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Online Trends

Published July 3rd 2020

Covid-19: The Electrical Goods That Have Seen Unexpected, Unseasonal Consumer Interest During Lockdown

Bringing together search and social data to investigate the unexpected products consumers have shown interest in purchasing during lockdown

This week in Brandwatch’s daily Covid-19 Email Bulletins, we’ve been blending search data with social data to investigate electronic consumer goods that have seen unexpected levels of interest during the pandemic.

Search data was provided by Pi Datametrics, while social data was gathered by our Consumer Research platform. Using historic data back to 2017, we were able to see how current trends compare to seasonal ones that have become the norm. In all cases, there’s been a disruption.

Here are the four categories of electronics that consumers have been clamoring for under lockdown:

1. Beauty and grooming

There’s been a massive incline in interest in items like clippers both on social and in searches during lockdown.

Comparing March and April 2020 to January and February 2020, there were 69% more searches and 89% more social media mentions that indicated an intent to purchase such products.

As salons and barbers had to close under lockdown, many took to the internet to find the products they’d need for DIY haircuts. On social media, consumers asked for recommendations for good clippers and looked for tips, with many discussing using YouTube tutorials to work out how to cut their own or their partners’ hair.

Now many consumers are better equipped to tend to their own grooming needs, there are a few implications to consider for the future.

The obvious one is the potential for salons and barber shops to lose business. As the economic fallout of the pandemic becomes clearer, expensive haircuts probably won’t be first on the agenda for many consumers.

Another far less obvious one can be found in a trend we’ve found running through mentions around buying razors. There is an ongoing debate about price points and the pros and cons of razors targeted at men and those targeted at women. We found lots of people talking about women buying razors targeted at men and vice-versa, for a myriad of different reasons.

With interest in grooming products on a real high, now’s the time to analyze what consumers really think about products that have traditionally been marketed very differently to men and women. As a result, beauty and grooming brands might want to spend some time rethinking their target personas.

2. Printers and scanners

This started out as one of the most mysterious of the trends we’ve highlighted this week. While beauty/grooming products being popular while salons and barbers are closed makes sense, why are people suddenly interested in printing and scanning?

To investigate, we looked at the social media mentions we found in Consumer Research. These mentions included words that indicate the author is intending to purchase or has purchased a printer/scanner.

“Work” and “office” are prominent keywords within these conversations. With remote working becoming the norm for those usually in the office, it makes sense that they’re upgrading their equipment at home. And anyone who relied on use of a communal printer or scanner pre-outbreak (like students or library users) has recently, in theory at least, been in the market for either a printer/scanner of their own or a service that can do the job for them.

‘3D’ was also a big theme, appearing in around 15% of the printer and scanner mentions we studied. Curious, we started a new query looking at posts on r/3Dprinting. We found that the 3D printing community has been very busy during lockdown, with over 20k posts per week from enthusiasts in April.

The conversation on the subreddit is highly technical, but we found hundreds of mentions a week including words like ‘tips’, ‘advice’ or ‘recommend’. The thriving 3D printing community seems to have welcomed plenty of new people to their ranks during lockdown.

3. Kitchenware

Like with many electronic consumer goods, demand for coffee machines is high in November and December (when Black Friday and holiday gift giving are in full swing).

But this year, in the middle of lockdown, they’ve seen an unseasonal boost in interest from consumers.

Why are coffee machines so popular right now?

It turns out cafés and fancy office coffee makers have been missed by many consumers – so much so that they’ve invested in their own means of making high quality hot beverages.

Coffee has been something of a fascination during lockdown, with the whipped ‘Dalgona coffee’ making waves on social media very early on. In fact, the most shared ‘how to’ content around coffee in the last year was posted in March 2020, instructing readers on how to make it.

Another category of kitchenware that has seen a huge boost in popularity is refrigerators and freezers. For both searches and intent-to-purchase mentions on social media, the numbers are the highest they’ve been in three years.

Back in March and April, when ‘panic buying’ became a real issue, lots of consumers invested in more refrigerated space to keep larger quantities of food. Chest freezers popped up a lot in the conversations we looked at at this time, with consumers looking for recommendations for the best brands.

Unexpectedly, mini fridges were also pretty popular in online conversations. This includes people talking about storing beer and food they want to keep to themselves, as well as mini fridges intended for skin care products.

Kitchenware may not sound like the sexiest topic to gather insights on, but the data here marks two big changes in consumer behavior.

Many are now equipped to make their own morning coffee as opposed to visiting coffee chains on the way to work. This could mark the start of long term investment in particular coffee beans or pods. That’s also a lot of cash potentially being directed away from cafés and going straight to supermarkets.

Meanwhile, for those with increased refrigerated space in homes, stocking up on and keeping large quantities of food could become the norm. That, or there’ll be a lot of second-hand refrigerators and freezers on the market in a few months’ time.

4. Gaming

For gaming products, both search interest and intent-to-purchase mentions on social media hit a three-year high in March and April this year.

As the virus took hold and governments encouraged citizens to stay home, gaming became the perfect hobby.

Tens of thousands of people talked about buying gaming consoles online in March and April, but the big winner was a game that we’ve talked about before (and we’ll probably talk about again). Animal Crossing automatically appeared as a key topic within the intent-to-buy conversations (even though we only searched for games consoles).

It just goes to show how a single, very popular game can end up tempting consumers to buy a whole new console. In this case, it’s the Nintendo Switch which immediately saw huge demand as lockdowns began and the game was released in March.

Life is strange

Looking at demand for particular electrical goods this week, alongside all the other trends, we’re struck by the strangeness of it all. A sudden and totally unexpected demand for printers or clippers or refrigerators could never have been predicted at the start of the year. Every little change in demand represents big implications for those working in that sector, and each trend adds up to the wider picture of how much life has changed in just a few months.

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