How Business Search Behavior has Shifted During the Coronavirus

At ZoomInfo, data is our passion. We live, breathe, and obsess over how to deliver B2B intelligence that unlocks go-to-market success. And in that pursuit, we’ve learned data is best served with context. 

So, let’s start there. 

Flashback, to just a month and a half ago, the week of March 9th. Over a jarring two-day stretch, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, and a day after that, it was declared a national emergency in the US on the same day the NBA suspended their 2020 season

We know, according to ZoomInfo data, as of the end of March, most small businesses still lacked critical tools to enable team collaboration and web conferencing in remote working conditions. 

So, what were businesses focusing their efforts on? 

Glad you asked! 

But before we do our deep dive, let’s quickly explore the methodologies we used to arrive at our insights, chief among them, ZoomInfo’s intent data. 

What is Intent Data?

Intent data is designed to uncover buying opportunities. Its purpose is to help customers identify prospects interested in specific subject matter and topics related to a customer’s value propositions. 

Where does the data come from? 

Good question: Prospects are identified via a company’s IP address. Activity from the company IP address is then tracked across a number of digital properties and sources, and subsequently paired with relevant topic tags. 

That last point is important. With an account purview, customers can use “surges” displaying interest, as well as apply benchmarks, to better quantify the traffic. 

Using Intent Data to Identify Pain Points and Concerns 

The testing methodology was pretty simple. We compared the content that professionals consumed during a typical January week with the content consumed in the week of March 9.  

Since different topics are consumed at varying rates, we did not just look at what topics had the greatest interest during the week of March 9. We examined which topics increased their share of consumption across all traffic within ZoomInfo’s extensive network.

Intent Data Insights from COVID-19 U.S. Outbreak

Medical treatment, Employee Benefits and Workplace Safety Lead the Way

Telemedicine was not just a topic with minimal traffic in January, but it was in the bottom 2% for a number of signals of intent consumption surges.

Meanwhile, it should come as no surprise that Telemedicine led the charge in intent gains the week of March 9; so much so, it had risen to the top third. 

We’ve already recapped how some companies have gone lengths to support their employees during the pandemic. And the data backs this up. 

Health and safety topics also saw massive increases in consumption in our comparison, including: 

  • Health Insurance (up 1,238%) 
  • Telehealth (up 336%) 
  • Workplace Safety (up 270%)

Additional related topics being consumed above normal rates included Sick Leave, Health and Safety, and Safety Supplies.

Top Business Pain Point? Supply Chain and Logistics, to Get Things Moving

Here’s where intent data gets contextual — and insightful. 

During our analysis the most pronounced trend was professionals reading about supply chains and related logistical processes. The noticeable trend increase can be pointed to interest in how they are going to be affected by COVID-19. 

Of the 25 topics with the greatest percentage increase in consumption, seven of them touched supply chain or logistics:

  • Supply Chain Integration (up 1,961%)
  • Logistics & Procurement (up 1,879%)
  • Supply Chain Execution (up 1,777%)
  • Supply Chain Optimization (up 1,633%)
  • Reverse Logistics (up 1,554%)
  • Supply Chain Demand Planning (up 1,393%)
  • Supply Chain Transportation (up 1,341%)

A week later, a study from the Institute of Supply Chain Management found nearly 75% of companies reported they would experience supply chain disruptions because of coronavirus-related transportation restrictions.  It’s clear that supply chains during an epidemic were a worry for businesses.

Aside from complete systemic collapse, B2B companies were — and likely still are — fearing shipment restrictions, holding back payment distributions, and inventory scarcity.

Risk Management with Vendors

The same study from the Institute of Supply Chain Management found nearly 16% of respondents already had changed revenue projections because of the aforementioned logistics issues. 

Less revenue means organizations have to balance the books. Normally, vendor-related topics like Vendor Managed Inventory and Vendor Risk Management are not hot topics in the business world. 

However, during the first week of COVID-19, we saw increased content consumption in this area. Combined, these two topics increased in consumption by over 700%. 

I asked our Liz Milan, ZoomInfo’s Director of Procurement about this, and her explanation made perfect sense: 

“In a crisis you want to execute all your critical functions right away so you can address the event itself, and care for your team. It’s not the time to start asking: Who are my critical vendors? What will I do if one fails? Who do I even contact if one or more of them stop delivering?”

Team Solutions in a Work-From-Home Environment

B2C and B2B companies are alike in that they both sell services and products to people — operating in a circling system of consumption. While looking for more insights, we noticed a trend surrounding other topics with a dramatic increase in consumption.

Organizational Culture and Networking Solutions were in the top 25 topic surges. Other notable increases we saw included:

  • Team Collaboration signals up 468%
  • Virtual Collaboration up 258%
  • Payroll Systems up 1450%

With that 1450% increase over a typical January week, reliance on Payroll Systems is at an all-time high right now.

Away From On-Premise Storage

Cloud is king in a COVID-19 world. On-premise solutions cause issues for technology teams forced to work from home. Not only are on-premise offices forced to closed, but professionals have to break quarantine protocols and risk the health of others by returning to the office. 

Though cloud solutions had a wide range of usefulness before the pandemic, the benefits are amplified in a remote environment. Businesses are much more positioned to better operate, in a business as usual capacity, with minimal health risks. The following topics all were in the top 35 topics with the greatest percentage increase versus January:

  • Cloud Services (17th)
  • Cloud Security Software (22nd)
  • Cloud Providers (29th)
  • Cloud Infrastructure (35th)

The Other Half: Topics Trending Downward

Last but not least, it’s worth highlighting other topics with fallen popularity. Obviously, a lot can be learned by examining increasing searches, but we can gain an interesting perspective from topics dropping in popularity as well. 

Vacation Rental, Expense Management, and Fitness and Gym management software saw significant decreases in traffic surges. It doesn’t look like hiring was on many decision-makers’ minds either. Topics like Recruiting, Recruiting Management, and Recruitment Outsourcing all showed drops of over 50% compared to January. 

Commercial Security and Access Control also dropped precipitously, most likely due to topics surrounding the securing of empty offices. It is not top of mind in a world where employees are working from home.

Usefulness of Intent Data

Intent data can be used as a tool to peer into the psyche of business professionals, to reveal what’s running through their minds. And revealing what their challenges, strengths, and needs are can lead you to your next business opportunity. 

With some genuine empathy and the right form of communication, a new business relationship can form after finding a prospect who can benefit the most from your product or service.

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