Video trends

3 trends in consumer video usage product managers need to know

  • Jessica Palay
    Jessica Palay
  • May 27, 2021

Product managers are facing some radically different consumer behaviors and expectations thanks to the pandemic. Consumers don't love video as a replacement for in-person interactions, that doesn't mean you throw the baby out with the bathwater. Here are three trends to guide your video engagement strategy in 2021.

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Over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, consumer behavior has shifted dramatically. The streaming wars rage on as media consumption has shifted away from theaters to platforms like Netflix, and gyms now have to compete with viable at-home competitors like Peloton and Mirror. 

The acceleration of video adoption across industries has been a core theme of our culture’s ongoing digital transformation as businesses rushed to replace in-person interactions with virtual ones.

Today, we’re on the edge of another major shift. Vaccine distribution is well under way, and it seems like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel signalling a return to in-person activities. 

The question for businesses and consumers alike is simple: what happens next

Will digital acceleration slow down? Will consumer behaviors return to their pre-pandemic norms?

To answer these questions, we conducted a survey among U.S. consumers in 2020 to understand how they’ve been using video and how they plan to use it in the future. Based on our learnings, we uncovered three trends:

  1. Video is here to stay
  2. 2021 is the year of video innovation
  3. The future is hybrid

Read on for our full breakdown of what these trends will mean for product managers.

Video is here to stay

While 2020 accelerated the shift to video applications—with 42.8 percent of consumers using it daily or multiple times a day—the events of last year weren’t the only reason for the channel’s success: we know now that consumers enjoy using video, and in some cases even prefer it.

The top reason consumers like using video is convenience, which came in at 65.1 percent on our survey, while safety came in second at 56.7 percent. 

Video also means increasing access to people and services. In fact, 43.6 percent of consumers like using video because they don’t have to drive to appointments and 43.3 percent of consumers like using video because they can meet with people in different locations at once. 

As we’ve written about before, the top 3 uses of video are keeping in touch with friends and family (54.7 percent), work (42 percent), and doctor appointments (33.6 percent). These were also the top three activities (43 percent, 37.6 percent, 32.9 percentlu respectively) consumers report they will continue to use video for in the future.

Now that consumers have acclimated to the convenience of video, they are likely to continue using it after the pandemic.

2021 is the year of video innovation

Just because consumers are likely to continue to use video as we move out of the pandemic doesn’t mean that they will be satisfied with the current video solutions.

In the immediate shift to video in 2020, organizations and consumers used video to replace in-person interactions. However, video is NOT the same as in-person interactions.  

When asked what they don’t like about using video applications, the top two reasons consumers reported were:

  • 57.4 percent don’t feel as engaged as they do with in-person meetings
  • 45.6 percent say bad video quality makes it hard to hear and see

There are two ways to do video. The first is to replicate in-person interactions. Based on these responses, it’s clear that this approach is doomed to fail over time because consumers prefer in-person interactions when directly comparing against video interactions.

However, there is a second approach to video—embrace video as its own unique digital channel and use it to enhance interactions. Companies need to not only acknowledge that video is different from in-person interactions, but also hone in on what consumers like about video, which is convenience. This means investing in high quality video applications that are customized to make consumer lives simpler. 

Businesses need to reimagine their customer engagement strategy. What works in-person will not be the same as what works in the virtual world. And that is where innovation will be born.

The future is hybrid

One of the most interesting findings from the survey was that the top three things people are doing over video—keeping in touch with friends and family (54.7percent), work (42 percent), and doctor appointments (33.6 percent)—are the top three things that people are also doing in person.

While traditionally video and in-person have been thought of in “either-or” terms, these findings suggest that consumers are open to doing certain activities virtually and in-person. In a world where interactions can happen face to face and digitally, this opens the door to new forms of engagement when the physical and digital worlds are complementary to each other. 

Events, for example, had to shift to digital venues due to the pandemic. While there were challenges associated with this shift, organizations were able to dramatically increase access which in turn, drew in more attendees. As we move back to an in-person world, the events industry will be looking for ways to maintain that broader audience with complementary virtual experiences to their face-to-face experiences.

Looking ahead

As we look to an uncertain future, consumer video behaviors provide a leading indicator of what to expect in 2021. To learn more about how to meet this new world, check out our key considerations when building video applications.


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Jessica Palay

Jessica Palay

Jessica Palay is a Product Marketing Manager at Twilio for Programmable Voice.

Jessica holds a MSc. in Social Anthropology from the University of Oxford where she examined how communities react, respond, and incorporate new technologies into their lives. This academic expertise, combined with her tech sales and marketing experience, makes her acutely attuned to how new communication technologies impact the way that people and businesses interact, transact, and form relationships.