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  • Writer's pictureCaro Solari

2021’s most talked-about topics on the web in gaming, fintech, retail and insurance

At the beginning of 2021, with vaccines rolling out, there was widespread hope that we could put 2020 behind us and that 2021 would be the year we’d get “back to normal.” That hasn’t quite happened, but 2021 has definitely been a year with a lot going on.

2021 in review.

With so much happening, Affogata applied its data-gathering and analytics tools to track and scan conversations across the open web, gleaning insights from social media channels, review sites, online communities, consumer forums, and more data sources. We assessed trends and issues relating to specific industries to produce this round-up of the year’s most talked-about topics.

Here’s our retrospective for 2021, with a peek ahead at 2022.

Gaming: esports, cloud gaming, and social gaming

Esports, or electronic sports, are when people compete in online video games, either for prizes or for glory. With travel still restricted and limits lingering on in-person interactions throughout 2021, esports became a popular way for people to connect online.

It’s estimated that 2021 saw 26.6 million monthly esports viewers, up 11.4% from 2020. Esports revenue is expected to grow to $2,108.6 million by 2025 and keep expanding to $3.99 billion by 2030, even though it was predicted that revenues would shrink slightly (~1%) this year as people are able to return to in-person experiences.

But the pandemic solidified the appeal of esports and it’s not going away; instead, we’ll see more people, especially Gen Z-ers, meeting up for social gaming much the way that earlier generations met up to listen to music together. The social aspect to esports is very important, and people gather on forums like Twitch, Discord, Reddit, ResetEra, and other platforms to discuss characters, title lines, gameplay, and players.

Esports enthusiasts are mostly in the 16-35 age range, an important demographic for many companies. Game publishers are naturally interested in the progress of esports, but so are telecommunications and media companies and streaming platforms, which stream esports tournaments; and traditional sporting leagues like NFL, the NBA, and Formula 1 racing, each of which has published esports games for their respective sport.

Gambling on esports is also popular and generates even more revenue, and esport sponsorship is important to any company wishing to appeal to this demographic. Gamers value the sense of community that comes with esports, offering unique ways for brands and publishers to reach them through community spaces.

2021 saw the rise of cloud gaming when players stream a game to their devices. It’s similar to how Netflix streams movies to your phone instead of you having to download a file or insert a CD - so similar, in fact, that in July 2021, Netflix announced that they’re expanding into cloud gaming. Cloud gaming is expected to keep growing as 5G networks roll out because it relies on super-fast internet with zero lags or latency. Companies that offer faster internet are likely to attract more gaming customers.

Fintech: GameStop, cybersecurity, and the rise of amateur investors

Back in February, the financial world experienced one of its biggest shakeups with the GameStop drama, which mostly played out on Reddit and other online forums. Amateur investors who love the old-school gaming company GameStop decided to strike back at hedge fund managers, who were planning on short-selling the stock. Reddit traders bought up as much GameStop stock as possible, artificially shoving up GameStop’s stock prices and causing many pros to lose money.

This highlighted the importance of listening to small traders and keeping track of developments in their communities. New platforms like Robin Hood have made it easy for more people to dabble in investing in the stock market “on the side,” and the GameStop debacle showed that these small traders can punch above their weight and cause serious ructions, even for experienced investors and hedge fund managers.

2021 saw even more amateur stock market investors jump into trading. Some people used stimulus payouts, furlough pay, or disposable income they weren’t using on their usual spending habits. Many were bored at home and curious about investing, and a buzz built up on forums like Reddit and Twitter. The high profile of cryptocurrency also helped entice new investors to the table.

Financial advisors are adjusting to a new type of clientele. Financial institutions should be doing likewise, learning from easy-to-use trading platforms and developing new ways to appeal to younger investors.

As the number of users on investor platforms and financial services apps continues to rise, FinTech companies need to direct even more attention and energy into data security. There’s a risk that expansion comes at the expense of security and compliance, as emphasized by last month’s breach at Robin Hood. Fortunately, hackers only stole names and email addresses, but with a credit card and bank account details stored in their platforms, financial portals need to implement maximum cybersecurity protections.

Retail/consumer goods: supply chain crises, omnichannel experiences, and the backlash against greenwashing

The pandemic sparked an immense supply chain and logistic bottleneck as flights were canceled, ports closed, and shipping containers were stranded on the wrong side of the world. Although most import and export depots have reopened, the crisis hasn’t resolved itself. When people returned to spending, they did so with a vengeance, and logistics companies couldn’t keep up with demand.

COVID-19 revealed the flaws in the just-in-time economy and split them wide open, with the results that retailers are entering the winter shopping season on the back foot. Some areas are still dealing with periodic shutdowns perpetuating the disruption. Logistics companies are seeking ways to provide customers with more transparency into the progress of their goods and to develop more agility to shift partners quickly when necessary.

Consumers are panic-buying gifts earlier than usual because of warnings about supply delays, and grocery stores are running short of certain items. In response, retailers are trying to adjust from relying on just-in-time orders to maintaining more inventory in stock, which in turn requires more accuracy in predicting consumer trends in the medium-to-long term.

At the same time, the sprawling retail industry is still reacting to the shift from offline to online shopping during COVID-19. Although brick and mortar stores reopened in most countries in 2021, consumers aren’t returning to their pre-pandemic shopping habits. Service providers had to pivot online, and most are keeping those new revenue lines in addition to their pre-pandemic business models.

Customers appreciate the convenience of online payments, online scheduling, and online invoicing and receipts, and they want it all to continue. Retailers are still exploring new ways to combine online and offline into omnichannel commerce, and those who can offer the smoothest cross-channel customer experiences are likely to prosper.

Finally, we’ve seen a backlash to “greenwashing” in the fashion industry. As public opinion became more concerned about sustainability and climate change, especially among younger consumers, brands became louder about their environmental credentials. But in 2021 the media probed beneath the surface. For example, a report by the Changing Markets Foundation found that close to 60% of sustainability claims by European and U.K. fashion brands are misleading.

Towards the end of 2020, an investigation revealed that giants like Nike, Coca-Cola, and Calvin Klein had used labor that may have come from Uighurs in Chinese detention camps. 2021 saw those brands frantically dealing with consumer disapproval and taking steps to speak out against the Uighur genocide in order to restore their brand reputation.

Hypocrisy is a serious sin today, so fashion brands are going to have to keep on top of green demands and make sure that their sustainability measures can stand up to scrutiny. This includes building a circular economy that recycles old fabrics, using fewer synthetic fibers, and ensuring ethical treatment for all the workers in their supply chain.

Insurance: the insurtech revolution

New approaches to insurance have been brewing before 2021, but this was the year that saw the insurtech explosion. New, easy-to-use insurance platforms skyrocketed in popularity as consumers appreciated fast quotes and clear, easy-to-understand answers to their questions. InsurTech companies reached out to populations that are typically underinsured, like student renters, opening up new markets.

Traditional insurance companies have to up their game. Customers want insurance to be quick, accessible, and affordable, but most of all they want transparency. Online insurance companies are able to respond quickly and clearly to explain the breakdown of their charges, so consumers demand the same openness from established insurers.

2021 showed that it’s never safe to let your guard down

No matter what your industry is, you need to stay on top of the trends that could affect your business, your partners, and your customers. Affogata helps companies keep abreast of changes, emerging issues, and new trends in your field so that you’ll always know what your competitors are up to, head off potential crises, and stay ahead of your customers’ expectations. Get a demo of Affogata now.

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