Out with the New, in with the Old: Nostalgia’s Increasing Role in Content, Personalization, and Consumer Choice

In a digital world where consumers can have nearly every novelty, we’re seeing something old and familiar to catch their eye. This trend is nostalgia, and it’s hot across the board; think retired logos reemerging, vinyl sales surging, and Netflix’s top 80s-throwback show Stranger Things.

But there’s more to nostalgia than these big generational touchstones. Throughout the research we’ve conducted this past year, we’ve seen nostalgia emerge in sometimes unexpected places. It may be one of the biggest weapons in the TV streaming wars, but it may also bring a new spin to personalization, and inspire a new, data-driven way of looking back for consumers.

In our bespoke study among US and UK internet users, we found that feelings of nostalgia are very common across all generations: 8 in 10 people say they experience feelings of nostalgia at least occasionally, with 4 in 10 saying they do so often. Memories of childhood or teenage years was the top reason why consumers remember feeling nostalgic about something in the last year. Specific personal memories also score highly – very few said that they have felt nostalgic when being reminded of a specific moment in time shared by many. This is an important point to remember; nostalgia is deeply personal.

Music was found to be the most nostalgia-inducing form of media, leading across all age groups. Not just that, but music may also be the best place for a new, personalized nostalgia to emerge in 2020. We’ve already seen Spotify’s Unwrapped and Time Capsule playlists which aim to transport listeners back through their year and provide them with a snapshot of their younger years respectively.

But it’s not just music that creates this longing for the past. Around 4 in 10 have felt nostalgic about other types of popular media, like TV shows and films. And as streaming services fight to become increasingly ingrained in consumers’ day-to-day – think Netflix, Amazon, and now Disney+ – nostalgia will emerge as a strong driver for differentiated content. Because, at the end of the day, consumers favor content that makes them feel something.

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Commerce at the Crossroads: How Marketers Can Capitalize on the Moving Consumer in 2020

The worlds of commerce and transport have been merging. From interactive billboards at bus shelters to the introduction of smart assistants in our cars, the potential for marketers to tap into our commuter environment will be ripe in 2020.

Part of the underlying reason here is that OOH, despite being an older medium, doesn’t face the same issues as other channels; there are no ad-blockers for the outside world. Also, studies have shown OOH ads actually improve sentiment during “dwell time” in public spaces, particularly transport hubs. Our own research among US and UK consumers validates this general understanding; over 40% of consumers we surveyed were able to recall a billboard ad from the last week. And now, new advances in OOH tech mean that brands can serve really dynamic campaigns based on environmental factors such as weather, location and time of day – allowing them to remain hyper-relevant even when they’re “offline” and out of store.

But not all commutes are created equal, and it tends to be subway/underground travel that dominates both recall and conversion rates.

In parallel with the developments around public transport and OOH will come to some big improvements in automotive tech. While drivers can’t pass the time by looking at a screen, they’re more receptive to what they see and, especially, hear. This is why the introduction of Voice assistants has the potential to seriously shake things up in terms of mobile commerce. And we’re already seeing the beginnings of this, with brands like BMW, Ford, and Audi all starting to embed Alexa into their car models’ operating system.

And the consumer receptiveness is there. For over half of UK and US internet users, the prospect of using their cars to buy products ahead of time excites them, with the opportunity to save time and purchase things they need as and when they remember cited as the top advantages.

While there are obvious concerns to this trend – such as the potential for distracted driving – the benefits for both consumers and brands are there. This integration provides a way for reaching and engaging with consumers at a time of the day when they were previously passive. And now traveling will begin to become a new frontier for buying online or engaging with brands.

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Two Can Play at That Game: Gaming Will Transform How We Connect

The gaming industry is set to be a different beast in 2020, reinvigorating how we interact with people online. Games are no longer episodic consumptive media but are now the basis of new massive online communities. They’re evolving into “third spaces” – a place that’s not home or work – where players can socialize on their own terms.

A number of commercial and technological developments are fueling this. New PlayStation and Xbox devices are on the horizon, while mobile gaming will receive a boost from expanding 5G networks – making 2020 a pivotal year for the industry.

What these developments will also provide is something closer to the seamless experience that gamers crave. With this seamless experience comes multiplayer worlds easier to dip in and out of, and these are the foundations for communities to thrive.

The community element is central to how gaming is evolving, as online multiplayer games are increasingly resembling a new form of social network. Collaborating, building relationships, and finding your “tribe” of like-minded people are all key social elements that give both depth and weight to the gaming experience, and they underpin the meteoric rise of gaming as a space far beyond pure entertainment.

Research we conducted among internet users in the US and UK contextualizes some of these observations. We found that 1 in 4 online gamers in the UK and US say gaming makes them feel closer to people online than to people in real life, while 39% of gamers report that the shared experience of playing with people is a key driver for why they play games online. Additionally, 43% of gamers say they feel they are part of a distinctive group when gaming because of shared interests, a figure that rises to 53% among those who have also watched a live stream recently.

But the gaming community is bigger than just its players; it now includes streamer-viewer relationships and the increased presence sponsorships. The gaming world is undoubtedly lucrative for brands. However, 6 in 10 gamers feel that seeing ads detract from their gaming experience – indicating that brands must be wary to balance the opportunity with the pushback.

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