Coronavirus pandemic and online behavioural shifts
A top-level look at how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting online consumer behaviour in Europe.
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.
The total number of visits to general news sites (defined as websites or apps that provide news on various topics regarding national and international issues and feature the most important events of the time) gives a clear idea of when, and how fast, the pandemic caught the attention of the public. In all five European countries we looked at, visits to general news sites oscillated near its equilibrium until the Feb 10-16 week. However, during the Feb 17-23 week, things took a big turn in Italy, arguably the focal point of the pandemic in Europe at that point in time. In other European countries, interest rose gradually and then shot up during the Mar 09-15 week. By then, compared with Dec 30-Jan 05, the number of visits had increased by 50% in France, 29% in Germany, 142% in Italy, 74% in Spain, and 44% in the UK.
The pandemic is hurting swathes of the economy, and among the most badly hurt industries is travel. As is evident from the chart below, traffic to online travel agent sites has been on a downward path since the end of January. In fact, compared with Dec 30-Jan 05, visits to online travel agent sites during Mar 09-15 went down by 7% in France, 36% in Germany, 67% in Italy, 18% in Spain, and 23% in the UK.
As general news outlets relayed information about the epidemic, so did social media around mid-February: compared with Feb 10-16, the number of visits in Mar 09-15 increased by 14% in France, 11% in Germany, 30% in Italy, 55% in Spain, and 18% in the UK.
Similar to the travel industry, traffic to online ticketing sites took a clear turn for the worse at the beginning of February, when the extent of the epidemic in Europe began to sink in. This trend accelerated further at the end of the month: when comparing visits to online ticketing websites or apps for Feb 17-23 with visits in Mar 09-15, we see that it went down by 47% in France, 12% in Germany, 52% in Italy, 55% in Spain, and 26% in the UK.
Online consumption behaviour was also clearly impacted, albeit not homogenously across the continent. While the shift began around the week of Feb 17-23, the scale thereof varies between countries. Compared with Feb 17-23, visits to online food, supermarket or grocery retail websites or apps in Mar 09-15 went up 1% in France 20% in Germany, 39% in Italy, and 13% in the UK. Here Spain is an outlier, since the number of visits went down by 12%.