The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is impacting every part of our lives, from the places we can go to the way we spend our time, to the priorities we have and the way we spend our money.

Of course, this has wide-ranging ramifications for marketing, advertising and ecommerce – as well as a number of other sectors like travel, entertainment and FMCG.

To help marketers keep on top of what this means for them, their jobs and their industry, we’re collecting together the most valuable and impactful stats in this roundup, updated on a weekly basis since 20th March.

Read on for statistics on retail sales, adspend, streaming subscriptions, social media use, recruitment figures and much, much more.

Contents

Retail & FMCG

90% of back-to-school shoppers in the UK are making their purchases online

Ninety percent of shoppers looking for back-to-school supplies are making their purchases online this year, with most doing so during the month of August, according to data from Rakuten Advertising. The study surveyed 758 UK consumers with children between primary and university ages, as well as university students themselves, in mid-June.

Most parents of primary school-aged children have turned to buying cleanliness products over many traditional back-to-school items like notebooks and stationery, with 23% of their budgets now going towards hand sanitisers and face masks in preparation for a new academic year ahead. This figure rises to 27% for parents of university students, while tech purchases only account for 19% of their overall budgets.

Three-quarters of UK parents and 59% of university students have experienced financial difficulty as a result of the Covid-19 crisis and will be prioritising only essential items for the back-to-school season. As a result, eighty percent of university students are looking to spend less than £500 on supplies this year.

How are retailers approaching ‘back to school’ marketing?

27% of UK consumers are planning to start Christmas shopping and preparations earlier this year

More than a quarter (27%) of UK consumers are planning to start Christmas shopping, and prepare for the 2020 holiday earlier than usual, Ebay’s Christmas Spend Trends report reveals. Financial uncertainty has caused one-fifth of UK consumers to prioritise cost efficiency when it comes to their celebrations this year, which could be one of several reasons why many have chosen to spread the cost of the holiday by beginning preparations sooner.

Insights into shopping behaviour on the Ebay platform show a 44% increase in searches containing the terms ‘Christmas’ or ‘Xmas’ between April and May this year than during the same period last year. Meanwhile, 34% of UK shoppers claim to have already bought Christmas-related items so far this year, including Christmas cards, wrapping paper, Christmas presents and decorations among other products.

There is also an emerging trend based on age, with many more 16 to 24 year olds (42%) aiming to start Christmas shopping earlier than those aged 55 or above (19%). Overall, a quarter of all respondents hope to have finished all their festive purchases and preparations before the start of December, something that brands should take note of and act on as soon as possible.

July UK retail footfall down 39% year-on-year despite restaurants and cafes reopening

Footfall across all UK retail destinations was down 39% year-on-year in the four weeks beginning 5th July, despite restaurants, cafes and other parts of the service industry having reopened the day before. This is according to data from Springboard, reported by the Retail Gazette.

Although footfall since the start of the coronavirus crisis remains severely down on numbers recorded in 2019, July’s decline was not as stark as June’s, which was reported to be -56.6%, suggesting a gradual recovery is being made as restrictions ease.

Highstreet shopping destinations performed the most poorly throughout July, seeing a 47.2% drop in footfall, however this was almost 18 percentage points better than the figure for June (-65.1%). Meanwhile, shopping centres were down 42%, up from a 62.3% decline in June, and therefore saw the biggest improvement in footfall out of all retail locations analysed.

By comparison, footfall across dedicated retail parks continued to measure significantly better than other retail destinations, measuring -19.9% year-on-year, which is thought to be due to a number of factors including ease of parking, outdoor spaces and larger stores.

Amazon net sales up 40% year-on-year in Q2

Bloomberg analysts originally estimated that Amazon would make $81.2 billion in revenue during the second quarter of this year. However, Amazon’s latest financial statement revealed that the company had actually totaled $88.9 billion over this period, compared to $63.4 billion in Q2 2019 – a huge 40% year-on-year growth in net sales.

This figure is despite the additional $4 billion in costs allocated during the quarter to keep its customers and employees safe from Covid-19 infection and to increase its delivery capacity. In April, Amazon claimed it was expecting a $1.5 billion loss in the second quarter due to such costs, but managed to double profit instead, from $2.6 billion in Q2 2019 to $5.2 billion in Q2 2020.

The company also stated that it had increased its grocery capacity by 160% amid heightened demand during Covid-19, causing grocery sales to triple on a year-on-year basis in Q2.

US retail sales fell 8.1% in Q2 2020

Data from CBRE has confirmed that US retail sales fell by 8.1% year-on-year in Q2 2020, the worst decline since Q2 2009 during the financial crisis, and down from a 1.2% growth in Q1 2020. This is despite a record 17.7% month-on-month rebound in consumer spending that was reported in May.

Non-store (ecommerce) retail sales grew by 25% during the quarter ending June, reflecting the consumer shift to ecommerce, while grocery stores and building and garden suppliers each saw a 13% growth over this period. However, sales across all other verticals analysed in the report, including fashion, food services and electronics stores were severely negatively affected. Non-farm payrolls declined by more than 11% due to high levels of unemployment in industries like hospitality and services.

Balance of UK retailers reporting growth up to modest +4% in year to July

The balance of retailers reporting year-on-year growth in sales rose to +4% UK retail sales for the year to July, up from -37% in June, as stores traded for their first full month since before lockdown began. However, this figure is expected to dip to down to -5% in August, according to the CBI, which surveyed 133 businesses across retail, wholesale and auto for its latest Distributive Trades Survey.

The surprising improvement of UK retail sales overall is thought to be mostly down to a sharp increase in grocery sales, as well as an uplift in purchases of DIY equipment, hardware and flowers and cards. Fashion and footwear brands are still facing large declines, although they have been less dramatic than those experienced in the past few months.

Balance of orders placed on suppliers are down to -14%, thirty-three percentage points up on June.

As expected, ecommerce sales remained buoyant in the year to July (balance of +48%), down by just two percentage points from June and is predicted to see a big boost in August (balance of 61%).

Three quarters of global consumers are not planning to reduce their spending during Christmas 2020

Despite many having pulled back their spending amid coronavirus and an impending global recession, three quarters of consumers around the world are not planning on reducing their spending during Christmas this year. New research from Rakuten revealed that 87% of global shoppers will still be shopping for Christmas and other seasonal holidays, and more than half (57%) expect to make a purchase on key days like Black Friday.

While 65% of UK shoppers said they had made more online purchases than usual during the outbreak, nearly three quarters primarily plan to shop online during the holiday period, suggesting we could see an even larger shift to ecommerce in Q4 than we have seen in past years. This also presents a huge opportunity for brands as they market to customers that are relatively new to online channels.

So far, 49% of UK consumers have cut back their spending in light of the coronavirus crisis, compared to 33% and 28% of French and German shoppers respectively. However, 42% of them stated that they hope to spend the same amount of money at Christmastime as they have done in previous years, while 27% look to spend more on their immediate family members. Sales and discounts are set to be the biggest driving factor of Christmas purchases in late 2020 and almost one third of UK based shoppers plan to alter when they make a purchase in order to save more money.

B&Q and Screwfix owner Kingfisher saw 225% growth in online sales in June

Kingfisher, the parent company of DIY stores B&Q and Screwfix reported a 225% year-on-year online sales growth in June across all of its operations in the UK, Ireland and mainland Europe, following an equally impressive 202% growth in May. Meanwhile, like-for-like sales increased by almost 22% in the three months to mid-July, a figure which is thought to be partially down to sunnier than average weather, as well as consumers making the most of their additional spare time to carry out home improvements.

In the week commencing 11th July alone, like-for-like sales growth across its brands in the UK and Ireland rose by more than 19% and online sales grew by 183%, indicating that, despite stores having fully reopened for some time, consumers continue to prefer shopping remotely than venturing instore. These figures are in line with other analyses claiming that DIY brands have been one of the few big retail winners during the coronavirus outbreak.

Although recent high demand during lockdown has given the company an initial boost in sales, Kingfisher’s overall like-for-like sales actually fell by 3.7% for the first six months of the year and it is unclear what lies ahead in an uncertain H2.

UK consumers spent an average of £771 on non-essential items during lockdown

Research from Barclaycard, as reported by Yahoo Finance, has found that the average UK consumer spent £771 to lift their spirits in lockdown. In total, the UK spent £40.6 billion on non-essential purchases during the lockdown, such as books, video games and subscriptions.

On average, men were much more likely to spend money, parting with £1014 over this time period, whereas women spent £572 by comparison. Consumers that live in London and those with kids under the age of 18 were identified as the two highest spending groups out of all surveyed, purchasing £2812 and £2070 worth of goods respectively. Of those who had bought non-essentials, 80% claim they will be keeping all the items they had purchased and just 6% say they have buyer’s remorse.

Nearly three in ten of all UK consumers said they had bought products which made their household happier, including takeaways, clothing, plants and alcoholic beverages. Many of the items also correlated with new hobbies undertaken as a result of extended free time at home.

Concerns over personal finances change UK spending and banking habits

As personal finances become more of a concern, 40% of UK consumers plan to spend less on entertainment following the easing of lockdown, according to the 7th wave of the Toluna and Harris Interactive COVID-19 Barometer, released on 8 July.

The data also revealed that 14% of those surveyed were hoping to spend more money in the next 1-2 months, while just 9% said they were looking to buy ‘something of significant value’ within this time period. Instead, 38% claim they want to put more money into savings, and a further 28% plan to get better at budgeting in the coming months.

Ecommerce has boomed since the outbreak began in the UK, and this has impacted the way consumers pay for goods. The study found that the online banking or use of mobile apps and payment methods has increased by 33%. Consequently, those visiting a bank branch in person has decreased by 34%, and the use of ATMs has plummeted even further (down 36%) as shops encourage contactless payment to reduce infection.

40% of those who have returned to UK shops find the in-store experience ‘less enjoyable’ than before Covid-19

Sixty percent of 1,050 UK shoppers who were surveyed for a recent study by ChannelAdvisor and Dynata claimed that they had not yet visited a shop one week after they reopened on 15th June. Of those that had, 40% said that the in-store experience was ‘less enjoyable’ than their experience before Covid-19.

Insights from the survey discovered that consumers are now finding shopping in a brick-and-mortar store less convenient, due to factors like having to queue to enter, or follow a one-way system. Forty-seven percent of those that had gone shopping in the first two weeks of restrictions having been lifted said that they had had to queue, while 26% said they were unable to try on clothes in fashion stores. Over one-third claimed they had to wait longer to checkout at the end of their in-store experiences, too.

When it comes to the future, 40% of respondents said they were planning on visiting high street shops within one month, while slightly fewer (35%) said they were planning on visiting shopping centres. Tellingly, sixty-seven percent of shoppers also said that they are comfortable purchasing from online marketplaces like Amazon, but only 29% said the same for purchasing in-store.

The state of retail as restrictions ease

35% of all UK online purchases during lockdown were made via Amazon

A report from Wunderman Thompson Commerce has revealed that Amazon’s share of the UK ecommerce market rose to 35% during lockdown, up from 30% at the end of last year, highlighting the ecommerce giant as one that has benefited the most from the pandemic.

One fifth of the 2,000 UK consumers surveyed claimed that their intention to purchase from Amazon after the coronavirus outbreak ends had increased, though a similar number (21%) said that they were concerned about the company’s growing dominance in the industry.

Another online retail winner during the lockdown was Tesco, which saw a 23% rise in net perception and an increase of 9% when it came to intent to purchase post-Covid-19. In contrast, rivals Sainsbury’s and Morrisons each gained a 12% increase in positive perception.

Sixty-one percent of respondents cited free delivery as a key purchase driver, followed by availability (57%) and price (53%), while the most sought-after change to consumers’ online shopping experience was free returns.

Three in five UK consumers favoured local shops during lockdown

Fifty-nine percent of UK consumers have shopped in more local stores since lockdown, in order to help support them, according to research from Deloitte. published on 8 June. While restrictions on travel may have certainly played a part in retail habits across the country, it appears that consumers are becoming more mindful of the impact of their spending in their local communities.

Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed said that they were more likely to buy from a brand that sells products that are locally sourced after lockdown has ended than they would have been prior to Covid-19.

Meanwhile, one in five have actively stopped purchasing from a brand because of its response to the coronavirus outbreak, such as not providing a safe working environment for its employees. This figure rises to 28% in shoppers aged between 16-24, reiterating the importance of brand purpose for younger consumers.

With social distancing measures likely to stay a while longer once lockdown lifts, sixty-two percent of all respondents stated that they were more likely to spend money with companies that prioritise the health and safety of their staff as more brick-and-mortar shops reopen.

Advertising

ITV ad spend down 43% in Q2 2020, but improving

ITV financial results have revealed that total ad spend during Q2 was down 43% year-on-year for the broadcaster and down 21% in H1.

Despite this steep decline, things appear to be improving for ITV. Ad revenue fell by 42% in April alone as government restrictions were fully implemented, but this has since rebounded to a smaller 23% fall in July as “some FMCG and retail, publishing and broadcasting, cars and interior furnishing categories [begin] to spend more”, according to its statement.

Q2 ITV ad spend in the government and charities category increased by 74% year-on-year and publishing and broadcasting saw a 14% increase, however spending amongst all other categories declined – most significantly airlines, travel and holidays (down 97%).

The company also said that 70% of 230 shows impacted by the Covid-19 lockdown have now been delivered or are actively in production but the impact on the rest of 2020 and 2021 is dependent on how quickly other constraints are lifted. Total viewing was up 4% for Q2, while online viewing was up 13% with ‘good demand’ for library content.

JC Decaux revenue down 63% in Q2 2020

In its most recent financial statement, JC Decaux stated its revenue plummeted by 63.4% in the second quarter of 2020, a figure it claimed was ‘historic’ for the company. OOH advertising has taken a huge hit from lockdowns and stay-at-home orders around the world and JC Decaux’s data reflects the extent of financial losses felt in the industry.

In Q2, the company reported €351.9 million in revenue, down from 1 billion during the same period in 2019. Revenue in Q1 was less badly affected, but still recorded a 13.1% year-on-year drop from €840 million to €723.6 million. Overall revenue for H1 was down by 41.6%.

When it comes to revenue via geographic area, most regions saw relatively similar year-on-year declines. France and North America faired the best with -37.1% and -38.3% revenue growth respectively, while ROW and APAC saw the worst revenue declines of -48% and -43.7%.

The company said it has scrapped its earnings guidance for 2020 in light of the ongoing disruption and uncertainty caused by Covid-19.

UK lockdown drives 48% Q2 decline in traditional ad spend

New research from Nielsen, covered by WARC, reveals a 48% year-on-year decline in traditional UK ad spend (cinema, outdoor, press, tv and radio) between 23rd March and 30th June, reducing overall spend in this area by more than £1 billion over this period.

The majority of brands studied by the research firm cut traditional ad spend during those months, although some more harshly than others. Big names like McDonalds, Amazon and Sky slashed spending by 97%, 77% and 60% respectively, while FMCG giant P&G reduced traditional ad spend by £9.9 million.

Meanwhile, organisations in the entertainment and leisure and travel and transport sectors dropped their spending by £207 million and £138 million as both industries bore the brunt of the coronavirus business impact.

In contrast, Public Health England spent a huge £43 million during the quarter, a 5037% year-on-year increase, making it the biggest spender of all UK-based organisations that have continued to advertise since the coronavirus outbreak began. Other brands that increased spending include Disney (up 962% year-on-year), Microsoft (+142%) and O2 (+65%).

The digital transformation of media: How laggard advertisers lost out in the pandemic

Facebook ad revenue grows 10% year-on-year in Q2

Facebook’s ad revenue for the second quarter grew by 10% year-on-year to $18.3bn, despite the pandemic and recent boycotting activity which started at the end of June. The company expects a similar ad revenue growth rate for Q3, having been impacted by the continuing boycott of the platform by major brand advertisers, it said in its financial statement.

Monthly and Daily Active Users on the Facebook app were both up by 12% compared with the same period last year, reaching 1.79 billion and 2.70 billion respectively. Meanwhile, Family Daily Active People (users who access at least one app per day from Facebook’s family of apps, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp) was up 15% year-on-year during Q2, although there are signs that this increased activity is beginning to normalise as some restrictions are lifted in certain areas.

Twitter revenue slows but DAUs up 34% year-on-year in Q2

In its latest financial release, Twitter has revealed that its Monetisable Daily Active Users (mDAUs) grew by 34% (186 million) during Q2 2020 compared to the same period in 2019 – the highest year-on-year growth rate in this metric since its records began. This figure has increased by 20 million since Q1, a period which began to see rapid growth as internet users searched for the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the large uplift in mDAUs, Twitter reported a 19% drop in total revenue (year-on-year) to $683 million as marketing budgets stopped many brands from splashing out on advertising. However, this slump could arguably have been worse, and was cushioned by the relative recovery in social ad spend compared to the last three weeks of March. For those advertisers that remained on the platform, ad engagement rose by 3% year-on-year, while cost per engagement was down by 25%.

Twitter’s CFO, Ned Segal, appeared optimistic for the future, commenting, “With a larger audience and progress in ads, we are even better positioned to deliver for advertisers when the live events and product launches that bring many people and advertisers to Twitter return to our lives.”

Worldwide social ad spend rose 26.2% in Q2 compared to the end of Q1

Worldwide social ad spend rose by 26.2% in Q2 compared to figures measured at the end of Q1, according to a new report from Socialbakers. One area of particularly rapid growth includes the accommodation industry, which saw a 151.3% increase in social ad spend since the end of March, as consumers warmed to the idea of staycations and other short trips. Ecommerce social ad spend was also up by 76.3% during the same period.

Meanwhile, cost per click on brand social ad accounts rose by 42.7%, from $0.075 to $0.107, indicating a cautious recovery which could continue throughout the rest of the year. However, average cost per click remained 23.6% lower than it was in Q2 2019.

Overall social ad spend rose steadily throughout most of the second quarter, with particularly strong performance in early June, before dropping off significantly during the final fortnight – a pattern which Socialbakers says is likely due to both the #BlackOutTuesday movement and the beginnings of the ongoing Facebook ad boycott. The North American market has been most affected by these events, seeing social ad spend increase by 91.7% between the beginning of April and mid-June but then diving by 31.6% in the last two weeks of June.

With the boycott predicted to continue throughout most of July, data suggests that ad spend will fall further throughout at least the first portion of Q3 before making another modest recovery.

Social Media Advertising Best Practice Guide

Biggest recorded drop in UK marketing budgets takes place in Q2 2020

The net balance of organisations that have cut marketing budgets fell to -50.7% in Q2, down from -6.1% in Q1. This latest figure is the biggest drop recorded by the IPA Bellwether Report since the report began twenty years ago – including the Q4 2008 financial crisis when marketing budgets were slashed to -41.7%.

Nearly 64% of those surveyed stated they had recorded a decrease in marketing spend between April and June, compared to 25% who recorded a decrease between January and March. Just 13% said they had seen an increase in budget for the same period.

Drilling down, a net balance of -76.6% of organisations reported cuts to their events marketing budgets in Q2, with just 3.6% claiming they had risen. Meanwhile, the reduction in main media budgets dropped to a net balance of -51.1%, the largest decline seen by the report for this metric. Out of all subcategories in main media marketing, OOH budgets unsurprisingly were hit the hardest (-61.2%), followed by audio (-50.0%) and published brands (-49.2%).

Direct marketing and PR budgets were least affected in the second quarter, but still recorded a severe downturn in net balance to -41.6%.

14 UK automotive brand sites increased ad spend in H1 2020

Nearly half of 30 UK automotive brand websites analysed by SEMrush increased their ad spend during H1 2020, despite auto sales plummeting since the coronavirus outbreak began.

Lexus.co.uk saw the largest growth in ad spend, rising by 257% between January and June. Toyota.co.uk ranked second, followed by dsautomobiles.co.uk, with 156% and 88% growth respectively over the same period. Meanwhile, Jeep.co.uk saw the biggest decline, totalling an almost 91% fall in ad spend growth in the first half of the year. Porsche.co.uk and Ford.co.uk both cut ad spend on their sites by a little over 67%.

Predictably, in the wider transport sector, most airline websites either froze or reduced their ad spending as strict travel restrictions were imposed. In fact, the only airline to increase spending in H1 was Airfrance.co.uk – by a whopping 327%. In contrast, Virginholidays.co.uk reduced its ad spend by a full 100% over six months, along with other well-known brand websites like Flybe, Jet2 and Emirates.

UK cinema advertising revenues expected to more than halve by the end of 2020

Advertising revenues in UK cinemas were originally expected to grow by 9% to £249m in 2020 before coronavirus forced UK cinemas to close for several months. Now, they are expected to reach just £114m by the end of the year, less than half of the total ad revenue secured in 2019. This is according to Group M as reported by the Guardian on 28th June.

As blockbuster movies such as the latest installment of James Bond are being delayed or released exclusively on streaming services, box office revenues are predicted to plummet by 58% to £525 million, down from £1.25 billion last year – the lowest result in the last 24 years.

Although cinemas are set to reopen across the UK from 4th July, strict social distancing rules will continue to have an impact on revenue as fewer customers will be admitted, while the continued postponement of major releases is likely to put some off altogether.

Global ad spend predicted to fall 11.8% in 2020

Global ad spend is predicted to fall by 11.8% (or $70m) to $517.5 billion in 2020, according to a June forecast by GroupM. This figure excludes US political advertising.

GroupM initially expected to see a growth of 4.8%, however this was then lessened to 3.9% in December 2019, following some weakening in the global economy. Now, the coronavirus pandemic has driven total advertising back down to levels seen around 2017.

It’s not an entirely gloomy picture; GroupM predicts that advertising growth is expected to rise 8.2% to reach $560 billion in 2021. An additional 4.7% growth is also expected in 2022, which would bring total advertising back to 586bn, where it was in 2019.

GroupM forecast
Chart by GroupM

Social media

Facebook removed 7 million posts between April and June for spreading coronavirus misinformation

Facebook claims that it removed 7 million posts between April and June across its Facebook and Instagram platforms for spreading coronavirus misinformation, Reuters reports. This includes the promotion of fake preventative measures and cures.

The total number of posts that Facebook removed for breaching its policies came to 22.5 million in Q2, more than double the 9.6 million removed in the previous quarter, according to its recent Community Standards Enforcement Report. It also said that automatic detection of such content has increased thanks to improvements in the AI it implements on its platforms. For example, its hate speech detection rate improved from 89% in Q1 to 95% in Q2 on Facebook and from 45% to 84% on Instagram.

Perhaps these figures, which will be verified by an independent audit next year, will provide the proof many boycotters have been looking for that it is ramping up its action against hate speech and misinformation.

Time spent on social media is on track to total 36 days per average user in 2020

Globally, the average number of hours spent on social media in 2020 is on track to total 863.8 hours – the equivalent of 36 days – per average user, according to GlobalWebIndex’s Social Flagship Report for Q3 2020. However, only 14% of UK and US consumers are concerned about the amount of time they spend online.

As a general trend, social media usage has continued to plateau in most regions of the world, often differing by just a few minutes on average between 2019 and 2020. Exceptions to this rule include Kenya (+18 minutes per day since 2019), South Africa (+17 minutes), the UAE (+14 minutes) and Nigeria (+12 minutes).

While Covid-19 has seen time spent on social media spike in recent months, most of this has been driven by heavy social media users increasing their usage further, as opposed to casual or light users. These tend to be younger global demographics like Gen Z and Millennials, who spend typically 2 hours 41 minutes and 2 hours 22 minutes respectively per day on social platforms. Fifty-four percent of Gen Z consumers and 44% of Millennial consumers have been spending more time on social media since the start of the outbreak, while a smaller 27% of baby boomers have increased their usage.

However, there is evidence that these behaviours are short-lived for younger audiences. As the coronavirus crisis has progressed, the number of Gen Z spending longer on social messaging services dropped from 62% in March to 44% in May, while those of this age group spending more time on apps fell by 16 percentage points from 56% in March to 43% in May.

62% of the UK population has used video calling apps on a weekly basis since the outbreak began

Insight from Acxiom published on 15th July confirms that 62% of the UK population has used video calling apps on a weekly basis since the coronavirus outbreak began, rising to 72% on a monthly basis.

Weekly video call app use was measured at 36% before the start of the pandemic, before rising by 26 percentage points at the peak. It is now expected that 51% UK consumers will continue to use them at least once a week once the crisis is over, signalling a permanent shift in the use of video calling technology to keep in touch with friends and family.

Off apps studied by Acxiom, WhatsApp saw the highest percentage of weekly users during the peak of the outbreak at 38%, a number which is predicted to drop down to 34% (10 percentage points higher than the average weekly use pre-Covid). Zoom, on the other hand, saw the largest percentage increase in weekly users, rising by 19% from 5% to 24%.

Regular video app use post-Covid is expected to grow across the board compared to pre-Covid habits, whether on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Work management

Microsoft employees’ workdays have been on average four hours longer during Covid-19 crisis, indicating wider WFH patterns

An internal analysis on Microsoft employees’ workdays since remote working was enforced, published on 15th July, has shed light on wider WFH patterns during Covid-19. Using data from 350 employees, the company found that workdays are on average four hours longer than when based in-office, as many take longer daytime breaks for tasks like childcare and personal wellness and, to accommodate this, they begin work earlier and/or finish later.

Slightly worryingly, the number of messages sent after 6pm on workdays rose by 52% compared with pre-Covid levels, suggesting that workers are using more and more evening hours to catch up on work. This work-life balance is blurred even further on weekends, Microsoft found. Of the 10% of employees that avoided working weekends the most, typically spending less than 10 minutes online, active online time across Saturdays and Sundays tripled to 30 minutes when based at home.

When it comes to weekly meetings, these increased by 10% in a remote working environment, as quick in-person catch ups over coffee were no longer an option. Despite this, however, time spent in-meeting reduced significantly – the data revealed 11% fewer meetings that spanned 1 hour or more, while meetings that took 30 minutes or less increased by 22%. As a result, this indicates collaboration time has become more efficient since WFH became the new norm.

Zoom users grew by 2,000% between January and April 2020

Ofcom’s ‘Online Nation’ report, published on 24th June, has revealed how people in the UK are using the internet, as well as wider trends within the online industry.

The report revealed that while more than a third of measured time online is spent on Google or Facebook-owned sites, some of the fastest-growing services during the coronavirus crisis are not owned by Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon or Microsoft (also known as GAFAM).

TikTok is one platform that has seen a huge spike: its reach increased from 5.4 million to 12.9 million UK users between January and April 2020. Group video calling app Houseparty also saw a big increase, going from 175,000 to 4 million users. Zoom saw the most impressive growth, however, with the number of UK users surging from 659,000 in January to 13 million adults in April, which equates to a growth of 2,000%.

ofcom report
Chart via Ofcom


Professional messaging surges 120% during lockdown

Lockdown has resulted in a surge in the usage of messaging apps for both social and work purposes. According to Kantar’s Covid-19 barometer, published on 3rd April, WhatsApp usage increased by 40% during the first few weeks of lockdown, while overall Facebook usage increased by 37%.

A separate study carried out by messaging and professional collaboration app Guild has also found a big spike in professional messaging, as people strive to stay connected with colleagues while working from home.

Guild analysed its platform data to find that there was a 120% increase in total messages sent on the professional messaging app for three months after lockdown started (on 23rd March 2020), compared to the three months before lockdown. The first week of lockdown saw a 7% increase in messaging on the platform compared to the previous week, but this had risen to 31% by week four of lockdown, before continuing to increase on a daily basis.

The growth of social messaging and chat

Entertainment

Mobile app downloads rose 31.7% year-on-year in Q2

The number of apps downloaded globally across the App Store and Google Play in Q2 rose by 31.7% year-on-year in Q2 2020 to 37.8 billion, a report from Sensortower has confirmed. Video conferencing app Zoom was the most downloaded app in worldwide between April and June, beating TikTok which ranked second. As a result, Zoom is just the third app in history that has surpassed 300 million installs in any one quarter, alongside TikTok and Pokemon Go.

Business, healthcare and educational apps thrived in Q2, while travel, navigation and sports apps suffered from a period of low installs. Rideshare apps Uber and Lyft experienced a severe decline in US installs and as of late June were still 57% and 59% behind pre-Covid levels despite many restrictions easing.

Entertainment apps also fared well – Disney+ took the number 14 spot in the US and entered the top 20 apps in Europe for the first time, ranking at number 15. Meanwhile, global mobile game downloads saw healthy growth, up 51.2% and 19.6% from Q2 2019 on Google Play and the App Store respectively. Popular app Roblox jumped from its number 11 Q1 ranking to number 2 in the US as shelter-in-place orders were enforced, while battle royale sensation Fortnite saw an 88% increase in US downloads quarter-on-quarter having newly released the game on Google Play in April.

Disney loses $4.7bn in revenue during Q2, but Disney+ subscribers soar

Disney reported a $4.7bn drop in revenue for the quarter ending June, but Ofcom data has shown rapid uptake in its streaming service Disney+ thanks to Covid-19.

Between its launch in the UK (24th March) and early July, 16% of online adults in the UK had subscribed to Disney+. The research has also confirmed that it has surpassed NowTV when it comes to subscription numbers in the UK, ranking it the third most popular SVoD in the country after Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. However, 95% of those who subscribe to Disney+ also have a subscription with at least one of these other two services, suggesting that Disney+ offers supplementary entertainment and will likely not replace them as an outright alternative.

In June, Disney+ was accessed by 32% of UK households containing children between the ages of 3 and 11, an increase from 21% in April, overtaking the reach of BBC iPlayer among this demographic, which fell from 26% to 22% during the same period. As a result, this proves Disney+ is continuing to gain momentum with families despite the easing of lockdown, and in some cases is replacing BBC children’s content.

Ofcom data also found that consumers were on average spending 1 hour and 11 minutes per day on SVoD services in April 2020, which is 37 minutes higher than figures recorded in April 2019.

News apps see 59% increase in sessions between January and April 2020

Consumers have been increasingly turning to their phones to consume news throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Now, data suggests that news apps could see a long-term boost from this behaviour, as users are still consuming more news via mobile apps than they did before the pandemic.

According to data from Adjust, daily installs of news apps grew by 37% between January and April 2020. Installs peaked in March, before returning to near pre-Covid levels in May. Daily sessions also saw a huge rise, increasing 59% between January and April. Adjust states that, while sessions peaked in April, they decreased by just 13% the following month, and sessions are still trending far higher than in 2019, or at the start of 2020.

Global use of news apps

The data throws up some interesting regional trends, too. In the US, daily sessions soared 104% between January and April, and have only seen an 8% decrease between April and May, suggesting many users have continued using the apps.

In EMEA, meanwhile, daily sessions grew by 69% from January to April 2020, peaking in March, in line with when lockdown measures came into place across much of the region. Germany and France in particular saw huge spikes in daily sessions, increasing by 75% and 71% respectively.

34% of US 25-34 year olds listen to a news-based podcast every month

Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report has revealed that 34% of US 25-34 year olds surveyed had listened to a news-based podcast in the previous month, more than any other podcast genre including specialist topics, lifestyle and sports. Meanwhile, 23% of 18-24 year olds and 21% of 35-44 year olds in the region claimed they had done the same.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, those ages 45-54 and 55+ are the least likely to listen to podcasts across the board, but there are indications that those based on current affairs are much more appealing to them. Thirteen percent of respondents from each of these age categories said they had listened to a news-based podcast in the last month compared to 7-8% listening to one on a specialist subject, which came in second place.

This data reflects the increased interest in news since the coronavirus outbreak began, particularly amongst younger audiences. While they are increasingly using non-traditional platforms such as social media and podcasts to access news content, statistics suggest that older generations mostly prefer linear TV and online publications.

Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2020 US podcast consumption

Chart via Reuters Institute

Employment & recruitment

UK employment drops 220,000

UK employment fell at the fastest rate in more than a decade between April and June, with 220,000 workers removed from company payrolls during the period, according to August 2020 employment figures from the ONS.

Now 730,000 people have found themselves newly out of work since the coronavirus outbreak began in March, which includes another 81,000 let go in July. The number of weekly hours worked plummeted by a record 203.3 million year-on-year in Q2. Those most affected are youngest and oldest in the working population, as well as those in lower-skilled jobs.

Roughly 7.5 million workers have been furloughed as of June this year, 3 million of whom have been temporarily off work for 3 months or longer. However, available job vacancies increased by 10% between May and July, up from the record dip between April and June.

This comes as news outlets reported that the UK economy shrank by 20.4% in Q2, the biggest fall on record, following a decline of 2.2% in Q1. However, the bank of England now predicts a total 9.4% drop in UK GDP this year compared to a previous estimate of 14%.

Chinese economy grows by 3.2% in Q2 after record Q1 slump

China’s economy grew by 3.2% in the second quarter of this year, following a record slump of -6.8% in Q1, the BBC has stated. This bounce-back is sharper than experts originally predicted, as China begins to return to normal ahead of other regions still gripped by the coronavirus.

The ‘v-shaped recovery’ that China appears to be going through could be good news for other major markets which have yet to lift all restrictions and reboot their economies. However, despite Chinese production back in full swing, retail sales in the country still lag behind, with growth in the sector falling again in Q2.

Overall Chinese economic growth for H1 was measured at -1.6%, according to its National Bureau for Statistics.

UK SMEs saw a 28% decline in revenue between March and May

Many UK SMEs have been understandably struggling amid the outbreak, with new analysis from Xero suggesting that they saw an average 28% decline in revenue between the months of March and May.

Employment rates dropped by 6% for small and medium businesses of all industries. Job losses rose to 10.8% in the hospitality sector during April and a further 3.1% in May, making it the hardest hit of all organisations of this size. The rental, hiring and real estate sector was the second worst affected, seeing job losses increase by 6.9% in May from a smaller 3.2% in April. Geographically, the East Midlands experienced the most job losses in SMEs across all verticals.Xero revenue growth per industry

Meanwhile, late payments increased by 7.8 days, having improved slightly before the coronavirus crisis hit in March, taking the average time it takes for an invoice to be paid from 30.7 days in February to 38.5 days in May.

97% of UK marcomms workers have reservations about returning to work in an office

Data from insight agency Question and Retain has indicated that as many as 97% of the UK marcomms workforce have reservations about returning to work in an office. A recent survey was conducted of 2500 workers in the industry regarding their thoughts on working from home and returning to work post-lockdown.

Eighty-two percent of respondents also said that they were ‘really’ or ‘quite’ nervous about travelling into work after the outbreak has subsided.

When it comes to their current experience working from home, less than half (48%) claimed that they felt sufficiently connected with their colleagues, while one in three admitted that they struggle with work and life balance since the lockdown began. Furthermore, fifty-seven percent felt that there was enough clear information from leadership teams within their organisations, suggesting that companies in the marcomms sector could do much more to inform and support their employees during the coronavirus crisis than they have over the last few months.

For more on coronavirus and marketing, visit Econsultancy’s coronavirus hub page.