Social Climber

There is no denying 2020 was the year of staying at home. We turned to social media in numbers never seen before, and UK figures show Instagram users grew by 6.7million in 2020.

Many of us scrolled through platforms such as Instagram, YouTube and TikTok for a sense of connection & entertainment with reports showing that the average user of these platforms now spends over a whopping 4 hours a day online!

A clear winner of online media content in 2020 has been kids entertainment, with kids themed YouTube channels among the most popular. Top of the tots is Cocomelon which recorded an impressive one billion video views in 7 days during the second week of may. With parents desperate to find more ways than ever to occupy their children in between home-schooling sessions, it’s not surprising that kids online entertainment & streaming has seen a boom!

Of course, for marketers and PR experts these platforms soon became the most important way to connect with customers during the pandemic and the lockdown rise of social commerce saw many Brits become ‘social shoppers’. Brands turned to Instagram in their droves to support their campaigns globally, re-directing budget from outdoor, TV and print and we saw first hand how influencer fees soared as a result. Publicists have seen fantastic performance for sponsored and gifted content across the board on Instagram, with the number of likes on sponsored content up by 76% during this period. The introduction of Instagram Reels also offered a fantastic new opportunity to reach customers during their daily content scrolls.


Bringing the Fun Home

A year at home meant a year without our favourite luxuries – restaurants, fancy gyms and cinemas.

With many theatrical releases moving to PVOD, the home entertainment market in the UK grew to a massive $4.5bn. Let’s not forget the true victors of the pandemic – streaming services! Keeping us sane with original series & films, Netflix topped over 200 million subscriptions in 2020, with over 8.5m joining the platform in Q4 of 2020 alone. Disney’s perfectly timed launch of their new streaming service Disney+ has also taken families by storm, with new PVOD film released held exclusively on the platform.

Inspired by the lack of opportunities to keep fit in lockdown, at home fitness apps soon became a common pastime. FIIT and Peloton led the way and saw people convert their homes into their very own gyms. Market-research group Mintel predicts the home fitness industry will grow to £5.3bn by 2023. After realising the cost savings of working out at home, and the cost of investing in our kit so far, will we ever return to the gym?

Finally, last year saw the introduction of at home kits from popular restaurant brands, including Pizza Pilgrims, Sushi Dog & Doughnut Time. This was a clever move to keep fans more deeply engaged with the food brands than just a regular takeaway, with restaurants supplying you with all the ingredients and instructions you need to make your own feast.


Pandemic Fuels Play

In 2020, families, adults and children alike turned to toys and games to bring comfort and joy. Toys provided much needed occupation for kids and a guilt free alternative to screens for parents.

Despite a difficult trading year for many industries, the toy market was one of the sectors that benefitted from lockdown and NPD data tracked a toy sales increase of 5% in the UK. The biggest spike in sales came during the first lockdown with a 22% increase, resulting in total sales for the year standing at £3.3b. While over in the US, toy sales rose by 16% in 2020.

Unsurprisingly, the highest category growth was seen in games & puzzles (19%), with puzzles increasing by 38% alone. As parents, we’ve also seen a rise in popularity for plush toys, with children turning to their favourite soft toys for warmth and comfort in a socially distanced world. After launching in summer 2019, Jazwares’ saw sales of its Squishmallows collectable plush shift 2 million units in the UK by the end of 2020.

Additionally, there is evidence of an increased appetite for toys from “kidults”, with this category now representing 27% of total toy sales. With deeper pockets, this adult and teen category has great buying power.

The Shape of Things to Come

Researchers are predicting the big trends for 2021 based on our activity towards the end of 2020. Unsurprisingly, with no end of lockdown in sight, its’ predicted that we’ll continue investing in home workout and athleisure items. We will also see fashion trends influenced by Netflix and movies, building on the phenomena of Connell’s chain from Normal People last year which soon had its own Instagram account with 179k followers!

Additionally, Pinterest predicts that people will prioritize their mental, physical and spiritual health, with New Age wellness trends making a comeback and alternative healing methods becoming more mainstream.

In the parenting space, 2021 is expected to be the year parents look for more mindful ways to approach their children’s education, with a focus on moral lessons, real-world teachings and social-emotional learning. There is also a meaningful shift towards more sustainable ways to play, with cardboard toys and outdoor activities predicted to be big play trends this year.