As U.S. Economy Begins to Reopen, Digital Consumption Remains High Compared to Pre-Pandemic Levels
As states take steps toward reopening and Americans begin resuming some normal activities, new data from Comscore show that digital consumption is still well higher than it was pre-coronavirus.
While digital consumption peaked in late April and has slowly declined since, total digital visits across ten key categories remains 37 percent higher for the week of May 25, 2020 than for the week of February 3, 2020.
In this blog, we will dive into the changes within some of these key digital categories.
As noted in previous posts, drops in digital visits to travel sites have leveled off, but remain down compared to pre-pandemic levels. Digital visits were down 49 percent when comparing the last three weeks of May 2020 (May 11-31) to a similar time period in February 2020 (February 10-March 1).
Digging deeper into these data, there are signs the category is experiencing a bit of a rebound. Growth in digital visits to travel sites increased 12 percent from the week of May 11, 2020 to the week of May 25, 2020. This could be attributed to reopening measures and renewed interest in thinking about travel.
Digital visits to social media sites continue to soar, even more so than what we saw earlier in the pandemic. Social media visits were up 95 percent during the last three weeks in May 2020, compared to the last three weeks in February 2020.
While we have seen some categories begin to decline in the past few weeks, social media saw only a one percent decline from the week of May 4, 2020 to the week of May 25, 2020.
The data suggests that the growth we have seen in social media during the pandemic may be here to stay. Social media continues to be a go-to destination for consumers, whether it is used for news, entertainment, or for keeping in touch with friends and family. The increased consumption during the pandemic has largely not dwindled, even while other categories are beginning to slow somewhat.
Another category in which traffic remains high is the news category. This is especially notable given the large size of the category, which means that the percentage increases in visits translates into a much larger raw volume of visits than that seen in smaller categories. Overall, visits to news sites were up 29 percent the week of May 25-31 2020, compared to February 3-9 2020.
When excluding the “weather” category, news visits are essentially steady from the week of May 11, 2020 to the week of May 25, 2020, with less than a one percent change. When comparing to April 2020, however, the news category is down slightly, driven mostly by double-digit percentage declines in visits to political and technology news sites from the week of April 6, 2020 to the week of May 4, 2020.
Those two categories tend to be somewhat cyclical, as developments in political campaigns or new technology product releases tend to dictate the ebb and flow of visits within those categories.
The category of government websites is an incredibly interesting story to delve into. While visits to all government sites were up a modest 20 percent during the last three weeks of May 2020 compared to the last three weeks of February 2020, visits are down compared to peak weeks. At the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, we saw visits to the top government health sites skyrocket. We noted in previous posts how visits to the CDC, WHO, and NIH sites increased a staggering 302 percent between the week of February 3, 2020 and the week of March 23, 2020 - the peak week for these three sites.
While these government health sites were visited over and over again during the first month of the coronavirus spread in the United States, what is amazing with this trend is how quickly it reversed. Total visits to these three government health sites have since declined 278% when looking at the most recent week of data, the week of May 25, 2020. There are a few theories as to why visitation is nearing pre-pandemic levels. Many consumers may now have a solid understanding of the recommendations from the CDC and what precautions they should take for themselves and their families, and thus may no longer be checking the sites as frequently. In addition, both the sites themselves and news outlets have shared a significant amount of this information directly to consumers on social media, which may have prompted many to consume the headlines within their social media visits or via a news article, while not actually visiting the government health sites themselves.
The retail category is another area where the trend has been interesting to watch, especially for top sites. Visits to all retail sites remain up 25 percent when comparing the last three weeks of May 2020 to the similar time period in February 2020. While it is down slightly—12 percent—since its peak week of April 13, 2020, the category remained mostly flat for the month of May 2020.
The growth over pre-pandemic levels and resilience of the category are even more pronounced when looking at the five major retail sites below. Visits to these sites were up 40 percent during the week of May 25, 2020 compared to the week of February 3, 2020 and the combination of Amazon, WalMart, Target, Best Buy, and Costco have consistently reached the 1 billion visits per week plateau. This level of visitation is incredible especially considering it is higher than even the holiday season, generally the top time period for online retail visitation. It is very clear that consumers have relied on online retail, and continue to do so, throughout the pandemic.
Note: Unless otherwise noted:
• All data are "visits" not "unique visits"
• All data are total digital, including desktop, mobile web and mobile app
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