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Reaching Consumers Beyond Lockdown

It’s no surprise that the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing lockdown measures altered the way we consume content. Havas Media reports that 93 percent of consumers find media more meaningful now than they did during pre-Covid-19 days. North Americans spent over 16 hours a day online while sheltering in place, up 30 percent from last year, according to a new Activate Consulting report, “Rewire to Restart: The Post-Covid-19 Agenda for Technology and Media Companies.” As restrictions ease in many states, habits acquired during quarantine are expected to continue. Here’s how brands can prepare to meet consumers as life resumes some normalcy.

We all stayed in to watch TV, and streaming services benefitted from that increased programming demand. Forty-four percent of consumers cut cords, with price of service ranking as less important than positive user experiences plus solid content offerings. To retain subscribers who are less homebound, providers should consider restructuring pricing and enhancing service offerings, suggests Activate Consulting. It’s an investment well worth making, as time spent with video is expected to increase by 11 percent among 18 to 24-year-olds even after shelter-in-place orders end. The number of gaming users likewise spiked 45 percent during lockdown, according to Nielsen data—a trend projected to continue. For that same demographic, Active Consulting believes time spent gaming will grow 21 percent in the coming months. Companies are conceiving strategies to hold onto high-value players, with roughly 47 percent of new gamers likely to be maintained. We also watched more news, particularly local reports, which four out of five Americans trusted over national programming due to hyper-targeted pandemic messaging. As with streaming services, consumers showed increased willingness to pay for online news subscriptions which rose from 11 percent in November 2018 to 14 percent this April. Now, brands are encouraged to sustain that growth by lowering paywalls to drive higher trial and conversion for new subscribers. Finally, live sports are on course for a comeback. Activate Consulting predicts a 26 percent increase in viewership upon their return, with 19 percent saying they’ll consume significantly more live sports content following months of depravation. 

It makes sense that eCommerce activity increased during the coronavirus, with essential categories including apparel, groceries, household products and personal care items enjoying the largest surge. The way we shopped online shifted. While consumers initially flocked to Amazon, those searches declined from 59 to 42 percent as items went out of stock or fell subject to stringent shipping guidelines. In response, Walmart, Best Buy and Costco page views spiked between 91 percent and a whopping 220 percent. Online grocery shopping became more popular. Approximately 14 percent of digital food purchasers are new, with 36 percent likely to continue post-lockdown. To preserve those gains, brands are encouraged to implement key value drivers of free or same-day delivery, friendly websites and easy access to an assortment of products that may be hard to find in-store. The projections look good: While more than half of online shoppers bought from a new retailer in the past few months, 81 percent plan to continue purchasing from those companies or brands in at least one category. 

Moving Forward
Younger demographics will lead the charge on resuming out-of-home activities within a month of restrictions ending, while Baby Boomers may take a few weeks longer. The challenge for companies? Finding ways to target those disparate groups while heeding trends that arose during quarantine. Digital pursuits including virtual social gatherings, online entertainment and fitness offerings, eLearning and telemedicine are expected to stick around. Importantly, the phenomenon of eSports mustn’t be ignored. Roughly 30 percent of gamers are new, which shows an appetite beyond traditional audiences and suggests online competitions may continue.

For retailers, the lifting of social distancing regulations provides a unique chance to connect with consumers whose consumption habits shifted since the start of the pandemic. Innovations experienced during the coronavirus will blend physical and digital realities, giving brands a chance to craft ever-more meaningful media opportunities.