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Lockdown Trends: What Will Stay and What Will Go?

It’s been a long road. Over 12 months we’ve seen daily life change irrevocably. Remote working has become the standard. We’re either shopping ultra-locally or having products delivered from the vast expanses of the internet. Zoom calls with friends & family have replaced jaunts to the pub. 

But how many of these trends will last? It’s a question on a lot of people’s minds – including our own. Of course, we can’t speculate as to whether long-distance travel will return to it’s pre-pandemic highs or if loungewear will become the new smart-casual. One thing we do know about at E1MA however, is digital marketing. We select a handful of key online trends that either emerged or were accentuated by the pandemic, and explore whether they’ll become part of everyday life post-lockdown.

TikTok & Instagram Reels

TikTok is synonymous with the pandemic. The app has been out since 2016, but reached a feverish level of popularity in 2020 as consumers desperately sought new forms of entertainment. It’s since been downloaded over 2 billion times. With over 686 million monthly users, it’s clear this short-form video platform won’t be a passing fad.

The app has spawned the careers of countless influencers, with brands also taking advantage of its popularity amongst Gen Z. That’s not to say TikTok doesn’t appeal to older audiences too – 60% of users are between 18 – 44.

The reason we expect TikTok to stand the test of time is because it has an intimate understanding of what consumers want. The content is snappy and vertical-first, taking the best parts of both Snapchat and IG Stories and presenting it in a clean, highly personalised environment. Questions of data privacy aside, TikTok knows users don’t want to sift through endless posts to discover something worth watching. Both its brand identity and its content are light-hearted and jovial – exactly what consumers want during these challenging times and beyond.

You can’t mention TikTok without saying ‘Reels’ in the next breath. Instagram’s unerringly similar offering will likely succeed through pure muscle power. With Facebook’s level of resources, Reels is almost too big to fail. It certainly didn’t have the smoothest of launches – users were quick to point out that most Reels were simply TikTok re-uploads. Others simply felt Reels was one addition too many for Instagram, which already features a newsfeed, stories and IGTV. Instagram has yet to reveal how many people use Reels (a classic sign of sub-optimal performance), but we expect it to compete fiercely with TikTok over the coming years.

Will it stay? Yes.

Online Shopping

This is the most obvious contender for the ‘trend most likely to stay’ award, simply because the pandemic only accelerated our already rapid shift towards online shopping. 2 in 5 shoppers say they’ll make more online purchases following the end of lockdown (the rest probably already spend copious amounts online). You only have to look at the phenomenal success of online-only retailers such as ASOS and Amazon, both of which are producing record profits. Meanwhile, the demise of brick-and-mortar favourites such as Topshop (bought by ASOS) and Debenhams signals the death of the great British high-street.

It’s easy to say that these retailers only collapsed under the weight of several successive lockdowns, but that only tells part of the story. Such brands failed to implement technological and supply-chain innovations that are expected as standard by modern shoppers. Fast delivery, user-friendly experiences and social commerce features are all critical to success – it’s not enough to simply ‘have a website’ in 2021.

Online shopping isn’t going anywhere. It has achieved many of the advantages brick-and-mortar shopping once had to itself and added more. More choice, more flexibility and more convenience. Real-life shopping is slowly being reduced to a social experience that you do with your friends & family on the weekends. Even during the brief summer reopening period, high street footfall was down 65%. Lockdown drove us to buying everything from loo roll to plant pots online. We expect this to be a concrete shift in consumer behaviour.

Will it stay? Yes.

Live-streaming

The first lockdown in March 2020 marked a high point for live-streaming. Everyone from Boiler Room to Borough Market took advantage of the previously-neglected content format. The E1MA team witnessed first-hand just how effective live-streams could be as both a marketing tool and a source of entertainment. We even launched our own platform, SofaStreams – a catalogue of the very best virtual events the internet had to offer.

Unfortunately, the initial momentum didn’t last. The brief relaxation of restrictions during the summer saw interest in live-streams nosedive. There was a small resurgence over the winter period, but it never quite hit the same heights as before. Virtual events simply cannot compete with real-life. Even trips to the park with your friends can overshadow a 2-hour video of a DJ performing in his kitchen. That’s without mentioning all the problems that come with live-streaming. Technical difficulties, copyright issues and most importantly – a lack of real revenue.

It’s difficult to see the role live-streaming will play as venues open their doors and live events return. They can still act as great promotional tools for generating FOMO and reaching digital audiences, especially as many fans won’t be able or willing to attend real events. But ultimately we can’t see live-streams returning en-masse once the national lockdown is over.

Will it stay? No.

Clubhouse

Clubhouse was one of the later lockdown trends to grip the internet. However, it could easily fade into obscurity just as quickly as it emerged. The audio-only social platform garnered real interest for both its exclusivity (it’s invite-only) and celebrity user base. The likes of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have been spotted. 

Clubhouse’s simple offering of ‘virtual discussion rooms’ taps into the rising popularity of podcasts and audiobooks. But it’s exactly this simplicity and inexperience that will lead to its demise. Social media giants were quick to notice Clubhouse’s success and began developing their own audio-only alternatives. Twitter in particular were quick to launch Fleets, which has had promising early feedback. Facebook, now well known for borrowing ideas off rivals, are also developing a similar experience.

Clubhouse meanwhile still isn’t available on Android – accounting for 85% of the world’s smartphones. It’s the sad but all too common situation of a fledgling start-up being gobbled up by the giants of Silicon Valley. It will be interesting to see whether audio-only discussions have a place in post-lockdown life. Commuting springs to mind as a scenario where the likes of Twitter Spaces could thrive. Only time will tell.

Will it stay? No.

Have a question?

talktome@e1ma.co.uk