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UK Media & Consumer Market Update — April 8, 2020

UK Media & Consumer Market Update — April 8, 2020
8 April 2020 Zac van Manen

Accurate as of 8 April, 2020.

Current UK status:

Visit for all official information.

  • As of 9am on 7 April 2020, a total of 213,181 people have been tested, of which 55,242 were confirmed positive.
  • 6,159 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.
  • The UK remains in the ‘delay’ phase of its coronavirus response, and the public is still on a lockdown, preventing people from going to work and travelling.
  • The UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is currently in intensive care with COVID-19. The Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, is deputising for him.
  • As part of the delay phase, people with even mild coronavirus symptoms – defined as a temperature above 37.8 C or a “new, continuous” cough – are being asked to self-isolate at home for at least seven days to protect others and help slow the spread of the disease (meaning no contact with anyone). Even if you have no symptoms, the government says you should still:
    • Only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if you cannot work from home)
    • If you go out, stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people at all times
    • You may only exercise outside the house once per day
    • Wash your hands as soon as you get home
    • Avoid pubs, restaurants, clubs, theatres, gyms and other social venues (most are closed)
    • Visiting friends and family is not allowed

UK travel restrictions:

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  • The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice remains that all non-essential travel within the UK AND international travel should be avoided in an effort to stem the spread of coronavirus. Many flights are cancelled out of the UK due to travel bans around the world. This remains in place until at least 17 April 2020, and will then be reviewed.
  • The FCO is still working with airlines to fly back British tourists stranded abroad.
  • UK travellers are still banned from entering the US.

Media commentary:

  • Most UK publications have a substantial amount of news space dedicated to coronavirus updates, however there is still an appetite for entertaining, interesting, helpful and quirky news, stories and information.
  • Looking to late 2020 and 2021 remains good option, provided there is a good hook or angle (new hotels, new products, great offer, anniversary, availability in an always sold-out property).
  • Many publications are still encouraging readers to delay/reschedule their holiday bookings, rather than to cancel them outright. This will help keep the industry afloat.
  • Content that media are requesting remains inspirational. Travel journalists want to encourage people to book their future holidays and do what they can to help keep the travel industry afloat. Video and photo content is therefore in high demand, as is ‘virtual holiday’ content that people can enjoy from home.
  • Travel coverage of late includes destination guides, bucket-list destinations, round-up lists of top 5 or top 10 places to go for a certain experience or type of holiday, etc.
  • Some media outlets are showcasing what coronavirus has done to positively impact some destinations (e.g. Venice and its increased wildlife in the canals, reduced pollution in Beijing).

Consumer commentary:

  • It is predicted that domestic travel will bounce back first, followed by international travel. This is because should there be uncertainty regarding getting ‘stranded’ somewhere, people would rather be closer to home.
  • A key topic of concern for consumers continues to be ticket cancellation and refund policies. Many customers are being denied refunds despite it being illegal in some cases to do so. Travel companies are continuing to update their policies in order to retain business when possible (e.g. Emirates have now waived both change fees and are difference costs for customers with flight bookings for travel on or before 30 June 2020).
  • Customer service teams in the travel industry are at full capacity, with long wait times for customers.
  • A total of 81% of the global workforce of 3.3 billion people have had their workplace fully or partly closed.
  • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been welcomed hugely by UK businesses, and the scheme is being widely used in order to retain jobs. However, this is only in place until 31 May currently.
  • The consumer market is seeing further disruptions as manufacturing and production sectors slow down, as well as delays in deliveries/couriers. Many UK supermarkets are now only delivering to those who are essential workers or those who are vulnerable, and are not taking on any new delivery customers.
  • Travel companies are seeking support from the Government to help stay afloat. In particular, the aviation sector had called for special government measures to help it survive; for example, EasyJet has secured a £600m loan from the Treasury and Bank of England’s emergency coronavirus fund.

Social/digital landscape:

  • Social media usage significantly up during this period with Twitter, Instagram Stories, Snapchat, TikTok, and LinkedIn the major beneficiaries of everyone’s extra attention. Instagram posts tend to be nostalgic for a more regular time — which suits a lot of travel brands well — and Facebook’s position in peoples’ lives seems to have remained much the same.
  • Social advertising has reportedly gotten cheaper across the board. Brands most benefiting from the extra eyeballs and the vacated advertising space are higher-ticket items that can still be delivered. Impulse buy purchases have fallen off, as have many fashion purchases — other than face masks.
  • Content strategies haven’t fundamentally changed. Consumer brands are just more cautious to promote indoors activity and travel brands are deleting calls to action from their copy. Brand awareness and salience are priorities for brands right now especially as budgets — and revenues — shrink.
  • Businesses leaning on their online-enabled capabilities are stemming the bleeding. Restaurants, for example, are seeing their takeaway orders up 300% even though overall revenues are down 30%. Obviously not a complete replacement for that impulse-purchase version of seeing something on a menu between starters and mains, or topping up with that other bottle of wine, but versions of these businesses continue to trade even now. Snapchat revealed that prepared food delivery activity is trending on the app.
  • Slightly related: Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted overnight he’ll be contributing USD$1 billion to fight COVID-19.

Confused about how best to communicate with your customers during this period? Get in touch.