As the Coronavirus (or COVID-19) continues to spread, it is dominating conversions and search behaviours, from the recent country-wide quarantine in Italy to major industry events being cancelled and large advertisers such as Unilever and Apple making cuts to sales forecasts for the year.
You only need to look at the Google results page for a simple search for ‘Coronavirus’ to understand the level of reporting the virus is receiving. In February, ‘Cornovarius’ became the most searched term, overtaking the likes of popular internet interests such as ‘weather’, ‘porn’ and ‘trump’.
Earlier this month, the UK government requested that the likes of Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram help to provide official Coronavirus information, with them now altering the top five search results pages to show official information rather than popular content.
Corona Beer Virus
The Coronavirus search pandemic has increased the word ‘corona’ to all-time highs, with SEMrush finding three new terms in January 2020: ‘corona beer virus’ was used in search 49,500 times; ‘coronavirus beer’ was used 22,200 times; and ‘beer coronavirus’ was used 390 times. This has, in turn, impacted the Corona beer website and has decreased visibility for the brand since the outbreak.
It’s not all doom and gloom for Corona though, as, despite this, the company has seen an increase in the number of legit searches for the Corona brand. In December 2019, there were around 49,500 searches for the brand, with this figure growing by over 400% to a massive 201,000 searches in January, resulting in an increase in sales by 5% over the four-week period ending February 16th.
Life in Lockdown
Living in the shadow of coronavirus is forcing many companies to figure out new rules of social behaviour and policies, such as remote working. Teleconferencing companies are benefiting from travel restrictions with companies such as Zoom seeing their stock increase by 42% since late January.
Housebound consumers are turning to traditional media for entertainment. In China, the daily time spent on mobile internet rose by 11% during the Lunar New Year. Aside from increases in mobile internet usage, the likes of home fitness equipment Peloton and technology companies like Netflix are predicted to have an uplift in membership as people self-quarantine.
Is Retail Immune?
Retailers and restaurants are dealing with the harsh realities of quarantines and lockdowns with more consumers turning to online shopping for their groceries and other consumer products. In China, online retailer JD.com have reported that their online grocery sales grew by 215% year-on-year during a 10-day period between late January and early February.
As the virus spreads, demand for hand sanitisers, face masks and other pharmaceuticals is rapidly increasing, with it being reported that hand sanitiser sales rose by 255%, liquid soap by 7% and household cleaners and painkillers by 10% in the last month.
To Fight or Fly?
With it being winter, we’re all dreaming of a holiday but Coronvavirus has thrown a spanner into the works for many UK travellers, with cancelled flights and countries in lockdown.
Data from Google shows that Asia Pacific destinations are facing up to 15% decline in travel search intent, with this being particularly visible for countries that have seen numerous instances of coronavirus such as China, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea.
Despite low hotel occupancies and high levels of cancellations we’re seeing new search trends arise with breakout search terms largely related to safety, ‘Is it safe to travel to Italy?’ or checking on cancelled flights, ‘Are flights to Italy cancelled?’
There is some good news for the travel industry though, as medium-haul destinations such as Spain are seeing increase search interest from the UK, up by 3% compared to last January and car rental queries growing by over 300% in the Asia Pacific.
With many travel companies pulling out of the paid search auction, cheaper CPCs are becoming available if you’re a travel brand. Whilst conversions may take longer, those willing to invest and play the long game with re-targeting strategies will benefit for a less competitive market.
Businesses and industries across the world have already felt the outbreak’s effect, with situations like this testing a company’s ability to agility to react.
It was predicted that in 2020, e-commerce sales are expected to represent 12% of total retail sales, however, the recent change in consumer behaviour will cause a lasting effect on our online shopping habits. Various quarantines will mean that the digital arm of any retail business needs to step up at a faster rate than previous predictions to help overcome the challenges of an ever-changing market.