Aiken PR

The Briefing


2020…2021 Banner

by Aiken PR


Our consumer team reflects on the challenges of 2020 for businesses across Ireland and takes a forward look at what might lie in store for 2021

Consumer 2021 Forward Look

As an agency we have experienced first–hand how the challenges of 2020 have impacted businesses and industries across Ireland, and we have advised and worked alongside our clients as they have pivoted and adapted amidst the many curveballs thrown their way this year.

With a presence north and south of the border, and a client base which spans a wide range of industries and sectors we have witnessed the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic across many areas of business and consumerism, as well as the effect it has had on our behaviours as consumers and the way we consume media across the island of Ireland.

We’ve reflected on the changes and challenges of 2020 and despite an everchanging landscape we have taken a forward look into 2021 to predict what might be on the cards in the next ‘new normal’.

Consumer Spending

As we enter another period of intense lockdown measures, consumer behaviour is likely to reflect the continuing fluidity and uncertainty of the pandemic well into 2021. We have seen how consumers have adopted different shopping behaviours in 2020, and research by McKinsey and Company reveals that 65% of us express a high intent to incorporate these behaviours going forward (1).

Christmas especially will have exemplified this, with PwC outlining in their ‘12 Predictions of Christmas: 2020’ that 70% of this year’s Christmas presents would be purchased online (2). Kantar too described how the pandemic has accelerated double–digit eCommerce growth globally (3), with these new consumer behaviours emerging faster than we ever thought was possible.

Undeniably, Covid–19 has led to the demise of local high streets across the country, with much–loved and well–recognised chain outlets and department stores having been forced to shut as they struggle to compete with the ease and efficiency of online shopping. Unfortunately, there are likely to be further casualties as a result of the January restrictions, but it’s not all doom and gloom, and there are some green shoots providing us with hope of the positives we can take with us from this year into 2021.

The ‘Shop Local’ campaigns and the rise in the number of people choosing independent retailers indicate a new trend – one that reflects the new sense of community and togetherness that has been fostered from this year. During the festive period, when we usually see the multinational department stores heaving with crowds, PwC predicted that 28% of Christmas shopping would be done in local or independent retailers (2). For our team that indeed rang true, with many of us purchasing gifts for our family and friends in our local delis, coffee shops or small independent gift shops closer to home, and vouchers from the hardworking restaurants and eateries that we are so desperately looking forward to getting back to sometime in the new year. It is our hope that we do take this enhanced commitment and loyalty to our small, local independents into 2021, in order to support our neighbours but also to bolster our local economies.

Media consumption

Naturally, as PR people we’ve had our ear to the ground in 2020, as the nature of our industry and the media landscape across Ireland has changed and conformed to, which at this stage now feels like a few different versions of the ‘new normal’. It is likely that some of the new habits we have developed as media consumers will be with us for the foreseeable and will reshape our industry indefinitely.

Some of our team attended a virtual Meet the Media event by CIPR NI a few weeks ago, where UTV Content Editor Alison Fleming provided us with some interesting insights into media trends for 2021. She spoke of the accelerated shift towards online and social media consumption, and the ever–increasing importance of digital content and short form video for UTV. However, Alison emphasised that there will always be an audience for TV in Northern Ireland, revealing that we have turned to the box in our masses in 2020 as a trusted source of news and information as well as entertainment. Will these numbers continue in 2021? That might depend on the amount of time we are forced to spend on our sofas over the next few months… watch this space.

Similarly, with most of us using our phones more and spending increased amounts of time on social media channels to stay in touch with the outside world, it is no surprise that Kantar reported increasing social ad spend is predicted to continue next year (5). Story formats across social platforms especially had their moment in 2020, as story ads enjoyed a 29% investment increase. According to Kantar, this is expected to almost double in 2021 and influencer marketing will continue to resonate too.

Media consumption has grown exponentially across all in–home channels in 2020, with internet browsing increasing by 64%, online video by 54% and higher social media engagement up by 56% in April alone (5). As the advice to stay at home and work from home where possible remains for January it is likely that this trend will continue.

The consumer team at AIKEN has been considering these insights as we make plans for 2021; we’ll be including a mix of paid, owned and earned channels, while utilising research and leveraging the experiences of the past year to inform our campaigns over the coming months. Yet we are aware of the fluidity of the environment in which we are operating and are therefore ready to adapt and adjust whenever needed. But for now, we’ll settle down with our families and friends to enjoy – as best we can – the last few days of the holidays, in the hope that not too much changes (again!) between the time of publishing this article and the time you finish reading it!

Happy New Year!


(1): McKinsey and Company – Consumer sentiment and behavior, 2020 –

(2): PwC – 12 Predictions of Christmas: 2020 –

(3) Kantar – How COVID–19 transformed the world’s shopping habits, 2020 –

(4) – Central Bank – “The impact of Covid–19 on consumer spending”, 2020 –

(5) Kantar  – 2021 Media Trends and Predictions, 2020 –