The plunge in the UK economy in Q2 2020 due to the pandemic-induced lockdown reduced advertising expenditure by close to one-third, recovering in Q3.

Impaired mobility of consumers dramatically reduced expenditure on print and out-of-home media, which are reliant on footfall, alongside cinema, whose theatres have been shuttered on and off all year.

The paradigm shift in consumer expenditure to ecommerce in 2020, which will moderate in 2021 as mobility partly returns, boosted online display while search was flat due to impeded travel plans.

Over Q2, the value of online sales (excl. fuel) grew by 55%, whilst offline sales (excl. fuel) declined by 22%. Three months of lockdown has accelerated ecommerce by four years and households will spend more than ever before online, post-lockdown.

The rapid shift to ecommerce poses lofty challenges to UK retailers who have historically been timid in their approach to ecommerce. Integration between sales channels will become more important than ever before, but very few have managed to perfect this approach.

As more retail activity takes place online, ad products from the likes of Google, Amazon and Facebook stand to benefit greatly, pulling spend from other ad and marketing budgets that were aimed at driving in-store behaviours.

 

Online reviews are a vital input for consumer decision-making. However, reviews are easy to manipulate, and widespread fraud is undermining credibility and raising the issue of consumer protection.

Facebook, Google, and Amazon utilise reviews to improve the consumer experience, but also to sell advertising to businesses and to address fraud. These companies leverage their data superiority to better utilise reviews on their platforms, and possess a competitive advantage, versus sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and eBay.

Demand for expert opinion remains strong, yet is supplied only by publishers and Which?, a small segment in terms of share of traffic relative to platforms.

Employment reached an all time high in 2019 of 32.8 million people at work despite slower GDP growth in 2017-19. The tighter labour market has helped real wage growth. A two-tier jobs market has emerged, with high-grade skilled roles evolving in a wide range of service sectors, and a large pool of low-grade, part-time work  

The heterogeneous labour market has ensured that in recruitment classifieds, unlike property and auto, no digital player has achieved absolute dominance. In the layer devoted to the recruitment of professionals, served by LinkedIn, rising demand for more specialised roles has expanded the number of agencies, intensive users of digital tools to locate recruits and crack the problem of "approachability" of those already in the job  

Online job portals are rushing to improve their AI and programmatic capabilities as specialisation prompts a shift from keyword search to smart matching, leading to a boom in recruitment tech M&A. Traditional agencies such as Hays are upgrading their own data capabilities through acquisitions and partnerships with LinkedIn, Google, Salesforce and other data/tech providers 
 

New car registrations will be down 6.3% (2.4m) in 2018, another year of decline from the 2016 peak of 2.7m, impacted by the soft consumer confidence in big-ticket purchases, with some spin down to used car sales

Auto Trader, despite the car industry’s downturn, has experienced only marginal pain thanks to the strategic focus on revenue diversification – principally into new cars, dealer auctions and enhanced subscription-based services for dealers

Our forecasts for media expenditure on cars in 2018 and 2019 are essentially flat. Auto Trader’s positioning offers insulation in a downturn, and we expect they will gain share in marketing spend, though not necessarily in terms of total consumer or industry expenditure

The UK’s labour market is tight, with an unemployment rate of 4.1%, the lowest since 1973. Peak vacancies and reports of skill shortages mask dull hiring plans amidst the gathering Brexit gloom, which will hit temporary hiring hard. We expect media expenditure to fall in 2018, substantially more among print publishers, spilling over into 2019 expenditure on media

The recruitment industry has benefited from the structural shift to outsourcing, and large agencies are portals in their own right, providing tools to companies to sift applicants to find the best match. Companies doing their own recruitment of professionals value listing on LinkedIn, the top UK site by visitors, and the efficiency of paying per applicant rather than for the listing

Second-placed Indeed has gained considerable momentum since being acquired by Japan’s Recruit Holdings in 2012. Indeed acquired third-placed Glassdoor in 2018, the latter having built its market position through user-generated reviews of employers. With Google serious again about Jobs, a sector (among others) it has tried to disrupt before, Monster and Jobsite are the more vulnerable to being crowded out 

The UK consumer’s loss of confidence since the June 2016 referendum vote in favour of Brexit has reduced the revenues of both estate agents and auto dealers, with knock-on effects on their media spend, entrenching further the leadership positions of Rightmove and Auto Trader respectively. Only the UK’s recruitment marketplace is buoyant with a record level of vacancies, benefiting general recruitment aggregator Indeed, although deepening Brexit gloom among businesses will rapidly melt away vacancies

With internet users flocking to portals and away from print media, advertisers have followed suit with media spend on these portals to stimulate purchaser interest, although transactions are still conducted offline. Facebook and Google, which have long histories of contesting markets for local advertisers with little success, have re-entered classifieds. Facebook Marketplace is now accepting listings from estate agents and dealers, expanding from C2C to B2C in homes and cars. Google Jobs launched in the UK in July 2018 and enjoys partnerships with all the major portals other than Indeed

The sharp decline in sales and shift to lettings, sluggish price growth and pressure on estate agents’ commissions, are making marketing key to driving transactional activity in a longer sales funnel. Rightmove’s revenues are on track for a 10% increase in 2018 on the uplift in average revenue per agent (ARPA). Zoopla's market share rose with the end of OnTheMarket's 'one-other-portal' rule for shareholders upon its AIM listing in February 2018 

Bleak prospects for digital advertising leave no choice to news publishers but to generate revenue from readers, and the lack of widespread frictionless micropayment options means there is no alternative to subscription — the vast majority of western ‘quality’ newspapers have rolled out paywalls; meters and registrations are the most promising approaches

Recent politics have increased demand for quality journalism and readiness to pay. Despite clumsy commercial models the rise in subscriber numbers is encouraging, but current price points may be too low for a sustainable digital transition. Churn is high, publishers have yet to fully develop and optimise ecommerce

The transition to an audience-centric model is a shift away from click bait, with distinctiveness, curation and news agenda hierarchy among the most important factors. Leveraging data to optimise audience engagement remains challenging

The market for addressable TV looks constrained despite its benefits, with Sky AdSmart taking less than 2% of overall TV ad revenues. Meanwhile, online video revenues for Google, Facebook and others have surged dramatically

Agencies are seemingly enraptured by online video – a highly profitable medium to buy – despite concerns about a lack of effectiveness, safety and transparency 

For broadcasters to compete, better radical collaborative action is needed, including industry-wide adoption of AdSmart, and overhauling the trading agreements which hinder its take-up