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Searching For Relevance Amidst A Pandemic

By Daniela Young

Screens, social media and apps are emerging as champions during these challenging times for businesses across the globe – signalling a massive switch in consumer behaviour.

WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger live video, Twitter DMs, Zoom, Houseparty and TikTok are coming out on top, with sizeable increases in usage for a host of different reasons – from homeworking to virtual quizzing.

Searching for the ‘new norm’

Users searching online are seeking the tools, apps and information needed to create a sense of normality during lockdown.

Entertainment and learning resources to keep the kids occupied, and informative, reliable news on the ever-evolving situation are needed; whilst finding online video apps like Microsoft Teams and Houseparty allow us to retain some form of face-to-face contact with those we can no longer see in person.

Social media is even more essential for entertainment and interaction with friends, whilst our appetite for new pastimes has never been higher – with searches for home baking recipes (we’re looking at you, banana bread brigade) and guides to making soaps and sanitisers growing.

We also want some positivity – a morale boost during difficult times. Heart-warming stories and uplifting jokes are actively sought out. And, just when we thought they couldn’t get more popular, the search for cute animal videos continues apace.

Search winners and losers

Before COVID-19 entered our lives, users’ search activity reflected our ability to travel, socialise and explore – but travel uncertainty and a strong ‘stay at home’ message has seen associated searches sharply decline, with changing user behaviour revealing a new breed of search winners and losers.

Searches for ‘hotels’ (fig. 1) have seen a steep downward trend as a result of business closures and social distancing measures. Restaurants have followed a similar pattern, e.g. ‘TGI Fridays’ (fig. 2).

On the other end of the scale, searches for grocery, entertainment, health and online productivity categories have literally sprung to life, like ‘Zoom’ (fig. 3) and ‘grocery delivery’ (fig. 4)





From the serious searches (financial concerns and making homemade hand sanitiser and protective masks) to the more light-hearted (cocktail and food recipes, and answers to secure victory in online family quizzes), users’ priorities during the current climate are clear to see – the protection of self and family, and the creation of a semblance of normality.

Check back in with us in a couple of days, when we’ll share with you our tips for ensuring your brand isn’t lost in the search for relevance during these unprecedented times.