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.
To help keep on top of what this means for you, your jobs and your industry, see the most valuable and impactful stats in this roundup from Econsultancy
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 emboldening. Indeed, those reporting product and service innovations have more than doubled since this date, increasing from 22% to 47% and those reporting innovations in customer communications has risen by nearly one-fifth to 43%.
An upsurge 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.
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.
Only 14% of UK marketing campaigns are now continuing ‘as planned’
The second phase of the Covid-19 Business Impact survey conducted by Econsultancy and Marketing Week showed there have been stark changes in the ways marketers have responded since the first survey was conducted two weeks prior.
As of 31st March, nearly nine in ten (86%) of UK-based marketers are now delaying or reviewing their campaigns, up from 55% on 16th March, leaving just 14% of activations to continue ahead ‘as planned’.
Indeed, the continuing uncertainty has appeared to have had a significant impact on marketing strategies as organisations adapt to changing demands and shift their focus to delivering digital-only products and content. Sixty-two percent of marketers stated that their marketing strategies had changed in light of COVID19 compared to a much smaller 18% in just a matter of weeks. Those altering employee policies (such as remote working, travelling and bonuses) have nearly doubled to 86% and 46% have updated customer policies (such as cancellation terms and fees).
Meanwhile, 85% of organisations have claimed that they are delaying or reviewing new hires, and an even larger 90% are doing the same with their budgeting commitments, rising sharply from 41% and 61% respectively.
The sharp increase in organisations that have decided to change, adapt or pause their marketing and wider business strategies since mid-March paints a clear picture of the increasing toll the coronavirus has taken on the industry. With no end currently in sight, it is likely that marketers will continue making difficult adaptational decisions, causing more disruption to pre-planned campaigns, hires and budgeting.
Retail & FMCG
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 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.
UK ecommerce growth was down 5.1% year-on-year in March
Reports from the Retail Gazette have revealed that ecommerce growth in the UK dropped by 5.1% year-on-year in March. As is the case on a global scale, fashion was particularly hard hit, falling by more than 23%.
Despite this decline, month-on-month growth compared with February 2020 saw an increase of 2.6%. This is thought to be partly due to a period of warmer weather throughout March, as sales of gardening tools and supplies rose by over 94%.
Another category managing to keep sales afloat was electronics (up 40%), as consumers invested in entertainment products like TVs and games consoles, while workers bought essential office equipment such as computer monitors for their home set ups. Purchases of beauty products increased by a over a third as consumers continued to treat themselves occasionally despite being confined to their homes.
March was the busiest month on record for UK supermarkets, seeing a 20.6% rise in sales
UK supermarkets saw a 20.6% rise in sales during the month of March, a new record for the sector, as consumers stock up for an extended time at home and cease eating out at restaurants. In the four weeks leading to March 31st, the public spent £10.8 billion on groceries – a higher amount even than what is typically spent during the Christmas period.
Extended across the whole of Q1 2020, the grocery market also saw the sharpest year-on-year growth rate in more than a decade at 7.6%.
The week beginning 16th March was an especially busy week for grocery shopping, with as many as 88% of households making an average of five shopping trips to supermarkets between Monday to Thursday. That totals up to around 42 million additional supermarket outings across this relatively short time.
The data from Kantar revealed that the average household has spent an additional £62 on groceries in the past month, and that many more are turning to smaller convenience stores as they heed advice to stay close to home on their ventures out of the house. Indeed, brand-owned and independent corner shops alone experienced a 30% spike in sales in the past four weeks compared to the previous four weeks, enlarging their total share of the grocery market by more than 13%.
It is thought that, as further restrictions are likely to be imposed on movement in the coming weeks and months, that high numbers of journeys to larger supermarkets will begin to decline but smaller, more frequent trips will continue to be taken to local convenience stores.
Retail email open rates 40% higher than they were pre-COVID-19
Insight from BounceX suggests that email open rates as of 14th April are up 40% from levels before March 1st. However, website visits and conversion rates have steadied and are 10-20% lower than what we saw before March 1st.
UK retail industry forecast to lose £12.6bn in 2020
A new forecast by GlobalData published on 24th March suggest that UK retail sales are set to dramatically plunge in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the forecast, the overall UK retail industry will see a loss of £12.6bn this year. Clothing and footwear brands are predicted to suffer the most, seeing a sales decline of 20.6% to £11.1bn. In contrast, the UK food and grocery market is forecast to grow 7.1% in 2020, which is £6.8bn up on the previous forecasted annual spend.
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
A 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.
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.
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.
Nearly half of UK adults have been exposed to fake news about the outbreak
A study conducted by Ofcom has suggested that almost half of adults in the UK have been exposed to fake news about the COVID-19 outbreak.
The most commonly circulated misinformation read by 35% of respondents claimed that drinking more water would help to ‘flush out’ the infection, while 24% said they had read false content that stated gargling salt water was an effective treatment. Another 24% saw fake reports that avoiding cold food and drink would also help treat the virus.
Thankfully, more than half (55%) of those surveyed said that they actively ignore false claims about the coronavirus, and of those, 15% of have used fact-checking advice and 10% a fact-checking service to help determine whether the information they had read was reliable. However, a small percentage (7%) confessed that they had forwarded the information on anyway.
A significant 40% of those surveyed agreed that it was difficult to assess whether information they had read about COVID-19 was correct, rising to 52% in 18-24 year olds, highlighting the importance of making adults, particularly from younger age groups, aware of the fact-checking tools available to them.
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 March 25th, 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 4 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.
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
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.
Image via YouGov
Coronavirus drives surge in job applications to retailers
Retailers have seen their normal rate of job applications skyrocket in the past week or so, with the majority of applications coming from people in the hospitality industry who have just been made redundant.
According to TribePad, the daily rate of applications to retail businesses increased from 5,000 per day to more than 200,000 on Friday 20th March. After supermarkets issued an urgent appeal for staff, Saturday evening saw another big spike, with more than 300 people applying for roles every minute (compared with nine per minute in the previous week).
While hiring activity in the food and grocery sector is on the up, other sectors are seeing a downturn. TribePad data shows that job applications have dropped by 73% in recruitment, 33% in hospitality, and 23% in healthcare compared to the same week in 2019. Meanwhile, organisations in other sectors like fashion retail and hospitality have paused all recruitment activity.
Image via TribePad
Activity on Facebook’s messaging apps has increased more than 50% in hardest-hit countries during the past month
In a blog post published on 24th March, Facebook outlined how the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a surge in usage of its messaging apps.
According to Facebook data, total messaging has increased more than 50% over the last month in many of the countries hit hardest by the virus. Similarly, in places hit hardest, voice and video calling has more than doubled on Messenger and WhatsApp. In Italy, specifically, Facebook has seen 70% more time spent across its apps since the crisis started, while Instagram and Facebook Live views doubled in a week. Messaging in Italy also increased over 50%, and time in group calling (with three or more participants) increased by over 1,000% during the last month.
Despite this, Facebook stated that its business is being adversely affected by coronavirus, in particular its ad platform. This has been echoed by Cowen & Co, which forecasts Facebook ad revenue for 2020 to be $67.8 billion, which marks a drop of $15.7 billion from Cowen’s previous forecast.
45% of global consumers spending more time on social media
A new report by GlobalWebIndex highlights changes in consumer behaviour during the coronavirus pandemic. In a global survey of over 13,000 consumers, conducted between 16th-20th March, GWI found that 95% of consumers are spending more time on in-home media consumption. Unsurprisingly, there’s been a marked increase in watching news coverage, with two in three global consumers spending more time doing this activity.
Across the 13 countries involved in the survey, over 50% are watching more streaming services, 45% are spending more time on messaging services, and almost 45% are devoting more time to social media. Interestingly, over 10% also say they are creating and uploading videos.
Elsewhere, the report notes that views on advertising are polarised. When asked if brands should carry on advertising as normal, just over a third agree, just over a quarter disagree and just over a third aren’t sure. Gen Zs (38%), men (39%) and the higher income group (39%) were the most likely to agree that advertising should continue as normal.
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 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.
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