These are challenging times for retailers and CPG brands. Whether the company has a brick-and-mortar presence or is strictly online, long-standing and long-successful strategies demand to be re-evaluated in current circumstances.

Some businesses already have or plan to cut back on marketing and advertising. For those that hold steady, it’s worth taking a closer look at where advertising spend will have the greatest impact. With major retailers temporarily shutting down and shopping turning almost strictly to e-commerce, digital ad spend must work harder than ever and it’s crucial that brands re-evaluate how spend is allocated across channels.

Chances are, a strong majority of a given business’s online advertising budget goes to Google and Facebook, and this is doubly true for DTC brands. Roughly 60% of all digital ad dollars are going to the duopoly, even though consumers only spend 34% of their time on Facebook or Google properties. As budgets tighten, it pays more than ever to reduce waste, increase scale and eke the most possible value out of each dollar.

While there’s undoubtedly value in serving ads on platforms like Facebook and YouTube, limiting your budget to solely placing ads on these sites also limits the exposure your ads can get. We recently teamed up with national market research leader The Harris Poll to ask 2,000 respondents in the U.S. about their online habits.

The study made it clear the open web is more widely read by consumers, with four times as many Americans saying they will increase their open web usage over the next 12 months than those who plan to decrease it. Comparatively, U.S. consumers largely plan to spend less time on Facebook and Instagram in 2020.open web walled garden research - usage decreaseHere’s what brands need to know about advertising on the open web before they evaluate their spend:

Reason 1: Consumers are in the right mindset for advertisers on the open web

It’s not just that people spend more time on the open web than the walled gardens, it’s how they spend that time. When asked about their state of mind, 58% of consumers report they are “curious and in a mood to learn more” on the open web — the right state of mind for an advertiser. Meanwhile, less than a quarter of people feel the same about their time on Instagram and Facebook. When looking at Facebook, a quarter of people said they are most likely “zoning out and not paying attention,” while less than 1 in 10 people say this about the open web.open web walled garden research - state of mindConsumers also look to the open web for higher quality content, an obvious boon to marketers. Seventy-four percent of people trust articles on open web news sites more than what they see on the walled gardens, and the open web outranked Facebook, Instagram and YouTube combined when respondents revealed where they turn first for high-quality content.

Most importantly, advertisers should know what people are trying to accomplish with their time on the open web. When asked where they go first for information on a business or products to buy, more than 80% of people said the open web. Similarly, when people are exploring gift ideas, 74% start their search on the open web.open web walled garden research - looking for infoReason 2: Consumers prefer open web advertising to what’s served in walled gardens

When asked where they are most likely to find relevant ads, or where they see the most impactful ads, the open web ranks higher than Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Amazon.

When asked where they are likely to see an ad that will drive an immediate purchase, Amazon ranks as the top choice, which is no surprise — many folks logging into Amazon are already thinking about a purchase. After Amazon, almost two-thirds of people say the most likely place they will see an ad that will drive a purchase is the open web, more than doubling the number of those who cited Facebook, Instagram and YouTube as their next pick.open web walled garden research - immediate purchaseIt’s indisputably true that Facebook, YouTube and other walled gardens are great advertising environments. They are proven, effective channels and should continue to be an important part of the media mix going forward.

That said, it is vitally important we begin to think outside that particular box. The open web represents a comparatively untapped opportunity for valuable reach and engagement with a customer group that is receptive to learning more about your business. It is up to advertisers to use this unprecedented time to do something unprecedented with their ad spend.