consumer online behavior

Correlating online behavior to pandemic events and accelerating future digital

30-second summary:

  • Search is proving to be the pulse of the digital marketing industry. 
  • BrightEdge research highlights the importance of understanding real-time demand volatility and consumers’ online behavior shifts as critical to digital progression 
  • Consumers are having different, more emotional experiences in their quest for products, solutions and services which represents a fundamental change in the customer journey. 
  • Marketers can prepare for the future by understanding consumers’ online behavior and impact now across four key areas that include: Rebounding – focus on winning categoriesaccelerating – pour on the gas, stabilizing – double down on strength, recovering – transform and prepare. 
  • Marketers need to rethink the traditional marketing mix and the role of digital in the “new normal” re-evaluating product, price, digital strategy, and place/local.  

Digital transformation is a topic we all know well and has become a buzzword for many. However, the phrase has never been more relevant during this pandemic. COVID-19 has accelerated the digitalization of some of the most established industries such as telehealth, omnichannel retail, banking, and finance. Organizations are now having to change their entire business models in order to understand new types of consumer behavior as lock-down restrictions ease and companies open back up for business. 

On top of that, companies are now challenged to ensure that their organization is agile, responsive, and nimble and in these tumultuous times. Real-time research and data-backed decision-making by digital marketing leaders are going to be more important than ever. Post COVID-19 organizations will continue to look for the most innovativeaffordable, and creative ways to connect with consumers and build new business via the most cost-efficient and impactful online channels such as SEO and Search. 

Brands are now being challenged to evaluate the entire customer experience and rethink digital touchpoints and interactions every step of the way. Traditional marketing methods may no longer reach the consumer in their decision-making moments. Brands are now looking into the unknown and trying to brace for what comes next. What it looks like is not clear, but we do know that the key to performance and survival lies in digital and real-time online research to understand, react, and enhance the digital customer experience.  

BrightEdge Research: Search insights, patterns of change, and consumers’ online behavior

Between the critical period from March to Mid-May this year, BrightEdge analyzed consumer behavior. The data presented in their research correlates search behavior to key pandemic events and gives insights into what is happening now and how marketers can prepare for the future. 

Some of the key industries covered include:

  • Ecommerce
  • Retail
  • Digital Transformation
  • Education
  • Entertainment
  • Hospitality
  • Healthcare
  • Beauty
  • B2B
  • Data Centers and the Cloud

Key finding on drivers of behavioral changes

  1. People forming new habits and routines due to WFM measures  
  2. The rise of virtual work, virtual social and community gatherings 
  3. Distance and e-learning for schools and people looking for work and/or home improvement 
  4. People focusing on health, fitness, hygiene and telemedicine and health  

In order to give marketers a clear line of sight into the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on consumers BrightEdge organized industry insights into four quadrants based on the type of impact. 

The four quadrants identified

1. Rebounding: Focus on winning categories 

  • These are areas in which interest declined at the onset of the shutdown but has recovered fairly quickly. 
  • This is where digital marketers need to focus on those categories that are winning. 

Rebounding: video conferencing graph

Categories identified include:

Apparel, Baby and Maternity, Beauty, Restaurant Cuisine Style, Data Centre, and IT networking.

2. Accelerating:Pour on the gas

This is an opportunity for marketers to pour on the gas and continue that growth. 

Accelerating - quadrant

Categories identified include:

Digital Marketing, Pets, Garden and Patio

3. Stabilizing: Double down on the strength

  • These are areas where BrightEdge is seeing some pullback, but search volume remains higher than prior to COVID-19.  
  • These are opportunities to double down on that strength and retain consumer interest. 

Stabilizing - quadrant

Categories identified include:

Collaboration, Consumer Electronics, Gaming, Grocery, IT Security, Stocks, and Telehealth.

4. Recovering : Transform and prepare  

Areas where demand has fallen and companies need to be thinking about digital strategies to aid in their recovery. 

Recovery - quadrant showing hotel industry

Categories identified include:

Concerts, Hotels, Things to do, and Wealth Management.

Summary of findings

  1. Consumers are having different, more emotional experience in their quest for products, solutions, and services.​
  2. Safety, social distancing, and avoiding contact are priorities, making online research more important than ever. 
  3. The consumer journey has completely changed​. Consumers now have an incredibly different emotional experience through their journey of consumer products, solutions, and services.​ 
  4. The marketing mix is changing. Marketers need to rethink their traditional marketing mix and the role of digital in the “new normal” re-evaluating product, price, digital strategy, and place/local. 
  5. Field Marketing goes digital​. As the B2B sector navigates these times, an increased expectation of digital availability is a signal that organizations should listen to. 

Key marketer considerations for new normalities

Making digital work effectively has become the key to success during and post-COVID as banking shifts further online, people avoid stores and choose e-commerce or curbside pickup, and telehealth is suddenly a widely accepted practice.  

CMOs and digital marketers must be prepared to evaluate the entire customer experience and rethink touchpoints and interactions every step of the way.  To do this they need to think about their business and where their products and services sit within the key impact categories that BrightEdge identified:

  • Rebounding: Focus on winning categories 
  • Accelerating: Pour on the gas  
  • Stabilizing: Double down on the strength   
  • Recovering: Transform and prepare 

Revisiting the 4 Ps of marketing will help evaluate how marketers need to adapt and transform with respect to:

  1. Product
  2. Price
  3. Promotion (Digital strategy)
  4. Place/Locale

4 Ps of marketing to better understand online behavior and pivot to the new normalities

Readers can view the full research, findings, and recommendations via a free on-demand webinar recording here.  

Andy Betts is a Chief marketer and digital hybrid with more than 25 years of experience in search, content marketing, digital, martech and operations working across London, Europe, New York, and San Francisco. He works as an adviser and consultant for technology companies, agencies, and leading Fortune 500 companies.

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