Advertising predictions for 2021


The bottom line for advertisers is that consumers are migrating to CTV and OTT — and advertisers need to meet them there

By Taranjeet Singh

There were many things about 2020 that no one could have predicted. From the global pandemic that completely changed our way of life, to the unlikely comeback of QR codes — the constant change of this year has forced advertisers to step back from their well-planned marketing strategies and adjust moment-by-moment.

Despite there being many unknowns, there are several trends impacting the current state of consumer behaviour and the advertising industry that help us predict what we’ll see next year and allow advertisers to adjust accordingly.

Here are six predictions for what advertisers can expect in 2021:

Exponential ecommerce growth will continue

While ecommerce was already crucial for advertisers, this year’s quarantine lifestyle led to an influx of online shoppers. There has been a 28% year on year increase in the overall online retail sales in India (Criteo’s Holiday Report 2020).

This increase is driven by both existing online shoppers buying more, as well as new online shoppers who have been pushed out of their “in-store comfort zone” due to necessity. In 2021 with the changing trends, advertisers are banking on the shifting trends of traditional shopping experiences towards a more online and connected environment. These new digital shoppers represent a massive opportunity for advertisers to expand their existing audiences on digital channels.

Advertisers will increase investments in digital advertising

Internet advertising has gone from an uncertain bet to serving as the primary platform for most companies’ marketing. Given that shoppers have discovered at least one form of online shopping during Covid-19 — and are likely to continue with it, we can ascertain that advertisers will follow suit and invest more in online advertising. By gagging to newer mediums for shopping during the pandemic, shoppers now are keen to keep purchasing from the new stores they discovered during the pandemic. This lets advertisers not only encourage purchases, but also build customer loyalty for years to come. To do this, advertisers will increase their spend across digital marketing channels such as virtual events, paid display, and content marketing.

Connected TV will become a marketing mainstay

Like the steady rise of ecommerce, the use of connected TV (CTV) and over-the-top (OTT) devices has been trending upward in recent years, but the pandemic has accelerated this growth and shown how vital it is for advertisers to engage consumers on these devices. With around 7,500 respondents pan India, MoMAGIC conducted a survey aimed at understanding better the end consumer choices and preferences, as far as consuming online video content is concerned in the current exciting and disruptive OTT (and DTH) segment in India. The survey concluded that 55% of Indians prefer OTT platforms vs 41% that still prefer DTH.

The bottom line for advertisers is that consumers are migrating to CTV and OTT — and advertisers need to meet them there. More people using CTV and OTT devices means more hours of content watched on those platforms. According to Nielsen, the number of total hours spent with CTV devices began to rise once people started quarantining at home (by March 30, 2020), showing an 81% increase year over year, which amounts to nearly four billion hours of CTV use per week.

Brand safety will stay front and center

2020 saw many advertisers focus on brand safety by taking a stand against platforms that failed to manage the spread of misinformation and hate speech by becoming more intentional with where they invest their advertising dollars. Therefore, according to a recent Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) study, which concludes that over 77% of industry professionals cite brand safety as a key priority in 2020. That is why advertisers will leverage solutions that help them better control their ad placements to safeguard their brand’s image and stay true to their brand values.

Industry collaboration towards new identity solutions will kick into overdrive

One of the paramount initiatives for the advertising industry is the development and adoption of a future-proofed solution for online identity that does not rely on third-party cookies. What’s unique about this endeavor is that it affects the entire industry — advertisers, publishers, AdTech partners, and consumers, so everyone is invested. Therefore in 2021, we’ll likely see various advertising players come together, to stand behind unified solutions, which advertisers and publishers can begin testing in the coming year.

In-store shopping experiences will become even more seamless

While ecommerce trends took center stage in 2020, in-store shopping is still a priority for consumers, and thus will continue to be a focus for advertisers. In our recently conducted survey, we found out that 56% of Indian consumers said that they miss going to the physical stores to complete their purchases, showing a growing confidence in physical shopping.

What will change about the in-store shopping experience, beyond increased sanitation, is that it will be optimised for consumers to spend less time inside with features such as digital transactions, “buy online, pick up in store”, and cashier-less checkouts.

The key for leveraging these predictions in the new year will be to keep strategies nimble, leaving room to adapt to the unexpected. And while New Year’s Eve may look and feel different than it ever has before, there is a lot to look forward to in 2021, and I’m confident that advertisers will be able to stay strong and succeed, no matter what happens.

The author is managing director, SEA and India, Criteo

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