How COVID-19 has continued to impact Digital Media Consumption in APAC – March 2020
This article is part of a series of insights that reveal the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on online consumer behaviour. To be notified when new insights or data become available, please click here.
The exponential spread of COVID-19 has continued to generate unrivalled disruption and triggered changes in consumers’ behaviour. In this follow-up to our previous blog post, the APAC Client Insights team analysed the most recent data (March 2020) and here are some updates on the shifting digital consumption trends in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Australia.
1. Hong Kong
1.1. Increasing screen time
The coronavirus began to wreak havoc around the world in March 2020. In Hong Kong, with a rising daily tally of confirmed cases, stringent border control and social distancing measures were enforced to contain the community outbreak.
Hong Kongers were staying home and turning to their computers, smartphones, and tablets to occupy their time. Total digital consumption continued to grow, with an 8% increase in visits and a 10% increase in total minutes spent online in March 2020.
1.2. Keeping abreast of the times
With COVID-19 sweeping across the globe, News/Information is still an area of focus, and visitation and engagement in terms of views and minutes spent are at record high levels.
The pandemic has rattled financial markets, the reach of, and engagement with, Business/Finance News have surged in March 2020. Visits were up 19% and total minutes increased by 40% compared to February 2020.
1.3. Steering through the financial storm with information
With the unsettling financial markets, Financial Services attracted attention from consumers, with an 8% increase in unique visitors and double-digit growth in both visits and total minutes spent.
Riding out the volatility storm, investors were increasingly seeking financial advice and checking values of investment or making trades, this is evident in the jump in unique visitors and time spent in Financial Services & Advice and Investments sub-categories.
1.4. Hermitting at home
Bracing for social distancing, more have turned to reading. Visits to Books had a steady upward climb, with 24% growth in visits in March 2020 compared to February 2020.
Visits to the Computer Software category were up 27% compared to February 2020, probably to support the new stay-at-home activities – working, learning and entertaining.
Escaping the doom and gloom, countryside and hiking trails are bustling with people during weekends. There were incremental visits to Sports/Outdoor, looking for new outdoor or sports equipment.
2.1. COVID-19 drives news traffic
Singapore’s online news consumption has further reached an all-time high in March 2020, as the world continues to battle COVID-19. Double-digit growth was seen month-on-month across Local, Technology and Business/Finance News content.
2.2. Working from home: new normal?
In an effort to minimise close contact among employees, many companies have started to adopt new schemes of working to ensure business continuity. Working-from-home and split work arrangements were among the number of different strategies that businesses deployed. The importance of using technology to ensure a smooth flow of communication was further highlighted, with traffic to Technology sites increasing 10% in March 2020.
2.3. Career continuity at risk
With the economy heading into the sharpest slump since the 2008 Financial Crisis, job security is threatened across different sectors. Businesses had to resort to different cost-cutting strategies. Because of this, data has shown a surge in visitors going to Job Search and Training and Higher Advancement sites to seek opportunities and self-improvement in the midst of these uncertain times.
2.4. Finding comfort at home
As staying home became imperative in helping mitigate the spread of the disease, people started to consider going out only for essential things and staying home more often. Because of this, Singaporeans have found different ways to keep themselves entertained and occupied at the comforts of their own home.
Data showed increases in engagement across Entertainment and Lifestyle categories that reflected this behaviour: Entertainment and Games have increased by 12% and 17%, respectively, in March 2020 versus February 2020.
Interestingly, people were also looking at redecorating ideas for their homes during this period with Home/Architecture’s views growing by 205% in March 2020 versus February 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic was first identified to have spread to Malaysia on 25 January 2020. The reported infected cases remained steady in the 20s until there was a large spike in cases in March 2020. This spike in March was due to localised clusters that emerged. The largest clusters resulted from mass gathering events. By the end of March, there were 2,766 COVID-19 cases.
3.1. Staying informed about current events and news
News/Information: There was an 80% surge in total views to news sites in March 2020 compared to November 2019 with the increase in COVID-19 cases in Malaysia and implementation of lockdown as people were seeking updated news about the pandemic.
General News: Saw steady increase in views and there was a 102% increase in views in March 2020 compared to November 2019.
Politics: With the change in government and appointment of new Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on 1 March 2020, there was a 197% surge in total views to sites with political content in March 2020 compared to November 2019, as people were following the updates on how the new government was taking shape.
With the announcement of the second economic stimulus package to counter the effects of the extended Movement Control Order (MCO), there was an increase in number of unique visitors to government websites to access advisories, guidelines and announcements pertaining to taxation and reliefs. This category had a 61% increase in unique visitors in March 2020 when compared to February 2020.
3.2. Exploration of online learning
Malaysian students have been on school holidays since 14 March 2020 due to the extended MCO directives. Parents, students and teachers looked for online resources to continue with their learning at home. The total views on Education category increased by 53% in March 2020 compared to November 2019.
Family & Youth Education consisting of sites that focus on education for parents, teachers and students, had total views increased by 132% in March 2020 compared to November 2019.
3.3. Piqued interest in health
As people were getting concerned about the spread of coronavirus globally, there was a 27% increase in visits by consumers to Health sites in March 2020 over February 2020. They were seeking information about the virus and health advisories.
Health Information sites saw 25% increase in visits in March 2020 over February 2020.
3.4. Increase in financial services
As financial markets fluctuated with the spread of the pandemic, people are looking for information regarding financial services. The month on month percentage change in time spent on Financial Services shows an increasing trend, increasing 8% in March 2020 compared to February 2020.
Financial Services & Advice: Due to COVID-19, there was a fall in market values, resulting in increased interest in investors to access financial services & advice sites. There was a 75% increase in time spent on these sites in March 2020 when compared to February 2020.
Investments: Investors are anxiously seeking information regarding the performance of their mutual funds & shares and monitoring their investments in these uncertain times. This is seen by a 10% increase in time spent on Investments sites in March 2020 when compared to February 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic was first identified to have spread to Vietnam on 23 January 2020. The number of COVID-19 cases reported were 16 in February 2020. There was a spike in cases in March 2020 with infections in the community and many clusters appeared in high population density areas. By the end of March 2020, the number of cases were in the hundreds.
4.1. Staying informed about current events & news
With the increase in COVID-19 cases in Vietnam, there was a 17% increase in total views to News/Information websites in March 2020 when compared to November 2019 as users were seeking updated news on the developments of the pandemic.
General News and Local News saw 28% and 44% increases in total views in March 2020 as compared to November 2019, respectively.
Business/Finance News saw a 39% increase in total views for March 2020 when compared to November 2019 as consumers were increasingly seeking information on the impact of COVID-19 on businesses and stock market fluctuations.
4.2. Transitioning to online learning and online food purchases
Schools remained closed to tackle the spread of the virus. As part of quarantine measures, the student, teacher and parent community looked for online resources to continue with learning. Educational institutions were holding classes online to ensure that students will still be able to study at home.
Education: The average views per visitor in Education category increased by 97% in March 2020 when compared to November 2019 and by 54% in March 2020 when compared to February 2020.
Food/Supermarket/Grocery visits showed increasing trend as many were purchasing essentials online and stocking them up during the pandemic. The average views per visitor increased by 19% in March 2020 when compared to February 2020.
4.3. Interest in health and retail - health care
As people were getting concerned with the spreading of coronavirus globally, health sites had 28% increase in total views in March 2020 compared to November 2019.
Visitors were seeking information about the virus and health advisories.
Health Information: There was a41% increase in total views to Health Information sites in March 2020 compared to November 2019.
Retail - Health Care: As the virus was spreading, people showed pronounced interest in health care retail sites. The total views to Retail - Health Care sites increased by 128% in March 2020 when compared to November 2019.
4.4. Increase in Financial Services
Vietnam was heavily impacted by the outbreak because of the downturn of stock exchanges, resulting in increased interest in investors to access Financial Services websites. There was an increase in total views on Financial services by 6% in March 2020 compared to November 2019.
Investments: Investors were anxiously seeking information regarding the performance of their mutual funds & shares and monitoring their investments in these uncertain times. This is seen by an 85% increase in total views on Investments sites in March 2020 when compared to November 2019.
Insurance: People were getting concerned with the spread of the coronavirus globally and there was a 93% increase in total views to Insurance sites in March 2020 when compared to November 2019.
5.1. COVID-19 drives news traffic
Indonesia’s first COVID-19 case was reported on 2 March 2020. As Southeast Asia was slowly grappling with the incoming pandemic at that time, Indonesians turned to news outlets to keep themselves updated of the latest developments on COVID-19.
News/Information saw an 8% month-on-month increase in unique visitors in March 2020, and also the highest reported number of unique visitors, 87 million, to date.
With the public health being at the front and centre of the global crisis, similar exponential growth was seen in users visiting the Health category among Indonesians, with a 53% increase in unique visitors in March 2020.
5.2. Indonesians’ adoption of online learning
As restrictions on physical distancing tightened, classes were also suspended in order to minimise contact. However, schools and universities opted to continue education and turned to online learning. Evidently, unique visitors in the Family & Youth Education category increased by more than two-fold. The online learning’s shift had resulted in a surge in Computer Hardware visitors too.
5.3. Cease of all non-essential travel
Even prior to Indonesia’s first reported case in March 2020, the travel category globally and in the region had already felt the tremendous impact of COVID-19. Indonesia’s Travel category was not spared from the decline in unique visitors, particularly for Online Travel Agents and Airlines.
6.1. High engagement in news/information
With the outbreak of COVID-19 in Australia and the introduction of many preventive measures (e.g. border closure), there was a significant increase of user engagement (average views and minutes per visitor were 121 views and 174 minutes per visitor) across the News/Information category in March 2020.
General News increased 48% in total minutes and Business/Finance News increased 76% in total minutes. It is apparent that Australians were curious, as they spent more time finding out about the latest happenings nationally and globally.
6.2. Health Consciousness Trending Up
As the Australia Government adopted a series of health policies and measures to combat COVID-19, the number of visitors to government sites to get the latest update increased significantly in March 2020. A 25% increase of total visits was recorded in March 2020 (as compared to February 2020) for the Government category.
Health is another category where a large increase in reach in March 2020 was observed. Comparing with February 2020 data, the audience reach increased by 14% to 60.9%.
6.3. Impact of travel restrictions
Even before the government’s travel ban for all Australians was announced in March 2020, a sharp decline was observed from February 2020 onwards in users and engagement across all Travel related categories, including Airlines, Hotel/Resort & Home Sharing, Ground/Cruise, Travel – Information and Online Travel Agents. Compared with February 2020, reach and total minutes of Travel decreased 12% and 38%, respectively in March 2020.
There was also lower demand from users in Car Transportation category with a 27% decline in total visits in March 2020 due to people staying at home to keep safe.
6.4. Changes in Australians’ buying habits
With the numerous social distancing measures in place, Australians had made preparations to make themselves comfortable when staying indoors for an extended period of time.
Food/Supermarket/Grocery category had 2.7 million total visits while Books captured a 16% increase in total visits in March 2020. In addition, more people working from home accessed Computer Software & Computer Hardware sites, resulting in an increase in reach of 25% and 15%, respectively, in March 2020, compared with February 2020.
On the other hand, non-essential goods and services recorded decrease in site visits during March 2020. For instance, total visits for Tickets dropped 57% and Jewellery/Luxury Goods/Accessories fell 75%.