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How COVID Affected Consumer Behavior – Tyson Stockton // Searchmetrics

Episode Overview: The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the global economy, leaving no company untouched by its detrimental effects. Consumers’ changed their buying habits as shelter in place orders were issued, effectively impacting how businesses conducted operations and earned revenue. Join host Ben as he kicks off New Buyer’s Journey Week with Searchmetrics’ Director of Services Tyson Stockton as they discuss how COVID-19 affected consumer behavior and review the new buyer’s journey.

Summary

  • The buyer’s journey itself hasn’t drastically changed. Ultimately user behavior and the various elements of users lives have changed the most when it comes to impacting the buyer’s journey.
  • Although desktop conversions are currently higher than mobile, Tyson recommends to still optimize for both. The importance of either one depends on the industry you’re optimizing for.
  • As people spend more time in front of screens, the research phase of the buyer’s journey is longer than before. People are less impulsive with decision making due to economic hardships and unemployment.
  • SEOs are spending more time in informational areas at the top of the marketing funnel to quickly build awareness in consumers and keep information on top of their minds for later decision making.

GUESTS & RESOURCES

Ben:                  Welcome to New Buyer’s Journey Week on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro and this week we’re going to publish an episode every day discussing what you need to know to adjust your content strategy in a post-COVID outbreak world. Joining us for a New Buyer’s Journey Week is Tyson Stockton, Searchmetrics’ director of services. Searchmetrics is an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data driven decisions. And outside of shepherding Searchmetrics’ most strategic SEO clients to SEO success. Tyson is stepping in for a sick member of his team to talk to us about the new buyer’s journey. Okay, today we’re going to discuss how the COVID outbreak affected consumer behavior. Here’s the first installment of New Buyer’s Journey Week with Tyson Stockton, Searchmetrics’ head of services. Tyson coming in off the bench to save the day on the Voices of Search podcast.

Tyson:              What’s going on Ben? Look forward to addressing some new topics today.

Ben:                   I’d say it’s been awhile, but we just did a podcast like two days ago? It was two days ago?

Tyson:              Yeah and I think a very good podcast.

Ben:                   I feel like we talk every day and originally good friend of the show Marlon Glover was supposed to come on and talk about content strategy and the new buyer’s journey. Unfortunately, Marlon wasn’t feeling well and so you’re stepping in. Marlon first off if you’re listening to this, we hope that you are better by the time this content is published which is a week after we’re going to record. And Tyson, good to have you back on the show. Let’s talk a little buyer’s journey. Can’t get around talking about the buyer’s journey without talking about the Coronavirus. Unfortunately, the buyer’s journey is changing, the world is changing. Let’s start off. It’s the thing that’s on everyone’s mind. It’s something that we talk about almost all the time on this podcast that the outbreak has affected consumer behavior, which changes the buyer journey. How did the Coronavirus and sort of the new world order affect how we think about consumers, SEO and user behavior?

Tyson:               You hit right on like the key point there is I wouldn’t describe it as much of like, Hey, the buyer’s journey is just all of a sudden different. I mean it is, but it’s more because of how the user behavior is changing. And I think that it dates back to when this all happened where we’re spending more time at home, people are spending more time online. You see changes in browsing behavior. We saw the first time there being a rise on desktop searches versus mobile because people are on their computers more. And so I think those elements of how our lives are changing are also then inherently just changing how we look for products, how what the life, how long of a journey it is, the different touchpoints. And so that evolves as this whole event and this whole time evolves. So I think the biggest piece is thinking back to how is this changing our lives and then that’s going to be a piece that impacts also how people search and how people will make decisions around what products and what purchases they want to make.

Ben:                  So there’s a couple different things that you said that stick out to me. First off, it’s “The Empire Strikes Back,” rise of the laptop. Does this mean that we’re going back to the early 2000s when the laptop was the primary computing device? Are we thinking about prioritizing laptops first instead of mobile first? When you say that people are using that device more often go to more detail about how you think that impacts the buyer’s journey.

Tyson:              The first piece that I would say on that is I don’t think it should be changing like, “Okay, now we’re going to optimize for desktop pages versus mobile pages,” because then you get into “Well, it’s still a mobile first index.” You still have a lot of people. It’s not like mobile’s floor fell out. It was just we saw an increase from what we’ve seen increase in trends over the last couple of years on. So I’d say from the top level, I would still highly encourage and push everyone to have parity between desktop, mobile.

Tyson:              I would still probably optimize mobile first because we no longer run that’s going to continue to be the primary. But I think as far as how that impacts the buyer’s journey and this is highly dependent on categories or segments that we’re talking about, but you also sometimes have advantages of things like higher conversion rates on desktop. And so that could be a slippery slope as far as some categories doing well right now and some categories not so high but I think there are advantages that people can use of having a higher volume of desktop traffic.

Ben:                 So without getting into which specific industries have been most effective, we are going to spend a fair amount of time talking about that. Are you seeing consumers consume content in a different fashion? Are people spending more time online, more time reading, less time reading, researching? Is this an idea where people are spending more time putting in B2B terms, top of funnel, middle of funnel, or is everybody just buying, buying, buying and going to the bottom of funnel?

Tyson:            No, I would say definitely more on the first of those two I think. One you have, and let’s talk more in maybe not like this month necessarily, but just this whole COVID event, but people are spending more time inside and they’re staying at home. They’re spending more time online so we’ve actually seen search demand in a lot of categories increase. We’ve seen overall activity online if you want to throw in things like Netflix viewing hours and stuff. And it’s like we are all in front of screens a lot more. And how that translates into the buyer’s journey is people are spending more time and so in some cases you’re going to see an actual probably longer buyer’s journey where maybe people are using it as an outlet and they might spend a little more time. And maybe it’s a little less impulsive right now too, because we know that there are hardships and whether it’s unemployment numbers or limited working hours, people are being a little more conservative on their spending in general. So I’d say with that inherently kind of breeds like a longer and more thought out decision making process.

Ben:               So Tyson the other thing that I noticed that obviously has changed is the notion of the day part in time of conversion behaviors happening in different times of day. Does that affect SEO or is that something that is really just an SEM factor of you should be running your advertisements more in the middle of the day as opposed to beginning or end now. Does day parting have an impact on SEO?

Tyson:           I would say no. that’s going to be more of a page strategy and it’s a great point. It’s definitely an effective piece to keep in mind. But with the nature of SEO, your articles are out there in the wild. And if someone consumes it during the middle of the day or the evenings, it’s not going to change your strategy or your efforts. So I’d say that would be something that wouldn’t be as pointed or relevant from the SEO side but definitely from the SEM side.

Ben:              Yeah. So I guess the highest level question and maybe this is what I should have asked you first is, has there been a change in the type of content that people are consuming? Generally, we think about consumer intent when we’re thinking about SEO, whether a piece of content is navigational, educational, informational or a transactional. Have you seen a mix shift change between the types of content people are consuming?

Tyson:           Yeah. I would say with how much people are spending time I would say that there’s been a rise in the informational areas. So people with having like a longer buying cycle or buyer’s journey, they’re going to spend a little more time researching. And when we get into different categories it’s going to be more prevalent than others. But I think sometimes with how much time we’re spending online, the buyer’s journey in some ways becomes a little bit of like an escape for some people and maybe like, “Hey, I’m really interested in it.” Maybe it’s a business aspect, okay, no need to add a new software. But I’d say the actual gathering and how much information that the average consumer’s ingesting during that journey is a lot higher. And I think it’s also strengthened the need for informational content and kind of tying back around to even things like conversion rates and areas like that.

Tyson:           One thing that smart SEOs or marketers are doing in general is say they’re in a cold segment or industry that’s not converting as well, while shifting that focus and acquiring more landscaper ownership of that early stage buying funnel is going to be more critical because that’s going to help them later when maybe conversions come back.

Ben:               Here’s the good news. We finally found a bright spot in the Coronavirus outbreak is that people are spending more time getting educated. They’re consuming more content that is informational and hopefully that leads to just generally better decisions, smarter people, everybody that’s being more aware, maybe not smarter people but people that are consuming more content and hopefully are getting the right content. Hey, I’m trying to put a positive spin on this whole thing, but I think the reality is people are spending more time doing research and that potentially makes SEO more competitive at the top of the funnel. And also allows you to cast a wider net and reach more of your potential customers if you’re really good at producing and syndicating that top of funnel informational content.

Ben:                Tyson we’re going to bring you back tomorrow and talk a little bit about which industries specifically were affected by the Coronavirus and how that impacts the buyer journey. So that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Tyson Stockton, the head of services at Searchmetrics. We’d love to continue the conversation with you so if you’re interested in contacting Tyson, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter, his handle is Tyson_Stockton, or you can visit his company’s website, which is searchmetrics.com.

Ben:                Just one more link in our show notes I’d like to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over to the voicesofsearch.com where we have summaries of all of our episodes and contact information for our guests. You can also send us your topic suggestions or your SEO questions. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast. Of course you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is VoicesofSearch on Twitter. And my personal handle is Ben J Shap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. And if you haven’t subscribed yet and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to publish episodes every day during the work week. So hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning. All right that’s it for today. But until next time, remember the answers are always in the data.