Lockdown TV: Consumers are increasingly conscious of their shopping habits

To help understand the changes to TV viewing, Thinkbox commissioned Ipsos to conduct a new real-time study following 12 households across the UK as their routines, needs and viewing habits change week by week.

As the nation stays home and TV viewing soars (up 24% since lockdown began to an average of 3 hours, 40 minutes a day per viewer, some 5 hours extra a week) a new study of the first weeks of lockdown has revealed how the pandemic is changing how and why we watch TV.

‘Lockdown TV’, commissioned by Thinkbox from Ipsos, is based on video diaries being kept by 12 households across the UK. They are each keeping track of their TV viewing habits as the nation adjusts to spending much more time at home. Excerpts from the video diaries are available to watch online.

Our latest update, Wave 2 (released on Thursday 30th April), reveals that consumers have an increased level of consciousness regarding their shopping habits. It also shows that brands that are contextually relevant to the current situation are winning out (for now).


A higher state of consciousness and experimentation

Unsurprisingly, lockdown is changing our buying behaviour. The luxury of choice has shrunk for most, and local shops and small business are plugging the gaps.  We’ve seen stock availability and the speed of delivery overriding brand preferences in many of our households – and this is seen as an acceptable trade-off given the circumstances.

Some even mentioned that their new choices of brand or retailer were likely to stick once lockdown is lifted, highlighting the bizarre opportunity that this crisis could bring for brands that are able to weather the storm and continue advertising (as supported here by Richard Shotton).

However, conscious changes in behaviour were also mentioned.  Households discussed supporting local or small business owners, such as one woman who stared shopping at Etsy to keep more small business afloat. These choices are built on an emotive connection and a willingness to support those that need it, which is surely a positive aspect of this crisis.


Contextually relevant wins out (for now)

The brands that are noticed and appreciated during this phase of lockdown are those that are either acknowledging or reflecting the current situation in their TV ads; Tesco, Aldi, Currys PC World and EE were notable examples.

There seems to be an increased appetite for relatable content - a desire to see real people and real situations mirrored through TV ads, and for brands to show that they are ‘doing the right thing’. This highlights both the enhanced consciousness in buying behaviour during lockdown and the increased need for comfort, that is driving much TV viewing.

It will be fascinating to see how this develops as lockdown progresses.


Implications and opportunities for advertisers

  • The COVID crisis is shaking up buying behaviours, many of which have been entrenched for years. For those able to invest, TV advertising provides an opportunity to build new or enhanced brand relationships that may last well beyond lockdown.
  • Viewers are watching content together that inspires ‘doing’ – cooking, crafting, exercise – genres of content that they hadn’t considered before. Brands fitting these categories have an opportunity to build contextual brand awareness through advertising.
  • Many are spending evenings watching films with their family, planning ads around family classics or nostalgic content during this time could deliver high returns.
  • TV is not only a source of comfort at the moment, but also trust and truthfulness. While viewers are looking for reliability, this is a great opportunity to build a relationship with consumers and form brand loyalty. Advertisers should make sure they’re authentic, contextual, and respectful to the situation.
  • Sports fans are looking for a replacement. While classic games are filling a void, big TV events are being produced to simulate the atmosphere of a sport event, and tongue-in-cheek content is emerging to open up placeholder genres or hobbies to a wider audience - all of which could allow for some clever sponsorship opportunities.

In summary

  • Lockdown has created major shifts in both viewing and buying behaviour. There is a heightened state of consumer consciousness and a greater demand to see real people and situations reflected in TV ads.
  • We’re living through unprecedented times and TV is providing a source of comfort and commonality with those around us - both in our households and beyond - and an important means of creating structure within our new, lockdown lives.
  • TV news is as especially important as the appetite for up-to-date, reliable and trusted information increases.  Although the ‘news blues’ is becoming an issue for some, TV news bulletins enable viewers to manage their exposure more effectively.  Meanwhile the wealth of entertaining TV content in the UK provides some much-needed light relief.


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