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2021 social advertising forecast: Retailers to boost ad spend on Facebook

Entering the New Year, and with ongoing Covid-19 uncertainty, how should marketers plan to spend their dollars on social media advertising?

Smartly.io, the leading social advertising automation platform for designers and performance marketers, announced new research outlining how retail organisations are spending their marketing dollars on social media advertising. Based on a survey of 300 senior marketing executives from retail organisations around the world, the report examines year-over-year findings while also exploring new topics to determine how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted social advertising and will inform 2021 marketing plans.

Where’s the money? 

2020 moved much of the world online, with consumers rapidly shifting to digital channels as brick-and-mortar retail locations closed their doors. In response, marketing teams were forced to reconsider advertising budgets, optimise their marketing mix, and adopt omnichannel strategies. Smartly.io found that a majority of companies surveyed (66 per cent) have an annual marketing budget of $20 million or more, and most (74 per cent) already allocate 31 per cent or more of their marketing budget to social media advertising, where 12 per cent allocate 51 per cent or more. These numbers are expected to increase as more and more retail organisations adapt to the pandemic disruption and changing consumer habits. 

Spread the love

Facebook remains the most popular platform among global retailers, with 93 per cent currently buying social media ads on the platform. Instagram is quickly becoming a favourite among retailers too, with 90 per cent of respondents reporting that they buy ads on the platform, compared to just 56 per cent last year. However, while one-third (36 per cent) of companies are currently spending most of their social media advertising dollars on Facebook, almost half of respondents (42 per cent) said they are seeing the best return on ad spend (ROAS) from Instagram — compared to just 21 per cent who reported this in 2019. 

The value of time 

Unfortunately, most respondents (72 per cent) agree their social media advertising creation and delivery involves manual processes that are often time-consuming. The good news? There are solutions available that can automatically create ads and videos from product images, automate targeting and budget allocation, and even select when and on what platform retailers should buy their ads.

That said, 81 per cent of retail marketers wish to automate at least part of the creation and delivery of social advertisements in the New Year. This opens up more time for strategic work and creative testing – finding the right creatives and messaging helps in building trust and meaningful customer relationships. 

Bridge the gap 

Just as importantly, automation solutions provide the time needed for social media advertising and creative teams to collaborate more effectively.

“The past year has proved the prominence of social media within the marketing stack,” said Robert Rothschild, VP and global head of marketing at Smartly.io. “Retail marketers have always understood the value that social media advertising brings to their campaigns, but with a global pandemic accelerating the shift to digital, it has been an essential ingredient in engaging with the right consumers.

“While our recent research indicates creative remains the primary performance lever, many retail marketers acknowledged that their social media advertising and creative teams still do not collaborate effectively at all stages of the marketing process. In 2021, it’s time to bridge the gap between performance and creative teams, and invest in technology to scale creative and improve ad performance that will empower teams to work more seamlessly — even in a remote environment.”

To be successful, retailers will need to continuously adapt their marketing to align with the ever-evolving Covid-19 economy and their consumers’ preferences. Even as in-person touchpoints return to our daily lives, social media will still play a significant role in how shoppers discover, follow and purchase from their favourite brands. For more tips on how retailers can better prepare social advertising strategies in 2021, download the complete Smartly.io research report here.