- April 29, 2020

Planning For Life After The Pandemic: What Consumers Are Currently Exploring Online

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.

As consumers across Europe have had to re-engineer their daily routines due to the pandemic, we have clearly seen the effects of Coronavirus on online visitation. Some categories have shown high growth in engagement, while others have dropped significantly. However, this week’s data has shown some encouraging signs of renewed consumer interest for industries that were amongst the most badly hurt. As governments across Europe gradually ease the restrictions, consumers may be beginning to prepare for post-lockdown life. Traffic to some of the industries that were the most affected, such as the automotive, real estate, events, or travel have bounced back somewhat in the week of April 13-19, 2020, compared with the previous week – even though it is still far from their pre-crisis levels.

Compared with the week of April 06 – April 12, 2020, visits to sites and apps in the “Automotive Manufacturer” category during the week of April 13 – April 19, 2020 decreased by 19% in France. However, they increased by 33% in Germany, 46% in Italy, 34% in Spain, and 7% in the UK. Granted, this increase is relative to a low base, since it follows a period of sharp decrease in traffic. As a result, online activity in the “Automotive Manufacturer” category is still far from the levels seen in January. (See chart below.) The recent reversal in visitation could be an early sign that consumers in Europe are anticipating the end of the restrictive measures.

Real estate transactions tend to span longer periods of time than other discretionary spending. Perhaps as a result, the recent increase in traffic is less dramatic than for the automotive industry: between the week of April 06 – April 12, 2020 and the week of April 13 – April 19, 2020, visits again decreased by 3% in Spain. But they increased by 5% in France, 4% in Germany, 15% in Italy, and 11% in the UK.

Since the drop in the preceding weeks for the real estate category was less pronounced than for the automotive industry, the difference with pre-crisis levels is reduced. As the chart below shows, while visits indices for Spain, Italy, and the UK have some way to go before reaching the levels seen in January, in France it has almost completely made up for lost ground, and in Germany, which implemented more flexible lockdown rules than other countries, it is above.

The events ticketing industry was also amongst the first casualties of the pandemic, as public social and cultural activities were heavily curtailed. Compared with the week of January 13 – January 19, 2020, visits to sites or apps in the “Tickets” category during the week of April 13 – April 19, 2020 decreased by 74% in France, 69% in Germany, 45% in Italy, 77% in Spain, and 58% in the UK. However, activity picked up during the week of April 13 – April 19, 2020 relative to the previous week: compared with the week of April 06 – April 12, 2020 visits increased by 2% in France, 10% in Germany, 46% in Italy, 88% in Spain, and 4% in the UK. (These impressive numbers of course are relative to a lower base, since they follow a sharp drop in the preceding weeks.) The bounce-back can in part be explained by the fact that many events have been rescheduled to a later date in the year or in 2021, and consumers are managing their bookings. At the same time, many promoters and artists are doing virtual events, with the proceeds often going to charities. Even though the current levels of activity are a far cry from what they were pre-crisis, (see chart below) given the relatively low financial commitment they require from consumers – that is, compared with real estate or car purchases, - we expect this industry to recover fast once the restrictions are lifted. The only question is when this will be, as by their very nature, mass events preclude social distancing. It is therefore likely that they will be among the last activities permitted to restart.

With the summer months around the corner – a busy period for the travel and airline industries – it looks as if consumers have not given up on their holiday plans. For sites and apps in the “Travel Information” category, visits during the week of April 13 – April 19, 2020 increased by 10% in France, 19% in Germany, 2% in Italy, 3% in Spain, and 13% in the UK, compared with the week of April 06 – April 12, 2020.

The reasons for this uplift are still unclear. One hypothesis is that the increaseis due to consumers who have had their holidays cancelled looking at alternative options for later in the year. Many airline companies have been offering vouchers as compensation for cancelled travel plans. It is possible that the forced ‘staycation’ is prompting consumers to think about ways to make up for lost time once things are back to normal. In any case, as the charts below show however, there is still some way to go before traffic reaches pre-crisis levels.

It is too soon to tell whether the reversal of trend we have seen in recent days is a statistical blip or here to last. But as governments devise plans to reopen the economy, we’ll keep monitoring the situation.

Timeline of 2020 coronavirus pandemic events:

  • Jan 24: France confirms its first case of the coronavirus within its borders.
  • Jan 27: Germany confirms its first case of the coronavirus within its borders.
  • Jan 31: Italy confirms its first cases of the coronavirus within its borders.
  • Feb 1: Spain confirms its first case of the coronavirus within its borders.
  • Feb 23: Italy quarantines small towns hit by the outbreak.
  • Feb 24: Panic hits the financial markets. All asset classes are impacted.
  • Feb 28: UK confirms its first case of the coronavirus within its borders.
  • March 9: Italy declares nationwide lockdown.
  • Mar 14: Spain declares nationwide lockdown.
  • Mar 17: France declares nationwide lockdown.
  • Mar 22: Germany issues strict social distancing measures.
  • Mar 24: UK declares nationwide lockdown.
  • Apr 20 - 27: Germany, France, Spain and Italy plan for a gradual end of the restrictions. In Germany for example, small business can re-open under strict conditions, and schools are due to re-open in May. Italy announces that manufacturing, construction, real estate and wholesale companies can start getting ready to resume operations in early May. Also, freedom of movement will be gradually lifted in May.
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