Companies Scramble to Report on COVID-19 Business Impact

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This sums it up.  From Bank of America via Twitter but I can’t find a link to the original.

As marketers finish their initial emergency adjustments to coronavirus lockdowns, they are starting to think about longer-term plans. While the shape of things to come is impossible to guess, reporting on industry changes has become a marketing trend of its own. Here are a dozen-plus studies I’ve seen in the past week, most of which are on-going.

Retail Behavior Data

Adobe this week launched their Digital Economy Index, a long-term project that gained unexpected immediate relevance. The index draws on trillions of Web visits tracked by Adobe systems to construct a digital consumer shopping basket tracking a mix of products including apparel, electronics, home and garden, computers, groceries, and more. The headline finding of the initial report would have been a continuing drop in prices driven by electronics, but this was overshadowed by short-term changes including a 225% increase in ecommerce from March 1-11 to March 13-15. Online groceries, cold medications, fitness equipment and computers surged, as did preordering for in-store pickup. Extreme growth was concentrated in hard-hit areas including California, New Hampshire and Oregon.

Customer Data Platform vendor Amperity reported a less rosy result in its COVID-19 Retail Monitor, which draws data from Amperity’s retail clients. They report that total retail demand fell by 86% by the end of March and even online revenue is down 73%.  Food and health products fell after an initial stock-up surge in mid-March.

Retail foot traffic tracker Placer.ai has packaged its in-store data in a COVID-19 Retail Impact tracker, which not surprisingly shows an end to traffic at shuttered entertainment and clothing outlets, near-total drop at restaurants, and mixed results for grocery stores and pharmacies. Results are reported by day by brand, if you really want to wallow in the gruesome details.

Grocery merchandising experts Symphony RetailAI have also launched a COVID-19 Insights Hub, which reports snippets of information with explanations. These range from obvious (consumers are accepting more product substitutions in the face of stock-outs) to intriguing (canned goods sales rose twice as much in the U.S. than in Europe because of smaller families and less storage space).

Retail Behavior Surveys

Showing just how quickly the world changed, retail consumer research platform First Insight found that the impact of coronavirus on U.S. shopping behavior doubled between surveys on February 28 survey and March 17. In the later survey, 49% of consumers said they were buying less in-store and 34% were shopping more online. Women and baby boomers went from changing their behavior slightly less than average in the first survey to changing slightly more than average in the second.

Ecommerce platform Yotpo ran its own survey on March 17, reaching 2,000 consumers across the U.S., Canada, and United Kingdom. They found consumers evenly split between expecting to spend more or less over-all, with a just 32% expecting to shift purchases online. Food, healthcare, and, yes, toilet paper were high on their shopping lists.

The situation was clearer by the end of March, when Retail Systems Research surveyed 1,200 American consumers for Yottaa. By this time, 90% were hesitant to shop in-store, 94% expected online shopping will be important during the crisis, and their top concerns were unavailable inventory, no free shipping, and slow websites. (Really, no free shipping?) More surprising but prescient, given Amazon’s labor troubles: just 42% felt confident that Amazon could get their online orders delivered on time.

Media Consumption

Nobody wins any prizes for figuring out that Web traffic went up when people were locked down. But digital analytics vendor Contentsquare did provide a detailed analysis of which kinds of Web sites attracted more traffic (supermarkets, media, telecom, and tech retail) and which went down the most (luxury goods, tourism, and live entertainment) in the U.S., UK, and France. Week-by-week data since January shows a sharp rise starting March 16. Less easily predictable: supermarket and media conversion rates went down as consumers spent more time searching for something they wanted.

Media tracking company Comscore has also weighed in with an ongoing series of coronavirus analyses. Again, no surprises: streaming video, data, newscasts, and daytime TV viewing are all up. Same for Canada and India, incidentally.

You also won’t be shocked to learn that Upfluence found a 24% viewing increase in the live-streaming game platform Twitch in Europe. Consumption growth tracked national lockdowns, jumping in Italy during the week of March 8-14 and in France and Spain the week after.

Consumer review collector PowerReviews has its own data, based on 1.5 million product pages across 1,200 Web sites. Unlike Contentsquare, they found traffic was fairly flat but conversion rates jumped on March 15 and doubled by March 20. Their explanation is people were buying basic products that took less consideration.  People read many more reviews but submission levels and sentiment were stable. Reviews were shorter as consumers likely had other things on their minds.

Influencer marketing agency Izea got ahead of the game with a March 12 survey, asking social media consumers how they thought they’d behave during a lockdown. More social media consumption was one answer, with Facebook and Youtube heading the list. Izea also predicted that influencer advertising prices would fall as more influencers post more content.

Consumer Attitudes

Researching broader consumer attitudes, ITWP companies Toluna, Harris Interaction and KurunData launched a Global Barometer: Consumer Reactions to COVID-19 series covering the U.S., UK, Australia, India, and Singapore. The first wave of data was collected March 25-27.  People in the U.S. and India were generally more satisfied with how businesses had behaved and more optimistic about how quickly things would return to normal. But U.S. respondents ranked support from the national government considerable lower than anyone else.

Edelman Trust Barometer issued a ten market Special Report on COVID-19, although the data was gathered during the good old days of March 6-10. Even then, most people were following the news closely and 74% worldwide felt there was a lot of false information being spread. Major news outlets were the primary information source everywhere (64%) but the U.S. government was by far less relied upon (25%) than anywhere else (31% to 63%). Interesting, people put more faith in their employers than anyone except health authorities. They also expected business to protect their workers and local communities.

Kantar Media has yet another COVID-19 Barometer, although they reserve nearly all results for paying clients. The findings they did publish echo the others: more online media consumption, low trust in government, and expectation that employers will look after their employees. Kantar says that just 8% of consumers expect brands to stop advertising but 77% want advertising to show how brands are being helpful, 75% think brands should avoid exploiting coronavirus and (only?) 40% feel brands should avoid “humorous tones”.

Job Listings

There’s also an intriguing little niche of companies offering job information. PR agency Global Results Communications just launched a COVID-19 Job Board to help people find work.  So far, it’s not very impressive: as of April 1 it had under 100 random listings from Walmart to Metrolina Greenhouses to the South Carolina National Guard.

Tech salary negotiators Candor (did you know that was a business?) has a vastly more useful site, listing 2,500+ companies that are reported to be hiring, freezing hiring, rescinding offers, or laying people off. At the moment, half the companies on the list are hiring. The site offers a very interesting break-down by industry: transportation, retail, consulting, energy, and automotive are in the worst shape. Defense, productivity and education software, and communications are doing the best.

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