Socialbakers: US Social Media Ad Spend Surged 92 Percent In Q4

Despite COVID-19’s economic impact, social media ad spend surged 92 percent in the US during Q4 2020, according to Socialbakers’ latest social media trends report. Globally, social media ad spend saw a 50 percent increase during the 2020 holiday season compared to the same period in 2019.

Other insights from the study include a worldwide increase in cost-per-click (CPC), greater reach for advertisers on Facebook and a decline in the use of Instagram influencers over the holidays.

The average ad spend across industries in Q4 increased by 33 percent quarter-over-quarter (QoQ), with ecommerce fashion, auto and alcohol seeing the largest growth. Ecommerce ad spend grew by 25 percent QoQ, more than doubling from Q1.

Digital ad spend grew 56 percent year-over-year (YoY), with global CPC nine percent higher YoY ($0.180 VS. $0.165). The global average mostly grew throughout the holiday season, reaching a high in mid-December and dropping at the end of the year.

In the US, the Q4 CPC peak was identical to that of 2019, but at the end of the year, it increased by 15 percent ($0.506 vs. $0.441).

Worldwide CPC for brands on Facebook and Instagram ended 2020 nearly 36 percent higher than it started ($0.141 vs. $0.104).

Socialbakers found that nearly 74 percent of total ad spend went to the main feeds of Facebook and Instagram. Instagram Stories received nearly 11 percent of spend.

The Facebook News Feed comprised 57 percent of the relative ad spend in Q4, followed by Instagram feed and Instagram Stories, which collectively accounted for 27 percent of spend.

Among top five placements by relative ad spend in Q4 2020 vs. Q4 2019, the Facebook News Feed grew by 12 percent in CPC and 4.6 percent in cost per thousand (CPM). Facebook in-stream video increased by 16 percent in CPM QoQ, while Facebook video feeds increased by 29 percent.

Globally, Facebook ad reach increased by 23 percent YoY, while it grew by nearly 76 percent YoY in the US. In Latin America, it increased by about 42 percent.

Indicating the growing dominance of Instagram, Socialbakers’ data reveal that in Q4, the total audience size of the 50 biggest brand profiles was 39 percent larger on Instagram than Facebook. YoY, Instagram’s audience grew by 11.3 percent compared to Q4 2019, while Facebook’s audience decreased by 17.6 percent.

Though 55 percent of all brand posts were on Facebook, there were 21.4 times more interactions on Instagram than on Facebook.

Facebook Live in Q4 saw nearly triple the organic interactions that Facebook videos saw. For Instagram, carousels saw the most organic interactions.

As far as influencer marketing, Socialbakers found that the usage of #ad in posts decreased by nearly 18 percent YoY. Additionally, the only cohort among influencers to grow was those with more than 1 million followers. While marketers partnered with nano- and micro-influencers more than any other kind of influencer in 2020, by the end of the year, the number of collaborations with mega-influencers grew while others declined.

Socialbakers’ ad spend data is based on a sample size of more than 15,000 Facebook advertising accounts.

Merkle: How Brands Are Preparing For The Demise Of Cookies

As the phase-out of cookies approaches, brands are concentrated on enhancing their first-party data practices and creating new ones. According to Merkle’s Q1 2021 Customer Engagement Report, 74 percent of brands are increasing investment in technology and vendor solutions due to growing data restrictions.

Some brands have yet to understand the impact of the Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), both of which were introduced in the past two years. Merkle found that only 59 percent of brands have a very clear understanding of the impact of privacy-related restrictions on their systems and operations; the remainder were less clear.

When asked what aspects of marketing they expect to change due to new data laws, 41 percent of respondents said digital media activation, followed by 39 percent who said web analytics.

Merkle suggests that one near-term solution to this shift is a focus on contextual targeting. A long-term priority should be exploring new ways to capture first-party data, such as loyalty and form capture strategies. Already 52 percent of respondents are prioritizing the collection of more first-party data from digital experiences.

Similarly, 88 percent of marketers say collecting and storing first-party data is a high priority in the next six to 12 months. Another 84 percent said that integrating this data will also be a priority this year.

Increasing investments that enable brands to take more control of their first-party data will also be important, reports Merkle. This includes developing new experience strategies that build a first-party data asset with a private identity graph. In fact, 74 percent said they plan to invest more in technologies or vendor solutions in response to stricter data regulations.

As in-store shopping slows, consumers expect the same level of personalization in digital interactions, which ultimately rely on customer data and an integrated data platform. Nearly half (44 percent) of respondents see this as their biggest gap in delivering personalized omnichannel experiences.

Nevertheless, 77 percent of respondents feel they deliver a better customer experience online compared to in-person or over the phone. For 76 percent of respondents, a full continuity between their brands’ online and in-person experiences is missing.

Across industries, 81 percent said having an audience management platform that centralizes and activates data across all online and offline channels is their highest priority.

Zero-party data, that which a customer voluntarily shares with a brand, is also becoming a high priority for brands. They can acquire this type of data through transactions or during conversations with customers online and in person. Alternatively, a brand can request this feedback through forms or surveys in exchange for a coupon, discount or limited products/services.

Another valuable source of data brands should invest in is second-party data, data that’s shared by partner companies, alliances and consortiums. Forty-nine percent of respondents labeled second-party data a high priority. One example of this when Amazon partnered with Buick on a campaign to reach young buyers to the brand while also promoting Alexa. Nearly 60,000 people participated by asking their Alexas about the activation, and 150,000 people have visited the digital showroom on Amazon to date.

To make sense of all their new data, businesses should also look to invest in data clean rooms, where multiple sources of data can be analyzed to protect privacy and data ownership. Sixty-one percent of respondents said they’re increasing investment here.

Merkle’s findings are based on a survey among 800 marketing, analytics and technology executives of major companies from the US and UK.

Apps Flyer: Mobile Game Installs Jumped 45 Percent This Year

The pandemic is the gift that keeps on giving to the gaming world. According to Apps Flyer’s annual State of Gaming report, mobile games globally saw a 45 percent surge in installs compared to last year as the crisis led scores of new players to try mobile gaming for the first time.

Apps Flyer’s data show that organic installs grew by 33 percent while non-organic installs (NOI) increased by 69 percent, the result of competition around organic app discovery.

Globally, hyper casual, casual and to some extent midcore games grew at double the rate of hardcore and social casino games. NOI installs for hyper casual games saw a 250 percent surge while total installs of hyper casual games grew by 90 percent. 

Realizing the opportunity to reach pandemic-driven mobile gamers, hyper casual games accelerated their user acquisition (UA) budgets. But to remain competitive, mobile games must utilize granular segmentation, bid optimization and predictive modeling in determining player journeys, suggests Apps Flyer.

NOI installs grew by 72 percent for midcore games, 58 percent for casual games, 27 percent for social casino games and 21 percent for hardcore games.

In-app spending (IAP) picked up in April then peaked in May with a 25 percent increase compared to February. IAP dipped slightly from May to June but peaked again in July.

As IAP revenue surged 67 percent from February to August, in-app ads revenue (IAA) declined 16 percent during the same time period, perhaps indicating players’ lower tolerance for ads this year.

Notable findings for the US mobile game market include a 35 percent increase in cost per installs (CPIs) post-lockdown, namely from May to September following the return of big brand budgets. Through August, there was a 27 increase in IAP revenue on iOS devices compared to an 11 percent decrease on Android.

As the share of paying users in the US grew by 25 percent since lockdown, the US also saw a 30 percent decline in revenue generated by ads, driven by hardcore, social casino and midcore games.

Apps Flyer’s research shows that remarketing drivers a significant performance lift in retention, share of paying users and average revenue per paying users, particularly in hardcore and social casino games. 

Despite its effectiveness and more cost-friendly nature, its adoption is relatively low, particularly among midcore and casual games. To address this, mobile apps should explore remarketing via paid channels and use push, email and social to improve overall re-engagement.

Additionally, it’ll be important for mobile games to introduce or enhance the social layer in their game to achieve organic growth that isn’t dependent solely on app store discovery.

Ralph Lauren Creates Virtual Replicas Of Its Physical Stores

Ralph Lauren has launched a series of virtual experiences in response to pandemic-driven shopping behavior, including digital replicas of four of its brick-and-mortar stores, an augmented reality (AR) experience via Snapchat as well as a shoppable virtual game on its website and Facebook Messenger’s Instant Games.

Ralph Lauren saw promising results when it tested a virtual version of its Beverly Hills store this fall—virtual foot traffic was 10 times higher than the number of people who would have visited the storefront, reports WWD. In response, the brand created virtual versions of its stores in New York, Paris and Hong Kong. Shoppers can virtually walk around in each store, where current-season items and vintage pieces are available to buy.

The brand has also teamed with Snapchat to create a series of AR experiences that users can unlock by scanning the Polo Pony logo from apparel, printed materials, digital executions, shopping bags and ads. David Lauren, vice chairman and chief innovation officer, told WWD that it took eight months to develop the technology.

The AR initiative follows the success of the brand’s Snapchat-enabled Bitmoji Collection, which enabled consumers to mix and match branded garments inspired by real-life designs. In Q2, over 10 million users dressed their Bitmoji in Ralph Lauren and tried on the collection over 250 million times.

The third component to Ralph Lauren’s digital holiday offerings is a shoppable virtual game called The Holiday Run, in which the brand’s signature Polo Bear races to physical Ralph Lauren stores worldwide, discovering and collecting new products. Fans around the world can play the game on Ralph Lauren’s website or through Messenger’s Instant Games. Next month, Ralph Lauren will bring the game to life via a live Twitch event featuring major gamers from the UK, France and Germany

Ralph Lauren’s heavy digital investment comes as the company has been struggling with financial fallout from the pandemic. Its Q1 performance update revealed a dip in sales, with North America revenue seeing the biggest decline at 77 percent, followed by a 67 percent drop in Europe and a 34 percent decrease in Asia. Revenue plummeted 66 percent year-over-year to $487.5 million.

In September, the company, which has 530 stores, announced it would cut 15 percent of its global workforce.

To help stay afloat, it started offering virtual client selling and appointment booking, buy online pick up in-store, curbside pickup, mobile checkout and contactless payments.

Its digital efforts paid off in Q2, when email campaigns with predictive artificial intelligence and high-reach paid social media helped add more than 1 million new customers to its direct-to-consumer platforms alone.

Chipotle Launches Sustainability Impact Tracker For Digital Orders

Chipotle has introduced a new feature on its app and website called Real Foodprint that details the brand’s supply chain practices and shows the sustainability impact of customers’ digital orders, which they can share on Twitter.

The sustainability impact tracker compares average values for each of Chipotle’s 53 ingredients to their conventional counterparts against five key metrics provided by independent research company HowGood.

Chipotle enlisted Bill Nye the Science Guy to demonstrate how the Real Foodprint feature works in his latest TikTok video where he plays both the part of a Chipotle patron and employee. Within six hours, the video amassed  237,700 likes and nearly 2,400 comments.

When placing orders on Chipotle’s app or website, the order confirmation message will display data on environmental savings based on averages for the ingredients that comprise a customer’s order. Those savings include less carbon in the atmosphere, gallons of water saved, improved soil health, organic land supported and antibiotics avoided. Customers can share their order’s tracker results on Twitter.

To determine the impact each Chipotle ingredient has on the environment and animal welfare, HowGood collects information from Chipotle’s suppliers and over 450 data sources like peer-reviewed scientific literature, industry findings and research from government and non-governmental organizations such as the United States Department of Agriculture, World Health Organization and the United States Food & Drug Administration.

According to its latest earnings report, Chipotle’s sales surged 14.1 percent from last year to a quarterly record of $1.6 billion as digital sales grew 202.5 percent and accounted for nearly half of total sales. However, its profit dropped 19 percent due in part to delivery expenses. Chipotle says its delivery fees don’t fully cover the commissions it pays to partners such as Grubhub and DoorDash.

Digital Drive-Thru Menus Expected At 10,000 Chains In The US And Canada By Mid 2022

Restaurant Brands International has announced that it’s testing digital drive-thru menu boards with loyalty program and remote, contactless payment integration at more than 10,000 Burger King, Popeyes and Tim Hortons chains in the US and Canada by mid 2022.

The company says it plans to install more than 40,000 waterproof digital screens featuring predictive selling technology that allows for special offers to be tailored based on customers’ previous orders, weather patterns and the time of day. The technology can “learn preferred ordering habits” and will show the latest and trending menu items most-ordered in a customer’s location.

The 46-inch digital screens, powered by Stratacache Media Engines, are featured in 800 Tim Hortons locations in the US and Canada and 1,500 Burger King locations in the US. They’ll arrive at Popeyes chains later this year.

RBI is currently testing digital menu boards with integrated loyalty programs, enabled via scanning, bluetooth or near-field communication, at 30 Tim Hortons locations in Canada.

Immediate, remote contactless payment backed by Verifone will also be available through the digital menu boards. A Tim Hortons restaurant in Canada is home to the first prototype of this payment method, with 15 additional locations to test the functionality by January 2021.

To further increase the efficiency at its restaurants, RBI is installing, where possible, double drive-thru lanes at some locations.

RBI’s push to modernize the drive-thru experience comes as over 100,000 bars and restaurants have permanently closed due to the pandemic and many intact restaurants are slow to offer socially-distanced outdoor dining services.

According to research from The NPD Group, drive-thru restaurant visits surged by 26 percent in Q2. Even as more restaurants reopened in July, drive-thru visits increased by 13 percent.

Rapid digital transformation has enabled brands to adapt to the crisis and will be a strategic necessity to thrive during the process of an economic recovery. But with automation comes large amounts of data and therefore, risk, especially with the enactment of data privacy regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Remaining agile in the new normal will require brands to invest in automation tools that not only enhance consumer experiences but also protect their privacy.

Product Detail Pages Have Biggest Influence On Online Purchases

Ecommerce will grow by 22 percent this year as shoppers increasingly favor online over in-person. While the pandemic has prompted many consumers to tighten their budgets, a new study from Kantar and Catalyst shows that online shoppers prioritize convenience over price when deciding where to shop. In fact, 66 percent of consumers choose a retailer based on convenience, while 47 percent choose a retailer based on price and value.

With perspectives from 500 online shoppers, 200 marketers, 24 leading manufacturers plus major retailers, Kantar’s “The State of Ecommerce 2021” offers insight into navigating the new world of omnichannel commerce and retail media.

The ecommerce consumer journey to purchase is more complex than ever as shoppers use a mix of retailer sites, traditional search engines and social media platforms. According to Kantar’s findings, 37 percent of online shoppers rely on retailer sites and apps more than any other touchpoint during the shopping process.

Among those who used a variety of touchpoints before buying, 50 percent searched for inspiration on Instagram and 50 percent discovered new products or brands on Google. Sixty-three percent of shoppers did their initial product research on Amazon and 63 percent compared products or prices on

Brick-and-mortar still has a role to play in the era of digital transformation, as 31 percent said an offline touchpoint helped them make their buying decision, reflecting the importance of omnichannel approaches.

Among those who went to a retailer’s website or app, 48 percent said they did so as the first pre-shop touchpoint, while for those that did an internet search, 46 percent did so first.

The main reason shoppers choose a retailer for a product purchase is convenience (66 percent), followed by shoppability (57 percent), value assortment (52 percent), price/value (47 percent) and lastly, service (36 percent).

Product detail pages (PDPs) are key to driving conversion as 45 percent of online shoppers indicated that they visited a PDP at the time of purchase. Respondents also ranked PDPs as having the biggest influence on their purchase. In addition, 49 percent of online purchasers reported scrolling past the first page to look for what they want. This rate is higher for millennials (56 percent) and Gen X (54 percent) online shoppers.

Despite the significance of PDPs, just 37 percent of ecommerce professionals focus on optimizing their PDPs for search engine optimization (SEO) across the online platforms they use for digital marketing.

Consumers plan on using online delivery services more in 2021. For example, among those who used Instacart, 63 percent plan to use the service more in the future. The same goes for users of Deliv, Prime, Postmates, Shipt and DoorDash.

When asked about the utility of digital ads, 54 percent of those exposed to an ad or promo while shopping online said they were helpful reminders of something they needed. As a group, 20 percent of total online shoppers said advertising is helpful to them while shopping.

Social commerce will be critical for brands looking to reach younger audiences as 59 percent of online shoppers are aware of social commerce and 61 percent are likely to buy from social media in the future. Brands are responding accordingly—19 percent of marketers reported large increases in their social media ad budgets, followed by email marketing (15 percent), YouTube ads (13 percent) and paid search (12 percent).

“Now is the time to think about how to drive lifetime value, not likes, with social sites,” said Kieley Taylor, global vice president of social media for GroupM Services.

To enhance their cross-channel retail media approach, 72 percent of brands are actively utilizing Facebook for digital marketing activities, followed by Google (67 percent), Instagram (61 percent), Twitter (50 percent) and Amazon (49 percent).

The results show that many ecommerce marketers are leveraging a combination of in-house teams and agencies to manage channels such as Amazon, Target and Kroger. Agencies expect to shoulder more of brands’ retail media efforts with 56 percent saying they anticipate more requests for proposals (RFPs) in ecommerce and retail media this year.

“Agencies are acting as an arbitration layer between media owners, and brand investment budgets, comparing opportunities across platforms and channels to guide overall investment performance regardless of where the media is purchased or ultimately delivered,” said Todd Szahun, senior vice president of ecommerce and new retail at Kantar.

According to Kantar, 40 percent of industry professionals believe that improving the user experience will present the biggest opportunity in ecommerce marketing in the next five years. As a sign of companies’ growing commitment to ecommerce, 45 percent of marketers say they now have a clear and differentiated product portfolio strategy for ecommerce than they did two years ago.

Kantar’s findings are based on surveys fielded in April and interviews conducted between March and May.

Biden-Harris Launch Official Campaign Signs In ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’

Animal Crossing: New Horizon players can now decorate their islands with official Biden-Harris signs as part of the campaign’s larger effort to reach voters ahead of the 2020 election, according to The Verge.

Players can download four different sign designs in-game by scanning quick release (QR) codes through the Nintendo Switch Online app. Designs include two that feature the official Biden-Harris logo, one that features the “Jo” Pride logo and one that shows aviator sunglasses in red, white and blue.

To promote the virtual initiative, the campaign worked with gaming influencers who shared their gameplay with the signs.

“This is just the start of how we plan to engage players ahead of November as we’re already looking forward to rolling out more digital swag, voter education tools, and organizing efforts on Animal Crossing and other platforms,” Christian Tom, director of digital partnerships for the Biden campaign, told The Verge.

Animal Crossing became a lockdown hit after its latest game, New Horizons, launched on March 20. The game sold 11 million copies by the end of March, and an additional 1.6 million copies since then.

Appealing to gamers is one of many creative alternatives to in-person rallies and conventions for the Biden-Harris campaign. At the start of COVID-19 in March, Biden became the first Democratic candidate to hold a virtual town hall, a Facebook Live stream that amassed over 5,000 viewers.

Due to concerns over the pandemic, the Democratic National Convention was forced to pivot virtual via a mix of pre-recorded content and live streams from speakers’ homes. A total of 19.7 million people tuned in to the first night, down from 26 million in 2016, according to Nielsen data. The Biden campaign said 28.9 million Americans watched the DNC across television and digital platforms, including 10.2 million digital streams, as per Reuters.

Creating Human Connection In CX With Deloitte’s Tim Greulich

During this 218th episode of “Marketing Today,” I interview Tim Greulich, managing director at Deloitte and the operational customer experience practice leader.

On the show today, we talk about the latest report from Deloitte Digital called “Creating Human Connection at Enterprise Scale.” We discuss why creating a human connection is essential in today’s service economy, how companies should be thinking about it, and why it’s so hard.

In our discussion of “Creating Human Connection at Enterprise Scale,” Greulich begins by discussing the big questions that inspired the report. He provides advice for companies that want to be more human. Greulich says, “I think it’s a recognition that people are complex.” We can design for this complexity and embrace it. The report found that when companies create strong relationships with their customers, they become more forgiving and price-insensitive over time. Relating to your customer can make you more competitive, and may even provide you with more data. Greulich says, “If used the right way, relating opens up a whole new set of information for your company.” We also discuss how this approach impacts your business results and the challenges of building relationships with customers.

Highlights from this week’s “Marketing Today”:

  • Tim’s path to Deloitte. 01:11
  • The impetus behind Deloitte’s latest report. 04:11
  • How companies can be more human. 05:39
  • The emotional component to Deloitte’s findings. 07:56
  • Designing flaws to create “wow” moments. 11:09
  • Is designing a great product or service enough? 11:32
  • How relationships affect business results. 13:53
  • Challenges in building relationships with customers. 15:10
  • Turning digital breadcrumb trails into something that comes off as more human. 17:57
  • Tim shares a defining experience. 22:00
  • Tim reflects on advice he would give to his younger self. 23:02
  • Tim shares about an impactful purchase he made in the last 6-12 months. 24:17
  • Are there any brands, companies, or causes that Tim follows that he thinks
  • other people should take notice of? 25:47
  • Tim’s take on the top opportunity and threat facing marketers today. 27:54

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Alan B. Hart is the creator and host of “Marketing Today with Alan Hart,” a weekly podcast where he interviews leading global marketing professionals and business leaders. Alan advises leading executives and marketing teams on opportunities around brand, customer experience, innovation, and growth. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies, but he is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine startups.

US Ecommerce Sales Will Surge 18% To $709.78 Billion In 2020

According to eMarketer’s updated ecommerce and retail spending forecast, US ecommerce sales will increase 18 percent to $709.78 billion this year—an all-time high since the researcher began calculating the metric in 2008—as a result of store closures and stay-at-home orders.

In February, eMarketer predicted total US retail sales would slightly grow by 2.8 percent to $5.621 trillion. However, due to COVID, total US retail sales will fall 10.5 percent to $4.894 trillion, a steeper decline than the 8.2 percent drop induced by the recession in 2009 and a level not seen since 2016. What’s more, total retail sales won’t rebound until 2022, when they’re expected to reach $5.549 trillion.

In addition to an 18 percent increase in growth, ecommerce will reach 14.5 percent of total retail sales in 2020, the biggest share increase in a single year. eMarketer predicts ecommerce sales will reach $765.17 billion in 2021 and $859.28 billion in 2022.

Food and beverage and health, personal care and beauty were the top two product categories growing the fastest pre-COVID-19. As consumers shift to online ordering, eMarketer has raised its forecast for food and beverage sales from 23.4 percent to 58.5 percent and health, personal care and beauty sales from 16.6 percent to 32.4 percent. Apparel and accessories will only grow 8.6 percent.

Maintaining the number one spot on the list of top 10 ecommerce retailers, Amazon will grow its market share by one percentage point to 38 percent. And, for the first time, Walmart will exceed eBay as the second US ecommerce retailer behind Amazon, with a projected increase of over 35 percent. As a result, Walmart will hold a 5.8 percent share of the ecommerce market in 2020. This will bump eBay to third, followed by Apple in fourth and Home Depot in fifth.

As ecommerce spending balloons, brick-and-mortar retail spending will continue to suffer, with an expected 14 percent decrease to $4.184 trillion.