For the past few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has deeply impacted most countries in the Western world (before that, the Chinese economy and citizens suffered intensely through the initial wave). Although some countries are slowly starting to open borders and loosen restrictions, the effects on many businesses and consumer behaviors are still very visible.

How Many Services Benefited from the Pandemic and How Many Suffered?

With this in mind, where are digital audiences going during the pandemic? Which sites and apps are they using most, and which have they drifted from? 

Using data from our new COVID-19 Tracker, we already published some insights about category-level changes in digital user behaviors, concluding that news sites/apps, governmental and other public information bulletins, health related apps/services, communication/productivity tools, and education related services saw the biggest increases in users, while gambling, travel, and sports-related services dipped the most.

However, that post provided a high-level summary on our data related to digital service categories. We can now address other important questions: 

  1. Which individual services—including both websites and apps—gained most or dipped most during the early phase of the pandemic?
  2. How many services overall actually gained during the pandemic (in the digital world) and how many lost users during the first wave of the pandemic?
  3. Which service categories, relatively speaking, had more audience gains and which saw a dip in audience?

How Can Verto Analytics Cross-Device Behavioral Research Panel Help?

Our COVID-19 Tracker is powered by our own panel, Smart App, which leverages passive audience measurement across multiple devices to gather data and gain needed insights. This provides an objective, market-level, representative, view on the changes in everyday consumer behavior—across all devices, sites, and apps that people use.

Smart App passively tracks digital consumer behavior in the U.S., 24 hours a day and seven days a week (and conforms to stringent data privacy laws and regulations), and generates data sets that help researchers, advertisers, and publishers understand the full digital footprint of U.S. consumers. 

In this particular study, we included U.S.-based panelists in order to study the impact of COVID-19 on U.S. digital consumers. We focused our research on services and apps that have a cross-device monthly audience (people using this specific brand, service, app or site, on any of their personal digital devices) of at least five million unique users per month, in January (before the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic in early March). Overall, 984 such services in the U.S., have an audience of at least five million monthly users. So, how many of them gained or lost users in the early months of the pandemic?

Verto Findings: Two-Thirds of U.S. Digital Services Have Had Modest Audience Gains and Losses

We looked at these top 984 services (which had at least five million monthly users as of January 2020) and calculated the relative increase or decrease for each service, between January and March, for some of the key audience metrics, including: 

  • The percentage of monthly audience reach (or, how many people out of the total universe are using the service monthly), and 
  • Total audience numbers. 

Based on these parameters, we can see some really interesting observations:

  1. Overall, 481 services out of 984 services (meaning 49.2%) have seen an increase in their monthly audience during the pandemic. 
  2. Therefore, 50.8% of services have actually lost monthly users during the pandemic. 
  3. Overall, we can therefore conclude that the impact of the pandemic on audience behavior has been about 50-50: just as many services have gained users as lost them. 
  4. We see 24 services (or about 2.4% of all top services) have had very significant gains (in other words experienced at least 100% of user reach growth, meaning they’ve at least doubled their audience size).
  5. Eighty-nine services (9% of all services) gained at least 50% in user reach.
  6. All told, 41 of services lost more than half of their monthly audiences, meaning 4.2% of all top services. Out of these, seven have lost more than 90% of their users during the early months of the pandemic.

If we say a 50% loss or gain in total users can credibly be seen as a significant change, we can say slightly more services gained users than lost them so far during the pandemic.


We also used a histogram (below), to distribute the services on a chart. The x-axis is the percentage of change in monthly user reach, and the y-axis is the total number of services (including both apps and websites, across all digital devices). 

Even though there are extremes, the fact is 652 services have retained their audiences pretty well (355), or even gained a bit (297). Their overall change in monthly audience is between -25% and +25%. And this represents 66.2% of all services. 

So, even though there are extremes at either end of the spectrum, about two-thirds of all services in the U.S. have seen either modest gains or losses in audience reach, with no radical changes.


How are consumers in your market using their digital devices to research purchases and shop during the pandemic? Contact to see how data from our COVID-19 Tracker can give you actionable insights about your target digital audience.

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