All over the world, the internet is continually changing how we connect, share information, and interact with each other. At the time of writing, there are a staggering 4.66 billion active internet users – almost 60% of the world’s population – which goes to show how our lives are becoming ever more intertwined with the world wide web.
Above Image source: Freepik
In this article, we will take a look at a few of the key takeaways we can discern from a side-by-side analysis of the website traffic stats of 2020 and 2021.
Interestingly, these numbers tend to say a lot about our global society as a whole, and unless you’ve been hiding under a rock recently, you’ll know there have been quite a few significant events that occurred over the past 18 months which should make for interesting trends.
First, let’s start with 2020.
Website Traffic in 2020
In an attempt to streamline workflow processes, build more sustainable relationships and better meet their customers’ needs, many companies were already embarking on their digital transformation journeys even before the pandemic came along.
However, what was once considered to be a luxury option for companies became an absolute necessity, almost overnight. If companies wanted to stay competitive in the new business and economic environment they were faced with, immediate action was required. No wonder “digital transformation” ranks among the most hated tech industry buzzwords of 2020, according to a recent survey from TrustRadius.
The trend was primarily attributed to how the pandemic caused countless business facilities to shut down throughout the world while a significant portion of the population was forced to sit at home to help prevent the virus from spreading.
According to a McKinsey Global Survey of executives conducted in mid-2020, companies had already accelerated the digitization of their consumer and supply-chain relationships, as well as their corporate processes, by three or four years. Additionally, their portfolio of digital or digitally enabled products and services was accelerated by an astonishing seven years.
As a result, we saw a huge increase in global website traffic, and as you might expect, there were plenty of winners and losers across the board.
Who Benefited the Most?
Taking a look at the increase in online activities via a study conducted in July 2020, it’s clear to see there was a dramatic increase in demand for a number of digital services such as online supermarkets, ecommerce and homeschooling lessons.
Here’s a quick overview of how people’s online activities changed:
* 54% increase in watching shows and films on streaming services
* 46% more time spent on social media
* 36% more time spend on music streaming services
* 31% more time playing video games online
With this in mind, it’s no real surprise to see how well sites like Netflix and Amazon performed over this period, as their streaming services achieved record numbers as people stayed indoors and binge-watched TV series online.
Netflix managed to pull in over 15.8 million new subscribers in the first quarter of 2020, which saw the streaming giant’s stock price hitting all-time highs. Additionally, the success of Disney Plus was a huge savior for The Walt Disney Company, as it was the only profitable branch of the multinational media brand’s wide-ranging business operations.
Social media platforms were also on the move, with usage up by a whopping 46%, and the annual growth in the total number of social media users up by 10.5% (376 million people). That’s why it’s no surprise to see Facebook, Instagram and Twitter located in the top five most visited sites according to the global website traffic stats.
Who Was Hit Hardest?
Unfortunately, where there is a winner, there must be a loser. And as you might expect, any business that relied on physical stores or direct customer interaction was hit the hardest.
In general, the vast majority of the service industry was rocked to its very core, with bars, restaurants, and the rest of the hospitality sector left without any means to generate revenue.
Not only that, but holidaymakers, cruise liners, airlines, and most leisure facilities were left devastated by the lack of consumer spending, and there was very little they could do to stop the bleed. According to Mckinsey, Covid-19 recovery in some of the hardest-hit industries could take more than five years, and that if they even made it out in one piece.
Why Is Traffic Dropping in 2021?
In recent months, Netflix’s stock price has tumbled amid fears that lockdowns are coming to an end as shareholders expect a dramatic reduction in subscriber count. As mentioned earlier, a whopping 15.8 million users signed up for the service in the first quarter of 2020. This year, it’s come way down to four million.
But why is that? Well, it’s simple. People expect website traffic to drop considerably this year, compared to the highs of 2020.
As of January 2021, global online traffic has dropped 15.1% month on month, and it looks as though this trend is set to continue as we navigate our way back to normality and out of the global pandemic.
Let’s took a look at some of the main drivers for the drop in traffic:
* With vaccination efforts hailed as a success – in the West, at least – offices are reopening and travel is resuming
* Non-essential stores are reopening, which lessens the dependence on platforms for online shopping
* People are becoming more conscious of their screen time as more awareness has been raised about its negative implications
Essentially, people have been trapped indoors for so long, glued to their screens on social media apps or watching streaming services like they are going out of fashion. It’s inevitable that at some point, people will start to look for ways to enjoy themselves offline, especially as nightlife, entertainment destinations, and retail stores continue to open their doors.
The Final Word
Even though we are starting to witness some return to normality, many experts believe that our lives will never be the same once the Covid-19 situation has been fully resolved. For better or for worse, it’s hard to deny that Pandora’s box has been opened, and the pandemic has acted as one almighty catalyst for the digital transformation of businesses all around the world.
Consequently, it seems we can all expect a future that will be far more “tech-driven” than ever before, as the “new normal” has paved the way for digitally developed companies to prosper and flourish.
Finally, despite the considerable rises in traffic in 2020, the reality remains that people have been trapped indoors for a significant portion of the last 18 months, but when constraints relax, it seems inevitable that they would want and break out from their sedentary lives and pursue alternative modes of entertainment as and when they become accessible.
What impact that has on global website traffic in the near to distant future remains to be seen.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.