01 JUN 2020
Research in markets where restrictions are starting to be lifted identifies key changes in consumer behaviour
By analysing anonymous mobile phone data, MediaCom has identified how changes in consumer behaviour, which were triggered by lockdowns, evolve as restrictions are lifted.
Covering nine markets, ranging from Australia to China and Denmark to the USA, ‘Lockdown Lift-Off’ is the first comprehensive look at how consumers respond to their new, if limited, freedoms, and the implications of these behaviours for different categories and industries.
This study, a first of its kind, is based on a mix of proprietary research, public data from Google and Apple, as well as a bespoke research project created in partnership with Ogury, the Choice-Driven Advertising technology company, analysing mobile app install and usage data. Together they provide a highly sensitive, day-by-day look at consumer behaviours as reflected by their device usage.
The study groups behaviours into three key areas: those where consumers will take time to revert to pre-crisis behaviours, those where long-standing trends have been accelerated by time spent at home, and new behaviours that have emerged during the crisis that are likely to out-live the lockdown.
Slow reversion: Hospitality, Automotive and Retail
The return of demand in areas such as hospitality is occurring, but slowly. Searches for ‘restaurants’, ‘bars’, ‘cafés’, are rising across recovery markets, with interest increasing a week before lockdown removal. While searches often double, they do so from a very low base. This is a testament to lasting consumer concern about virus spread. In China for instance, our proprietary research saw concern about catching COVID peak in April, four months after the onset of the pandemic.
The automotive industry will take heart from significant increases in interest in “big ticket” items, despite long-term economic uncertainty. Having plummeted during lockdown, automotive interest is rising in a quasi V-shape in some markets.
The study found a 50% increase in car manufacturer site traffic in week one in Germany, Italy and Spain. Automotive manufacturers might also benefit from trends the study identifies in China where health fears are keeping commuters away from public transport, generating new consumer demand.
The increase in adoption of online shopping has been a widely-observed trend during the lockdown. An open question was whether consumers, especially new converts, would eventually shun online platforms and return to supermarkets en-masse the moment travel restrictions were lifted.
App install and foot traffic data tells us that while some consumers do opt to shop in person – relinquishing shopping apps as stores re-open, online shopping app usage levels remain significantly higher than they were pre-lockdown, although decreasing.
While all online grocery has been boosted during outbreak, the big winners in terms of share of eCommerce do appear to be large entrenched retail chains. Carrefour, Amazon, Walmart/Asda and Tesco, who have expanded their leadership in key markets, are not seeing significant decreases in the number of active users like their smaller competitors.
Opened accounts will not be cancelled and the newly experienced customers will continue to enjoy the convenience of online services, with Amazon being undoubtedly the strongest beneficiary during and post-COVID.
Accelerated trends: On-Demand Video, Financial Services
Streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+ were already on a roll before the pandemic and benefited from lack of alternative entertainment options. Post-lockdown, we are not seeing these services decrease in consumption, unlike broadcaster video-on-demand services, which decline as lockdown is removed.
Across all OTT platforms, the use of event content launches continues to boost demand. Roku, which promoted a partnership with the Lady Gaga-led celebrity concert ‘Together At Home’ on April 18, has managed to double its reach of American households, reaching similar levels to SVOD services Netflix and Amazon.
New behaviours: Esports, Local Travel
During the lockdown, sports audiences turned to live gaming broadcasting en-masse. They literally swapped their passion for balls, rackets and sticks in favour of handheld controls, downloading a host of new games and eSports streaming applications, such as Twitch.
With live competitive sport hard to come by during the lockdown and taking its time to relaunch, this increased interest in gaming is manifesting in leading sports leagues, such as the UK’s Premier League and France’s Ligue 1 recreating live ‘games’ via FIFA 20, often featuring star players and network commentators, as a substitute for cancelled matches.
When it comes to the hard-hit travel industry, consumer interest is slowly increasing: we have noticed increases in visitation to travel websites and apps like TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet after lockdown ends.
However, the type of demand is changing, with flight-centric travel aggregators seeing continued declines in usage. Skyscanner, for example, suffered double-digit declines in weekly active users between March and April.
Indeed, the focus for 2020 may be domestic travel. In Norway, Spain and Portugal, we are seeing this pattern via apps such as BuscaUnChollo (up 20% after lockdown) and nature app UT (where usage has doubled to become the largest travel app in Norway after Booking.com).
“Consumer behaviour won’t simply return to the old ways. Indeed, it may never return to what went before so brands need to prepare, not just for the new normal but also manage the transition from lockdown. Smart communications have a key role in reassurance, building demand and identifying opportunity in this phase of the pandemic, and we want advertisers to be able to take advantage,” said Nick Lawson, COO, MediaCom Worldwide.
Thomas Pasquet, CEO, Ogury, said, “Our data shows that consumers’ habits have changed quickly, and in many cases, radically. Brands have to rethink in depth their media plans in this post-pandemic world.” Pasquet continued, “Ogury understands consumer choices and we felt it is our duty to share this knowledge with brands, as a way to help them maintain authentic and relevant relationships with their consumers and emerge stronger from the current situation.”