring in recent months.

Now that more than 96 million people in the US have been vaccinated, data shows workers in sectors that have been hardest hit by the coronavirus are the most optimistic they have been since before the start of the pandemic back in March 2020.

LinkedIn’s Work Confidence report, which collected the views of more than 5000 US citizens, found that workers in the travel and recreation sector are now the most confident in their employers’ outlook for the next 6 months at +65 up year-on-year (+100 being most positive, and -100 being most negative). This is followed by those in the entertainment industry, which scored +55.

Indeed, confidence has notably improved across all sectors covered by the survey, although education appears to be trailing slightly behind the rest of the top five at +31, up from -23 in May 2020. Meanwhile, overall confidence in outlook for all sectors in the region has been recorded at average +42 year-on-year. This optimism can only be a good thing for brands and marketers as they prepare for recovery following a devastating year for many crucial industries.

Further data suggests there is still a way to go for some other industries to bounce back, such as healthcare, manufacturing and public administration, while workers in finance, construction and real-estate are currently demonstrating above average confidence.

Business app downloads remain high a year on from the pandemic

According to a report by SensorTower, Covid-19’s App Impact: One Year Later, business-related apps like Zoom and Google Meet have retained the highest growth a year on from the onset of the pandemic, out of a range of app categories including Sports, Education, Health & Fitness, and Travel.

Between February and April 2020, as the pandemic spread across the globe, business apps in the United States saw the highest increase of all app categories, with year over year downloads rising more than 150% by April. By February 2021, downloads had declined, but were still 50% up from where they had been before the pandemic took hold.

In Europe, business app downloads rose even higher, spiking at a 252% increase in downloads between March and April 2020, compared with the same period in 2019. In early 2021, they were still the highest-growth app category, with downloads up 109% in January/February 2021 compared with the first two months of 2020.

Close to two-thirds of businesses negatively impacted by Covid-19 showing signs of recovery

The road to recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic will be long and arduous for the businesses affected by it. However, a report by the Data & Marketing Association (DMA), Coronavirus: March 2021 – The Impacts on Business, has given a glimmer of hope.

The report found that while a decisive majority of businesses (70%) are still being negatively impacted by the pandemic, close to two-thirds (63%) of businesses affected say they are experiencing signs of recovery. The report also found that the percentage of businesses reporting the impact of the pandemic as ‘Extremely negative’ is down to 16%, falling from 25% in November 2020.

This gradual recovery may bode well for marketing departments in particular. The DMA found that close to half (48%) of organisations expect their budgets to increase over the next financial year (compared to 27% who forecast a decrease), with 47% expecting an increase in their budget for marketing specifically. One in five organisations (21%) also said that they are currently hiring for data and marketing roles.

Mean gender pay gap for full time marketers is 23% in 2021

The Econsultancy and Marketing Week Career and Salary Survey 2021 has revealed the mean gender pay gap for full time marketers is 23% in 2021, down from 28% reported in 2020’s findings, but exceeding the national mean of 11.5%.

While female marketing professionals in the most junior roles earn slightly more, on average, than their male peers (£27,500 vs £26,800), the pay gap between the genders becomes wider the closer employees get to director or VP roles. Data found women were on average paid £3,200 less than men at senior executive level, rising to nearly £10,000 at the most senior level.

Given that women have been disproportionately affected by furlough and redundancy since the onset of the pandemic, the results of the survey indicate the marketing sector still has further to go, even against other industries, to achieve gender pay equality.

Substantial barriers still remain for marketing and experience, despite 2020 being the ‘most innovative period’

Half of senior marketing leaders have said that the last nine months of 2020 were the most innovative period they had experienced in their organisation, as businesses were forced out of necessity to think of new and exciting methods to engage their customers online.

However, the Econsultancy and Adobe Digital Trends 2021 survey has identified some substantial barriers to success in marketing and experience. For ‘mainstream’ CX businesses (those whose CX capability ranged from ‘immature’ to ‘somewhat advanced’), the continued use of legacy systems was voted as the barrier that was mostly holding them back from their true potential (43%), followed by workflow issues (42%) and a lack of digital skills or capabilities (35%). This suggests that, despite advances at these companies in 2020, old processes and outdated knowledge continue to hamper efficiency and digital maturity.

A similar story can be said for those in the B2C and B2B industries, employees of which cited these three topics as their top obstructions to success. While the same is also true for CX leaders, these barriers were significantly less of an issue by comparison. Just 29% of employees working for CX leaders cited workflow issues vs. 42% of the CX mainstream, 27% vs 43% on legacy systems and 22% vs 35% on digital skills and capability.

Barriers to marketing and experience - Adobe Digital Trends Report 2021

Q4 2020:

46% of media, marketing and advertising freelancers in the UK say they are no longer constrained by the location of clients

Forty six percent of media, marketing and advertising freelancers say they are no longer constrained by the location of their clients, thanks to recent advances in remote working, according to research from Worksome, published in December 2020.

The survey of more than 500 UK freelancers in the sector also found 23% of contractors outside of the London area now work for companies that are based overseas, compared to 15% of those in London. However, almost half (49%) of respondents said they predict fewer jobs to be available from January due to the extra pressure businesses will be under from Brexit, on top of difficulties from Covid-19.

More than one in five UK workers have become freelancers throughout the course of the coronavirus outbreak, accelerating the trend of contracting becoming more widespread. Fifteen percent of these new freelancers said that the reason they moved to this type of work was because of redundancy where they used to work permanently.

For most, the change is set to be longstanding, with 83% stating they hope to continue working contractually after the pandemic subsides. The events of this year have also improved the general outlook of contractors. Fifty-seven percent said freelancing has been a positive thing for them during Covid-19, likely due to the flexibility it offers while juggling other responsibilities like childcare.  A further one in five have observed that there are more contractual jobs available since the workforce became less permanent, and an additional 37% claim they have been more productive when working.

97% of event marketers believe hybrid events are the future

Covid-19 has had a profound impact on the events business, eliminating crowded conferences and expos and forcing events organisers to adapt by shifting online. However, the outlook from the events industry is positive in the wake of this change.

Bizzabo’s Evolution of Events Report, published on 13th November and based on a survey of almost 400 event and marketing professionals, found that 97% of event marketers believe hybrid events are the future – and that going forward, the most rewarding events will have a virtual component.

More than 80% also reported greater audience reach from their events thanks to the shift to virtual technology, due in large part to the elimination of barriers to attendance such as travel, venue capacities, accommodation booking and other costs.

All of this has led to nearly a fifth of marketers (18%) reporting that they intend to increase their event marketing budget for 2021, with many already planning events for 2021 that will be supported by an online component. This widespread acceptance of hybrid events – and willingness to invest in them – is even more remarkable considering that 77% of respondents say they have never hosted a hybrid event before.

Q3 2020:

51% of UK marketers say they have lost in-house digital talent as a result of Covid-19

A September 2020 report from Serpico by Croud suggests that 51% of UK marketers have lost in-house digital talent as a result of Covid-19. Fifty-seven percent of these losses came from redundancy, 43% from furlough and 35% from those who had resigned from their roles since March. For larger UK businesses (those with 250-500 employees), the percentage that lost in-house talent during this period was as high as 61%.

UK businesses still perceive sigificant barriers to in-housing digital marketing, with 39% citing finding the right talent as a major barrier to in-housing, followed by budget cuts (38%). All in all, the future of sourcing digital talent for in-house teams looks to be as uncertain as ever.

Despite these significant losses and barriers, however, the report revealed that UK marketers are as keen as ever to move to in-housing digital talent at their organisations. Forty-nine percent of respondents said that they were planning on actioning this as a result of the pandemic, compared to a smaller 40% of those based in the US.

However, to mitigate issues down the line, not all of those hoping to switch to an in-house model are looking to do so entirely, at least for now. In the UK, 27% of UK marketers say they are planning to in-house marketing more as a result of Covid-19, but with the support of an agency; 11% plan to in-house their digital marketing less and rely on agency support, while 17% plan to increase in-housing and move away from agency support altogether.

57% of British workers want to continue working from home after the Covid-19 crisis subsides

Fifty-seven percent of British workers say they’d like to continue working from home, some or all of the time, once the Covid-19 crisis subsides, data from YouGov, collected in early September 2020, has found.

Before the outbreak began, 68% of the workforce never worked from home, while 19% did for some of the time and just 13% did full time. As has been reported frequently, Covid-19 has initiated a huge shift in flexible and remote working as a means of adapting. By early September, one third of workers were still working from home full time, even after the government encouraged the population to return to their physical workplaces. This number is likely to rise again now that restrictions and messaging have been revised.

The idea of striking a balance between office and home working is one that seems to appeal highly to British workers once things return to normal – whenever that may be. Thirty-nine percent of respondents said that splitting their time across the office and home would be their preferred option. Meanwhile, the same percentage specified that they would still opt to be based in an office or other physical workspace full time – 29% fewer people than originally worked this way before the pandemic.

Three quarters of staff who are working from home expect their employer to continue to offer this arrangement after the crisis is over. As a result, one in five of the British workforce say they would consider moving far away (non-commutable distance) from the office, rising to 28-30% of those currently based in London, and 22% would even contemplate moving to a different country.

Effective Remote Working for Marketers Best Practice Guide

Entertainment

Global mobile gaming revenue rises 25% year-on-year in Q1 2021

Analysis by SensorTower on the state of mobile gaming has found global gaming revenue rose 25% year-on-year in Q1 2021, outpacing the 18% and 16% growth recorded, respectively, over the last two years. Most notable growth was seen during Q2 2020, at 33% up on the same period the year before, when (for the first time) games earned a total $20 billion in just one quarter.

US mobile gamers remain the biggest spenders of all, with mobile game revenue there reaching over $6 billion by the first quarter of 2021 – a 34% rise year-on-year. Japan came second, creating over $5 billion in revenue, and is closing in on the US’s lead at a higher 35% growth rate. Across both of these regions, spending on these apps grew by more than $1 billion over the course of the year.

After strong download performance for mobile games between Q1 2019 and Q1 2020, up 39%, growth has slowed substantially to just 5% between Q1 2020 and Q2 2021. However, this figure still considerably outpaces the 1-2% average annual growth from the years prior to 2019, suggesting some of the enthusiasm for mobile gaming that was first seen at the beginning of the pandemic has been retained into 2021.

As ownership of smartphone devices soars amongst India’s population, the number of downloads of mobile games has followed suit. By Q1 2021, the region saw a 28% year-on-year increase in downloads, peaking at almost 3 billion during Q3 2020 and accounting for 12% of all mobile game downloads in 2020.

Q1 2021:

36% of British mobile gamers have played more often since the start of the pandemic, and the habit is here to stay

An April 2021 YouGov survey has found the recent soar in mobile gaming could be here to stay. Thirty-six percent of British mobile gamers say they have played more often since the start of the pandemic, with females most likely to contribute towards the rise (42% compared to 29% of male mobile gamers). This figure grows to 39% of mobile gamers in the US, but growth has been more evenly split between males and females (40% of females vs. 38% of males).

Further data shows the majority of both GB and US gamers hope to sustain their heightened mobile gaming habits post-pandemic, despite returning to busier lifestyles. Sixty-eight percent of British respondents agreed that they were very or somewhat likely to continue spending more time on the activity once Covid-19 has subsided, rising to 77% of US respondents.

With more than two-thirds of British consumers now regularly playing games on their mobile devices, game developers and (by extension) in-game advertisers can expect to maintain a large share of consumers’ designated entertainment time in the future.

76.2% of European consumers have consumed more audio content since the pandemic started

A comprehensive Audio Content Survey from Sortlist shows, on average, 76.2% of European consumers have consumed more audio content since the pandemic started than they did before. The research on listening habits was conducted on 500 business leaders of small to medium sized enterprises across France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands.

Radio was the most preferred type of audio content among those surveyed, reaching its highest in Spain at 56.1%. This was followed by podcasts, which seem to be less popular in the Netherlands (30.1%) than they are in France (40.9%). In fact, there was just a 5.2% gap between the popularity of radio and podcasts in France. With 900,000 new podcasts created in 2020 alone (a 300% year-on-year rise), the popularity of podcasts could increase even further, and perhaps overtake radio, in certain regions in the near future.

Across the board, consumers are much more likely to listen to audio related to their hobbies than their day jobs. Other popular topics include news-related content, audiobooks and other miscellaneous entertainment.

The data also reveals some good news for advertisers using audio formats for their campaigns. Seventy-eight percent of survey respondents said they have bought, or are open to buying, products promoted alongside the audio content they listen to.

Commercial media consumption between generations widens over 2020

The events of 2020 have exacerbated the widening generational gap in commercial media consumption habits, according to a study from IPA.

Data shows the consumption of such media has evolved significantly between 2015 and 2020, with 55+ year-olds continuing to adopt a slow and steady pace of change, 35-54 year-olds shifting selected habits, and 16-34s altering their consumption at a much more rapid rate.

Over the 2020 lockdowns, those in the 16-34 age bracket spent 79% of their time consuming commercial media on digital platforms, up from an average 73% across the whole of 2020 and just 59% in 2015. By comparison, adults of all ages (on average) spent less than half of their media time on digital platforms (48% vs. 42% in 2015).

There was a particularly large disparity between age cohorts and the types of devices preferred last year. Throughout 2020, smartphone usage unsurprisingly accounted for 47% of all media consumption (digital and non-digital) in 16-34 year-olds, rising to 52% during lockdown periods, while usage of the device stayed the same for 35-54 year-olds (31%) and declined slightly in over 55s (11% to 10%).

Meanwhile, the TV set made a notable comeback for consumers over 35, with the amount of time spent using them sometimes beating figures from five years before. Watching TV comprised 35% of commercial media time for 35-54 year-olds in 2020, increasing 6 percentage points over lockdown, while the percentage of TV viewership for those over 55 grew to 54% – 2% higher than in 2015. However, for 16-34 year-olds, TV usage continued to decline, falling to 23%.

US consumer spend on video games rises 27% in 2020

In a series of tweets, Executive Director at the NPD Group, Mat Piscatella, shared some fascinating insight into US consumer spending on the video games industry throughout 2020, based on full-year data collected by the company.

Total spend on video game content across PC, console, mobile, portable, cloud and VR platforms in the region reached $56.9 billion, growing by 27% year-on-year.

In December alone, $7.7 billion was spent on such games, up 25% compared to the same month in 2019, while spend on hardware grew to $1.35 billion (+38%), no doubt boosted by the release of the new Xbox and Playstation consoles in November.

The Nintendo Switch was the best-selling console in 2020, as evidenced by the huge rise in demand seen throughout the spring and summer months when many looked to distract themselves from life in lockdown. According to analysis, the annual dollar sales of the Switch were only outstripped by the launch of the Nintendo Wii in 2008. The PlayStation 5 came in second place for dollar sales in 2020, but its predecessor beat it in unit sales.

By now, we all know that 2020 has accelerated industry performance across many sectors, and the gaming industry is no exception. The growth in both consumer spend and engagement across video game platforms can only be a good thing for marketers looking to branch out into, or expand, their advertising efforts in game and at sponsored eSports events.

Q4 2020:

Nearly 1 in 5 UK consumers are pure streamers

In 2020, the number of consumers that watched traditional TV on a weekly basis was lower than it had been in at least the last 4 years, at 79%, according to a December 2020 study conducted by AudienceProject.

Similar patterns can be seen in behaviour across regions like Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. The trend is even more pronounced in the US, where just 59% watched traditional TV in 2020 compared to 83% in 2017.

This consistent drop in traditional TV viewing is being replaced, unsurprisingly, by popular subscription streaming services like Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime. In the UK alone, those that use streaming platforms at least one a week has risen from 49% in 2018 to a much larger 77% in 2020, with under 45s dominating the shift.

As a result, nearly one in five (17%) UK consumers are now ‘pure streamers’ – that is, individuals who have ditched traditional TV altogether in favour of streaming services. The figure will no doubt increase over time, especially on account of new habits formed during the pandemic. Indeed, last year, 27% of UK respondents to the study said they had either watched less traditional TV or had begun using streaming services more than they did in 2019.

The UK still has some way to go before it catches up with the viewing habits of consumers in the US, who lead the way globally, with one-third (32%) now classified as pure streamers.

Q3 2020:

US daytime TV consumption by professionals working from home rose 21% year-on-year in October 2020

Insight from Nielsen indicates that US daytime TV consumption has climbed since workers have become accustomed to working mostly from home. In October alone, there was a 21% increase in time professionals spent watching TV (either live, time-shifted, via an internet-connected device, or on a game console) between 9am and 4pm – the equivalent of 26 more minutes per day than in the same month in 2019.

Data from an August Nielsen study on remote workers also found that 65% of remote workers in the region watched TV or streamed video content while taking work breaks, and a further 56% admitted to watching TV with sound when they were also working. Nielsen noted that while media habits have “normalised” since the initial shelter-in-place restrictions, daytime TV has become a “second primetime” and has skewed consumption, perhaps permanently if working from home becomes a more accepted norm following the pandemic.

By contrast, those not in the US workforce were actually found to have watched less TV in October 2020 than they did in October 2019, with declines ranging from 8% to 2% depending on the time of day. Meanwhile, children aged between 6 and 11 years old spent, on average, three hours and 25 minutes more watching TV during designated school hours. For children aged 12-17, there was an increase of two hours.

Marketers should take note of this trend and use their budgets wisely to target new audiences now watching far more TV than usual, and at significantly different times.

Netflix obtains just 2.2 million new subscribers in Q3 2020, a more than 67% decrease on the same quarter in 2019

After very strong performance in Q1 and Q2, which resulted in a total of more than 17 million new subscribers, Netflix obtained just 2.2 million new subscribers in Q3, it has said in a statement. The quarter beginning July and ending September is typically one of strong growth for the streaming platform, but these latest figures put it 67% behind subscriber numbers acquired during the same period of 2019.

Just 177,000 of these new subscribers came from the United States – one of its largest markets around the globe.

There’s likely to be a myriad of reasons for this dramatic deceleration in growth, including consumers wanting to spend more time outdoors over the summer season after a prolonged period of indoor confinement. Subscriber cancellations following controversy surrounding one of its shows, ‘Cuties’, could also have been a partial cause. In a statement, Netflix cited the theory that those who wanted to subscribe during the pandemic had already done so at its peak in the first half of the year – the ‘pull-forward’ effect it predicted in its Q2 financial statement.

However, the brand is now close to having obtained 200 million total global subscribers, well above that of rival Disney+ (estimated 60 million subscribers), despite disappointing Q3 results. Retention and overall new subscriber numbers across the whole of the calendar year were also up, it said.

Q2 2020:

Mobile app downloads rose 31.7% year-on-year in Q2 2020

The number of apps downloaded globally across the App Store and Google Play in Q2 rose by 31.7% year-on-year in Q2 2020 to 37.8 billion, a report from Sensortower has confirmed. Video conferencing app Zoom was the most downloaded app in worldwide between April and June, beating TikTok which ranked second. As a result, Zoom is just the third app in history that has surpassed 300 million installs in any one quarter, alongside TikTok and Pokemon Go.

Business, healthcare and educational apps thrived in Q2, while travel, navigation and sports apps suffered from a period of low installs. Rideshare apps Uber and Lyft experienced a severe decline in US installs and as of late June were still 57% and 59% behind pre-Covid levels despite many restrictions easing.

Entertainment apps also fared well – Disney+ took the number 14 spot in the US and entered the top 20 apps in Europe for the first time, ranking at number 15. Meanwhile, global mobile game downloads saw healthy growth, up 51.2% and 19.6% from Q2 2019 on Google Play and the App Store respectively. Popular app Roblox jumped from its number 11 Q1 ranking to number 2 in the US as shelter-in-place orders were enforced, while battle royale sensation Fortnite saw an 88% increase in US downloads quarter-on-quarter having newly released the game on Google Play in April.

Disney loses $4.7bn in revenue during Q2 2020, but Disney+ subscribers soar

Disney reported a $4.7bn drop in revenue for the quarter ending June, but Ofcom data has shown rapid uptake in its streaming service Disney+ thanks to Covid-19.

Between its launch in the UK (24th March) and early July, 16% of online adults in the UK had subscribed to Disney+. The research has also confirmed that it has surpassed NowTV when it comes to subscription numbers in the UK, ranking it the third most popular SVoD in the country after Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. However, 95% of those who subscribe to Disney+ also have a subscription with at least one of these other two services, suggesting that Disney+ offers supplementary entertainment and will likely not replace them as an outright alternative.

In June, Disney+ was accessed by 32% of UK households containing children between the ages of 3 and 11, an increase from 21% in April, overtaking the reach of BBC iPlayer among this demographic, which fell from 26% to 22% during the same period. As a result, this proves Disney+ is continuing to gain momentum with families despite the easing of lockdown, and in some cases is replacing BBC children’s content.

Ofcom data also found that consumers were on average spending 1 hour and 11 minutes per day on SVoD services in April 2020, which is 37 minutes higher than figures recorded in April 2019.

The Digital Transformation Monthly

Employment & recruitment

Hiring in US travel sector rises 9.1% month-on-month in May 2021, entertainment by 7.2%

While the unemployment rate in the US remains higher than it did before the pandemic, there has been a jump in hiring amongst the retail, travel and entertainment sectors as events, holidays and shopping trips gradually return to consumers’ daily lives. This is according to May 2021 research published by LinkedIn, which has found the hiring recovery rate in these sectors to be steadily increasing since February.

In the travel and recreation industry, there has been a 9.1% month-on-month jump in the number of US LinkedIn members adding a new employer to their profiles, driven mostly by airlines and hotels in the region. However, several workers who were furloughed or let go at the height of the pandemic, have opted to move to new roles away from the hospitality sector, causing some hotels and venues to rethink their work benefit schemes.

Meanwhile, the US entertainment industry saw a 7.2% increase in recruitment, month-on-month, especially amongst large resorts/theme parks and tourist-centric areas like Las Vegas as they prepare to welcome visitors once more.

Retail experienced a more modest 5.2% growth in hiring over the same period, continuing on a gradual upward trajectory following a devastating year for brick-and-mortar brands. While supermarket chain Kroger said it was looking to hire up to 10,000 employees in the near future, much of the recruitment taking place in the retail sector remains focused on ecommerce – Amazon, for example, hopes to hire 75,000 US employees to help expand their fulfilment and delivery capacity moving forward.

Q1 2021:

UK job vacancies are recovering in the wake of Covid-19 – but remain depleted

A report from the House of Commons, Coronavirus: Impact on the Labour Market, which draws on figures published by the Office for National Statistics, has illustrated the extent to which UK job vacancies have recovered since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic – but also how far they still have to go.

Between April and June 2020, the number of UK job vacancies reached an all-time low of 343,000 since record-keeping began in 2001. This swiftly began to climb back up, and between December 2020 and February 2021 the number of job vacancies had reached 601,000, 44,000 higher than the previous quarter.

However, this number is still well below the level seen before the pandemic, with 220,000 fewer jobs on offer compared to the same period in 2020 – a decrease of 26.8%. In the job vacancy figures that informed the House of Commons’ report, the ONS warned that the restrictions imposed in late autumn 2020 have slowed job market recovery, although it acknowledged that there is inevitably some lag in the figures as they are based on three-month averages.

The loosening of restrictions that is already underway in Q2 2021 offers some hope for continued recovery, as does the fact that the ONS’ experimental online job advert index shows a steady increase in the quantity of job adverts posted between the last week of February 2021 and the first week of April.

1 in 10 marketers have been made redundant in the last 12 months

Econsultancy and Marketing Week’s annual Career and Salary Survey has revealed that 1 in 10 marketers in the UK have been made redundant in the past 12 months, with an additional 12.7% having been put on furlough.

These aren’t the only ways in which the pandemic has affected the careers of those in the marketing sector. One in five respondents claim to have experienced a cut in compensation for their work, while another 7.7% have had their hours reduced, both of which can have a significant damage on potential earnings. Furthermore, 11.7% of marketers who have retained their roles have had a promotion delayed or made increasingly unlikely.

While these are grim figures for the industry, job losses and salary cuts are reflective of the wider impact Covid-19 has had on businesses in almost every sector. As a result, the majority (49.2%) of marketing professionals believe furlough or redundancy won’t have a long-term effect on their overall career goals, with those aged 18-24 the most laidback about consequences and over-55s the most concerned. However, a substantial number (30.9%) still believe these sorts of setbacks will have enduring negative effects.

Marketers still in employment have overwhelmingly confirmed that their teams have been streamlined since the onset of Covid-19, with most seeing structural reorganisation (46.3%), followed by merging with other departments (22.6%) and moving to squad based or agile working (15.8%). Changes like this could be for a number of reasons, including the prioritisation of digital platforms, smaller budgets or the rapid shift in customer demand (or a combination of all of these).

Digital marketing named in highest growth job categories of 2021 by LinkedIn

In its latest analysis of rising job categories in the UK, based on growth and size of demand, digital marketing, digital content and social media marketing have been placed among the top 15 of 2021 by LinkedIn.

Ranking below ecommerce and healthcare support staff, digital content freelancing came in at number 3, growing 118% in 2020 due to the number of UK workers turning to freelancing throughout the coronavirus outbreak. This includes skills such as podcasting, blogging and video editing, with the most common job title being Content Co-ordinator.

Meanwhile, social media and digital marketing was placed at number nine in the list, in the wake of an increase in online usage by consumers. Combined, these industries grew 52% last year, despite restrictions on marketing budgets. However, job titles like Growth Specialist also came to the fore as organisations looked to hiring roles that focused on low cost innovation. According to the data, this category attracted younger applicants, aged 28 on average, and the majority of roles were secured by females (68%).

Summarising its findings, LinkedIn said, “The past year has truly shown us how skills can be transferred into new career paths – we’ve seen Salespeople become Social Media Specialists, Research Instructors become Medical Writers, and Business Owners become Life Coaches.”

Q3 2020

Google searches for digital marketing courses saw three-digit growth during lockdown

New data from SEMrush shows the number of global Google searches for the term ‘online digital marketing courses’ grew 110% (rounded) in the period February-July 2020 compared with numbers from August 2019-January 2020. The figure rises to 132% in the UK, suggesting a large proportion of the workforce in the sector were looking to improve their digital marketing skills over lockdown.

Queries for Google-run digital marketing courses (‘Google digital marketing course’) were particularly high in the UK compared with global averages, seeing 168% growth in the search term vs. 86% growth elsewhere. This could indicate UK marketers’ perception of Google as an expert authority and influence on the subject when matched against other training providers.

Demand for similar digital marketing courses was highest in Canada, Australia and the UK over this five-month period, while equivalent search queries in the US remained relatively low.

(See Econsultancy’s online digital marketing courses)

Q2 2020:

46% of UK marketers ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ worried for their jobs

Nearly half of UK marketers are worried for their jobs, according to a June 2020 survey conducted by YouGov. In a study of 1178 marketers, 16% said they were ‘very worried’ that they will lose their job as a result of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, while an additional 30% said they were ‘fairly worried’. Just 15% of marketers claimed they were ‘not at all worried’ about their job security, compared to 27% of other workers.

These figures are significantly higher than those from the rest of Britain’s general working population, of whom 10% and 21% are ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ worried about their job security, respectively.

So far, one quarter of marketers have been placed on furlough for at least part of the pandemic. While some have since returned, there continues to be heightened concern about financial security from employees in this industry. Sixty-two percent fear that their personal finances will be severely affected, in contrast to 46% of those in other sectors, as the UK economic outlook remains uncertain. Meanwhile, they are also more worried about being able to keep up with mortgage repayments than the rest of the UK workforce (38% vs 30%).

Large numbers of business leaders from YouGov’s wider B2B survey admitted that they had cut the budgets of their marketing functions, with more than a third claiming these cuts were severe. As a result, marketers appear to have felt the impact of Covid-19 – or believe they will feel it in the near future – more than most.

Retail & FMCG

Q2 2021:

UK May 2021 footfall down 27.5% on pre-pandemic despite the reopening of hospitality

Data from Springboard, reported by the BBC, has found May 2021 footfall in the UK remained 27.5% down on the same month in 2019.

Experts believe this was largely down to record wet weather in May, although the reopening of indoor hospitality on the 17th did not appear to have much effect on the number of people returning to the high street. In fact, the gap between footfall widened as the month wore on, rising from 25.3% below May 2019 in the first full week to 26.8% in the final week.

Overall, high streets experienced the most severe drop in footfall across the entire month, declining 36.3% compared to May 2019, while shopping centres saw a 30.3% drop. As has been the trend throughout the pandemic, retail parks fared the best at a 5.7% decline.

More recent figures suggest footfall is in fact slowly rising again since warmer weather has arrived. Across all retail destinations, the sunny late May bank holiday weekend caused numbers to grow 25% on Sunday 30th and 16% on Monday 31st compared to the equivalent days during the previous week.

Q1 2021:

Online falls as a percentage of UK grocery sales in March as older shoppers return to stores

March 2021 saw the percentage of UK grocery sales carried out online diminish, due in part to older shoppers making fewer online orders and more trips to the supermarket, research by Kantar has revealed.

While online sales were still an impressive 89% higher than this time last year, online’s share of the grocery market declined from its record high of 15.4% in February 2021 to 14.5% in March. Some of this can be attributed to shoppers aged 65+, an age group that has now largely been vaccinated: in March, 143,000 fewer over-65s placed digital orders, and there was a 6.8% increase in over-65s making trips to brick and mortar outlets – more than double the national rate.

Overall, households reportedly made 13 million additional trips to the supermarket in March, and Kantar reports that while grocery spending as a whole is lower than it was in March last year (when supermarkets infamously faced dire shortages due to coronavirus-induced panic-buying), it is up 15.6% on the same period in 2019.

Online as a share of total retail in the UK reached 33.8% at its peak in 2020

The ONS has revealed that, online sales as a share of total retail (excluding fuel) reached 33.8% in May 2020. This figure dipped to 27.6% by September when non-essential brick-and-mortar shops had mostly resumed trading. Pre-Covid, February 2020 saw 20.1% of total retail transacted online.

Since local and national lockdowns began being reintroduced in Autumn 2020, online sales grew once again, up to 28.5% in October and 31.4% by end of November 2020.

Stats roundup: the impact of Covid-19 on ecommerce

Q4 2020:

UK footfall down 29% year-on-year as non-essential shops reopened after November lockdown

The Retail Gazette reports ShopperTrak’s findings that UK footfall on the first Saturday after England’s November lockdown was lifted (5th December 2020) was still down 29% year-on-year, even though week-on-week shopper traffic increased 193%.

Further data, this time from Springboard, indicates that footfall across all retail destinations in the first week after the November lockdown ended was 41.3% down on the same week in 2019, rising to a 51% drop on high streets and a 45.6% drop in shopping centres. However, the number of shoppers visiting dedicated retail parks declined by just 1.3% on last year.

72% of British shoppers think that retailers should offer more promotions in a time of financial uncertainty

Seventy-two percent of British shoppers think that retailers should offer more promotions in a time of financial uncertainty, such as the pandemic, according to a December 2020 report from XCCommerce, ‘Promotion at the speed of customer demand’.

The survey of 2000 consumers also revealed that more than half of consumers (56%) in the region believe it is the most important factor when they shop, rising to 70% among those aged between 18 and 24. A further thirty-two percent of respondents said they have been researching offers in 2020 more than they were last year.

With 60% of consumers spending less this year due to Covid related financial troubles, brands have to provide shoppers with smarter and more aggressive discounts to encourage them to part with their cash. It seems that customers are more likely to prefer immediate-term discounts than those that offer long term perks for their loyalty. The most popular form of discount cited by those surveyed was money off specific products (78%), followed by free shipping (55%) and multi-buy discounts (46%). However, access to members only discounts (15%), a subscription service offering money off future buys (10%) and access to exclusive content (9%) were ranked the least popular.

Despite a large appetite for discounted products, brands must be careful not to overdo promotional communications. Forty-four percent of customers say they resist the temptation to buy additional products recommended to them (e.g. ‘customers who bought this also bought’), while another 46% say that over-communication of current offers puts them off from making a purchase.

Grocery supermarkets are seen as the most generous discounters by consumers, and even more so in the eyes of the 55-64 year old age bracket. Meanwhile, just 8% believe fashion retailers offer the best promotions, increasing to 19% for 18-24 year olds.

Retail

UK October 2020 retail sales up 5.8% year-on-year as second lockdown loomed

ONS data found a 5.8% growth in the volume of retail sales in October 2020 compared to the same month a year before. Retail sales volume also increased by 1.2% on September, continuing the industry’s trend of steady recovery seen over the last six months.

These figures suggest UK consumers began their festive shopping much earlier than usual, spurred on by heavy discounting by retail stores and perhaps by rumours of an impending second lockdown in November.

Non-store sales volume rose month-on-month for the first time since June, and were 44.9% higher than in February, pre-Covid. Meanwhile, sales in sectors such as household goods, non-food, food stores and department stores all continued to recover above their equivalent February numbers, but at a much lower rate. Clothing, however, notably stayed lower than pre-Covid levels, hampered by tightening local lockdown measures on non-essential stores.

78.9% of clothing and 66.7% of department stores saw a decreased level of footfall during the two weeks from 5th October to 18th October 2020, resulting in the increase seen in online spending. Overall, online sales as a percentage of all retail reached 28.5% in October – an uplift of 4.7% month-on-month.

Q3 2020:

Asda gearing up for a “record online Christmas” as it publishes Q3 results

Asda reported that it is gearing up for a “record online Christmas” as it published its Q3 results for 2020, which included a 72% year-on-year increase in combined net sales for Asda.com and George.com.

Overall, Q3 like-for-like sales (excluding fuel) increased by 2.7% year-on-year, the supermarket chain reported, with growth driven by strong performance in grocery, back to school clothing and online shopping. Asda is already seeing a surge in demand for Christmas products and essentials, including Christmas trees, sales of which are up by 83% year-on-year; festive lights, which are up 57%; and Christmas puddings, which are up 71%. Sales of frozen turkey crowns, which serve three to four people, have also increased 230% year on year, indicating that consumers are planning for smaller gatherings during the festive period.

Asda is responding to the continued demand for online shopping by increasing the capacity of its grocery delivery service to 765,000 weekly slots. It has also expanded its delivery trial with Uber Eats from 50 stores to 100.

M&S posts a loss for the first time in 94 years

British retailer Marks and Spencer has posted a loss for the first time in 94 years. In the six months to the end of September, the company made a loss of £87.6 million versus a £158.8 million profit during the same period of 2019.

Sales fell 15.8% between March and September, mostly impacted by the lack of sales in its clothing and homeware departments. Even food sales struggled, seeing a 20% decline on budget during the four months to July, which hit overall annual revenue by £348 million. However, total food sales rose by a modest 2.7% overall during the full six-month period, boosted by the performance of its standalone Simply Food stores.

There was a slight rise (1.8%) in the number of clothing and homeware sales conducted via its ecommerce arm, but this was not enough to offset the losses from the prolonged closure of 600 of its brick-and-mortar shops in the first lockdown.

However, Ocado, the online grocery store which began delivering M&S produce in September 2020, reported a 47.9% sales growth in the six months to the end of August.

Footfall down 3.5% in shopping centres in week to October 17th 2020 as local lockdowns are enforced

The number of shoppers travelling to physical UK retail destinations has fallen for a fourth consecutive week, according to data from customer activity specialist Springboard, reported on by Reuters. Further local lockdown restrictions have been enforced to subdue a second wave of the coronavirus this coming winter, which in some cases includes closing pubs and restaurants in particularly badly-affected areas, providing consumers with even fewer reasons to visit town centres and shopping complexes.

In the week to the 17th October 2020, footfall on UK high streets and retail parks fell by 2.8% and 3% respectively on figures from the week before. However, it was shopping centres that fared the worst, seeing a 3.5% decline during this period.

Unsurprisingly, it was regions of the north that felt the biggest hit as restrictions became especially strict in areas like Manchester and Yorkshire. Footfall in many of these areas dipped by around 5% week-on-week. In total, the decline in shopper numbers across all retail destinations around the UK worsened to 32.3% year-on-year.

This comes alongside news that a record 11,000 UK shops have been permanently closed as a result of the ongoing pandemic so far this year.

80% of brands do not have a loyalty programme in their marketing strategy

Despite droves of online shoppers switching between brands this year, as many as 80% of organisations still do not have loyalty programmes integrated into their marketing strategies, October 2020 research from Dotdigital confirms.

A further 43% of companies with an ecommerce arm fail to collect enough key customer data, such as date of birth, to offer them crucial personalised messaging, while 40% admitted they don’t publish post-purchase reviews – a key purchase driver. An additional two-thirds of those surveyed failed to send editorial marketing communications, which help to highlight the value of a brand and its products.

Consequently, numerous companies are missing out on the opportunity to acquire repeat online business from these new customers, whether from lack of loyalty to a brand, irrelevant content or not enough social proof on display from past shoppers.

According to the data, 38% of consumers are keen to acquire brand credit with actions outside of buying products, for example writing reviews or interacting with social accounts. Interestingly, thirty-nine percent only consider themselves ‘loyal’ to a company after completing a fifth purchase, but with the majority of brands not making the effort to incentivise engagement, they have little reason to stick around.

Customer loyalty: “Rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated”

Tesco’s pre-tax profit surges 28.7% year-on-year

Tesco’s 2020/21 interim results released in October 2020 indicated a 28.7% year-on-year surge in pre-tax profits for the company in the 26 weeks to the end of August in what has been a landmark year for the grocery sector.

Food sales rose by 9.2%, but interest in its clothing line F&F fell, resulting in a 17.2% drop in sales for this category. Average basket size in large stores grew by 56%. Unsurprisingly, fuel sales fell by 42% on 2019 as the general public were encouraged to stay at home throughout national lockdown in spring and early summer. The brand also said it had so far spent £533 million on Covid-19 safety measures for its staff and customers throughout the pandemic.

Online delivery capacity doubled to 1.5 million weekly slots as a result of heightened demand at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK. It also revealed that it had served 674,000 vulnerable or shielding customers so far.

Meanwhile, operating profits fell by 15.6%, largely due to Tesco Bank which made a loss of £155 million during this period.

Tesco’s new Chief Executive, Ken Murphy said in a statement, “The first half of this year has tested our business in ways we had never imagined, and our colleagues have risen brilliantly to every challenge, acting in the best interests of our customers and local communities throughout.”

Tesco on experience and purpose during a pandemic

Ocado named 2020’s fastest-growing UK brand

BrandZ has named grocery chain Ocado as the UK’s fastest growing brand in its annual Top 75 Most Valuable Brands report.

The company jumped 16 places in the Top 75 list in 2020.

For more on coronavirus and marketing, visit Econsultancy’s coronavirus hub page.