- 30 de marzo, 2020

Coronavirus pandemic and online behavioural shifts

Alex Gevers
Alex Gevers
Senior Insights Manager

This article is part of a series of insights that reveal the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on online consumer behaviour. To be notified when new insights or data become available,  please click here.

Introduction

Things are moving fast. In the week following our last update on the Coronavirus, i.e. the week March 16 - 22, 2020, France officially declared a nationwide lockdown (on March 17th), and Germany issued strict social distancing measures (on March 22nd). In the charts that follow, we’ll see that the events of recent weeks have impacted different content categories at different times. 

1. News Consumption

1.1. Business, Finance News

Of all the content categories, the Business & Finance news category acted as a canary in the coal mine: in the UK, Spain and Italy, visits to Business & Finance websites or apps began their ascend as early as January 2020, when the Coronavirus seemed confined to Asia. In France and Germany, traffic went up in early February 2020. In all countries, the increase has been gradual ever since. Compared with the week Dec 30 - Jan 5, 2020 visits to Business & Finance News websites or mobile apps in the week of March 16-22, 2020 went up by 21% in France, 34% in Germany, 90% in Italy, 47% in Spain, and 39% in the UK.

1.2. General News

Compared with the business and finance category, increased traffic to the General News category came later and in bursts: in Italy, where the pandemic hit first, traffic shot up during the Feb 17-23, 2020 week. In other countries, the swell occurred during the week of March 09-15, 2020. Compared with the week Dec 30, 2019 – Jan 5, 2020 visits to General News websites or mobile apps in the week of March 16-22, 2020 went up by 68% in France, 57% in Germany, 125% in Italy, 87% in Spain, and 51% in the UK.

1.3. Local News 

Similar to the General News category, the impact of the pandemic is only apparent in recent weeks: the week of Feb 17-23, 2020 in Italy, and of Feb 09-15, 2020 in the remaining countries. The magnitude of the impact however is far more pronounced than the increase in either the Business & Finance category or the General News category: compared with the week Dec 30, 2019 – Jan 5, 2020 visits to Local News websites or mobile apps in the week of March 16-22, 2020 went up by 125% in France, 101% in Germany, 105% in Italy, 158% in Spain, and 45% in the UK.

2. Social Media

2.1. Social Networking 

Among the defining characteristics of modern pandemics is the existence of social media, which informally relay information between their members. Surprisingly however, visits to social networking sites increased gradually, and only accelerated somewhat in the weeks of March 09-15, 2020 and March 16-22, 2020. Compared with the week Dec 30, 2019 – Jan 5, 2020 visits to Social Networking websites or mobile apps in the week of March 16-22, 2020 went up by 12% in France, 31% in Italy, 48% in Spain, and 12% in the UK. It remained flat in Germany.

2.2. Instant Messaging

On the other hand, the impact of the lockdowns in the different European countries is very salient when looking at traffic to social messaging websites and mobile apps: it remained flat since the beginning of the year until and including the week of Feb 17-23, 2020. In Italy, things took a turn the following week (Feb 24 – Mar 01, 2020), just before the national lockdown was declared. In the other countries, visits jumped in the week of Mar 09-15, 2020, as government announced various emergency measures. All in all, compared with the week Dec 30, 2019 – Jan 5, 2020 visits to Instant Messaging websites or mobile apps in the week of March 16-22, 2020 went up by 70% in France, 30% in Germany, 90% in Italy, 97% in Spain, and 49% in the UK.

3. Preparing for the Lockdown

3.1. Health Information

Visits to health information websites or mobile apps increased somewhat during the month of January 2020. But traffic really shot up in most countries during the Feb 24 – Mar 01, 2020 week, as what once seemed like a remote possibility turned into an imminent reality. Compared with the week Dec 30, 2019 – Jan 5, 2020 visits to health information websites or mobile apps in the week of March 16-22, 2020 went up by 16% in France, 199% in Germany, 56% in Italy, 83% in Spain, and 66% in the UK.

3.2. Diet, Exercise, Fitness

As the prospect of weeks of ‘stay-at-home’ sank in, consumers started to re-engineer their daily routines. Visits to diet, exercise, and fitness sites jumped in the week of Mar 02-08, 2020 in Italy. It has been creeping up in the other EU5 countries ever since: compared with the week Dec 30, 2019 – Jan 5, 2020 visits to diet, exercise, or fitness-related websites or mobile apps in the week of March 16-22, 2020 went up by 69% in France, 20% in Germany, 133% in Italy, 31% in Spain, and 23% in the UK.

3.3. Education Information

For families and young adults, few aspects of life were as impacted as education. As schools and universities closed, people scrambled to understand what impact this would have on their curriculum, and this is reflected in the chart below: traffic went up most sharply in Spain and France, but in other European countries too. Compared with the week Dec 30, 2019 – Jan 5, 2020 visits to education information websites or mobile apps in the week of March 16-22, 2020 went up by 282% in France, 74% in Germany, 124% in Italy, 299% in Spain, and 87% in the UK.

3.4. Family & Youth Education

It could be argued that young families are amongst the hardest hit: not only do parents have to make a wage while being housebound, they’re also tasked with the education – and entertainment – of their children, a full-time job in itself. This is clear from the chart below: compared with the week Dec 30, 2019 – Jan 5, 2020 visits to Family & Youth Education websites or mobile apps in the week of March 16-22, 2020 shot up by 528% in France, 332% in Germany, 134% in Italy, 520% in Spain, and 209% in the UK.

3.5. Book Retail

Among the more interesting patterns that emerges from the data is the traffic to book retail sites. Clearly, consumers are bracing themselves for an undetermined period of quarantine, and while sources of entertainment abound (video streaming, video games, and so on), the pandemic gave the necessary impulse to go back to the basics and visit an online bookstore. This pattern became most apparent during the week of March 16-22, 2020. All in all, compared with the week Dec 30, 2019 – Jan 5, 2020 visits to book retail websites or mobile apps in the week of March 16-22, 2020 went up by 23% in France, 66% in Germany, 40% in Italy, 66% in Spain. One notable exception is the UK, where visits went down by 8%.

APPENDIX

To fully appreciate the insights illustrated above, it helps to remember some of the key dates in 2020 that may have influenced consumer behaviour in Europe most:

  • Jan 31: Italy suspends flights to China and declares national emergency.
  • Feb 23: Italy quarantines small towns hit by the outbreak.
  • Feb 24: Panic hits the financial markets. All asset classes are impacted.
  • March 9: Italy declares nationwide lockdown.
  • Mar 14: Spain declares nationwide lockdown.
  • Mar 17: France declares nationwide lockdown.
  • Mar 22: Germany issues strict social distancing measures.
  • Mar 24: UK declares nationwide lockdown.
Coronavirus Insights

Lea nuestras continuas actualizaciones sobre las nuevas tendencias de consumo y el impacto que tienen en la industria de la publicidad, así como en la industria de los medios de comunicación en comscore.com/esl/Prensa-y-Eventos/Coronavirus.

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Coronavirus Insights

    Multiplataforma MMX®

    MMX® Multiplataforma de Comscore proporciona una visión deduplicada del comportamiento integral de la audiencia en ordenadores, smartphones y tabletas.
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