MiQ MiQ 25 November 2021

A Year of Lockdowns: Consumer Spending Habits

Staying at home has changed the world. We’ve witnessed the way consumers around the world have adapted to change, but also how the advertising industry and their clients responded to these shifts. By Mike Gray, Director of Client Partnerships, EMEA at MiQ.

For marketers, this has meant having to learn and reshape their strategies in a more agile way than ever before. In our recent report, A Year of Lockdowns, we explored how the trends we were already witnessing in consumer media habits have been fast-forwarded, including how more people of all age groups are currently spending more time online.

By studying these fluctuations across the year and helping clients navigate these uncharted waters, we can make predictions about what changes are likely to be temporary, what’s likely to stick around for the long-term and plan ahead for the holiday season. The Pandemic Effect ebook covers new ways to adapt to changing customer behavior for this holiday season.

We found that our partners needed our support in building a current and future picture of how their customers will continue to change, buy and engage with their products, while our approach to data and actionable intelligence helped clients capitalise on how shifts in consumer habits will impact their brands.

New Channels

Being housebound accelerated some of our consumption habits, such as spending a lot more time in front of screens. Unsurprisingly, with restrictions on brick-and-mortar retailers, online shopping has seen a massive surge over the past year. Even in areas where lockdowns have eased, interest in online shopping has remained high, indicating it might be a permanent shift in consumer behaviour.

One of the most notable changes is that the biggest and quickest rises in screen viewing have been recorded on new and emerging devices and channels. For instance, there has been an 11% increase in game consoles and a staggering surge of 148% in TV advertising opportunities across the UK.

In our experience, proactive brands looked to capitalise on new channels and formats available, both through increased supply and commercial opportunity. A number of brands employed positioning across Connected TV, Digital Audio on a global scale and with a centralised and measurable approach.

On the other hand, connection with audiences across traditionally addressable platforms either remained constant or even reduced over the lockdown year. While desktop activity remained fairly steady globally, UK users’ activity on smart phones decreased by almost two fifths.

However, this might not be applicable to the upcoming Christmas trading season. As reported by the Holiday Shopping study, more than half of shoppers (57%) will make an online purchase with a mobile device.

Despite differences in platforms and channels where audiences looked for goods, one trend has been consistent – the significant uptick in online shopping has impacted all age groups and is likely to stick around even after all restrictions are lifted.

In fact, 46% of respondents were positive about buying clothes and accessories online, even post lockdown, while 36% say the same about electronics and entertainment, and 33% about beauty products.

The research has highlighted an increase in the use of ecommerce solutions by older audiences. While the majority of over 45 (64%) are excited to go out and shop in the real world again, the traction gained among adult shoppers during the year lockdown means that they now have a competitive alternative to their usual brick and mortar outlets.

Marketers need to be aware that even if 45+ consumers return to making purchases in stores, they will still have a higher propensity for online research, price comparison and other digital solutions. This tendency might accelerate creation of new touchpoints for influencing this segment.

How and when to target people in-real time to account for these changing trends is now imperative for competitive advantage. It empowered our clients to iterate on the fly and become more agile. It’s vital to remember that accounting for change in consumer segments and targeting is only strong when it’s measured and utilised for future planning too.

While these findings show how much we have changed as consumers, lockdowns also impacted brands and their approach to digital advertising. Online activity has sparked shifts in clients’ digital strategies.

For instance, retail and e-commerce-focused advertisers with a strong online presence, user and conversion journey, continued to flourish with boosted digital and programmatic investment to capitalise upon. The importance of measuring increased spending across different markets was key as they looked to push growth to match increased demand.

At the start of the lockdowns, non-essential shopping took a severe hit. Travel saw the largest decline in spends with almost 50% drop. This was followed by clothing and fashion which lost one fifths of spending.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. User responses on display ads are showing a 3-4% lift compared to the initial lockdown period – particularly categories including travel, auto and finance showing massive improvements in garnering user response.

As these verticals and sectors continue to recover post-lockdown, drawing insight from consumer shifts and changes in a digital world continues to be key on increased investment and future planning.

For example, an average shopper in the UK will spend in excess of £300 during the holiday shopping season this year, with 1 in 4 spending over £500. Future-facing brands are continuing to adapt and plan in real-time based on consumer habits and the data available.

As non-essential categories continue to implement digital-centric approaches, there will be an increase in extending the data-led approach into all other buyable digital channels such as DOOH.

The ability to target consumers on a specific part of their user journey across multiple screens and new platforms will continue to be the focal point of digital strategies. From a large scalable awareness and efficiency perspective, many brands will continue to leverage smart digital markets approaches as part of their entire marketing mix.

Moving Forward

Although many aspects of the way we’ll live and work in the future are uncertain, it is clear that the year in lockdown has accelerated many trends that were already in progress. This is particularly true for online retail, entertainment, and education.

For advertisers, that means there are more ways to learn about and reach your digital audience than ever. As the number of addressable channels as well as users across all age groups increase, reaching your audience at the right time, in the right place and with the right message needs to become a priority.

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