COVID-19 has brought on unprecedented changes to the digital world. Search behaviour is changing and interests are becoming more dynamic and adaptive as news about the global pandemic comes out.

If you’re interested to find out how search trends are changing in relation to Coronavirus, Google has put together a hub within Google Trends for this:

We are also seeing a shift in user behaviour towards how people are interacting with sites. This gives plenty of room for  New Zealand-based businesses to adjust to the changes — whether it be to ride out the storm or to take advantage of the shifting markets. 

Our hypothesis was that the decrease in physical store visits as an effect of the lockdown will cause an increase in online visits (for businesses that have stayed open). 

While we’re still in the early stages of the lockdown, this seems to be applicable to some industries, specifically with sites that have ecommerce active. This is most likely the reason why Noel Leeming and The Warehouse announced opening their online stores again.

With people avoiding unnecessary trips and practicing social distancing, we see them turning to online purchasing. But is this applicable to all industries?

We took a look at our home improvement client which has over 80 stores across New Zealand. Taking their data from  01 March to 31 March, we compared Shop Visits (as tracked by Google Ads) vs NZ Organic Sessions to the site vs total NZ organic sessions to their ecommerce site — which, in this case was a subdomain of the main site.

Note that Covid-19 Level 3 was implemented on the 23rd of March while Covid-19 Level 4 Lockdown started at midnight on the 25th of March. 

We saw a huge surge in sessions to the site starting from the day of the lockdown, the following days then continuing on an upward trend. 

A caveat, while more Kiwis are stuck at home, they are probably looking for home projects they could do, which is pushing up search volume and traffic. However, this may not necessarily translate to conversions. People may not be as willing to spend as they were a few weeks ago due to possible loss of future income. So changes to the conversion rates of ecommerce sites is still something to watch for. 

We also took a look at essential services (in this case a supermarket chain), whose stores have remained open during the lockdown period. They have experienced phenomenal growth in Shop Visits, but that growth is even more impressive for their website and ecommerce site. 

Another supermarket chain experienced the same growth pattern for their website and ecommerce sites. 

So what do you need to do with this data trend? If you’re a retail business with an ecommerce-capable website:

  • use this time to focus on your online storefront. Upload as much products as you can there and optimise your images, alt tags for images and add proper descriptions to each product. We do recommend managing expectations properly if your product dispatch and delivery schedules are affected by the lockdown.
  • Create a Google Merchant Centre account and upload your product feeds. 
  • Optimise your Google shopping feed 

As we see an uptick in online sessions, it’s also very important to also keep an eye on trends that may be impacting your keywords and organic clicks.

Two tools you can use to do that are:

  • Google Search Console
  • Google Trends

The aforementioned supermarket chain has seen some major keyword spikes during March.

In the space of a week, a single keyword has gone from a handful of clicks a day to upwards of 4,000. It is now their #1 traffic driving keyword.

Here is the Google trends data for the same and a few similar keywords:

Our Sydney office has also seen a similar trend for one of its ecommerce clients. 

A product related keyword has gone from a handful of clicks per day to 2.2k in the month of March, with the massive uptick only taking about 2 weeks. This makes it the #2 traffic driving keyword for brand, behind the core brand term itself.

Again, you can see the increase correlated in Google Trends data:

People are also searching for products to keep themselves and their kids entertained and educated at home.

So some retailers selling non-essential services are also experiencing the same rise in online sessions and purchases as essential services, such as supermakets.

It’s interesting to see how Covid-19 and the nationwide lockdown has started to change the digital landscape in New Zealand. At FIRST Digital, we’re keeping a close eye on the changes so we can help clients adjust to it. Stay alert, stay safe and let us know how we can help.