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Canada Digital Outlook 2021

Five Pandemic-Driven Trends that Will Stick This Year

About This Report
After a challenging 2020, which saw big shifts in how digital media was consumed and how marketing adapted, we anticipate five developments will have a lasting impact on Canada’s digital economy.
Table of Contents

Executive Summary

The coronavirus pandemic changed media behaviors in 2020, driving up consumption of TV and digital video. Quarantines also changed the retail landscape, boosting ecommerce and digital food service significantly. Amid a wave of changing consumer patterns, brand marketers should keep on top of what changed last year and what it means for 2021.

How has the pandemic impacted digital purchasing?

In a big way and across a variety of sectors. Ecommerce’s share of total retail reached new heights in 2020, driven by closures of physical retail locations in almost every category of goods. Similarly, in food service, the share of digital ordering and third-party delivery apps increased significantly. We expect more of the same this year.

Which media format gained the most from lockdowns?

Digital video. Increased demand for at-home entertainment propelled video viewing higher than we previously expected. TV viewing time was up, too, but that trend won’t last. Living room viewing has gravitated to video options, which will lead to even more cord-cutting in the future

What ad formats will take the longest to rebound?

Most traditional advertising vehicles saw declines last year, as budgets across most brands were paused for a period or canceled altogether. But out-of-home (OOH) advertising declined the most, and we expect the contraction to last as social distancing remains in effect until the pandemic is put in the rearview.

What can brand marketing teams do to adjust?

Many have taken a greater load of functions in-house during the pandemic. This is made possible by the increased digital skillsets being developed internally and the preponderance of self-serve ad tools from publishers.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report covers five key developments in Canada’s digital economy in 2020 that will have lasting impacts on the market in 2021.

KEY STAT: Retail ecommerce jumped ahead in 2020, growing CA$1.58 billion ($1.19 billion) more than we previously expected.

Here’s what’s in the full report


Exportable files for easy reading, analysis and sharing.


Reliable data in simple displays for presentations and quick decision making.

7expert perspectives

Insights from industry and company leaders.

    Table of Contents

    1. Executive Summary
    2. No. 1: Ecommerce Will Continue to Be Boosted by Necessity
    3. No. 2: Food Delivery Apps Claim a Bigger Share of Restaurant Orders
    4. No. 3: Expect a Prolonging of the Digital Video Binge
    1. No. 4: The Future of OOH Advertising Remains Uncertain
    2. No. 5: More Marketing Functions Will Be Brought In-House
    3. Key Takeaways
    4. Insider Intelligence Interviews
    1. Read Next
    2. Sources
    3. Media Gallery

    Interviewed for This Report

    Asad Amin
    Vice President, Market Strategy and Understanding
    Interviewed December 10, 2020
    Roseanne Caron
    Canadian Out of Home Marketing and Measurement Bureau
    Interviewed October 26, 2020
    Debbie Drutz
    Novus Media
    Interviewed October 20, 2020
    Raphaël Metter-Rothan
    Media Director
    Interviewed October 27, 2020
    David Phillips
    President and COO
    Interviewed December 10, 2020
    Marina Strauss
    The Globe and Mail
    Retail Analyst and Former Reporter
    Interviewed December 11, 2020
    Bruce Winder
    “Retail Before, During & After COVID-19”
    Interviewed October 10, 2020


    Paul Briggs


    Angela Kim
    Senior Researcher
    Victoria Petrock
    Principal Analyst
    Yoram Wurmser
    Principal Analyst
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