A nation of banana bread bakers indulging in Netflix marathons and becoming ferocious advocates of daily exercise. Sound familiar? It’s been the common media portrayal of society in lockdown. But is it really true? And is what we post on social media really an accurate reflection of our lives?
There’s been copious polling carried out since we went into lockdown, and the resulting data, as well as analytics from our devices, can give us an insight into lockdown life. Everything from the hours we spend online to what we’re buying to whether we really do as much as exercise as we like to think – as well as our attitudes towards brands and what we expect to hear from them during a crisis.
1. It’s not just phones – every device is on the up
We all know screen time is higher during lockdown, thanks to the proliferation of video calls which have become part of our lives.
Hootsuite’s global digital report tells us smartphone use is up by 76% and laptop use by 45%. But they’re not the only devices seeing more action – pretty much all of them are. We’re spending 22% more time on tablets, 17% more on games consoles and 11% more time using a smart speaker.
Lots of heavily-used devices means lots of channels through which to reach consumers. Kantar reported that
48% of Brits are using messaging apps more, 47% are surfing the internet more and 42% are using social networks more.
2. How much we watch is changing, but so is what we watch and when
Yes, we’re all watching a lot of Netflix.
They said so themselves. Sky said we’re watching TV more than ever too. Notably, they also said the times we watch TV have changed – the peak viewing time has moved an hour earlier to 8pm, and there are also spikes during the day around 9am and 2-4pm.
But even Netflix admits that the rise in watch time is probably temporary. What might be longer-lasting is how we choose our sources of content. Ofcom data indicates that as lockdown continued, we gravitated towards more trusted information
providers such as the NHS and the BBC, while our use of social media to get COVID-19 news actually went down.
Incidentally, streaming video isn’t even the biggest reason we go online now. Nor is social media. Working from home accounts for 67% more time than it did before lockdown, and drives more online time than any other source, according to Opinium.
3. Everything really is going digital
Many will be unsurprised to learn that we are spending more time (and money) shopping online. Hootsuite says this is true across every age group, with 25-34s increasing their shopping habit the most.
E-commerce has long been on the rise, of course, but lockdown is likely to have accelerated the digitalisation of other markets. Witness the virtual fashion event, the virtual used car
dealership, the virtual house viewing… Even the more traditional’ online channels such as email have seen a resurgence, with email open rates up 25% and every age group – even 16-24s who are often said to be email-phobic – reporting regular use of webmail services.
4. We still expect to hear from brands
How brands change their messaging in response to coronavirus is a subject of endless debate. But the headline news is that
people don’t expect brands to stop advertising. GlobalWebIndex found that 51% of internet users approve of brands continuing to advertise as normal, compared to 18% who disapprove.
A Kantar survey had even stronger findings: 64% of respondents said it’s acceptable for brands to continue marketing activities, and only 8% thought they should stop.
Every brand’s response has been different, but Influencer Marketing Hub reports that, while marketing spend and owned media posting was down overall, one company in four
still intends to increase its marketing activities.
5. Not all content has to be about COVID-19
Right now, the core mantra for marketers is to make your brand a force for good. You can achieve this in any number of ways, such as by adapting your branding to the situation, using your
capabilities to help others, or turning to philanthropy.
But there are other ways to help, and there is no expectation that every bit of content produced everywhere needs to be corona-related. People experience all sorts of problems in lockdown, from loneliness to being unable to rely on others. Content that helps people overcome these and achieve their everyday goals will be valued, regardless of what it’s about. GlobalWebIndex has highlighted how-to videos and tutorials as two in-demand content categories.
6. We really are buying breadmakers and pasta
Despite flour being in short supply, it seems huge numbers of people have been bitten by the home baking bug.
E-commerce stats from Stackline say interest in bread machines has risen like a well-proved dough. Sales have grown by 652%, putting them second in the ‘fastest growing’ chart behind disposable gloves.
Other high risers are soup, weight training equipment, paper towels, pasta, computer monitors, pet food and hair dye. In fact, commerce stats seem to confirm every preconception we had. Locked-down Brits are drinking much more tea and spending their spare money on DIY.
And don’t even mention alcohol…
7. Only influencers are exercising (and hoarding)
We might be buying exercise equipment, but that doesn’t mean we’re using it. More likely, it’s already collecting dust in the garage.
A wellness survey by IZEA found that more respondents said their physical fitness was declining in lockdown (18.8%, versus 11.4% who said it was improving). The one group that bucked the trend was social media influencers, 43.7% of whom noted an improvement.
But influencers aren’t always a shining example. They were also twice as likely as the average person to admit to hoarding toilet paper during the outbreak. On the other end of the scale, non-social media users were less likely to hoard than everyone else. So the more you’re on social media, the more likely you were to join in the panic-buying.
8. We’re happier than we think
We worry about ‘lockdown fatigue’, but the average mood seems to be holding up fairly well. In an IPSOS survey asking
people to pick phrases that described how they felt in lockdown, the most popular response was ‘Accepting of my new normal’, followed by ‘Hopeful’ and ‘Cautious optimism’. Boredom and anxiety did feature on the list, but so did optimism and openness.
Also, despite the stories circulating about fake news, there was a net 20% increase in trust for the news media, and 15% for social media. Finally, a tidy 63% of people said they were maintaining the same grooming habits as before lockdown.
9. Our habits are changing for good
This really is the ‘new normal’: many people said their lockdown behaviours would continue in some way after it ends. According to GlobalWebIndex, 20% of people plan to keep streaming more video after lockdown, while 15% will spend longer on social media, 10% on video games and 4.2% listening to podcasts.
One of the industries expected to be hardest hit is travel. But it’s not all bad news there: while international travel may be affected after lockdown (37% said they will reduce their plans), 18% of people say their intention to travel abroad has actually
increased. With domestic travel, the numbers are virtually equal (27% decrease; 25% increase). And in the IPSOS poll, 43% of respondents said they would go travelling in the summer if permitted.
10. An unprecedented development
In this unprecedented age of uncertainty, there is one thing we can all agree has enjoyed unprecedented growth. And that is the use of the word ‘unprecedented’. Since the outbreak began,
online searches for the term have risen in an unprecedented manner – presumably thanks to political speechwriters looking for just the right word.