5 min.
Users’ preferred devices during lockdown
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Users’ preferred devices during lockdown

Paid Media & SEM

Since the outset of the pandemic, I have given a lot of thought to the idea that this period of lockdown must be changing the way consumers are shopping and searching online. Because we’re all stuck at home, no one is using public transit to commute to work, we aren’t going to bars or taking advantage of sunny days out on a terrace, and consequently, we’re spending less time on our phones, and more time on the computer. 

At least, that’s the theory that’s been running through my mind… 

The influence of changes in user behaviour

Whenever consumer behaviour changes dramatically, brands need to adjust their marketing initiatives to stay aligned with the new reality. From a media perspective, this translates to creative, messaging and even ad placements being adapted. In terms of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), new content is created and existing content is optimized to respond to new search queries. Redesigning certain pages of a site is another tactic to conform to changes in user behaviour. 

To verify my hypothesis, I looked at users’ preferred devices since the beginning of the lockdown, and analyzed behaviour trends from across more than 30 of our client accounts. The list includes a heterogeneous mix of retail, essential services like grocery stores, SAAS, companies offering B2B services and those doing B2C, government services and training. Some have a hybrid offering of brick & mortar and e-commerce, while others are purely e-commerce. 

Here’s an overview of how different sectors are represented in the analysis:


I was able to create the graph below by extracting and visualizing consumer data in Google Analytics. You can see a (slight) growth in desktop traffic across all our clients’ properties. So far, my theory is holding water. 


The vertical axis represents the percentage of traffic (in sessions) launched by users’ different devices. This methodology excludes volume bias by vertical/client and offers an overview of users’ behaviour. The use of a percentage based on sessions also allows us to exclude the bias of simultaneous use of multiple devices in the house. 

Now let’s take it further.  

Once the data from all the clients in the sample has been aggregated, we see the following variation between the pre-lockdown period (January 1 to March 13) and the beginning of the lockdown period (March 14 to April 1). 

  • Desktop: Increase in session ratio of 8% 
  • Mobile: Drop in session ratio of 3% 
  • Tablet: Drop in session ratio of 5%

While the variation isn’t enormous, you can still see a certain degree of behavioural change among users. However, if we isolate only the data from the most recent weeks of lockdown, this change in terms of preferred devices remains very stable. 


We can therefore conclude that in a large proportion of the Quebec population, a change in habits brought on by the lockdown has influenced their choice of devices for accessing the web. 

Are some industries more affected than others?

Absolutely. After having classified the data from the sample by broad verticals, very clear trends emerged. 

Variation in user behaviour by type of device by sector 


Unsurprisingly, food is the sector most affected by this change in user behaviour. According to my analysis, the percentage of traffic by device has changed significantly over the course of the last several weeks. Food companies have recorded an average increase of 36% when it comes to sessions originating from computers (this traffic now accounts for 42% of the total, whereas before the pandemic it accounted for 31%). The percentage of sessions from mobile diminished by 21% (46% of total traffic during this period of confinement, versus 58% before the pandemic). 

Variation in user behaviour since the beginning of the year in the food industry


A few thoughts on the food industry

Was the drastic change in user behaviour (36% increase in desktop traffic) due to the fact that food companies were suddenly overwhelmed with traffic, which in some cases completely blew up their sites? 

Since mobile versions are less stable and often slower, might that have incited users to shop from their home computers instead? 

If you’re hungry for more information on the food industry during this pandemic, I would highly recommend watching our Facebook Live on the topic, with Jean-François Renaud (founding partner at Adviso) and Alain Dumas (former senior executive at Sobeys and online grocery shopping pioneer). 

That’s great, but what do I do with the data?

External factors, like the lockdown situation, definitely affect the way users navigate the Internet and interact with online properties. 

In this time of change and transformation, it’s more important than ever to track your users’ behaviour using an analytics platform like Google Analytics. The situation is changing constantly, and you might notice that behaviour fluctuates rapidly depending on what’s happening in the world (I’m thinking particularly about government announcements). 

If you notice any behaviour changes, for example a certain type of device, a certain page or even certain keywords generating a large volume of traffic, think about adapting your communications strategy and optimizing the user journey on your site. Whether it’s through CRO (Conversion Rate Optimisation) for the pages getting more visits, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for the keywords and themes showing a growth in searches, or the redefinition of media strategies based on the volume of users visiting your various digital channels, there are lots of ways you can stay agile. 

What will happen when the lockdown is lifted? Will we see things go  back to “normal” in terms of users’ preferred devices? My hypothesis is somewhere between yes and no. 

Yes, because consumers will start going out again and using their cell phones for quick, on-the-go searches. 

No, because a proportion of users will have gotten into the habit of making certain purchases on a certain device, and may have realized that it’s more efficient than what they were doing before. One thing is certain: online grocery shopping is much more efficient on a computer (search tool, keyboard and mouse) than on a mobile phone with a 7-inch screen!