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COVID-19 & The House-arrested Consumers: What’s On Their Minds?

The house-arrested consumer is thinking about jobs, looking for sanitization-related goods on sale, dreaming about travel, searching for virtual gyms/yoga classes, already looking for travel insurance that covers coronavirus infection, trying to find the recipe of Dalgona coffee, and more… A look at how consumer behaviour is evolving.

Photo Credit : Reuters


To keep the virus at bay, consumers need to stay inside their houses. The house-arrested consumers are going through emotional, physical, social and psychological changes. These changes will have a significant impact on ‘what the consumers want to buy during and after the lockdown’ and ‘how’. From looking for birthday ideas during the quarantine, to searching for masks on the Internet, from binge watching on Netflix to playing group games on House Party, from dreaming about their next travel destination to using destination-specific virtual backgrounds on Zoom. The post-corona consumer is going to be drastically different from its pre-corona version. 

In order to contain the virus, several countries have announced lockdowns. Many are considering the extension of the lockdown while some are thinking of easing the restrictions. Amidst all this, the words such as ‘lockdown’, ‘quarantine’, ‘isolation’ and ‘social distancing’ have become part of the consumers’ daily dictionary. From the beginning of March 2020, the people who are searching for the phrases that have one of these words have increased exponentially across the globe. See Diagram 1. As a result, many products and marketing campaigns that will be launched in the initial post-corona era will leverage the popularity of these words to create stickiness on the mind of consumers. 

Diagram 1: Interest Worldwide Overtime in the Past 90 Days (As of May 2nd, 2020) Comparison Between Searches for Phrases with Words: ‘Lockdown’, ‘Quarantine’, ‘Isolation’ and ‘Social Distancing’

Source: Google Trends

From mid-March to YTD, when the volume of searches for ‘travel’ and ‘hotel’ started to drop considerably, the search for the phrases that included ‘sale’ went up swiftly. When I looked deeper, I found that most people are looking for the followings things on sale: N95 masks, hand sanitizers, surgical masks, ventilators and toilet papers. It seems that the consumption of health and hygiene related goods will continue to go up even in the post-corona world. Masks will become an important part of consumers’ lives even when the governments decide to ease down the restrictions.

Diagram 2 also reveals that while the search for travel has gone down, many people are still searching for it. The ones that are using the word ‘travel’ in their searches are looking for phrases such as ‘travel bans’, ‘when will the travel resume’, etc. They are also looking for phrases such as ‘travel insurance coronavirus’. Once the travel restrictions are uplifted, these people will want to travel. As a result, there will be a surge in the type of travel insurances that will cover ‘coronavirus infections.’ 

Diagram 2 also highlights that consumers are increasingly looking for jobs online. The searches for jobs-related phrases have gone up fast in the recent past. While the consumers are looking for things on sale and dreaming about travel, the immediate post-corona consumer will spend restrictively. Discounts and offers will drive the sale of many goods and services, especially when restricted travel resumes.

Diagram 2:Interest Worldwide Overtime in the Past 90 Days (As of April 26th, 2020) Comparison Between the Search for Phrases with Words: ‘Travel’, ‘Job’, ‘Sale’ & ‘Hotel’

(Source: Google Trends)

The ones that are not looking for jobs online are actually working from home using remote work platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Hangout. In the times to come, work from home will become common and the dependency of people on these platforms will increase. Consumers will also enjoy better user experiences across these platforms. See Diagram 3. 

Diagram 3: Work & Learn from Home

(Source: Google Trends)

When the house-arrested consumers are not searching for jobs or using work from home apps, they looking for ‘online yoga’ and ‘quarantine workouts’. Interestingly, people are looking for online yoga classes and virtual gyms. In the post coronavirus era, consumers will choose the gyms that will also provide them with an option of virtual classes.

Diagram 4: Interest Worldwide Overtime in the Past 90 Days (As of May 2nd, 2020) Comparison Between Searches for Phrases with One of These Words: ‘Workout’, ‘Gym’, ‘Spa’, ‘Yoga’ and ‘Salon’

When consumers are not working or doing a workout, they are also searching for recipe videos. The search for recipe videos on YouTube has gone up exponentially. See Diagram 5. In fact coronavirus, quarantine is also responsible for the invention of ‘Dalgona Coffee’. It started with people who posted their videos while they hand-mixed their coffee. Something that started from South Korea during coronavirus quarantine has swiftly spread across the globe. The search for Dalgona Coffee recipe has gone up hugely. Some coffee shops in South Korea have already started serving it. In the post-corona world, many coffee shops worldwide will start serving Dalgona Coffee.

Diagram 5: Interest Worldwide Overtime in the 12 Months (As of May 2nd, 2020) YouTube Searches for ‘Recipe’

Source: Google Trends

To analyse the emotional behaviour of consumers, I looked for their web and YouTube searches for words such as ‘stress’ and ‘meditation’. The search for phrases with the word ‘stress’ has been consistently searched on the web. To handle the stress, people are increasingly turning to YouTube to meditate. The house-arrested consumer is searching for meditation videos. The search for meditation videos has never been so high in the past one year. See Diagram 6. 

Diagram 6: Interest Worldwide Overtime in the 12 Months (As of May 2nd, 2020) YouTube Searches for ‘Meditation’ and ‘Stress’

(Source: Google Trends)

In all, the virus has affected many parts of our lives. Web search trends also reveal that people are looking for home delivery platforms. However, they are becoming less interested in theatres or multiplexes; the web search for these words has gone down significantly in the recent past. Does that mean we will see a proliferation of open-air theatres? Maybe, yes. That said, what looks certain is that the post-corona avatar of consumers will be highly digital-savvy. While coronavirus has brought our travels to a standstill, it has expedited our journey to a greater digital era. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Imrana Khan

Imrana Khan has over 13 years of experience in B2B marketing and communications. Currently, she is working with HCL Technologies, a fastest growing IT services company in India, as Deputy General Manager – CTO Communications & Technology Marketing

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