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While tourism brands spent much of 2020 sharing messages like “now is not the time to travel” and “we’ll see you once it’s safe,” other industries began thriving during the pandemic. And as restaurants, brick and mortar retailers, cinemas and gyms closed their doors, food delivery services, online retailers, streaming and mobile gaming, and home exercise offerings ramped up. 

The Covid-19 vaccine rollout has begun, but the road to societal and economic recovery will be long. The industries we’ll explore in this article are likely here to stay, because our personal and professional lives have been permanently altered by the public health crisis. This means media organizations must learn how to create offerings that appeal to these brands to drive digital advertising revenue over the long term.

5 verticals publishers should monitor

Food delivery

As dining rooms shut to the public, restaurants scrambled to make up for the shortfall in sales. Over 40% pivoted to food delivery as a result of the pandemic, and more than 30% plan to continue offering the service, according to research by Rewards Network. Consumers rallied behind this shift, and a movement to support restaurants – especially smaller, independent ones – was ignited.

Third-party food delivery services have also seen success during the pandemic. For example, by May 2020, DoorDash’s sales had already jumped 110% since January. The company was well positioned to respond to the demand for service in suburban areas, according to research by Edison Trends. U.K.-based brand Deliveroo also fared well last year, experiencing a 900% increase in sales of virtual gift cards in Hong Kong.

Despite the strides made by third-party delivery companies in 2020, at least one study shows that consumers prefer to purchase directly from local restaurants. Publishers – especially those with localized audiences – should keep this sentiment in mind as they consider which brands to align with and target for digital advertising sales in 2021.

Online retail

The saying “all dressed up with nowhere to go” may have taken on new meaning in 2020, but the success of the online retail industry is no joke. By July 2020, consumers’ online retail spending had surpassed 2019 figures by 30%, up from $266.84 billion to $347.26 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. This was a significant year-over-year increase compared to the previous period (2018-19), which only saw 13% growth.

Dominant industry players such as Amazon gained even greater market share during the early days of the pandemic. From March to June, the company’s stock price increased by nearly $1,000 per share. However, the same push to support local businesses seen in the restaurant industry also benefited smaller retailers who were able to get their products and services online for consumers to browse and buy. Household names like Shopify even joined the movement with an article on 100+ gift ideas to help shine a spotlight on local shops.

Several publishers have already gotten on board with the move to help promote local brick and mortar retailers through digital advertising as they transition to virtual sales. For example, Gannett and USA TODAY launched a Support Local directory that lists businesses in over 240 cities and offers a place for consumers to purchase gift cards.

At-home entertainment 

Cinemas and other entertainment venues – along with artists and workers in the arts and entertainment sector – suffered a massive blow in 2020 as lockdowns swept the globe. Audiences turned to virtual entertainment like the streaming service Netflix to keep themselves occupied at home.

In the first quarter of 2020 alone, Netflix gained almost 16 million new subscribers, exceeding the company’s predictions for the period by more than double. The quarter represented Netflix’s largest period of subscriber growth since the company emerged on the entertainment scene 13 years ago.

Several large enterprises including Disney, NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS, and WarnerMedia shifted their business models in 2020 to place greater emphasis on their streaming offerings. Consumer behavior in Q2 of 2020 indicated that these changes were well timed, since streaming video comprised 25% of all TV viewing during that period, according to Nielsen’s Total Audience Report. 

Mobile gaming

Video games also increased in popularity during the public health crisis, becoming part of the mainstream entertainment landscape. Sales of mobile, desktop, and console games in 2020 are expected to top the previous year’s numbers by 9%, as the industry approaches $200 billion in value.

Mobile games are three times more widely played than desktop and console games, partially because of the lower barrier to entry compared to other platforms. If you own a smartphone, you can play a mobile game-”and many of these games don’t cost anything to download. Mobile games are also convenient to play. For example, you can play them on your bus ride to and from work.

Advertisers are taking note of consumers’ increasing affinity for mobile games, and are making changes to their budgets in response. If your media organization hasn’t yet tested the waters of the mobile gaming phenomenon, you may want to consider partnering with a gaming app to offer a branded, content-rich experience for your advertisers.

Home exercise

Gyms, sports centers, and yoga studios had a tough year in 2020 as group exercise was shut down. Virtual brands such as the mobile fitness app TrueCoach stepped into the gap left in the market, increasing its user base by 200% in Q2. Currently, the fitness app market is expected to reach $14.64 billion by 2027, according to the firm Reports and Data.

Exercise equipment retailer Peloton also experienced a 66% boost in sales at the beginning of the year, as consumers began to create their own home gyms. Publishers should continue to monitor the progress of virtual fitness brands as well as equipment retailers, and ensure their sales teams are educated on these companies’ target demographics.

Keep up through 2021 and beyond

As a publisher in 2021, it’s crucial to keep up to date with digital advertising trends to stay ahead of your competition. To take a deeper dive into what’s shaping the media industry today, download our new 2021 Digital Advertising Trends white paper, which includes information on industries to watch and much more, including industry experts’ commentary.

Afton Brazzoni

Afton helps B2B companies serve their audiences with captivating, refreshing, effective clarity through storytelling. She brings 12 years of experience in marketing and communications, with a background in journalism, to her mission to deliver clients excellent content that drives their businesses forward. Afton has extensive experience developing strategies and content for growth-oriented organizations such as technology companies, higher education institutions and the tourism industry, as well as for entrepreneurs.