Impact of COVID on Marketing

A Data Report By Glance

To say that the impact of COVID Report on business is similar in scale to that of The Great Depression or even the most recent economic recession of 2008 is not an understatement.

The pandemic has brought a worldwide loss of life without a single outwardly violent act. It has locked up most of the world indoors, caused enormous economic turmoil, loss of livelihoods, and has catalyzed a sudden transformation into a more remote human society.

In this worrying context, we asked ourselves the question: How should businesses react in such a situation? How should they plan their marketing? What are the insights that can guide a marketer to deploy the right strategies and maximize ROI?

Because business must go on as usual and there is no business without marketing.

On a mission to provide insights to marketers using AI, we dug into the data — from Google Analytics — we had on hand on our platform and conducted a study of website performance across a cross-section of industries. The study focused on deriving insights based on the metrics of traffic, engagement, bounce rate, etc., and pointing out any outlier behavior. The goal is to provide ideas that would help marketers make strategic decisions.

Key Findings of the Glance Data Report


A preliminary analysis of the traffic data shows an increase in traffic to hobby-based sectors like Home & Garden. Limited trips to the grocer means that customers are looking to cultivate their own garden and this theme is supported throughout our research.

Our data also shows that there is a renewed interest in Online Communities. Presumably, these are centered around hobby activities and the spike is expected.

However, what belies logic is the 49% dip in the News segment. Every ounce of reasoning dictates that this number should not be negative, much less -49%! Are people saturated with the news? Has over-sensationalism finally caught up with news websites?

We’ll let you be the judge of that.

The Jobs & Education sector has also seen a significant dip of 36%, while the dip in employment is expected, we’re not so sure about the education sector.

COVID Report Traffic Trend Highlights

Bounce Rate

A high Bounce Rate to the tune of 90% was observed for new users across sectors. But when combined with the outliers, websites that actually saw a decrease in their bounce rate, this metric paints a picture of lockdown priorities.

For example, websites in the Finance & Online Communities saw a decrease in their bounce rate, implying that people are taking the time to explore and research for the sake of their financial health.

Bounce Rate Outliers


Considered by many to be the holy grail of marketing metrics, the engagement rate has increased across the board, sometimes even contradictory to the traffic data.

Average session duration, which is highly correlated with engagement rate has also gone up along with the site activity as measured by event data.

While the engagement rate for the Finance sector has increased by 34.4%, for Online Communities, there appears to be a contradiction. Despite a decrease in the bounce rate, engagement has actually gone down by 26.8%.

Why do you think this has happened?

The Engagement Paradox

The Travel Industry has been severely affected by the shutdown of travel and this is reflected in the engagement rates on their website.

The overall decrease notwithstanding, the increase in engagement by returning users points to a trend of aspirational planning. It looks like seasoned travelers and regular users of these travel sites are taking this opportunity to plan out their next vacation/travel.

The Aspirational Traveller

How Users Are Finding Websites

Search & Ad Traffic Trends

These trends can be reasoned out as a result of the ongoing lockdown. Arts & Entertainment, Online Communities, and Home & Garden are experiencing a rise in direct traffic.

Uptick in Direct Traffic

The increase in the Home & Garden sector is also supported by the numbers for Organic Search.

Surge in Organic Traffic

Note the 127% spike in Beauty & Fitness for organic search. This spike is no doubt led by users looking for new avenues to keep fit.

How Websites Are Finding Visitors

Marketing seems to be the first victim of tightening purse strings across industries.

Display advertising has seen an overall downtick of 27%. This is significant considering how important display advertising is as a marketing tool.

But, it looks like stakeholders in the Entertainment and Gardening sectors have recognized the opportunity in front of them. They have increased advertising significantly as reflected in the below numbers.

Seizing the Opportunity: Significant Increase in Display Advertising

People are spending a lot of time on social media — more so than usual — and this is reflected in the 27% rise in social media traffic.

Increase In Traffic From Social Media

Email seems to be the biggest winner of all showing an increase to the tune of 200% or more for some of our customers. Companies should use this opportunity to analyze their engagement rates to craft better copies and zero-in on what works and what doesn’t.

Even for the travel sector, Email marketing has seen a markedly positive response. Marketers would do well to best use this insight to tweak their campaigns.

Email Is The Biggest Traffic Driver

What The COVID Data Tells Us

Now to answer the question, How do we use this data and extract meaningful insights out of them?

The above-presented data is but a tiny, albeit an interesting fraction of the actual data that we analyzed. By using Google Analytics for an equal time period spanning pre-COVID and post-COVID and by measuring several GA metrics, we have uncovered a few fascinating insights for marketers.

Here’s what we gleaned from all this data.

Traffic and Engagement Insights:
  • New user acquisition is going to be a tough and costly affair. Paid search, however, could go down in pricing and may be an opportunity to capitalize on.
  • Returning users and existing users seem to be spending more time on the site, giving marketers the opportunity to achieve conversions, and retargeting content and retention marketing strategies could work well.
  • Conversions are going to be longer, so focusing on nurture marketing and aiming for micro-conversions seems to be a good idea.
Channels and Acquisition Insights:
  • Focus on your SEO and content marketing efforts as direct and organic search seems to be on the rise.
  • Leverage any paid campaign, search, social, or display as a way to create awareness of your product rather than to drive conversions.
  • Use channels such as email to run retention, upsell, and recall campaigns.
  • Leverage organic social and referral channels to continue to drive contextual audience.

We hope these insights help provide you some notes on deploying your marketing resources more effectively. Please comment to share your marketing viewpoints.

Email Insights

  • This report is intended for information purposes only. Glance Inc. is not responsible for, and expressly disclaims all liability for, damages of any kind arising out of use, the reference to, or reliance on any information contained within this report.
  • Data between January 01, 2020, and February 29, 2020, were considered pre-COVID, and between January 03, 2020, and April 27, 2020, were considered post-COVID for this study.
  • The cross-section of industries is classified by Google Analytics or added by our customers.
  • We have used Google Analytics data across our customer set and it is not representative of the overall industry segments.