Yext Insights: The Impact of COVID-19 on Global Search and Consumer Behavior

COVID-19 search behavior

There is no denying that the global COVID-19 pandemic has, and will continue to have, an incredibly profound impact on life as we know it. In the wake of cascading national lockdowns, people worldwide are depending on digital mediums more than ever to stay connected, communicate critical information, and continue to do business. Today we’re sharing a collection of revelatory, deeply compelling data that tells the tale of what search looks like right now. We’ve uncovered fascinating insights by comparing Yext’s aggregate customer data with third-party data sets — including the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and search interest in “Coronavirus” reported from Google Trends. 

While our Client Success teams at Yext have been working around the clock to empower our clients to give their customers the most up-to-date answers to all their questions, our Customer Insights team has been tirelessly analyzing industry search trends and consumer engagement data from the businesses we power around the globe across the hundreds of publishers that make up the Yext Knowledge Network. We don’t just want to make sure our clients can deliver accurate answers everywhere customers are searching for them — we want to understand the full anatomy of how, where, and why people are searching for information right now. 

In these unprecedented times, knowledge is power — and search data is often overlooked as a critical source of business and market intelligence. As we look to collectively weather this storm together, we’ve decided to make this information available to the public. We believe every individual, business, and organization should have access to this actively unfolding industry intelligence compiled from our wide range of global customers. 

To be clear, this is not website traffic data. Rather, it’s a look at all the off-website interactions that brands experience from customers searching across online engines and publishers worldwide. In our research, we analyzed how search volume has recently trended against expected levels in each country across our benchmark set. We also assessed the impact these figures had on online engagement, and what they reveal about consumer behavior in a market affected by COVID-19 — and all the pervasive uncertainty that comes with it. 

Here are a few of the key highlights from our research*: 

  • Japanese consumers were the first to spring into action.
    After news of COVID-19’s outbreak spread in the country, search volume began to increase significantly for key industries — like grocery stores — as early as January 25th, with the peak on February 29th reaching 307% above expected levels
  • Hotels have seen early declines in search volume worldwide.
    Local website traffic in the hospitality industry dropped alongside a pause in consumer booking behavior as the news of COVID-19 spread, likely due to uncertainty around the developing situation in each country.
  • UK consumers have been among the last to react.
    Retail and food services foot traffic did not begin to fall until around March 1st, when queries relating to travel directions to restaurants and retail stores began to plummet — bottoming out at almost 95% below expected volume from March 22nd onwards.
  • Italians have turned to mailing services to stay connected during the lockdown.
    Not too surprisingly, Italian mailing services have seen a significant rise in search volume. It would seem that Italian families, accustomed to spending time with relatives, are instead turning to the mail to send packages and stay connected. Search volume has trended at approximately 30% above expected levels beginning on February 22nd, with peaks as high as 70% above normal. 
  • The phones are ringing off the hook: brands have been struggling to handle call volume.
    Consumers have been making considerably more phone calls across key industries in every country we analyzed. Italy saw phone call volume for car rental companies spike at 111% on February 23rd — the day small towns in the north part of the country were placed on quarantine. France and Germany also saw especially heightened activity on March 14th and 15th, immediately following initial announcements of school and border closures.
  • Consumers have turned to their financial professionals.
    In North America we’ve seen a sustained increase in search, phone call, and website traffic in financial services industries (such as investments and mortgage services) right after the S&P 500 stock price began to crash on February 19th.
  • North Americans gear up to work from home.
    It’s no surprise that the clothing and luxury retail industry has been hit especially hard, since they have been deemed non-essential in many countries. That being said, other retail businesses are faring better in light of continuously prolonged work-from-home restrictions. We’ve seen inflated search volume in key retail sub-verticals across North America, including office supply stores (+206%), consumer electronics (+76%), pet stores (+56%), and guns and ammunition retailers (+52%)
  • Healthcare has shifted to virtual or telemedicine where possible. 
    The earliest North American healthcare trends come in the form of a 57% phone call spike to emergency rooms on January 26th, shortly after the first confirmed COVID-19 case in the US. Since then, while searches for hospitals and ERs began to peak around March 15th in North America, foot traffic has been down by as much as 70% as health systems urge patients toward telemedicine or virtual medicine whenever possible. Phone calls to clinics and doctors increased as patients called to postpone elective procedures or treatments.

Yext COVID-19 Industry Research and Intelligence 

We’ve made our complete research available to everyone. Continue exploring below to dig deeper into in-depth, market specific data analysis and a regularly updating dashboard of developing industry search trends. 

  • Yext Insights: The Global Impact of COVID-19 
    In this presentation, you’ll find our detailed analysis of global trends from key consumer industries across seven distinct regions, as well as information about the impact Yext has had within each. This report details our methodology and also provides analysis of consumer behavior and industry trends that go far beyond the highlights we’ve noted above. The presentation also provides a deep dive into how key sub-verticals have trended alongside COVID-19-related developments in Japan, Italy, Germany, France, the U.K., and North America. Check here for key highlights, industry outlooks, and an overview of how the actions different countries have taken in 2020 have impacted search and consumer behavior, beginning on January 19th through March 28th.
  • Yext Data Hub: COVID-19 Search and Consumer Behavior Trends. 
    Want to monitor how these trends are changing in real time? Don’t see your country or industry highlighted in the research deck above? Use this Yext dashboard to explore your own custom insights. (Our humble pro tip: check out the Yext Insights presentation first to understand our methodology and approach.) With this dashboard, you will be able to zoom in to a country, check out the industries available for analysis there, and see how recent COVID-19 trends have impacted search volume, foot traffic, phone calls, and local web traffic for each. You’ll also be able to see how trends have shifted as confirmed COVID-19 cases have increased.

We will be keeping this dashboard up to date and live for a limited time as the pandemic continues to develop, so it’s worth checking back often to see how search trends are changing as conditions evolve.

Additional Resources

While we hope that the analysis and insights provided in these resources offer a unique and genuinely valuable look into the impact of COVID-19 on search behavior across the globe, we also understand that as a business, it’s critical to understand how we can use this data to drive digital strategy. Knowledge is useless without the context to make it actionable. With that in mind, the following additional resources illuminate how Yext technology works to help our customers deliver impeccable answers all the time, but most urgently during moments of crisis and periods of broad questioning. 

  • Four Steps to Managing a Crisis
    Wrong answers are costly for businesses on any given day, but in times of crisis, the stakes are especially high when it comes to surfacing accurate answers. To build and maintain trust, consumers need accurate, timely, intuitive answers from brands — everywhere they’re asking questions. Learn how you can take advantage of Yext technology to fortify your crisis communications strategy in today’s world of natural language processing and AI.
  • Nowronganswers.com
    We don’t just want to describe how we can help you execute an exceptional search experience on every front — we want to show you. That’s why we’re giving eligible companies a 90-day free trial of Yext Answers. Come see how we can help you optimize your site search experience to answer your customers’  questions with maximum accuracy and agility, during this crisis, and after it passes. With your free trial of Yext Answers, you’ll enable your customers to more easily discover critical information about your brand through elevated, intent-responsive search. 

*Yext analyzed data from the 100+ publishers in the Yext Knowledge Network in order to understand how local search volume compares against expected levels following the COVID-19 pandemic. Our methodology calculates the daily percentage change by comparing consumer search and engagement volume within a specific industry for certain days in 2020 to the volume recorded on the same days of the year in 2019 after adjusting for annual growth, which are then averaged over a period of a few days.

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