Coronavirus: Consumer insights

With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting lives across the globe, we take a look at how consumer behaviours are evolving, as well as how advertising spend is shifting.

Last updated: 31st May 2020

Jump to: Consumer behaviour | Media consumption | Advertising spend & trends

Consumer behaviour

SimilarWeb – Coronavirus Data & Insights Hub

SimilarWeb’s coronavirus hub is designed to offer a daily assessment of the reverberations on consumer and business behaviour amid the growing coronavirus outbreak, breaking the impact down by sector.

View hub

Microsoft – Search trends in the time of COVID-19 (May 2020)

This eBook by the Microsoft Advertising team is designed to consolidate key consumer insights and industry trends observed across a variety of categories, in Australia, Canada, the UK and US.

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Captify – The Revival Index (May 2020)

The Revival Index uses dynamic, real-time search data to indicate how different industries across the globe are faring, and when they may bounce back.

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‘Should I…’ search trends – March 2020

Search is a great place to start when looking to understand consumer intent and concerns. This animated chart from Flourish looks at the most common suggestions from Google over the course of March, for queries starting with ‘Should I’. With Google’s autocomplete function reflecting common and trending searches related to the characters entered, it offers an insight into how consumer mindset has shifted over the month.

Captify – Impact Insights Study: COVID-19 (March 2020)

Captify’s latest Impact study analyses over 100 million global coronavirus-related searches to uncover how consumer behaviour is changing, which areas are generating the most search interest, how different verticals are being impacted, and more.

Download the study

Ipsos – Multi-country poll on coronavirus (12th – 14th March)

Looking at consumer behaviour in markets such as China and Italy, which are further ahead in terms of the coronavirus pandemic, provides valuable insight into how other markets may be impacted. Ipsos’ multi-country poll uncovered, for example, a sharp uplift in e-commerce in China and Italy, with 31% of Italian consumers saying they are “using e-commerce to purchase products they would normally buy in-store” more frequently.

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Ipsos – Coronavirus and behavior change – what does this mean for brands? (13 March)

Ipsos offers some useful advice for brands grappling with the impact of coronavirus, including the importance of being present and investing in consumer relationships at this time, rather than going into ‘cost containment’ mode. The report also urges brands to be a source of truth and positive impact, in order to develop deeper consumer relationships, citing Lego, Amazon, and Netflix as examples in this regard.

View report

Statista – Time spent online in selected industries globally (w/e 22nd March)

Statista offers a wealth of data and insight into how consumer behaviour is evolving as a result of the pandemic. This chart, for example, shows where consumers are spending more (supermarkets, home/DIY) and less (tourism, entertainment & events) of their time online at the moment.

Statistic: Coronavirus impact on time spent per online user session in selected industries worldwide in week ending March 22, 2020 | Statista
Find more data at Statista

Media consumption

DataReportal – Digital 2020: April global snapshot (23rd April)

This substantial report looks at how people’s behaviour across the globe has changed in response to the coronavirus pandemic, including significant increases in social media usage, and an increase in the amount of time spent playing video games and watching esports.

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How COVID-19 Has Impacted Media Consumption, by Generation (7th April)

Visual Capitalist used data from a recent Global Web Index report to explore how people have increased their media consumption as a result of the outbreak, and how it differs across each generation.

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YouTube – Trending videos

YouTube offers valuable insight into where and how consumers are spending their time online, with its ‘Trending’ page providing a useful overview of the most popular videos and types of content on the platform, including the option to filter by sector. 

View trending videos

Kantar – COVID-19 Barometer (25th March)

Kantar’s research, drawn from interviews with 25,000 consumers across 30 markets, looks at how media consumption is changing over time, as well as how consumers expect brands to respond. For instance, as countries move deeper into the pandemic, web browsing is up 70%, whilst social media engagement has increased by 61% over normal usage rates.

The report also found there is very little expectation that brands should stop advertising, with only 8% of respondents identifying it as a priority for brands. However consumers expect brands’ advertising to make a positive contribution to society, with ‘Talk about how the brand is helpful in the new everyday life’ being the priority for 77% of respondents.

Read overview

Global Web Index – Coronavirus multi-market research (23rd March)

Global Web Index (GWI) is producing a series of reports on the impact of the coronavirus, including this one which involved a survey of consumers in 13 markets. Unsurprisingly, it found that 95% of consumers say they’re now spending more time on in-home media consumption activities. More specifically, this includes the following activities, broken down by age group.

The report also highlights the vital importance of having a robust mobile marketing strategy in place, with 70% globally – and 80% of Gen Z – saying they are spending more time on their smartphone. The GWI report also indicates that big-ticket items may struggle, with 40% saying they will only resume major purchases once the outbreak begins to decrease in their country.

View research report

Statista – Dossier on impact of coronavirus on media consumption

This dossier explores the impact of COVID-19 on media consumption in the US, offering data on how the public perceive media coverage of the pandemic, preferred and trusted news sources for updates on the coronavirus, and figures on TV and SVoD viewing, as well as an insight into potential consumer spending as a result of the outbreak.

View dossier [free sign-up required]

Nasdaq – Is Coronavirus Boosting Netflix’s Subscriber Growth? (8th March)

Unsurprisingly, streaming services such as Netflix are faring very well as a result of people spending much more time at home. According to this Nasdaq article, Netflix subscribers in the US and Canada will grow 3.8% year over year, more than double analysts’ consensus estimates, whilst international subscribers will grow 30.9% compared to the prior-year quarter.

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Advertising spend & trends

World Federation of Advertisers – COVID Compendium for Global Marketers

The WFA has put together a handy compendium of brand actions across the globe, looking at how different brands are responding to the COVID-19 crisis and aligning these with the 6Ps of marketing.

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Ad Age – Marketers’ response to coronavirus

Ad Age has pulled together a useful, regularly updated list of the ways in which marketers across the US and globally are responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

View list

Statista – US advertising spend

This Statista chart looks at predictions – and revised predictions off the back of the pandemic – for various ad formats in the US, with digital video and search, as well as social media, still expected to experience year-over-year growth, albeit lower than originally expected.

Infographic: U.S. Ad Revenue Likely to Plummet | Statista You will find more infographics at Statista

Digiday – What comes next: Lessons from Italy (25th March)

With Italy serving as the canary in the coal mine for how other Western media and advertising markets may be impacted by the crisis, Digiday looks at how the Italian ad market is faring, with one agency exec expecting ad spending to be down 10-15% for the year. The article also explores how media owners in Italy have reacted – including with promotions and extended free trials.

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Global Web Index – Coronavirus multi-market research (23 March)

GWI’s report also asked respondents about their views on advertising at this time, with consumers clearly expecting brands to evolve their approach. When asked if brands should carry on advertising as normal, just over a third agree, just over a quarter disagree and just over a third aren’t sure – but this varies greatly by country: approval is led by Australia, Brazil, Italy and the Philippines at over 50%. Disapproval peaks in Germany at 60%, followed by France at 40%.

So what do consumers want? Globally, people are most in favour of brands responding to the outbreak by:

  • Providing flexible payment terms (83%)
  • Offering free services (81%)
  • Closing non-essential stores (79%) 
  • Helping to produce essential supplies (67%)

View research report

eMarketer – How COVID-19 Might Impact Ad Spending (19th March)

In this podcast three senior analysts at eMarketer discuss how COVID-19 could affect ad spending. They are expecting media spend to slow down significantly, particularly for the likes of radio, which relies on a regular commuter audience, and are currently assuming that businesses (and ad spend) will bounce back in H2.

Listen to podcast

Dentsu Aegis Network – March 2020 Ad Spend Forecasts

Turning once again to China as an indication of how the landscape might change, ad spend growth for China in 2020 is forecast at 3.9%, down significantly from previous projections of 6.9%. However, globally it is expected that digital channels will continue to drive ad spend growth with an overall increase of 10.6%.

View report

Search Engine Land – Coronavirus disrupts search, digital ad budgets (10th March)

Loop Capital Markets analyst Rob Sanderson expects Google to see a 15% year-over-year decline in travel ad revenue in the first quarter and a 20% drop in the second quarter due to the coronavirus outbreak.

View article


If you would like any specific insights related to the coronavirus pandemic or more widely, get in touch to see how our Strategy & Planning team might be able to help.

by Croud
10 March 2020



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