2020 didn’t destroy us—it only made us stronger. While certain industries were devastated by the raging COVID-19 pandemic, others flourished, and ultimately all industries faced a forced evolution that only accelerated how brands interact with audiences digitally.

With the worst of the pandemic presumably behind us, the world is looking to reactivate, and marketers are eager to capitalize on some semblance of normalcy. But what will be our new normal, and how has the marketing landscape permanently altered during the past year?

here are our observations and predictions
for what we are leaving in 2020 and where we will be in 2021

Home Box Office is back

HBO is back, and with a bang. The biggest entertainment news of 2020 happened at the end, with Warner Bros. announcing simultaneous theater/streaming releases of new movies throughout 2021. The move sent shockwaves throughout the industry and aims to reposition HBO Max from struggling streaming service to major player.

As the pandemic wrought havoc upon the box office, studios began experimenting with digital distribution, but it wasn’t until Wonder Woman 1984’s relative dual box office/streaming success that the new distribution process seems to be streamlining. Of particular note is that, unlike Disney’s Mulan release, customers won’t need to pay additional fees on top of the $15/month HBO Max subscription. Despite early glitches and criticisms from industry diehards, we predict a gradual but significant rise in HBO Max subscribers over Q1, with fast-followers on the horizon, bringing even more competition to the crowded streaming world. While eager theater-going audiences will eventually and inevitably bring the box office back to life, the ability to stream new releases will certainly keep folks home, providing digital marketers and data providers with even more access and insights into movie fan behavior and habits.

social media continues its rise

Social media usage exploded in 2020, with the sequestered connecting like never before. In the midst of the pandemic, a reported 43% began spending more time on social media, and we’re now seeing over 80% of internet users accessing social media. Sharing, discussing, and engaging with news, products, and entertainment has become ingrained in most people’s online routines, and the immediate accessibility of platforms provides social media users with a convenient way to keep consistently connected to the world.

As social media usage increases, so does the opportunity for digital marketers to access more insights into consumer behavior. Where audiences spend their time, which brands users engage with, what TV and movie audiences are discussing—this pivotal data permits increased relevancy and effectiveness in outreach and advertising, further fueling time spent within platforms. With the massive and sudden success of TikTok, and with Facebook expanding into VR and cryptocurrency, social networks are creating new experiences to sustain their heavy usage momentum. Social media access is convenient, immediate, and habitual, and with platforms evolving, we expect to see social media usage continue to ramp up during 2021.

curbside pickup picks up

COVID-19 decimated particular areas of retail while, generally, supercharging ecommerce. During the 2020 holiday shopping season, we saw an estimated 40% increase in online shopping sales. The trend ultimately reflects the natural acceleration of factors already in play, such as the declining performance of malls and department stores in favor of the numerous and robust online shopping options currently available. And with many department stores soon being converted to shipping warehouses, we can see that brands will be betting big on ecommerce traffic in 2021.

We also predict curbside pickup is here to stay, with retail as well as restaurants. In fact, digital sales for restaurants doubled in 2020, with 2025 predictions estimating digital to make up 54% of total restaurant sales. As both restaurants and retail invest in digital during 2021, we also expect to see the increase in customer data to help boost the evolution of machine learning algorithms as companies and organizations look to refine their experiences with increased personalization.

the future of data in 2021

The value and privacy of personal data have been occasional hot topics for decades, and yet there hasn’t been much national conversation on data regulation until fairly recently. As we’ve previously mentioned, marketers have choices, so the onus is on data providers to provide transparency and confidence through certification, as we did in our partnership with Neutronian.

During the past four years, the Trump administration has been generally anti-regulatory in various areas, but with antitrust-hunting Democrats now poised to make an impact in the tech world, we’re expecting to see the conversation on data and regulation become more prominent. But, as previously noted, that isn’t going to stop the YoY increase of online shopping, ordering, and increased social engagement. Knowing where to access the right data to take advantage of the online gold rush is going to be an ongoing question and challenge for 2021. But certification will certainly increase as marketers look for confidence in an increasingly complex data-driven world.

Across industries, expect heavy investment in digital to continue evolving the way brands interact with buyers. Whether it’s insights into entertainment fans or audience segments down to the brand-level, we offer a variety of ways to get in touch with your most likely buyer. Contact us today at hello@affinityanswers.com and learn how our data can help position your outreach strategy for success in 2021.

With more audiences shopping online and spending time on social media, digital marketers will have even more potential to reach the most relevant crowds in 2021. Our services can assist in improving targeting accuracy, conquesting competitors, and developing outreach strategies through the use of social and behavioral insights.