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REPORT

Covid-19: How Are Consumers Entertaining Themselves at Home?

Many of us have found ourselves with extended periods of time to fill. In this report, we’ll explore the various ways people are spending that time.

REPORTCovid-19: How Are Consumers Entertaining Themselves at Home?
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With disrupted routines, we’ve all had to find different ways to spend our time since lockdowns began.

And, aside from getting bored, there’s plenty to do.

In this report, we’ll take you through various kinds of activities and how consumers are taking them up in different ways. We’ve mainly drawn data from public social media mentions (via Consumer Research), but we’ve also touched on survey data (via Qriously), search data (via Google Trends), and content analysis (via BuzzSumo).

We’ll cover:

Here goes.

Hobbies and skills

Developing new hobbies or skills is one way people have been spending their time.

Tutorial (‘how to’) content saw a big increase in volume, and an even bigger increase in engagement, in March compared to January and February.

While a lot of this content is about things relating to Covid-19 (e.g. ‘how to stop the spread’), much of the most engaged with content relates to things people can learn how to do themselves. Tutorials on making ‘dalgona coffee’ and a ‘pancake charcuterie board’ are particularly popular, while making your own face masks and anti-bac wipes are also up there.

We’ve found a whole bunch of different skills and hobbies that have trended in social conversations in recent weeks. Here are a few examples that are growing, remaining steady, or starting to die out.

Hobbies in quarantine: How trends have changed over time

Source: Brandwatch Consumer Research | Data based on social media mentions of specific trends, indexed to Mar 12. Excludes retweets.

DIY has seen a real uptick since the beginning of April, and continues to keep going steadily. After spending a few weeks at home, that wonky shelf or patchy wall seems to have gotten on our nerves enough to do something about it. The upward trend may also be down to sourcing materials – it can take a while to get our hands on what we need right now.

Baking sourdough is one of the most interesting ‘quarantine fads’, and we’ve found thousands of people talking about it. It lends itself to the free time some now have – making it involves a sourdough starter, which takes five days of attention to create before you even start baking. If you’re working from home, that becomes a much easier task to keep on top of.

TikTok has had a fairly steady amount of conversation throughout March and April, and popularity of the app is booming. With plenty of time to create and scroll through content, it’s no wonder, and we’ve seen plenty of videos from TikTok take off on other platforms, too.

Learning a language has also seen steady mentions online. In the month of March, we found that Spanish and French were the most popular languages people were talking about learning. (Note: This conversation was English-speaking).

Home gyms: Just as we quickly drop New Year resolutions, so too do we brush off lockdown exercise routines, and it seems like home gym excitement is dying off fast. Having said that, we’ve recently reported on the rise of interest in running challenges, so maybe we’re being too pessimistic here. It could be that people are abandoning their home setups to get some fresh air instead.

Finding inner peace

Also among the most popular ‘how to’ articles in March was ‘how to protect your mental health’.

There are two sides to the hobbies and skills chatter online – there’s stuff you can learn how to do in order to achieve something in lockdown, but there’s also working on your own mental health.

We’ve noticed a huge uptick in people talking about meditation since the outbreak began.

Using our Consumer Research platform, we found over a million English-language mentions of meditation online since the beginning of March, and popularity of the trend has risen in tandem with lockdown measures.

Mentions of meditation have transcended normal volumes

Source: Brandwatch Consumer Research | Data shows weekly online conversations around meditation. Retweets excluded. 30 Decemebr 2019 - 19 April 2020

These conversations are defined by wellness and spirituality – associated hashtags are #Mindfulness, #Yoga, and #UnlockYourInnerPower, and accompanying emojis are scattered with ‘prayer hands’ and hearts.

Perhaps the most accessible way to get into meditation is via the massive selection of dedicated apps.

We found that both the Headspace and Calm apps have seen upticks in online chatter since the outbreak began, appearing in lists like ‘best apps to help you with Covid-19 anxiety’. Calm was recommended by pop stars Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello in a recent Instagram story where they spoke about the importance of looking after your mental health right now, while Headspace has been praised for offering free resources during the pandemic.

And meditation isn’t the only way people are finding time for quiet. As we mentioned above, ‘yoga’ is very much associated with meditation in online conversations, and Google search interest in yoga mats has increased sharply in recent weeks.

Worldwide Google searches for 'yoga mat' are rising fast

Source: Google Trends | Numbers represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart

While many businesses find themselves rapidly losing custom, Spring 2020 could be one of the most profitable months ever for apps and products that help people relax and find some peace amidst the chaos.

Podcasts and music

We’re baking, exercising, and doing DIY – but what are we listening to while we pass the time?

In March, chatter about listening to podcasts rose every week, indicating renewed interest in tuning in. We found over 60k mentions of the practice in the week beginning 30 March, up 25% compared to the first week of the month.

People are discussing how they are enjoying podcasts while doing a whole range of lockdown activities:

While some are still talking about listening to podcasts while in transit, cooking was the top activity we found. As mentioned above, many have taking up baking as a hobby while in lockdown. This extra time spent in the kitchen with a need for something to listen to appears to be doing good things for podcast listening numbers.

Exercising and relaxing in the bath were also pretty popular activities for listening along to a podcast to.

Many of these mentions are driven by self care and ‘things to do while in isolation’ content, and Tumblr users appear to be among the biggest advocates.

What about music? The soundtrack of the Covid-19 pandemic is something that’s going to be pretty personal.

For some, it’ll be the recommendations of music critics. For others, the simple chimes from the start of a Zoom or Skype call could be the sound of 2020.

For many, it’s a Spotify playlist called ‘COVID-19 Quarantine Party’ that has 408,584 likes on the platform at the time of writing. It features hits like ‘Toxic’ by Britney Spears and ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me’ by The Police.

Books

Books are a great way to escape reality, so we thought we’d take a look at genres that specialize in this: science fiction and fantasy books.

We took 16 books from this list of top sci-fi and fantasy titles, and looked at mentions around them to see how many people are talking about heading off to gigantic castles and faraway planets to take their minds off the virus.

People are turning to sci fi and fantasy books to escape reality

Source: Brandwatch Consumer Research | Data shows number of social media users discussing popular sci fi and fantasy books. Exclude retweets.

Since the beginning of March, when many countries went into lockdown, there has been a steady increase in mentions of sci-fi books. It’s clear that Covid-19 and being in quarantine has got people thinking about science fiction and fantasy – we found 12k posts directly mentioning the two alongside each other.

This could be a glimmer of good news for the book industry. There have been major concerns that disruption to events and releases, coupled with consumers having less money in their pockets for novels, could spell disaster for the industry and bookstores. But, evidently, books are a great outlet for many people looking to escape reality.

We also looked at some major science fiction and fantasy authors. Here are the top ten most-mentioned that we found:

It’s a mix of authors from different times.

TV and movies

With an abundance of spare time on our hands, and plenty of subscriptions available, quarantine has given many people the time they craved to catch up on the TV shows and movies they always meant to watch.

But what is it that the people want to see? We looked at mentions of people talking about watching, or intending to watch, shows and movies across a variety of channels and streaming platforms.

The most common genre we found being discussed within these mentions, surprisingly, was horror. We live in scary times, so perhaps a bit of supernatural fiction from a safe distance is something that can help get us through.

We were interested to see horror outweigh documentaries, given the recent craze around a certain tiger-related title.

And we were also a little surprised to see that old, or classic, TV shows and movies were third on the list – above action and comedy. A bit of nostalgia is clearly in order.

To accompany our TV and movie data, we thought we’d have a look at how people are talking about subscriptions right now.

Tracking mentions of ‘cancel’ and ‘subscription’, we found that conversation around cancelling subscriptions of all kinds has been rising, peaking in late March.

Mentions of subscription cancellations are rising

Source: Brandwatch Consumer Research | Data shows public online conversation around cancelling subscriptions. 6 Jan - 19 Apr 2020. Retweets excluded

The so-called ‘streaming wars’ are now being fought on a strange new battleground. In some ways, people have more reasons to subscribe to an entertainment service than ever before. 52% of the global consumers we surveyed between 24 – 30 March said they expect to be watching more TV than usual during lockdown.

But with gloomy economic forecasts and many opting to save their money, subscription services could take a hit.

Investing in improving horror, documentary, and classic movie/TV portfolios could be one way the entertainment giants catch and retain customers while lockdowns continue.

Video games

When thinking about how to cover video games for this report, we decided we’d be remiss if we didn’t do a deep dive on Animal Crossing.

Given that we’re all spending more time at home and looking for distractions, Animal Crossing couldn’t have been released at a better time. In fact, it’s hard to think of internet culture under Covid-19 without the Tom Nook jokes, sea bass memes, and kooky ceremony screenshots.

The launch back in March was incredibly successful. It topped our chart for positive brand stories in a recent report, and, according to The Metro, Animal Crossing “has become the third fastest selling Nintendo title of all-time in the US, behind only Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Brawl, and ahead of every Mario and Zelda ever.”

We’re just over a month since the game’s release, and we wanted to check out how conversations around Animal Crossing and Covid-19 have developed.

Three key spikes caught our attention.

1. The call for Animal Crossing to be released early

On March 12 2020, there was a spike of 27k mentions of the game and the virus. It was driven by this message, which called for Nintendo to ‘do the right thing’.

The popularity of this tweet was an excellent indicator of how successful the launch would go on to be.

2. Getting married on Animal Crossing

There have been all sorts of virtual events since the outbreak of Covid-19, and Animal Crossing has become one of the many platforms on which we can meet.

The game allowed this couple, who’d had to postpone their wedding, to spend a very special moment with their friends. The story drove another spike of around 27k mentions on March 24.

3. Animal Crossing as a space for protest

From weddings through to protests, Animal Crossing provides a space for all.

Around April 8 we found a whole bunch of shares of this article from Wired, which explains how Hong Kong protestors have been using the game to share artwork and virtual gatherings.

Animal Crossing has become both a means of escape and a new way for real world events to play out. And now the Nintendo Switch console itself is so popular that many have been unable to find them in stock. The company is expected to replenish supplies soon so more people can get their hands on the console and the game.

While the world is in a pretty awful place, the internet and the activities people are sharing while in lockdown give some wholesome respite.

For businesses, this is a trying time – whether customers are being lost or gained, the process has been quick and unprecedented.

What remains true for both is that staying close to the consumer is the way forward. The businesses that survive will be those who can anticipate preferences and needs, react quickly to changes, and find innovative solutions.

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