Skip to Main Content
Image of a young woman cooking at home using a recipe from her tablet


Digital Fills the Social Distancing Gap

August 2020 Edition

List of key findings
Aug2020 Trends

Throughout the first half of 2020, quarantines and stay-at-home orders became a worldwide response to an escalating global health crisis, with countries advising citizens to limit travel and out-of-home leisure activities – like shopping, travel and dining – closing their doors.

All of a sudden, tasks like grabbing a coffee before work, dropping the kids off at school, heading to a fitness class or spending an evening with friends became highly restrictive, challenging people to adapt to a new way of life.

Graphic: 90% of people agreed that reopening business was important

The road to returning to out-of-home leisure activity will vary by country as different regions consider easing or lifting restrictions. A GlobalWebIndex (GWI) study finds that although 90 percent of people agree that reopening businesses is important, only half of respondents say they are likely to return “very quickly.” New Zealand (60 percent), Australia (66 percent) and China (55 percent) are more likely to say they will return to stores quickly. France, Canada and U.S. respondents are split, and countries like Italy and Brazil say they are more likely to delay returning to in-store activities as their regions recover.

With public restrictions likely for the foreseeable future, people face a critical question: “How do I spend my free time?”  This pursuit has led to a period of exploration – with many turning to digital channels like social media and YouTube to learn about new things, try new activities and remain connected. These newfound interests offer opportunities for companies to build relationships with people who may not have interacted with their brand before and become a part of the digital conversation in a way that’s relevant, authentic and valuable.

Rapid adoption of new hobbies via digital inspiration

According to our research, 81 percent of global respondents say they tried a new hobby over the last three months. These hobbies strike a balance between online and offline activity, with do-it-yourself (DIY) home improvement, cooking, and trying new restaurants topping the list.

Chart: 81% said they tried a new hobbie over the last 3 months

In the past three months, have you done any of the following?

Interests vary by region and demographic. Of those who tried something new, Millennials and Gen Z were the most ambitious, outpacing older generations across all categories.

Chart: In the past three months, have you done any of the following?

Deepening social connections through social media

People are generally social creatures, and with in-person activity limited, online tools become a powerful way to maintain social connection. When approaching new hobbies, people seek to recreate physical experiences digitally, establishing new habits powered by technology.

Our research found that YouTube and social media sites like Facebook, TikTok and Instagram were the most popular channels when it comes to learning

Activities like cooking, gardening, fitness, DIY home improvement and mindfulness/meditation skew towards video learning – mirroring experiences one would typically find in an in-person environment. In-app interactions are also more prominent among fitness and mindfulness-based activities -- things that people may want to continuously track progress on or follow a routine with.

Chart: Do-it-yourself home improvement projects
Chart: Learned how to cook or bake
Chart: Started a new sport or form of exercise
Chart: Planted a garden to grow food for the first time
Chart of Starting practicing mindfulness or meditation
For activities like researching new restaurants and adopting pets, social media channels that provide knowledge sharing through crowdsourcing and word-of-mouth are preferred.
Chart: Tried a new restaurant
Chart: Adopted or fostered a pet
31% of people are more likely to make a purchase from brands that provide education via product videos or how-to content

Branded content also plays a rising role. Aside from cooking, people cite branded content as one of their top three resources for learning across categories. Our research finds that people are 31 percent more likely to make a purchase from brands that provide education via product videos or how-to content. In this way, people are turning to brands not just for purchasing but as a trusted resource for personal growth.

A voice (assistant) in the void

Though voice remains an emerging channel, our research finds that people are beginning to view voice technology as more than just an assistant. Data from 2019 shows that before the pandemic, people typically used voice for tasks like playing music or checking the weather.

Image of Patron Cocktail Lab app

Patron’s Cocktail Lab delivers personalized cocktail recommendations for people looking to experiment at home. Integrations with Amazon Echo, Echo Show, or Google Home let people “Ask Patron” to find a cocktail recommendation for any occasion.

Read case study

However, over the last few months, our research finds people are more likely to use voice assistants as a guide. For example, Allrecipes Alexa says there has been a 67 percent uptick in traffic and an  45 percent increase in new users during the pandemic – signaling that people looking to try new recipes are turning to voice to help teach them along the way.

Capturing share of digital life

As we move toward recovery, brands should look to understand the role they play in this evolving digital ecosystem, not just as a provider of goods and services, but also as a resource for discovery, knowledge and exploration in a world that’s becoming more comfortable with leveraging digital tools  and more open to breaking from the routine.

The Digital Life of Brands

Educate through branded content

Assist people in their pursuit of knowledge by providing educational content that encourages upskilling or helps people think about new ways to use products or services creatively.

Connect through social commerce

With social media serving as a channel for people to exchange ideas and recommendations, make the path from discovery to purchase easier and more convenient through social commerce tools that allow shoppers or diners to place an order directly from a social platform.

Tap into unstructured data

Monitor social media to uncover real-time conversations, gauge sentiment, respond to shifts in demand, and meet shopper needs at the right moment.

Invest in voice

The role of voice is changing, especially as people become more accustomed to the technology. Brands should consider how voice plays a role as part of an omnichannel customer journey now to remain ahead of the curve.

Graphic of colorful shapes

Receive exclusive people-centric content

Subscribe to The Digital Life Index now and gain exclusive access to the Member Resource Hub, featuring insight-led content to drive your digital future.

world map


Chart of Research participants demographics