Globally, and throughout every aspect of daily life, the novel coronavirus COVID-19 has had a dramatic and tragic impact. As the coronavirus pandemic continues, there’s much uncertainty about the future of businesses of all sizes, from the largest movie theater chain to the smallest corner coffee shop. As large parts of society shut down, and individuals and families attempt to deal with the catastrophic loss of life, stability and normalcy begin to seem like foreign concepts.
As we stand at the precipice of economic disaster, business owners, marketers, and everyone else find themselves wondering just how they’re supposed to conduct their business and make it through. Advertising during the coronavirus pandemic has become a tricky prospect, as businesses want to minimize expenditures while simultaneously holding onto as much revenue as possible.
Only by looking at the ways that the coronavirus has affected media consumption and consumer behavior in the United States can advertisers hope to make informed, beneficial decisions that will enable their businesses to survive this disaster. To that end, we’ve collected data and statistics meant to provide a directional insight and up-to-date information regarding media habits during the pandemic.
At the start of the pandemic, governors and mayors around the country issued stay at home orders designed to slow the spread of the virus. Naturally, as many people adjusted to staying at home, the amount of television they watched increased significantly. In fact, 39% of consumers report watching an increased amount of TV since the start of the outbreak (1). Cable TV has increased 11% while broadcast TV has increased 18%. Of those who are currently watching an increased amount of broadcast TV, 63% say they will continue to do so after the outbreak (2).
Outside of cable and broadcast TV, streaming services are seeing significant increases as well. Binge-watching behavior has increased by 20%. CBS Interactive reports a 19% lift in streams and an 18% increase in minutes streamed, meaning that more people are watching and, on average, they’re watching for longer periods of time. In fact, Americans are streaming an average of 8 hours of content a day during the safer-at-home mandate (3). These increases present an opportunity for companies that advertise on TV or on streaming services to maintain awareness.
Much like television, social media sites are seeing significant increases in activity and engagement as more people are staying at home.
According to Facebook, 63% of users say they are more active since the outbreak of COVID-19 (4). For businesses making difficult decisions about where to invest their budgets, advertising during coronavirus on Facebook is a great way to stay engaged with their target audiences. However, Facebook isn’t the only social media platform that’s seeing increases. The neighborhood/community social media platform Nextdoor reports user engagement up 80% (5). In response, Nextdoor is introducing new features to keep users engaged and active, including Help Maps and Groups.
On Pinterest, people are breaking usage records and have increased their searches for things like lesson plans, kids’ crafts, new recipes, and gardening ideas (6.) Some social media companies are using increases in use and engagement to raise awareness. For example, Snap partnered with the World Health Organization to introduce a special filter with COVID-19 safety tips and guidelines to their 218 million active daily users (7).
Advertising during coronavirus on social media presents an opportunity to stay top-of-mind with customers that may pay dividends down the line. A reported 86% of consumers say they feel better about a company’s commitment to products and services when they advertise in a recession. (8)
The increase in social media use can also be attributed, at least partly, to the Black Lives Matter protests and demonstrations. Organizers and attendees alike rely on social media to organize events and spread the word. Brands should be especially thoughtful in their approach and message when advertising in this climate, as COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter protests are top of mind for most social media users.
The coronavirus pandemic has also changed the way people are using search. In both paid and natural search, search volume is increasing with less intent to convert. In other words, there are more searches taking place, but they’re not leading directly to revenue. This can be explained in part by the way people are using search. Without the ability to window shop, and the inclination to take unnecessary trips out of the house, people are turning to search to gather information more than ever before. For example, grocery stores are seeing a big increase in search volume, with the biggest increases in online grocery delivery and curbside pickup. Unfortunately, for many brick-and-mortar businesses, this increase in search volume and online traffic hasn’t completely offset the losses caused by stores being closed.
The largest search volume increases have been for essential items such as hand sanitizer, toilet paper, etc. As people turn to search to learn how they can get their needs met, there is a lot of opportunity for businesses to connect in ways they haven’t before. Google is trying to facilitate these changes, as well, by introducing organic shopping ads so businesses can directly sell their products to customers without paying to advertise. Still, many advertisers are noting between a 10-25% decrease in conversion rates while advertising during coronavirus.
Pay Attention to Changes
The international health pandemic caused by the spread of COVID-19 is ushering in many changes for businesses around the world. How you respond to these changes is crucial to ensuring not only long-term survival but long-term success. Hopefully, by focusing on changes in media consumption in areas like television, social media, and search, you will be able to shepherd your business through these trying times. We’re here to help.
Global Index Coronavirus Research (April 2020); Spectrum Reach (April 2020)
Nielsen March 2020; Global Index Coronavirus Research (April 2020)
Hulu April 2020; CBS Interactive Adobe Internal Data; CBS Interactive Ad Data; OnePoll (April 2020)
Nextdoor March 2020
Pinterest Category Usage Study March 2020
AdWeek; Snapchat (March 2020)
The Number That Matters