As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) sweeps the globe, consumers are being forced to dramatically change their purchase and media behaviors. Nielsen is tracking these changes and establishing navigation beacons for companies trying to plan for what comes next.
In the coming days, weeks and months, we are committed to continuing collaboration efforts with our clients and partners to ensure that our markets move forward in a safe, confident and smart manner—for the future health of our industry and people.
The impact of COVID-19 is widespread, and it will shape business and consumer behavior for months to come. And while the humanitarian and safety-related aspects of this outbreak are top of mind globally, it’s unquestionable that social distancing, quarantining and staying home have had significant effects on media consumption.
All over the world, people have flocked online as a key news source to understand the latest updates on the COVID-19 global health pandemic. For media sellers, this means audiences are growing, and for ad buyers, reaching their desired and highly engaged audience has never been easier.
Video game engagement is at an all-time high. According to Nielsen Games Video Game Tracking (VGT), the number of gamers who say they are playing video games more now due to the COVID-19 pandemic has increased week-over-week since March 2020. The increase was highest in the U.S. (46%), followed by France (41%), the U.K. (28%) and Germany (23%).
According to a recent Nielsen study on social behavior as it relates to TV, consumers stuck at home are staying close to their TV sets and using social media to stay connected with the world around them. The study found that the total volume of COVID-19-related conversations on Twitter has reached nearly 9 million people since the start of the pandemic in the U.S.—a staggering 40X increase between January and March amid the peak of the coronavirus.
During the height of countrywide shelter-in-place orders across the U.S. amid the COVID-19 pandemic, weekly time spent watching connected TVs grew significantly, rising by more than 1 billion hours as the weeks passed. And while this rise in total media consumption was to be expected, the consistent high levels of CTV use across smart TVs, internet-connected devices and game consoles suggests that life in the new normal includes a heavier dose of connected TV use than ever before.
Even in tough times, there’s a need and place for advertising. In more recent weeks, local spot TV ad units are coming back faster than ever, rising 5% during the last week of April 2020. Unlike national and cable TV ads, which most TV viewers in the U.S. see regardless of location, local spot ads appear in specific markets and clusters of markets. As such, monitoring local ad spot trends provides insight into the future health of our local media markets.
With improvements in technology, infrastructure and experience, coupled with a reduction in barriers to trial, such as delivery length or shipping costs, buyer adoption of online retail shopping has consistently increased over the last two years. Yet while those factors have resulted in pervasive consumer behavior changes, COVID-19 has caused another step change in the way consumers shop.
- TECHNOLOGY ADOPTION
Challenges arising from the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) have rapidly accelerated the use of new and existing technologies. As consumers continue to lockdown, millions are forced to work from home and digital connectivity takes even more of a hold on everyday habits.
- RETAIL CONVENIENCE
As the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to disrupt industries and businesses around the world, the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry is operating in uncharted territory. Amid widespread health concerns, federal travel restrictions and local movement limitations, the industry is facing the greatest, and fastest change in shopping behavior ever.
- CONSUMER DEMAND
The rise in retail purchases (both on and offline) has been well documented throughout the lockdown period, but we have yet to see how consumers approach visiting non-essential businesses once they’ve reopened. That’s why companies need to understand evolving consumer sentiment before assuming that open-for-business means business as usual.
Staying put is what’s best for reducing the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), but home-bound consumers are having an immediate impact on brands. The pull-back on advertising will cut expenses in the short term but will affect a brand’s resilience. How can businesses support their brands and make money in such uncharted waters?
- INCREASING CONSUMPTION
Media consumption is increasing. Nielsen studies show that home-bound consumers have led to a 60% increase in the amount of video content watched globally. As each country is at a different stage of their COVID-19 response, TV engagement is varied, but one thing is consistent; time spent per viewer watching news and entertainment is going up as the spread of COVID-19 worsens.
- DECREASING BUDGET
Among some of the top advertising categories in the U.S., not only did the amount of creative units leading up to COVID (Jan. 27-March 8) see a decline following the pandemic status (March 9-April 19), from 15.3 million to 13.3 million respectively, but so too did the share of time these categories advertised. For instance, the amount of advertising for travel was down 60%, retail declined by 21% and telecommunication ads saw a 17% drop in units.
- PANDEMIC paradox
The resounding question advertisers are asking right now is if they should advertise. In fact, many advertisers have chosen to reduce their ad volumes and spend—whether that’s due to the pandemic’s economic impact on businesses or as a choice to dissociate from wall-to-wall coverage of infection. However, this strategy of limiting advertising is not sustainable with coverage of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) here to stay for at least the medium term.
Unprecedented times like these bring massive challenges. Yet even during a crisis like the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, businesses need to consider strategic plans and continue to invest in their brands. While sales may be down, it’s important to maintain—or increase—your share of the market. Continuing to invest in advertising will help set your company up for success when life eventually settles into a new normal.
- MESSAGING SHIFTS
As the media industry navigates COVID-19 and its greatest period of upheaval in modern memory, having the right data to understand if your ad will command consumer attention has never been more critical. The increasing rate of media consumption during the pandemic has been game-changing for marketers, but how can ad creative break free from the volume of content, especially when reaching and connecting with the consumer is more difficult than ever?
- STRATEGY ADJUSTMENTS
Marketers have the unique opportunity to increase their share of voice as others are cutting campaigns. Budget cuts are reducing spend for many marketing tactics by 40% or more, even though TV consumption in the U.S. was up by 29% through the month of March and adults are spending 70% more time on their smartphones.
- PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENT
Agencies and publishers will face a paradigm shift in the months to come as marketing priorities realign in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. But with many businesses feeling the pinch, brands will increasingly look for their agencies and vendors to prove value at the bottom of the purchase funnel.