COVID-19: Tracking the impact on media and consumer behavior
5 minute read | March 2020
(Updated Jan. 26, 2021)
As we enter year three of the global pandemic, the impact of COVID-19 continues to shape consumer behavior as well as the global economy—and we can expect to feel its ripple effects for years to come.
Given the dramatic shifts of consumer behavior, we’ve seen companies nimbly shift their strategies. And while market dynamics remain fluid, there is certainty in knowing the future demands agility, innovation and nuance from brands and marketers.
Nielsen continues to track media consumption, marketing strategies and advertising trends to help companies navigate the evolving landscape.
Mega trends shaping the future of media and advertising
The TV set remains the center of media consumption for households around the world, but connected TV (CTV) adoption and streaming are changing how viewers are spending their TV time.
In a year that continued to present audiences with an unprecedented variety of streaming platforms and content, U.S. consumers took full advantage of their options. In the last week of December 2021, audiences streamed 183 billion minutes, which even eclipsed the amount of time they spent streaming at the weekly height of COVID-driven lockdowns in early 2020 (166 billion minutes).
As we look toward a third year of living with COVID-19, savvy marketers know that meaningful, personal connections will be the key to long-term brand health. For that, they’ll need to focus on building and maintaining trust with their audiences—as well as which channels to leverage in those efforts.
While it’s important for brands to maintain balanced marketing strategies, marketers should be mindful of consumer sentiment as they allocate their media spending. For example, Nielsen’s 2021 Trust in Advertising study found that brand sponsorships are among the most trusted advertising sources among global consumers, yet most marketers don’t readily consider newer ad formats like brand integrations, sponsorships and product placements in their media planning. In fact, almost 34% of marketers surveyed for our 2021 Annual Marketing Report deemed these marketing formats as not important at all.
The word podcast was added to the Oxford English Dictionary back in 2005, but the term had yet to gain much traction in the media industry—as well as with the average consumer. Fast forward 16 years, and podcasting has blossomed into a burgeoning industry that provides brands with an opportunity to engage with a growing base of consumers that are very receptive to the engagement.
The transformation certainly didn’t happen overnight, but the rise in popularity of podcasts over the past six-plus years has effectively changed the landscape of the entire market. In addition to attracting rampant celebrity involvement and fueling original TV content, podcasts are attracting big ad dollars, with the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) predicting that ad revenue will hit $2 billion by 2023, well above the $842 million generated last year.
2020 proved a challenging year for educators and parents alike, as students and schools adjusted to virtual learning or blended curriculums. Virtual education impacts everything within a household: commuting schedules; TV viewing; shopping patterns; CPG consumption; who’s influencing the buying decisions; how long a young adult might stay at home; and ultimately, spending power. Depending on the age of the children or young adults, caretakers face a myriad of challenges, each in need of a different solution.
Advertisers and retailers need to be cognizant of the changing demands of customers and shifting daily habits as families navigate the changing COVID-mandates.
In 2020, many companies sent their workforce home, some for the first time. Now, companies are re-configuring their offerings, office spaces and protocols partly because of the coronavirus and partly because of their workforces.
With much of the workforce having worked remotely for more than a year, employee priorities and values have changed. This has shifted where people live, what their home spaces look like, how they manage their daily schedules and what their media habits look like.
In mid-2020, while many in the U.S. were in lockdown, the social justice movement erupted across the country. The lockdowns created a captive audience for the movement and helped carry the story to many who were already consuming more news than usual. This increased awareness has also sparked companies to re-commit to inclusion and diversity, and more importantly, consumers are holding them accountable to those commitments.
As the pandemic continues to impact communities of color differently, directly or indirectly, brands can continue to see movement, but also backlash, as consumers grapple with their widely disparate views.
The pandemic lockdowns of 2020 offered a launchpad for many digital behaviors, increasing the adoption of everything from online retailing, click-and-collect to video streaming. At the heart of it all, the siren song of convenience, not to mention safety, pulled consumers in.
Convenience was already a growing global trend before COVID-19, but the pandemic has forced retailers to be more consumer-centric than ever before.
While Nielsen doesn’t expect all commerce will remain online, consumer expectations have shifted, and there is a heightened expectation that retailers need to meet them where they are—and offer experiences that provide unilateral convenience.