Not only are shoppers purchasing more frequently online, but they are more likely to begin their shopping journeys on social media. Social platforms like Instagram and Facebook are common sources of brand discovery and this is expected to continue into 2021, with new data showing that retail marketing spend on social is likely to increase next year.

In a recent survey by social advertising automation platform Smartly.io, 300 global senior marketing executives were asked about their current and future engagement in social media advertising. While social media has been a popular marketing tool for years, the acceleration of digital shopping has resulted in increased adoption of these platforms for advertising.

Social Media Marketing Will Increase in 2021 as Brands Look to Meet Shoppers Online
Social Media Marketing Will Increase in 2021 as Brands Look to Meet Shoppers Online

Of those surveyed, 74% reported that they spend at least 30% of their current marketing budget on social ads; 12% spent half of their budget or more. This translates into significant dollars, with two-thirds of the surveyed brands reporting a budget of at least $20 million annually.

“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 to engaging with the right consumers.”

Social Media Marketing Will Increase in 2021 as Brands Look to Meet Shoppers Online
Social Media Marketing Will Increase in 2021 as Brands Look to Meet Shoppers Online

Younger shoppers are most likely to use social platforms as a tool to discover new brands, according to date collected by Pitney Bowes. Nearly half of Gen-Z report boredom as a motivation for driving purchases, while 40% spend more time researching brands than before the pandemic. This presents a prime opportunity for brands to capture new customers.

And brands are taking action. A third of brands currently spend more on Facebook than any other platform and that looks to increase in 2021: 76% of brands reported plans to increase advertising spending on Facebook, while 44% will up Twitter spending and 38% will increase Instagram marketing.

However, Instagram is a growing favorite among retailers, with nearly half (48%) of the surveyed executives reporting that it had the highest return on ad spend of any platform. More brands are also using the platform than in previous years; 90% engaged in Instagram advertising in 2020, compared to 56% in 2019. There was also a higher trend for Instagram activity among European and American brands, than by Asian brands.

Social Media Marketing Will Increase in 2021 as Brands Look to Meet Shoppers Online
Social Media Marketing Will Increase in 2021 as Brands Look to Meet Shoppers Online

Despite these investments, Smartly.io found that there was mass dissatisfaction with the process of social media marketing. A large majority (72%) reported that these strategies involved too many manual, time-consuming processes, both in terms of ideation and execution. As a result, over half (56%) declared that a goal for 2021 would be to improve collaboration between their social media advertising and creative teams.

“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,” said Rothschild. “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.”

Social Media Marketing Will Increase in 2021 as Brands Look to Meet Shoppers Online
Social Media Marketing Will Increase in 2021 as Brands Look to Meet Shoppers Online