The world has been hit by a pandemic. Highstreets are closed down and every business in the world has had to quickly adapt to remote working and online trading to avoid becoming a sinking ship.
Throughout the 6 months (or so) of lockdown, there have been a myriad of lucky businesses that have found great success online due to their offering being a form of commodity that benefits those at home (with lots of free time on their hands) or an essential product/service needed for those settling into working from home.
With that said, we have all seen the Google trends graphs either showing markets and industries growing massively or disappearing totally off the face of the earth.
Google trends graph plotting interest over time in the UK over the past 90 days for the term “zoom”.
Zooms growth has been monumental even though its security flaws have been covered internationally, simply because, for many weeks and months, there was no other effective way to communicate.
Google trends graph plotting interest over time in the UK over the past 90 days for the term “trainline”.
These are two of just hundreds of thousands of examples. As I wrote early on in the pandemic, businesses that hadn’t already done so needed to rapidly move their offering online and make their workforce remote. While this much was obvious, we saw many companies, as a knee jerk reaction, pausing their marketing activity. As digital marketing could easily be turned off, it was one of the first areas of spend to go. Paid was paused, Content was stopped, CRO, Tech SEO and Dev where delayed and any link acquisition or digital PR work was quickly paused.
Obviously it varies company by company, however we’re starting to see that doing the above as a blanket rule probably did more harm than good in the majority of cases.
Eventually some form of normality is going to return and even if it takes years, there is no doubt that there will be a shift towards the online realm rather than the highstreet. With that said, businesses that keep their activity paused and do not use this time to prepare will likely struggle in the months to come when high intent traffic starts to flow, once again.
Imagine this pandemic as a great big pause. When everything is unpaused again overall demand may be slightly lower as the economy recovers but the demand that does exist will be heavily focused online. This pandemic has served as a great learning experience for every age group and with it, we’ve seen a definite increase in reliance on Search Engines like Google and Amazon. Even if the “unpausing” happens gradually over a few months, as it seems may be the case, imagine rejoining the race 4 or 5 SERP positions lower for all your keywords than when everything was paused.
Or, imagine when everything is unpaused your web offering is identical but now needs to service a slightly altered and more demanding demographic who have become accustomed to all the businesses who have over this time, tightened up their digital offering.If you’ve made zero changes, have no plans in place, and performed no research, you’ll simply have to start from a tier below.
What does this mean for your marketing?
If demand for your product or service is dwindling then traffic is likely drying up. You may be tempted to up your spend to recoup lost traffic, however PPC has diminishing returns at the best of times, even more so when a group of businesses are all bidding on a diminishing pool to make up their losses. Where demand is down, we are seeing businesses focus on brand and other high converting terms, whilst pausing pretty much everything else.
CRO is key. This is a time where you really need to make the most of every last session that comes through. Consumers are very quickly being forced to become even more digitally savvy, so they are going to want a flawless online experience. Furthermore, when we return to some form of normality your site will be able to make the most of your new traffic levels by converting as much of it as possible. Getting UX right on your site will not only have immediate short term impacts, but you will also reap the benefits in the medium to long term as you learn more about your customers.
SEO (On and off page) and content work should also be high on the agenda. As we said, when normality returns imagine rejoining the race 3 or 4 rankings down from your competitors. That could put you in a seriously bad position. However, if you were to gain a few rankings while demand is low, as soon as the floodgates open this could be a real turning point for the business.
Three industries who will be making a big comeback.
We looked at Google trends data from 30 days before the UK lockdown and 30 days after, analysing three industries in particular: Fast fashion, sports betting and UK holidays.
Right now these industries are at a standstill, but we certainly believe events will unfold in the next few months which will result in these industries restarting like a tidal wave. This is why the marketing monikers mentioned above should be taken very seriously for these businesses.
The fashion market seems interesting. Consumers haven’t stopped buying clothes, but given the circumstances all clothes purchases have now moved online. The term “Buy clothes online” has increased 110%. Certain brands that have embraced and prioritise online sales, such as Missguided, HM and Boohoo have seen a strong increase in interest in their brand, while other brands like Topman and GAP have had negligible changes (+/-2%).
Most brands have seen a big drop off ranging from -14.5% for Zara to -58.5% for highstreet only retailer Primark (interest in the news coverage of Primark may be a reason why this figure is not actually far worse).
Virtually all clothing items apart from “lingerie” are being searched for less online, with the worst hits being “night out” or “party” items.
While it’s hard to say whether the current searchers are actually purchasing, trends suggest that when night life returns fast fashion will see a rapid resurgence as everyone will easily be able to justify the purchase after such a long lockdown. According to a report by PwC the lockdown is having a “disproportionate impact on retail” however the bounce back when lockdown ends will be almost as dramatic as the plunge was when the lockdown came into effect.
|buy clothes online||110.00%|
|night out dress||-80.00%|
|night out outfit||-84.85%|
There’s no other way to put it: sports betting has been paused. However, when the games return the punters will be back and there are already signs that this is slowly starting to happen:
- The Bundesliga has returned and other leagues are watching to see what they can learn from it.
- The Premier League has plans for restarting by June 12th
Interest around “sports odds”, “sports betting”, “sports bets” is down by at least 30%, “football betting” is down by over 60%, and interest in “la liga” and “premiership” searches are down over 70%. At the same time, interest in the “belarus premier league” is up by 2400%. Unsurprisingly, this is the only league that hasn’t paused matches over this period.
Interest in sports betting brands is down by between -21.3% (888Sport) to -58% (Bet365). Search interest for NetBet in the UK seems to be up slightly by 3% however this is an outlier anomaly.
With this, searches for eSports betting and eSports odds are up by over 200% and other forms of online gambling are reaping the benefits. Searches for online poker, slots, casinos, and more are all up as consumers feind to get their gambling fix and spend spare time and money.
|belarus premier league||2400.00%|
Before the pandemic broke out the Guardian wrote about how consumers were showing inclinations to stay in the UK for their holidays. A combination of Brexit, a weak pound, climate concerns, overseas terror attacks, heatwaves, and ultimately, concern around Coronavirus meant UK staycation bookings were growing substantially.
We believe this trend will only continue to increase. The UK government’s furlough scheme means a large proportion of the country still has an income during these difficult times and a lot of us (like me actually) may have a grand or two heading our way as a refund from a cancelled summer holiday. Alongside cash flow, the British public are learning to love the outdoors again and at the same time are cautious of considering an international holiday (probably for the next few years).
Already, we’re seeing searches for tents and sleeping bags are up by almost 40% and over 20% respectively.
However, all of the other staycation terms we’ve checked seem to have decreased in the time period; even searches for holiday providers such as Butlins, Centre Parcs and Pontins.
Right now, it is impossible to book anything but it is like that as soon as the public are given the go ahead, probably before the end of the year, traffic will increase and the businesses in this industry that can adapt to the digital world will reap the benefits of early planning.
|isle of wight holiday||-61.90%|
|lake district holiday||-62.26%|
If you work in the above industries and you are wondering what to do with your marketing, we urge you to consider the impact your current actions will have when things get back on the “normal” track. Demand will likely spike up again and for companies that have used this time to adapt to the new digital trends and type of consumer that’s been born from this unprecedented time, problems will likely shift to distribution and supply (which is always a good problem to have!).
Written by Jack Cornwall, Head of Data & Insights at Blueclaw.
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