Coronavirus is continuing to spread and impact not just the UK but the rest of the world. With the most recent lockdown enforced on the nation, our SEO team decided to take a look at what the British public has been searching for online. 

How Has COVID-19 Affected Consumer Behaviour?  

The supermarkets have had their battle to deal with over the past weeks – panic buyers and keeping up with demands to restock shelves.  

The mindset of the consumer has dramatically changed. People are impulsively stockpiling and emptying shelves, and although this is a temporary shift in purchase behaviour, we believe that this may impact consumers’ shopping mentality in the long-run, which means, retailers will need to readapt and be smarter. To reiterate what the supermarkets CEO’s and government has said, we will not run low on supplies, and there is no need to panic buy.  

The lockdown will naturally impact trade, with retail stores, beauty salons and gyms etc. temporarily closing. But this can be advantageous too. If there was any time to rethink your marketing strategy and positioning online, it’s now. The world of eCommerce has never been more critical.

Consumers will have to shop online and not just because of the lockdown, but as a conscious decision to avoid social contact, whether it’s for clothing, medical prescriptions or groceries. This swift change in dynamics will influence the future, as consumers will become more self-conscious.

With that in mind, our team took a look at what online searches have been trending throughout March.  

Search Trends – What Are We Really Searching for Online? 

Toilet roll, pasta, rice, hand wash, hand sanitiser and anti-bacterial products are like gold dust today, and if you’re lucky to get your hands (clean hands of course) on one, treasure it. While supermarkets have been emptied of these items, consumers have been searching online for them and willing to pay the extra pounds for a pack of four toilet rolls.  

The Obvious Culprits  

Searches for toilet roll did increase throughout March and has continued to grow. Although supermarkets are restricting the number of packs you can buy and aiming to refill shelves quickly, online searches for this item will continue to rise. Sales for a specific 27-pack of 1,000 sheet toilet paper were up +944% according to Guru Hariharan, CEO of Commerce IQ, which helps sell brands on Amazon (reference 2). 

This time last year, the average monthly searches for toilet roll in the UK is around 8800 per month, but over the previous few weeks, searches have significantly jumped to 12100 searches. That’s an additional 3000 searches.  

Hand Sanitiser, another panic buy item, also experienced a massive jump in online searches. In fact, before COVID-19, hand sanitiser searches online was almost non-existent. There has been a slight dip in users searching to buy this item online, which could be down to self-isolation and working from home, and consumers using traditional methods of soap and water. If we look at the data for this hygiene item, there is a noticeable difference when comparing average monthly searches year-on-year. This time last year, average searches were 6600, whereas the last few weeks witnessed a dramatic increase to 24600 – that’s 18K more searches in 12 months

Users searching for pasta also increased throughout March, along with ‘pasta maker’. Pasta is probably one of the most versatile food items, so are users looking for a pasta maker to have a constant supply because supermarkets are running low? It seems obvious, doesn’t it? But, it’s always a fantastic way to get creative and test out your culinary skills, and it’s also a fun way to keep children busy while the schools are closed. 

The Panzani Group, which is a French brand of pasta, has reported that sales are up by +90% over the past three weeks (reference 3). 

With socialising in pubs and restaurants on hold, online food delivery is set to gain as staying in becomes the new going out. According to Statista, a market research firm reported that the total number of users is on the rise – 22.5m users, which represents an increase of +9.8% vs the same period last year. Revenue in online food delivery as a service is up 11.5%, resulting in £4.2m (reference 1). 

Getting Creative 

With home-schooling in place and more people staying at home, it’s optimal time to bring out your creative side and try to have as much fun as possible over the upcoming weeks and months without having to leave your home. Remember as a kid, we had to get inventive to have fun, whether it was a picnic in the garden, a family treasure hunt at home or getting crafty with paper mache (thanks Neil Buchanan). 

assorted-color office items on table

So how are UK consumers searching online to get creative and pass the time?  

Well, parents seem to be looking for inspiration online as searches for ‘activities for children’ has increased between 15th – 21st March. Just in time to prepare for home-schooling which came into action on Monday 23rd March.  

Fitness and health guru Joe Wicks launched PE lessons for children to do at home, to help keep up with their health and it’s fun. As this is new, there won’t be any apparent trends before March; however, there is still a huge surge in searches for ‘Joe Wicks Kids Workout’ and ‘Joe Wicks PE Lessons’. The YouTube workout was live-streamed by more than a million users since launching on Monday 23rd (reference 4) and parents weren’t shy on sharing videos of their children doing the morning workout on Facebook.

Home workouts’ followed a similar pattern, since the closure of gyms and most recently, the daily allowance of exercising (walking, running, cycling) outdoors. 

‘Arts and crafts for kids’ also saw an increase in trends between 8th – 21st March, along with baking recipes.  

And as expected, Home Schooling had a big jump in searches from 15th March when talks around school closures began and went into force on 23rd March.  

Going back to childhood days where there was no or limited availability of computer games, smart devices and no TV and film streaming services, users are turning to board games to stay entertained. It’s another fantastic way to spend quality time with the family too. The online toy store Bargain Max reported a 62% surge in sales of board games (reference 5), with data suggesting that it has become a go-to for those in self-isolation or working from home across the UK.  

Spurges in online searches aren’t just for children; adults have also been using this opportunity to improve personal skills and to finally get around to doing something that they have pushed aside.  

As people are working from home, people will be searching for ways to improve their temporary home office and purchasing items such as desks.

What else has triggered Britons to search online for inspiration for the upcoming weeks? 

Netflix and box-sets both increased over the last two weeks; however, Amazon Prime only marginally increased.  

Netflix searches have soared as more look to stay entertained in self-isolation. Netflix is also offering users the chance to watch shows and films with friends remotely via a google chrome extension called Netflix Party.  

What’s interesting – with the global Coronavirus pandemic happening and rapidly increasing – we expected life and health insurance terms to grow, as more people would want to protect themselves and family if something were to happen. However, trends did the opposite and declined. Health insurance search trends dipped in the United States, which is surprising, consider Americans can only be treated for medical care with health insurance.

On the upside, it’s good to see the British public are taking precautions, as ‘safe sex’ has increased week commencing 15th March! 

And people are looking at ways to boost their immune system to help prevent contracting the virus and stay as healthy as possible.  

Finally, Bongo’s Bingos. Yes, that’s right. The ultimate bingo night have been hosting live bingo allowing, participants to take part online. With dancing, prizes and audience participation allowing users at home to take part in a fun, engaging activity. More businesses could be looking for ways to engage and connect with the consumer differently.  

What Else Can You Do? 

While not all businesses have an eCommerce website, there are still things you can do maintain a presence and interact with your customers.  

The search trend data provides an insight into what users have been searching for, and you can use this information to your advantage by sharing articles, recipes, motivational posts, how-to guides and more via social media, blog posts, email marketing etc. You can keep customers and potential new ones engaged, so when the shackles have been unlocked from the nation and your doors are reopened, your brand presence will increase, which will positively influence sales, helping regain lost profits. 

For more tips on how to spend this time improving and rethinking your marketing strategy, have a read of our latest blog articles on ‘SEO To-Do List’ and ‘How Paid Media can Replace Lost Lead Generation’. 

What We Have Learnt So Far

Online sales continue to rise as more consumers stay at home, bulk ordering and becoming more reliant on technology to access all the essential products they need. Over the next few months, online behaviours could change significantly and even permanently, as many are predicting a longer-term working from home revolution. Consumers could become used to buying new and different product and services online and accessing information in new ways. 

And remember, Stay Home. Support the NHS. Save Lives. 

For more support or advice on how to improve your marketing activity during this challenging time, please feel free to get in touch with us today on 0161 820 7628 or email us hello@pushon.co.uk. Our team will be more than happy to assist and guide you. 

References 

  1. Food Navigator
  2. Buzzfeed
  3. NST
  4. The Guardian 
  5. Toyworld