This month: what this year’s festive holiday season holds, the state of TikTok as its ban approaches and how YouTube is moving to the TV screen.

An Uncertain and Digital Festive Season

In a year of twists and turns, the festive holiday season looks set to continue 2020’s wild ride.

In a Rakuten Advertising survey of consumers across 12 major markets, nearly three-quarters (70%) said they don’t plan on spending less during major festive holidays like Christmas and Lunar New Year despite the financial impact of the coronavirus.

However, this drops to 55% if countries return to lockdown. This suggests consumers will be quick to cut their spending if the situation worsens, something that looks possible as the number of cases rises across parts of Asia, Europe and Latin America.

Even now, people are reprioritising who they buy for.

One-quarter (26%) of consumers said they will spend less on their immediate family during the festive holiday season. This rises to 36% when buying for themselves and to 41% for friends or other social groups like co-workers.

Whoever consumers choose to prioritise, the surge in shopping online seen in the first half of the year is likely to continue throughout 2020.

In the same survey, three-quarters (73%) of consumers say they expect their purchases this festive holiday season to be ‘primarily online’.

In-store shopping remains important, though. Over half (54%) of consumers say they are likely to shop ‘primarily offline’ in some categories during this holiday season. This even rises to 64% in Hong Kong, 62% in Australia and 60% in New Zealand.

As a result, brands have a lot to gain if they can combine their e-commerce offer effectively with offline retail and package it together in an ad campaign that cuts through what may be a common and repeated ‘challenging year’ narrative.

TikTok Hits 700 Million Users

The news is thick and fast about TikTok and its potential sale to Microsoft but the latest development reveals the platform’s extraordinary growth.

In suing the Trump Administration, TikTok and parent company ByteDance revealed the app had 92 million monthly active users in the United States in June this year. This is more than double the 40m recorded in October 2019.

For comparison, TikTok has already overtaken Netflix’s 73m paid streaming subscribers across North America but lags behind Facebook’s nearly three times as many monthly active users (256m).

Globally, the short-form video app recorded 689m monthly active users in July 2020, having added 182m users since the end of last year.

It’s not just the sheer number of users that TikTok boasts, though.

Children aged 4 to 15 years old in the UK and US spend around an hour and a half on TikTok per day, making the app more popular than Instagram and equally as popular as YouTube.

Regardless of the fact that users should be over the age of 13 to use the app, children are powerful consumers and brands are looking to build relationships from a young age. This is an area in which Facebook can only partly compete as its audience skews older.

If successful in its acquisition of TikTok’s operations in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, Microsoft also stands to gain a large chunk of the platform’s influencers.

The US alone accounts for over one-tenth (12.7%) of the app’s celebrities.

ByteDance has already lost access to its second largest influencer market, as India took a 7.8% share before the app was banned over national security concerns at the end of June.

Whether copycat platforms like Instagram Reels can steal users and influencers remains to be seen, but if Microsoft can acquire part or all of TikTok, they’ll have entered the social space with a bang.

YouTube Goes to the TV Screen

Another online video platform has also benefitted from coronavirus stay-at-home orders, with YouTube being a bright spot for parent company Alphabet in the latest financial reports.

However, it’s the TV screen that has provided an extra boost for YouTube this year.

Research from streaming insights company Conviva found that game consoles and connected TVs now account for a quarter (27%) of global YouTube viewing time, up from 16% last year.

While mobile devices remain the go-to for content, its share dropped from two-thirds (67%) to three-fifths (59%) over the same period.

Consumers watching YouTube content via their TV ultimately helps brands combine the potential for personalisation that the platform offers with the emotional resonance that a larger screen allows for.

Indeed, brand building and better targeting are the two most common drivers of investment in digital video advertising, according to the IAB Europe.

This opportunity shouldn’t be underestimated. Research from video ad serving platform SpotX found that at least half of connected TV users in Spain, Italy and the UK use their device daily.

However, the IAB has also found that a lack of cross-screen measurement and clear ROI remain major challenges. Throw YouTube’s brand safety concerns on top and advertisers have a recipe for potential success, or for wasted budgets.