Stats roundup: coronavirus impact on marketing, ecommerce & advertising

By Lizzy Hillier, eConsultancy

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.

And to learn more about how the industry is being impacted, join our regular broadcast with marketing thought-leaders, The Lowdown.

Retail & FMCG

Retail sector expected to see $2.1tn global loss in 2020

Forrester has predicted that the global loss in the retail sector will likely hit $2.1 trillion in 2020 and will take four years to overtake the levels of growth seen before the pandemic.

Although the impact will likely vary across different regions, it is thought that non-grocery offline sales will see a 20% decline in growth overall, while ecommerce growth will remain mostly neutral.

In the US, sales are expected to drop by $321 billion this year, down 9.1% from 2019, and there’s a similar picture for Canadian retail spending, which is predicted to fall 7.7% (a loss of $25 billion).

Meanwhile, a total €260 billion fall (-10.4% on 2019) is anticipated across the EU-5 – UK, France, Spain, Germany and Italy – with some of these countries faring better than others. France, for example, could experience a loss of €56 billion, a decline of 9.5% year-on-year, while the UK may see up to a 11.4% decline compared to the same period (a comparable loss of -£56 billion).

China is forecast to be worst affected in APAC’s retail predictions, which could lose $192 billion out of a total $767 billion for the region.

In contrast, Latin America could see the smallest percentage loss out of all territories analysed at 6.8%.

How is coronavirus impacting the retail industry?

US consumers turn to name-brand products despite financial strain

Data from Survata shows that, despite 64% of US consumers claiming they are rethinking spending, many are choosing name-brands over generics when it comes to the products they are purchasing.

Unsurprisingly, this is particularly the case for cleaning products. In fact, 61% percent of respondents said that they were ‘likely’ or ‘very likely’ to choose brand-name varieties when shopping during the pandemic, compared to 39% who said they either ‘didn’t care’ or actively chose own-brand varieties.

Other product categories in which preference for branded products ranked highly were packaged foods at 58% (versus 42% who didn’t care or chose own-brand items), frozen food (57% vs 43%), and drinks like soda and coffee (54% vs 46%). In contrast, alcohol was the category which consumers cared least about whether it was branded or not.

When justifying their choices, sixty-four percent of shoppers cited ‘perceived availability’ of a product as an important factor, with 72% stating that they are now more aware of product availability than they were before the outbreak. A further 40% noted the trustworthiness of a brand as the biggest factor, ranking it about the same as the price of a product (39%) when it comes to influence on their purchase behaviour.

UK auto sales fall by 97.3% year-on-year in April

Coronavirus has had a dramatic effect on the auto industry in the UK, with the The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) revealing that sales fell by 97.3% year-on-year during April.

Just 4321 new cars were registered last month, mostly in the fleet sector as delivery services continue to run. Meanwhile, a tiny 871 private vehicles were registered due to the majority of showrooms having been shut down since lockdown began. Total year-to-date sales were down by 43.4%.

Forecasts from the SMMT predict a further 1.68 million UK car sales for the remainder of the year, once restrictions are lifted, the lowest number of new vehicle registrations since 1992.

SMMT car registrations per month

Chart via SMMT

Average global sales revenue for online fashion stores in April was 21% higher year-on-year

Despite a severe 30% drop in global fashion ecommerce revenue in March, new findings from Nosto suggest that revenue in April has bounced back and is on average 21% higher than it was in April 2019. Australia/New Zealand, Germany and the UK have seen a particularly strong sales results, while other countries like Sweden continued to experience a rapid decline.

Visits to fashion ecommerce websites are up by an average 9% globally, while orders increased by 30% and conversion rate lifted by 12%.

Online fashion sales began dropping particularly noticeably from 7th March, reaching its lowest point on around 20th March, with year-on-year sales revenue (-32%) and visits (-24%) down very significantly across the globe. According Nosto’s data, sales and orders have rebounded sharply, overshadowing those in April 2019 despite a bleak global retail outlook caused by the pandemic.

However, average order value remains negative across the board at -3% compared to last year. Average order value in the UK is particularly low (-7%), but specific areas of Europe such as Germany and Sweden have been less impacted (-3% and -4% respectively).

Amazon year-on-year sales up by 26% in Q1 2020

Global sales on Amazon increased by 26% in Q1 2020, reaching $75.5bn compared to sales of $59.7bn in Q1 2019, data from its 30th April Q1 2020 results shows.

The brand exceeded its target revenue for the quarter, acquiring $75.5bn versus predictions of $73.7bn, but revenues for its web services fell slightly short of expectations ($10.22bn vs $10.29bn).

While more customers have clearly opted to shop with Amazon over the last few months, its overall revenue saw only a modest gain over its target due to higher operational costs that come from dealing with COVID-19. For example, so far, the company have hired an additional 175,000 new warehouse and distribution staff throughout March and April, as well as implementing pay rises of around $2 for its hourly workforce. Ensuring safety measures meet the correct standards during the pandemic, such as protection for employees and new operational processes, is an additional cost on top of the day-to-day running of the business.

In a statement, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos said that the company expects to spend $4bn in Q2, which it would typically make in profit over that period, on continuing to keep workers safe during the outbreak.

Nearly half of global consumers say they will not return to shops for ‘some time’ or ‘a long time’ after lockdowns ease

GlobalWebIndex’s ninth release of its coronavirus research has revealed that nearly half of global consumers do not expect to resume shopping in brick-and-mortar shops for ‘some time’ or ‘a long time’ once lockdowns ease.

Just 9% of shoppers, on average, expect that they will return to stores ‘immediately’ once they are allowed to. However, those in the UK, Ireland and Germany are more likely to do so (14%) than those in Japan (5%) or China (6%).

There is yet more reluctance towards outdoor public venues, such as stadiums and music festivals, with 60% of consumers anticipating that they will wait for ‘some time’ or ‘a long time’ before attending events there. The figure rises to two thirds for indoor spaces like cinemas and sports arenas, while only 4% hoped to return straight away to such venues.

The predicted behaviour of consumers, once restrictions are partially or fully lifted, raises concerns over how quickly brick-and-mortar stores, and the retail industry in general, will bounce back post-coronavirus. It seems that shoppers will continue to be concerned about the risks involved in interacting with wider society, and will therefore be hesitant to return to busy public places too soon.

96% of UK retailers have reported cashflow difficulties within the last month

Latest figures from the CBI show the extent of the impact the coronavirus crisis is having on the UK’s retail sector. Ninety-six percent of retailers in the region have reported cashflow difficulties since its most recent monthly Distributive Trades Survey was conducted between 27th March and 15th April.

Forty percent of those facing financial challenges said that they had had difficulties meeting tax liabilities, while 31% said they found external financial help hard to come by. As a result, 44% claimed that they had temporarily laid off staff (through the government furlough scheme or other methods) and a small percentage have resorted to permanent lay-offs (8%). Other major impacts on the sector, according to respondents of the survey, include delayed shipping (40%), shortages or products (39%) and ‘increased cost pressures’ (47%).

Consequently, it is expected that online stores will slash their prices in order to tempt consumers to part with their cash at this uncertain time. Online price growth grew negatively (-9%) in the year to April (for the first time since the question was added to the survey in 2009) and is predicted to fall again in the year to May 2020 (-7%). In contrast, online price growth for the year to March 2020 was +15%, revealing just how rapidly online stores are having to make strategic changes.

Retail email open rates 40% higher than they were pre-COVID-19

Insight from BounceX suggests that email open rates as of 14th April were up 40% from levels before March 1st. However, website visits and conversion rates have steadied and are actually 10-20% lower than what we saw before March 1st.


Global social adspend shows signs of recovery in April

Most regions of the world saw an uptick in global social adspend throughout April, the latest data from SocialBakers has revealed. On average, spending on social ads increased by 32.3% during the first three weeks of April compared to the end of March, when spending was experiencing a significant slump amidst the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic.

Although Covid-19 is still very much the reality in many parts of the globe, there shows some signs of recovery for social adspend, with marketers in some regions more willing than others to part with their cash. North America has led the way with the largest increase since March (47.3%), taking its spending on social channels back to the same levels as those at the beginning of the year, pre-pandemic. Latin America has also seen a significant rise of 41.6% and South East Asia a rise of 35.7%.

While some areas analysed have yet to return to a social adspend reflective of life before the coronavirus outbreak, there appears to be a renewed confidence that they will do so once their localised epidemics have been brought further under control.

SocialBakers Adspend per region April 2020

Chart via SocialBakers

ITV ad revenue falls by 42%, 32 percentage points higher than it originally estimated

ITV have revealed that its ad revenue fell by 42% in April, after predicting, perhaps optimistically, that it would lose a little over 10% of its ad revenue during the period due to Covid-19. However, some analysts predicted losses of around 50%, a figure which now appears much more accurate in retrospect.

It seems that many more advertisers have pulled their campaigns from the broadcaster likely due to ongoing financial uncertainty, combined with lockdown measures affecting consumer spending. In turn, this has caused ITV to temporarily furlough over 800 staff members and slow or stop production of some of its best known shows like Love Island.

In February, the broadcaster’s ad revenue was up 8% year-on-year, before lowering in March resulting in a neutral growth rate compared to March 2019. April’s final figures, while alarming, were not as bad as some analysts had predicted, however it is still uncertain as to the ongoing impact into May and beyond.

UK adspend projected to fall 16.7% in 2020

After UK adspend increased by 6.9% year-on-year during 2019, in a ten-year consecutive growth trend, it is now projected to fall by 16.7% in 2020 to £21.13bn. This is according to The Advertising Association and WARC’s latest quarterly Expenditure Report.

Although adspend during the beginning of Q1 2020 was encouraging, the huge impact that the coronavirus crisis has had on the industry has caused forecasts to be revised downwards for the year ahead. Original estimates predicted that adspend would grow by 5.2% this year to more than £26bn, but now experts believe that growth will decline in 2020 before rising again in 2021 at around 13.6%.

Focusing in, search and online display adspend is thought to fall by a little over 12% and TV by 19.8%, while publishers are expecting to see an even sharper dip in adspend (20-24% for national and regional newsbrands) following a continuous downward trend in this area.

Imagery of human interaction declines 27.4% in social ads

new study by Pattern89, published on 24th March, has noted a shift in the type of imagery brands are using in social media ads since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Analysing more than 1,100 brands and advertisers active on Facebook and Instagram, Pattern89 found that there are 27.4% fewer images and videos ads of models displaying human interaction (such as hugging or shaking hands).

Since 12th March, imagery featuring people washing hands or faces, and images and videos that display water splashing or cleaning have risen at six times the normal rate. Meanwhile, headline and body copy mentioning “Sports & Fitness” topics has quadrupled (rising from 5.7% to 21% of all ads) since March 12th. Similarly, electronics (such as smartphones or TVs) are now appearing in 39% of social ads.

hand washing ads

How brands are encouraging social distancing

60% of Covid-19 related content is brand safe

Up to 60% of online COVID-19 related content is brand safe, according to GumGum’s machine learning based analysis. This is despite many brands actively blocking keywords linked with the virus, such as ‘COVID-19’, ‘coronavirus’, ‘pandemic’ and ‘quarantine’, in order to avoid negative associations.

The data estimates that, of all content that was analysed, around 2 million unique coronavirus related pages had been created over the thirteen-day period between 25th March-6th April, with an average of 100k safe pages being added every day.

Content categories with the highest number of safe pages were ‘business and finance’ at around 150,000 unique pages over the course of the same period, while ‘medical health’ and ‘news and politics’ ranked second and third respectively. However, these also had the largest percentage of unsafe pages due to the sheer volume of content produced by publishers in these sectors compared to others.

As a result, in just one week alone, analysed brands that depend on keyword-based tools are missing out on around 1.5 billion impressions on their ads. This comes during a time where increasing numbers of people are consuming online content, not to mention for longer periods of time, and COVID-19 has remained the top trending topic over the course of the last several months.

Covid-19 business impact

82% of large enterprises globally have cut hiring budgets

A massive 82% of large enterprises (those with an annual revenue above £50m) have cut hiring budgets, phase three of Econsultancy and Marketing Week’s Business Impact Survey has found. Just 3% of respondents in this category said that they had increased spending as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

When asked “How has marketing been affected by furloughing/staff reductions compared to other divisions?”, half of large enterprises said that their marketing departments have had the same rates as others. Meanwhile, there were roughly the same number of respondents on either end of the scale (‘lower rates of furloughs/redundancies’ vs ‘higher’), suggesting that overall they have not been disproportionately affected.

However almost a quarter did believe that marketing departments had been ‘significantly’ impacted on an efficiency level due to the reduction of staff, thereby compromising their ability to achieve current goals. A further 42% stated that the ability to achieve current goals was ‘somewhat’ compromised, adding up to a total majority of two-thirds experiencing some impact on productivity.

Just 7% of UK brands are ‘seizing the opportunity’ to invest more in marketing

Our Business Impact Survey also discovered that just 7% of UK brands are investing more in marketing as a strategic approach during the pandemic.

In contrast, 29% of respondents claimed their approach was to ‘stay the course’ by keeping budgets at a steady level and 50% revealed they were cutting marketing budgets in order to ‘live to fight another day’. The remaining 14% appear to still be undecided, saying that it is still too early to know what strategic response to put in place.

When it comes to making these tough decisions, 27% told the survey that their strategy was instinctual. A further 13% said that they base their marketing strategy was based on data, and most (60%) claimed they used a mixture of the two.

Although senior teams across UK organisations appear understanding of the ways investment in marketing could be important during this time, there seems to be a general lack of budget to do so. Indeed, 46% maintained that if they asked to increase media spend, their leadership team would say that, while they understand the motivation, there is no cash to spend. One third also said that finance leaders would ask them to prove their case before an rise in spend was considered.

60% of large global organisations have identified new processes that they might use post-outbreak

Sixty percent of large global organisations (with annual revenues >£50m) have identified new processes that could be used beyond the outbreak, according to the phase three results of Econsultancy and Marketing Week’s Covid-19 Business Impact Survey.

Significant numbers of respondents said they had also observed new ways of working which could be used post-outbreak (82%), innovations in marketing messaging/branding (49%) and innovations in products and services (47%).

The rate at which these observations have grown since the second phase of the survey (conducted on 31st March) is encouraging. Indeed, the percentage of respondents reporting product and service innovations has more than doubled since this date, increasing from 22% to 47% and the proportion reporting innovations in customer communications has risen by 19 percentage points to 43%.

A surge in innovation could be seen as one of the few positive outcomes marketers have experienced since coronavirus spread throughout the world, and it is encouraging to see so many organisations have found new ways of working which improve on their current processes. As a result, it is possible that the coronavirus pandemic could become a primary trigger for major fast-tracked changes in the ways large enterprises operate in the future.

A fifth of large enterprises are investing in digital transformation initiatives during the coronavirus pandemic

Three-quarters of UK organisations see demand drop for their products and services

Data from Econsultancy and Marketing Week’s phase three Covid-19 Business Impact Survey suggests that as many as 75% of UK organisations are experiencing a drop in demand for their products and services.

This figure, updated on 27th April, is six percentage points higher than equivalent responses from 31st March (phase two) and a huge forty percentage points higher than those from 16th March (phase one). While growth of this trend is clearly slowing, it demonstrates the long-term effects that the outbreak is having on businesses across the country.

Around one third of organisations are now experiencing supply chain issues, with larger organisations (with annual revenues >£50m) most affected. Meanwhile, SMEs are having to make more drastic changes to their hiring plans, budgets and campaigns than their larger competitors.

PR & Communications

Johnson & Johnson receives a 61% uplift in positive mentions from consumers

Johnson & Johnson came out at the top of twenty well-known brands that have received an increase in positive mentions from consumers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, forums and blogs, analysis from Influential has confirmed.

The brand saw a 61% rise in positive mentions during the four weeks after 31st March, compared with the same period before that date, thought to be due to its recent work aiding the development of Covid-19 vaccines and establishing a relief fund.

Certainly, brands that have taken proactive steps towards the fight against the virus, or to protect their workers jobs, seem to have benefitted most from an increase in positive sentiment, proving just how important brand purpose has become to customers during the crisis. For example, AT&T ranked second in the list, experiencing a 58% increase after it announced that it would continue to pay all of its hourly-wage staff regardless of whether their services were needed.

In addition, Amazon, although controversial in the eyes of some consumers, came third with a 52% uplift after setting up a $25m relief fund in mid-March and hiring more than 100,000 more workers to meet increased demand. Other big names like Target, Walmart, Alibaba and Coca Cola, which also appear high up on the list, have adopted similar approaches focusing on fundraising and manufacturing much-needed equipment.

47% of global consumers expect companies to support hospitals during the Covid-19 crisis

Forty-seven percent of global consumers now expect companies to support hospitals during the Covid-19 crisis, for example by donating funds or using production facilities to create equipment.

This comes as Kantar released the second wave of results from its Global COVID-19 Barometer on 25th March, which details the changing attitudes consumers have had when it comes to brand purpose since the outbreak. Data suggests that the role of companies in wider society has increased, as consumers rely on practical advice, and overwhelmed healthcare centres increasingly rely on donations of money or ‘useful items’.

A further 39%, up by four percentage points since wave one, say that brands should make themselves available to assist regional governments where needed.

Almost a third of consumers claim that they want companies to help them or provide advice, such as keeping fit and healthy at home, or tips on how to relax. Depending on how realistic and helpful brands are at this stage could have implications on how favourably or negatively brands will be remembered once the pandemic has ended.

Interestingly, just 8% of consumers think that brand advertising should be suspended during this time, as a large number believe it to be a distraction amongst the onslaught of daily news coverage.

Consumers care about coronavirus responses, but here’s how companies can avoid overdoing it


Netflix gains almost 16 million new subscribers in Q1 2020

Netflix has gained 15.8m new subscribers during Q1 2020, more than double its original 7m target for the period, according to the Financial Times. Almost 7m of these subscriptions originated from the EMEA region, while 3.6m came from Asia.

As a result, revenues have risen by 28% in the first quarter compared to the same time in 2019, reaching $5.77bn which is slightly higher than the forecasted $5.4bn expected by the company. Meanwhile, Netflix’s stock has surged by around 30% so far this year.

However, concerns are growing about how permanent this subscriber growth will be, and the brand has warned its shareholders that it anticipates both viewership and membership to decline once the coronavirus outbreak slows in its biggest markets.

A delay in spending caused by the inability to film its latest series and films is also thought to have skewed Netflix’s first quarter financials, with the results displaying a $162m positive cash flow. It now expects to spend $1bn over the course of the rest of 2020, significantly lower than its initial estimated spend of $2.5bn.

Employment & recruitment

Recruitment for London’s tech industry falls by 57%

Recruitment for permanent roles in London’s technology industry has fallen by 57% since the outbreak reached the UK. This is according to research from (as reported by technology publication Verdict), which analysed more than 5,000 London tech start-ups using its platform and others like LinkedIn and Indeed.

Before the coronavirus pandemic sent London, and the rest of the UK, into lockdown, the technology industry in the capital was home to more tech start-ups worth over $1bn than any other location in Europe. Since then, companies in this and other sectors have seen budgets for new hires cut drastically due to slowing revenue and increasing economic uncertainty.

This is a trend occurring all around the world, as reflected by a recent study carried out by Verdict that revealed that, on average, 35% of similar companies from the US, UK, Canada and India have temporarily paused recruitment within the last few months.

92% of US & UK marketers rate their organisations as being ‘pretty well’ or ‘very well’ equipped for remote working

The marketing, advertising and PR industries in the US and UK are the ‘most ready’ for remote working, suggests results from the seventh phase of GlobalWebIndex’s coronavirus research.

Ninety-two percent of workers in the marketing/advertising/PR industries agreed that their organisations are ‘pretty well’ or ‘very well’ equipped to operate with a fully remote workforce, while organisations in the IT/tech/software (76%) and financial services (69%) industries ranked second and third respectively. Senior staff and those in management roles are more likely to believe their company is well equipped for remote working than junior staff.

On the contrary, sectors which rely on the presence of staff in physical settings such as retail and healthcare scored worst on their readiness.

It also appears that larger organisations are less prepared for remote working than smaller ones. Companies that employ between 250-2000 workers are most ready according to their employees (67%), but those with over 2000 workers are the least equipped (29%). This is likely due to bigger companies being more reliant on established processes and organisational structures, thus making them less agile than their smaller counterparts.

Young people in the UK most worried about impact of coronavirus on jobs and wages

A new study by YouGov has revealed that people aged 18 to 24 are more worried than any other age group about the impact coronavirus will have on the job market in the long-term. According to figures published on 24th March, in a survey of 1,619 adults in the UK, seven in ten 18 to 24-year-olds say they worry that the coronavirus will cause higher unemployment for a long time. This figure drops for every other subsequent age group.

The survey also found that 54% of 18 to 24 year olds believe that coronavirus will affect wages in the long-term, compared with 43% aged 50 and over.

As the pandemic continues to spread, anxiety levels about the economy are rising. The number of people worried that coronavirus will cause long-term unemployment jumped from 26% to 62% in just the space of a week. Similarly, two thirds of Brits now believe there will be lasting damage to the economy, which is up from 36% a week before.

yougov stat
Image via YouGov

Social media

TikTok downloads surge in Q1 2020, surpassing 2bn lifetime downloads

Downloads of video sharing app TikTok surged by 315m in Q1 2020, making it the most downloaded app ever in any three-month time period, according to analysis from SensorTower. By comparison, the app saw 187m downloads in Q1 2019, resulting in a roughly 68% increase year-on-year, and a staggering 110m more than its previous record quarter which saw 205m downloads in Q4 2018.

It is now estimated that total downloads of the app have surpassed 2bn since its launch in 2016. So far, India has recorded the most lifetime downloads of any country at 611 million, while China’s version of the app – Douyin – takes second place with 197m and the US takes third with 165m.

While it is common knowledge that media consumption has greatly increased for consumers across the globe as they stay at home, social media engagement has soared. TikTok has evidently become a progressively popular source of entertainment, as well as an outlet for creativity, for consumers at this trying time.

SensorTower TikTok downloads by quarter

Chart via SensorTower

74% of Gen Z want social media platforms to provide fact-checked content about Covid-19

Globally, seventy-four percent of Gen Z believe the role of social media companies during the pandemic is to provide fact-checked content about the virus, according to a 23rd March survey from GlobalWebIndex. A further 67% of Millennials, 68% of Gen Xers and 63% of Boomers agree, making it the most desired feature across platforms since media coverage and misinformation surrounding the virus began to accelerate. Those who use WeChat were the most insistent about their desire for fact-checking.

The screening of fake news by social media companies is the second most popular change users would like to see – across all ages – as conspiracy theories and mass sharing become a more prominent issue. Meanwhile, there is noteworthy interest in ways platforms could be used to help local communities connect with residents to offer assistance during prolonged periods of isolation. Forty to forty-six percent of each age category agreed that they would like to see this feature introduced or improved.

It is clear that much of the global population are missing out on cultural activities outside of the home, as shutdowns of entertainment venues become the norm for the time being. However, it seems as though finding an alternative way to view such events is a lower priority than policing COVID19 related content or helping their local communities.

Around one third of Gen Z and Millennial respondents said that they wanted social media companies to provide livestreams of events, dropping to 27% for Gen Xers and 22% for Boomers. When dissected across providers, those who use Snapchat (typically a younger demographic) tend to want livestreams as part of their social experience during the pandemic more than those who use other platforms.

GlobalWebIndex - COVID19 and the Role of Social Media

Chart via GlobalWebIndex

Article originally appeared on Econsultancy

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