BM Insights: The Impact of COVID-19 on Global Search and Consumer Behavior
Japanese consumers were the first to spring into action. After news of COVID-19’s outbreak spread in the country, search volume began to increase significantly for key industries — like grocery stores — as early as January 25th, with the peak on February 29th reaching 307% above expected levels
Hotels have seen early declines in search volume worldwide. Local website traffic in the hospitality industry dropped alongside a pause in consumer booking behavior as the news of COVID-19 spread, likely due to uncertainty around the developing situation in each country.
UK consumers have been among the last to react. Retail and food services foot traffic did not begin to fall until around March 1st, when queries relating to travel directions to restaurants and retail stores began to plummet — bottoming out at almost 95% below expected volume from March 22nd onwards.
Italians have turned to mailing services to stay connected during the lockdown. Not too surprisingly, Italian mailing services have seen a significant rise in search volume. It would seem that Italian families, accustomed to spending time with relatives, are instead turning to the mail to send packages and stay connected. Search volume has trended at approximately 30% above expected levels beginning on February 22nd, with peaks as high as 70% above normal.
The phones are ringing off the hook: brands have been struggling to handle call volume. Consumers have been making considerably more phone calls across key industries in every country we analyzed. Italy saw phone call volume for car rental companies spike at 111% on February 23rd — the day small towns in the north part of the country were placed on quarantine. France and Germany also saw especially heightened activity on March 14th and 15th, immediately following initial announcements of school and border closures.
Consumers have turned to their financial professionals. In North America we’ve seen a sustained increase in search, phone call, and website traffic in financial services industries (such as investments and mortgage services) right after the S&P 500 stock price began to crash on February 19th.
North Americans gear up to work from home. It’s no surprise that the clothing and luxury retail industry has been hit especially hard, since they have been deemed non-essential in many countries. That being said, other retail businesses are faring better in light of continuously prolonged work-from-home restrictions. We’ve seen inflated search volume in key retail sub-verticals across North America, including office supply stores (+206%), consumer electronics (+76%), pet stores (+56%), and guns and ammunition retailers (+52%)
Healthcare has shifted to virtual or telemedicine where possible. The earliest North American healthcare trends come in the form of a 57% phone call spike to emergency rooms on January 26th, shortly after the first confirmed COVID-19 case in the US. Since then, while searches for hospitals and ERs began to peak around March 15th in North America, foot traffic has been down by as much as 70% as health systems urge patients toward telemedicine or virtual medicine whenever possible. Phone calls to clinics and doctors increased as patients called to postpone elective procedures or treatments.
Additional Resources While we hope that the analysis and insights provided in these resources offer a unique and genuinely valuable look into the impact of COVID-19 on search behavior across the globe, we also understand that as a business, it’s critical to understand how we can use this data to drive digital strategy. Knowledge is useless without the context to make it actionable. With that in mind, the following additional resources illuminate how Yext technology works to help our customers deliver impeccable answers all the time, but most urgently during moments of crisis and periods of broad questioning.
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