Report: Consumers Engage Online More in Face of COVID-19, Consumer Interests Remain Consistent

Livonia’s Valassis, a marketing technology and consumer engagement company, released insights from its Valassis Consumer Graph, which is designed to show marketers how to be there for customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The results are based on national data.
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person reading the news on their phone
While people are spending more time online during COVID-19, they are consuming much of the same information they did before the pandemic, according to Valassis. // Stock photo

Livonia’s Valassis, a marketing technology and consumer engagement company, released insights from its Valassis Consumer Graph, which is designed to show marketers how to be there for customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The results are based on national data.

As a result of social distancing and working from home, many consumers are engaging with more content online and shifting their routines. However, interests have remained largely consistent as consumers seek normalcy.

The study works to illuminate consumer patterns and behaviors so marketers can try to anticipate the needs of target audiences and pivot accordingly. Understanding shifts in buying behaviors and medial consumption offers brands an entry point to connect with consumers and navigate alongside them.

“As marketers and brands appeal to their customers based on their interests, they should also realize that how consumers act on their interests, both now and when the recovery begins, may be different,” says Carrie Parker, vice president of marketing at Valassis. “It is more important than ever to make a connection, which involves getting to know consumer needs in this new normal as well as understanding shifting patterns in different regions to engage as meaningfully as possible with both marketing and messaging.”

Media consumption data, which was analyzed from Jan. 6-March 25, shows that mobile device usage has increased during typical working hours, indicating that people may be on two devices at one time. Consumers are also using mobile devices later at night than in the past. Increased internet usage has been largely linked to browsing compared to app usage, which is more tightly linked to information consumption than entertainment. Finally, people are consuming more serious, research-based topics related to finances, the economy, health care, and more, while reducing consumption of lighter topics.

Location insights were analyzed from March 1-23 and found that visitation to places such as massage studios and bowling alleys increased nationally as the weeks went on in March. Visits based on localized and personal needs, such as to organizations and associations, moving services, and stores that sell signs and displays increased, likely due to businesses needing to inform customers of changes to hours, inventory, pick-up, delivery, and more. Overall physical visits to counseling, health, and social services increased as stress and health needs heightened.

Valassis analyzed how topic consumption changed from Jan. 11-March 19. Only about 2 percent of the more than 1,300 topics have shown considerable changes. Interest in COVID-19-specific topics increased significantly, such as health care, economic issues, and investment news. Topics of interest that consumers had before the pandemic, however, continue to be their interests in today’s environment.

According to RetailMeNot properties from March 15-22, retail categories that showed increased demand, such as books/news, electronics, food/entertainment, and toys seemed to align with more stay home activities, while others related to clothing and accessories are practical interest topics that may have seen a boost given the seasonal change.

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