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, .
The exponential spread of COVID-19 has generated unrivalled disruption and triggered changes in consumers’ behaviour. The APAC Client Insights team analysed the most recent data and here are some updates on the shifting digital consumption trends in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.
1.1. Seeking updated news
With months of social unrest in 2019, we have seen gradual increase of visits to news and information sites, with a peak in November 2019. With confirmed COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong and other territories and the government of Hong Kong declaring a public "emergency", the highest warning tier on 25 January 2020, visits to news and information websites further escalated, with a 7% increase in January and another 15% growth in February 2020, as users keep informed of the COVID-19 pandemic.
1.2. Embracing digital
Schools have been suspended since February. To achieve the goal of “suspending classes without suspending learning”, classes have been moved online. Students, teachers and parents are looking for online resources to support learning at home.
Visits to the Education category were doubled in February 2020 when compared with January 2020. (“Education” consists of entities such as HKEDCITY.NET and university websites).
Family & Youth Education, consisting of sites that focus on education for parents, teachers and kids, shared a similar trend, visits were up 78% compared to January 2020.
With social distancing, some have turned to online games. There were incremental visits to Online Gaming across all age groups.
Food/Supermarket/Grocery visits surged as many started stocking up on essentials as the pandemic worsened. There was a 2.7x increase in visits in February 2020 versus November 2019. When looking month on month, we see a 78% growth in February 2020.
1.3. Stay at home
With cancellations or postponements of concerts, sporting events, arts and other events, visits to Tickets websites took a dive from January 2020.
People reconsidered their travel plans with escalated travel restrictions and health alerts in place across the world. Visits to Airlines and Online Travel Agents websites declined 18% and 25%, respectively, in February 2020.
2.1. Keeping up-to-date with current happenings
With COVID-19’s risk assessment raised to DORSCON Orange on 7 February 2020 and speculations of elections happening in Singapore, user engagement increased across news categories, with the highest being a 58% monthly growth in Politics news views.
As the Singapore Government ramped up efforts to contain the virus, more users also visited Government websites to get updated with the latest official announcements. The Ministry of Health website saw a 9x increase in visits in Feb 2020.
2.2. Surge in financial services
During this period of uncertainty, the overall engagement on Financial Services has also ballooned. Investors are diversifying their portfolios which can be seen by their twofold consumption of investments entities in February 2020 compared to January 2020. In February 2020, we also saw people increasing their online purchase Payments views by 42% compared to the previous month.
2.3. Cease of all non-essential travel
Since the start of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) outbreak, the Singapore Government has progressively implemented a series of travel restriction measures to reduce the risk of imported cases and slow the transmission of the virus. We can see the steady decline of Travel UVs from January 2020 onwards, with a 16 percentage points drop from February 2020 versus January 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic was first identified to have spread to Malaysia on 25 January 2020. We also understand that the reported infected cases remained steady in the 20s until there was a large spike in cases in March 2020.
3.1. Political turmoil
Malaysia’s political turmoil started with the resignation of Dr Mahathir Mohamad on 24 February 2020 and ended with the change in government and appointment of new Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. All eyes were on this political drama and this is evident in the 18% growth in visits and a 30% surge in time spent in News/Information category in February 2020.
General News and Local News saw 18% and 26% increases, respectively in visits in February 2020 when compared to Jan 2020. In terms of engagement, there was a 36% increase in time spent in Local News.
Business/Finance News saw a 12% increase in visits for February 2020 over January 2020 as consumers were increasingly seeking information on the impact of COVID-19 on businesses as stock markets fluctuate with spread of the pandemic. There was a 25% increase in time spent in this category in Feb 2020 compared to Jan 2020.
Politics: People were closely following the political developments during that one-week period. There was a 20% increase in visits and a 26% increase in time spent on sites with political content in Feb 2020 compared to Jan 2020.
3.2. Apprehension of COVID-19’s spreading
Insurance: People were getting concerned with the spreading of the coronavirus globally and there was a 40% increase in visits by consumers to insurance sites in Feb 2020 over Jan 2020. Consumers were found to be spending 25% more time on these sites in Feb 2020 over Jan 2020.
Travel: With the restrictions in travel, people were inclined to stay at home and avoid travelling. This category saw a 10% decline in visits and a 15% decline in time spent in Feb 2020 compared to Jan 2020.
The decline in overall visits was primarily driven by Online Travel Agents which saw a 34% decline in visits in Feb 2020 compared to Jan 2020 since no holidays and business trips were being planned. This category had a 37% decline in time spent in Feb 2020 compared to Jan 2020.
Car Transportation: Compared with Jan 2020, visits to websites and mobile apps in this category, which includes ride hailing apps, also saw a decline of 36% in Feb 2020, as people were increasingly staying indoors. The same category had a 72% increase in visits for Jan 2020 over Dec 2019.
The COVID-19 pandemic was first identified to have spread to Vietnam on 23 January 2020. The number of COVID-19 cases increased to 16 in February and the number of cases spiked in March.
4.1. Staying informed about current events & news
With confirmed COVID-19 cases in Vietnam, visits to News/Information websites increased, with a 9% increase in visits and a 19% increase in time spent in Feb 2020 when compared to Jan 2020 as users kept themselves informed on the developments of the COVID-19 epidemic.
General News and Local News saw 21% and 25% increases, respectively, in visits in Feb 2020 when compared to Jan 2020. In terms of engagement, there was a 45% increase in time spent in Local News and a 28% increase in time spent in General News in Feb 2020 when compared to Jan 2020.
Business/Finance News saw a 27% increase in visits for Feb 2020 over Jan 2020 as consumers were increasingly seeking information on the impact of COVID-19 on businesses and as stock markets fluctuated with spread of the pandemic. There was a 42% increase in time spent in this category in Feb 2020 as compared to Jan 2020.
4.2. Transitioning to online learning
On 1 Feb 2020, to tackle the spread of the virus, as part of quarantine measures, the government of Vietnam took the initiative to keep schools closed after the Lunar New Year break until mid-April. Due to this, the student, teacher and parent community looked for online resources to continue with learning.
The total views on Education category increased by 103% in Feb 2020 when compared with Jan 2020.
Family & Youth Education, consisting of sites that focus on education for parents, teachers and students, showed that the total views on this category increased by 292% (almost 3x) in Feb 2020 compared to Jan 2020.
4.3. Restrictions in travel
In Feb 2020 the government of Vietnam implemented travel restrictions (suspension of flights to and from China, with visa restrictions put in place) to reduce the transmission of the virus. With restrictions in travel and due to people staying at home, Travel category saw a 14% decline in visits in Feb 2020 compared to Jan 2020.
Online Travel Agents: Saw a 10% decline in visits in Feb 2020 compared to Jan 2020 since no holidays and business trips were planned.
Car Transportation: Compared with Jan 2020, visits to websites and mobile apps in this category, which includes ride hailing apps, saw a decline of 36% in Feb 2020, as people increasingly stayed indoors.
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