As a father and a business owner, what COVID-19 has done to life is nothing short of amazing. Like many people, my wife and I are homeschooling four kids, while running a business remotely. That remote implication has me writing this blog from our kids’ somewhat small playroom, surrounded by Nerf guns and Lego. Life must move forward and we hope that normalcy, whatever that may look like, returns soon.
Despite the giant curve ball everyone is wrestling with, the media strategist and planner in me is very curious about the implications of “shelter-in-place”, both current and future. My career involves studying the behavior, habits and interests of audience segments so the brands we work with can connect with the right people. So, this giant experiment we’re living in is somewhat interesting and fascinating for me. (Sorry in advance if my morbid curiosity is unsettling for my confined neighbors.)
A common thread between a majority of the information below is the internet, aka the world wide web, now at the center of our universe. Mainly since it’s a lifeline to how we communicate, share information and stay connected (video calls with extended family, anyone?). If it wasn’t apparent two months ago how important it is in our life, it’s probably painfully obvious now.
With that said, here’s a perspective from someone more interested in the craziness we now call life.
With China being the first country to experience COVID-19, the media world has studied their reaction to shelter-in-place and the subsequent shifts in lifestyle. China experienced a 20% spike in online activity while COVID-19 gripped the country. Italy and other significantly impacted European countries have since witnessed similar patterns of embrace of the internet.
In the U.S., broadband consumption during daytime hours (9a-5p) has risen more than 50% since the beginning of the year, per OpenVault, which measures connectivity to one million homes. With such a spike, fortunately reports of issues or outages have been limited. This limited interruption is surprising even with a 44% surge in mobile voice calls over normal levels across the U.S.
Currently, most doctors and hospitals have pushed off regular visits due to overwhelmed healthcare systems. The result has been a 50% spike in “telemed” systems like Teladoc. The Cleveland Clinic is on track to log more than 60,000 telemedicine visits in March, according to officials there. Before March, that health system ― which has hospitals in Ohio and Florida — averaged about 3,400 virtual visits a month. And with the lifting of restrictions on Medicare patients using telemed around 3/17/2020, you can expect to see this pattern continue.
Grocery shopping, an industry already wrestling with the digital world, has experienced a dramatic shift. In the first week of March, meal planning and ordering services like eMeals have had a week-over-week increase as high as 67% in the number of orders submitted to its grocery partners, including Amazon, Instacart, Kroger, Shipt and Walmart.
Due to shelter-in-place instructions , people are watching more TV globally, and the U.S. is following similar patterns. Due to older generations’ long-held habits, linear TV is holding its own.
The national and global implications are obvious, but to shed perspective on local levels, I want to lean on a recent comScore report. Even though television use is up across the board, each market is unique in its own right. This chart reflects the top 25 markets in the U.S. Being the hardest hit COVID-19 market in the country the week of March 9th, it’s no surprise that Seattle saw at 28% increase in television usage for that time period. In a separate study, it was reported that the teens segment saw a jump of 104% during the same period.
Regarding streaming services, viewership systems like Hulu, Amazon, etc. were up the week of March 16th by 40%. In fact, Vizio’s viewing sessions rose 40% from the previous week. Those selling video ad inventory have also seen a spike in available video inventory (25% for streaming TV programming specifically) across their network as more citizens stay home across the U.S.
Not to be outdone, Disney+ took advantage of the holed up masses by releasing its animated hit “Frozen 2” on Disney+ several months earlier than planned. My household jumped all over that (the vote was 4:2, so the kids won).
Disney better break the mold and roll out more content, because COVID-19 will hurt them with the shutdown of major sports. Remember, ESPN is owned by Disney, and without basketball, baseball and other professional and college games, viewership will tank.
In the eyes of Roku’s Chief Marketing Officer Mathew Anderson, the most dramatic shift, not too surprisingly, is the big increase in daytime viewing. More people are at home during the day, working remotely or homeschooling children, and let’s be honest, they need the break that TV offers. In terms of programming, Roku is seeing fitness and well-being atop the list of categories, along-side programming catered for households with kids (education, learning and projects).
When questioned about viewing levels, Anderson did explain it as the peaks and valleys of daytime internet usage is stabilizing at more of a peak level. I guess viewership doesn’t have a valley at this point in our society.
It should be noted that consumers are watching 61% more streaming programming than during two previous crises (Hurricane Harvey and Snowpocalypse 2016) that kept people housebound, according to a new study by Nielsen.
Despite cars not being on the road in most markets, radio is seeing its share of upward trends. Twenty-nine percent of users are reporting tuning in since the national outbreak, with 36% of people relying on radio as a means to stay informed.
How is that possible if no one is in their car? Well, with Katz’s digital broadcast streams being up 48% over the previous year, it’s clear that streaming radio has had a major impact.
OUT OF HOME
I love billboards. When paired with the right brand and category, they’re highly effective at branding and awareness, and oh so efficient. With that said, the shelter-in-place orders across most states has taken a major hit on the out of home (OOH) category. No public gathers or commuting has led to lower than normal levels of outdoor tactics being utilized. This space is going to feel some pain.
From the Global Web Index (GWI), a glimpse into how people are coping with being locked up in their house thanks to COVID-19. Obviously consuming media tops the list. But who knew everyone’s house needed to be cleaned more often.
All of the above is quite revealing of how consumers are coping with the changes forced into place due to COVID-19. What’s even more revealing is who is using it. Teams like the media strategist and planners/buyers at Morgan & Co. aren’t alone in wanting to get their hands on updated trends and patterns of the consumer’s life. The feds are all over it. Through the CDC, state and local governments, the feds have begun the analysis of habits (mostly movement) of citizens in specific parts of the U.S. Mainly through third-party data in the mobile advertising industry, and not the carriers themselves, the government is seeking patterns around COVID-19 and its spread, or lack of cases. Through this data a portal will be created to help officials learn how COVID-19 is spreading and potentially understand how to contain it and prevent more hotspots.
Having heard the news that shelter-in-place orders will extend through April, it’s clear that life will not return to normal any time soon. What has me extremely curious is the lasting impact a month plus of these trends will have on society. I do predict things like e-commerce (across all generations), the use of telemedicine, home delivery and hopefully home cooking and family time will stick. Of course, some of these trends will come at the expense of media consumption due to the time requirement, while others (cooking, e-commerce) will in fact require media consumption.
Media trends and how to capitalize upon them for a brand’s benefit is a core service Morgan & Co. provides marketers. If insight into how your customers use media is holding you back from speaking directly to prospects, reach out to Morgan & Co. We have 23 years of experience helping brands refine their media strategy to incorporate the right media tactics to produce the greatest return.