COVID-19: Shifting Consumer Behavior Around the World

The world has changed. In early March, cases of COVID-19 began spiking around the world, ushering in an era of stay at home orders and social distancing. As countries reopen, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on the last few months and reinforce the power of audience insights to inform smart marketing strategies.

What are we learning about consumers and their changing habits?

In Italy, where schools and universities were closed as early as March 4, we saw consumers enter a period of readjustment in early to mid-March, where top browsing interests included practical matters like homeschooling, workers’ rights and wedding cancellations. As the weeks went on, Italians settled into a new norm, focusing on ways to entertain themselves and stay connected. Finally, towards the end of April and early May, consumers in Italy were focused on a brighter future, with high traffic to fashion, charitable giving and sports and world soccer sites.

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Italy timeline 2

In the US, consumers quickly became occupied with coping with change, tuning in to both international and local news in mid-March, followed by an exploration of ways to adjust to that change, with an increased interest in cooking, retail, and homeschooling. Like Italians, as March turned to April, Americans embraced passion projects, including gaming, home and garden, and scrapbooking. When US consumers adjusted to their new normal, they were increasingly interested in topics including automotive, exercise, and investing. And as recovery started to look like a possibility in late May, Americans found themselves browsing dining and travel options.

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US timeline 1
US timeline 2
US timeline 1

Meanwhile, in Canada, the country began its period of readjustment towards the end of March, with consumers interested in topics including immigration, local news, and financial aid. As the weeks went on and Canadians settled into a new normal in April, interests in and around the home including baking, interior decorating, and gardening and landscaping became increasingly popular. Towards the end of April and early May, optimism for the future began as provinces in Canada started to reopen. That said, peaking interests during this time period were more pragmatic in Canada than in other countries, and included auto repair, dental care, and the buying and selling of homes.

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Canadian timeline 1
Canadian timeline 2

Finally, in the UK, lockdown began in late March and as in other countries, news was a top interest. In addition, during this early phase health, fitness and homeschooling were priorities for the British. As April turned to May, at-home entertainment morphed, beginning with online gaming and moving to more mindful activities including drawing, DIY, gardening, and board games. After Easter, there was also a spike in self-improvement interests, including finance, nutrition, and weight loss. Once the British government announced the loosening of stay at home restrictions, browsing habits in the UK showed consumers growing slightly more optimistic, with an increased interest in topics related to travel, re-booking weddings and watching live sports.

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UK timeline 1
UK timeline 2

We’re continuing to look at how consumer behavior continues to change over time during this crisis. Be sure to check out our insights hub for new insights in the coming weeks.

To learn more about how the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically overturned previously held truths about consumer behavior and purchasing habits, join Dr. Peter Day, Chief Technology Officer at Quantcast for the next INNOVATE Webinar Series session titled “Covid & The Consumer: 125 Days of Real-Time U.S. Behavior Changes.” You can register for the session here.

For more information on how Quantcast can help your brand understand online consumer behavior in real-time, get in touch here.