Impact of COVID-19 on Digital Channel Consumption

Impact of COVID-19 on Digital Channel Consumption

Changes in Social Media Consumption

Social media usage has increased steadily in recent years, but the trend has significantly trended upward since COVID-19. Additionally, the reasons people are using social media have changed as a result of the pandemic.

Pre-COVID 19 Statistics

  • In January 2020, there were 3.8 billion active social media users worldwide, up 9.2% from January 2019. In the USA, there were 230 million active social media users, up 3.1% from April 2019. The highest percentage of social media users fall in the age range of 25-34.
  • Hootsuite’s 2020 Digital Report indicated that in January 2020, the most popular social media platforms in the USA by usage statistics were YouTube (79%), Facebook (74%), Facebook Messenger (55%), Instagram (52%), Pinterest (35%), Snapchat (30%), and LinkedIn (27%).
  • Global WebIndex’s 2020 Flagship Report indicated that before the COVID-19 pandemic, top reasons for social media usage included “finding funny or entertaining content,” “general networking with other people,” “fill up spare time,” “research/find products to buy,” and “stay up-to-date with news and current events.”

Impact of COVID-19

  • A Nielson article indicated that digital content usage could surge by 60% as a result of COVID-19. The pandemic is resulting in behavioral shifts, such as looking for support and reassurance, increased social interaction, community engagement, and participation in social events that were traditionally held in person. Additionally, users are locating information about COVID-19 through Twitter and other social media channels.
  • A Nielson article stated that at the peak of social conversations that included either “coronavirus” or “COVID-19,” 110,000 TV-related tweets mentioned these two keywords. Key disadvantages of this growth are disinformation/fake news and the spread of fear and panic.
  • StatCounter shows changes in usage statistics for the following platforms:
  • Facebook (42%-Jan, 43%-Feb, 42%-Mar)
  • Twitter (23%-Jan, 24%-Feb, 25%-March)
  • Instagram (10%-Jan, 11%-Feb, 13%Mar)
  • YouTube (1%-Jan, 1%-Feb, 1%-Mar).
  • Additionally, TechCrunch indicated that in the period between March 14 and March 24, Facebook and Instagram showed an increase of 40%+.
  • The COVID-19 outbreak has caused a surge in the usage of Facebook features among millions of Americans, with messaging and video calls rising to record levels and a rise in traffic for publishers of virus-related news. Over the past month, publishers who don’t specialize in virus-related news have had the most significant drops in traffic. For example, Mashable’s Facebook traffic plummeted by 72% while BET and Sports Illustrated lost more than 50% of their Facebook traffic.
  • Obvious.ly tracked user behavior on Instagram through an analysis of 260 of its campaigns, including more than 7.5 million Instagram posts. Over the first two weeks of March, these posts saw a 76% rise in “daily accumulated likes on #ad posts.” The company’s Q1 Instagram campaign impressions also rose by 22% compared to Q4.
  • Driven primarily by conversations around COVID-19 as well as continuing product enhancements, Twitter’s total monetizable daily active users surged 23% to 164 million quarter-to-date as of March 23.

Research Strategy

We searched through data sites such as StatCounter and Nielsen to locate statistics for each requested platform. From there, we compared the percentages from January through March to identify trends. We then reviewed multiple articles discussing the trends in social media usage as it relates to COVID-19. Recent statistics were readily available for Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. We were unable to locate a valid source of data for Snapchat or LinkedIn.

Changes in Subscription-based Streaming Channels Consumption

Subscription-based streaming has seen an uptick since the COVID-19 outbreak. This change is more than likely due to the many shelter-in-place orders given across the country. Services such as Netflix and Disney+ are streamed 20% more. Music streaming services like Spotify have seen an increase of 18% during the quarantine. Live-streaming has also seen an increase in both content and viewership.

Changes in Subscription-based Streaming Consumption

  • In the United States, the consumption of TV streaming services has increased by 20%.
  • Consumption of music streaming services has increased by 18% in the U.S.
  • Interestingly, in the beginning of March, BuzzAngle, Alpha Data and Spotify reported decreases in streaming, as the most popular songs were streamed far less because of the quarantine measure in Italy and the US. The traffic has, since then, increased considerably.
  • Streaming subscriptions for companies like Disney+ has increased by 12% since the outbreak.
  • Live-streaming has also seen an increase due to the quarantine. Twitch has seen an increase of 10% in viewership as of March 10th. YouTube Gaming has seen an increase of 15%.
  • In fact, the amount of shows / films consumption on streaming services like Netflix has increased by 42% since the beginning of March in the US.
  • There has also been an increase in the consumption of live streaming events. US citizens have increased the time spent on watching live streams of music concerts, live streams of sports events, and live streams of theater shows by 34%, 34%, and 28%.
  • Celebrities also have been using Instagram Live to give impromptu concerts from their homes. Some examples include stars such as Coldplay’s Chris Martin, John Legend, U2’s Bono, Yungblud and Christine & The Queens.
  • According to Statista, about 30% of millennials said they would increase their streaming due to COVID-19. This is followed by Gen X with 27%, Gen Z with 25%, and Boomers with 15%.
  • Consumers are streaming more because they are looking to pass time during the quarantine.

Changes in Podcast and Web/Mobile Searches Consumption

As the world continues to grapple with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, there are indications of far-reaching changes in conventional consumption of and interaction with digital content as well as online searches. With special focus on podcasts and web/mobile searches, preliminary findings show that, overall, people are spending more time online and are consuming more digital content. This trend is defined by an almost indisputable pattern predicated on individual and family health concerns, the need to safeguard businesses, and an increased demand for accurate information regarding COVID-19.

People are spending more time online

  • As the epicenter of the coronavirus, changes in consumer behavior in the consumption of and interaction with digital content in China offers critical insights that are similar to the trends being witnessed in the United States.
  • Entertainment places such as theme parks and movie theaters are no-go zones as authorities implement the necessary measures to prevent the virus from spreading. Such interventions have already altered consumer interaction with and consumption of digital content. For example, according to QuestMobile, the average time spent daily across mobile internet devices rose by 10.3 percentage points from 6.1 hours to 6.8 hours in January. It rose further to 7.3 hours when self-quarantine measures were implemented.
  • Since people are staying indoors more, business organizations in the US have had to change their operations as everybody reacts to a pandemic unfolding in real-time. Businesses and consumers alike have both turned to online searches in search of solutions to their problems and answers to their questions. For some firms, this has resulted in gaining new customers; for others, not so much.
  • In the US, there has been a noticeable shift in Google searchers’ behavior, which for the most part, has been constant. For instance, over the past week, Google search ad impressions decreased modestly by 7 percentage points below average. Though not entirely uncommon, most advertisers did not anticipate this, especially during these times.

Search patterns are changing

  • Based on Search Engine Results Pages (SERP), it is evident that consumers have prioritized entirely different things — an aspect that has downgraded the average conversion rates by 21%. Nonetheless, industries are being affected differently by this trend. Those that have registered increased metrics during this outbreak include charities and non-profit organizations, medical and health, business management, finance, on-demand media, beauty and personal care, gifts, flowers, and greetings. These trends suggest a definite pattern of people being concerned about their health and their loved ones.
  • As regards the increased metrics for business management and finance sectors, it was noted that searches in these sectors mostly originated from small businesses looking for ways to manage through the tough times. Indeed, from February 23, business management searches went up 23%. This can be contextualized as organizations looking to take their operations online if the increased office supplies searches (up 90%), paid search ad clicks (up 35%), and search conversion rates (up 41%) are anything to go by.
  • In the beauty and personal care industry, Google searches revealed an increased demand for fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) over the past few weeks. Consumers are searching for products like sanitizer and soap, as well as going for more self-care. Overall, Google searches in this industry went up 41% with the overriding theme being concern for individual and family health.
  • Consumers were also fearful about the impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the economy, job security, and the likelihood of spreading the disease to others.

Companies are prioritizing accurate information

  • As more people go online for information, tech companies have implemented various measures to ensure that the information shared on their platforms is credible and accurate. Apple, for instance, is closing down information-sharing apps related to the coronavirus outbreak that are not from recognized institutions like hospitals, research organizations, and governments.
  • Apple’s evaluation of coronavirus apps is specifically aimed at preventing the spread of misinformation. It assesses where the health data came from and whether the developers represented organizations that consumers can trust to publish accurate information such as governments or health-oriented organizations. Thus far, four independent app developers have had their apps removed from the Apple Store platform.
  • Similarly, in February, Amazon warned retailers it would bar product listings that claimed to kill the coronavirus. Equally, this month Facebook commented that it is “focused on making sure everyone can access credible and accurate information” about the COVID-19 outbreak and would remove content that were based on conspiracy theories. This shows the changes being implemented by companies to safeguard consumer interaction with podcast content.
  • Google searches associated with the coronavirus will now trigger an “SOS Alert,” with information from mainstream publications and from the National Public Radio, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO) being displayed prominently. According to Statista, the most trusted sources of COVID-19 related information are the CDC (85%), WHO (77%), and the state government (70%).
  • These changes demonstrate the impact coronavirus is having, not only on the consumption of and interaction with digital content, but also on its creation as well. Web/mobile searches have equally changed significantly and reflect increasing concerns about health and safety. Overall, 71% of Americans are presently “very concerned” about COVID-19, compared to 47% two weeks ago.

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