2021 Trends: Shifting Screens

Carina Moran

Shifting Screens

For years we have been tracking trends in dual screening and watching as the smartphone benefited from an  increased share of  browsing, playing, watching and, even in more recent times, converting online. By 2020, 82% of all UK adults  now own a Smartphone (1). Although PC/laptop ownership has declined by 19 percentage points since 2015, these devices aren’t irrelevant just yet. Ownership is still just shy of 7 in 10 for all internet users (2).  For Brits  the lockdown has shifted the status of many devices from a nice-to-have to a must-have. How and when we use devices pivoted as many households turned to screens to keep their children educated, work remotely, order groceries online and keep themselves entertained. 


With in-person interactions no longer on the table, the time that Brits spent online went up 37 mins  during the initial lockdown (1). Average daily time online per adult is 3hr 26m (Nov) , down from 4hr 02m in April and 3hr 52m in June (1). Throughout the Pandemic we  looked to online means to interact with loved ones,  maintain formal working relations  and  keep us entertained. In order to facilitate this, screen sales of all sizes saw a massive purchase boom. According to Deloitte, one in five UK consumers bought a new digital device as a result of spending more time at home due to the lockdown (2). 

Remote working has seen many buying new technology equipment for the home to make it a more comfortable, efficient experience. The shift to working at home has driven laptop and video calling use, with apps such as Zoom thriving in the new environment (3)Broadband use and time online has surged during lockdown, with Brits turning to video streaming and online gaming for entertainment. This has catapulted the continued rise in on-demand streaming with one third (32%) of online adults now spending more time viewing video-sharing services than broadcast television (1), with a third streaming more films and/or TV series on SVOD platforms during lockdown. The rise of digital device ownership has created an ‘always switched-on’ mentality among today’s consumers (3). 

1) IAB, UKOM: Digital Market Overview Q3, November 2020, 2)Deloitte, Lasting lockdown habits: a new digital consumer? Digital Consumer Trends 2020, July 2020, 3) Mintel, Digital Trends Quarterly: Inc Impact of COVID-19, September 2020



Many people upgraded their home entertainment this year, as staying in became the only going out. Consoles saw the highest growth in daily usage serving a dual functionality of gaming and streaming platforms. This shift has seen 70% of Xbox users now use their consoles to download and stream video content (1), with 68% keeping their Xbox in the main living room (2). Among those who own the devices, daily usage of games consoles rose by 10 percentage points, with 44% of owners using their console daily, up from 34% in 2019 (3).


The switch to communication, banking, entertainment and online ordering has been very evident among the over 55s. With their time spent online up 12% since Jan 2020, this is likely to be one of the behaviour patterns that will continue long after we return to our new normal (4)Over 3/4 of over-55s have ordered from an online retailer in the last three months and 4 in ten over 65s have said that they are much more likely to do their shopping online post pandemic. One third of 55 to 64-year-olds, and 15 percent of people aged over 65 used subscription streaming services in the early weeks of lockdown, up from 25 per cent and 12 percent respectively before the pandemic (5)

1) Nielsen  Xbox Profile Study – Monthly Connected Xbox Users, 2019, 2) Microsoft Internal Xbox Date, April 2019, 3) Deloitte, Lasting lockdown habits: a new digital consumer? Digital Consumer Trends 2020, July 2020, 4)IAB, UKOM: Digital Market Overview Q3, November 2020, 5) Ofcom-ICO research, June 2020



With many Brits spending more time working from home, lack of commute & access to more devices, post lockdown search volumes are +30% in the morning and +27% in the evening compared to before the pandemic, driven by increased PC usage (1)


62% of Brits agree that they used their smartphone a lot more during the lockdown. However, as a result of overuse there is now a backlash as 46% of consumers now think they over-use their smartphone, up from 39% in 2019 (2). The feeling of digital overload and the fear that technology may be having a negative impact on our relationships, our mental health and our lives means many consumers are consciously looking to switch off from technology as part of a digital detox.

1) Verizon Internal Data, September 2020, 2)Deloitte, Lasting lockdown habits: a new digital consumer? Digital Consumer Trends 2020, July 2020




As a result of devices becoming more pivotal in consumers day-to-day, they will favour brands that offer 360° access – essentially products and services that can be accessed, used or consumed in a variety of ways, at a time and place to suit them. This includes expanding the previously set roles each screen provided, i.e. gaming consoles are not JUST for esports or video games. Think about your brand and experience across screens. 


As lockdown restrictions lift, many, especially the over 55+, will continue to use and enjoy these devices and may prove more open to trying out new technologies as a result. Brands should capitalise on these platforms for a new demographic that has migrated to screens of all sizes and types


Brands should recognize that the hours in which certain devices are used across the day have been altered, and target accordingly.


Brands should give consumers the tools to control digital media consumption, focus on quality engagement and develop simplified digital products.