Traders work during the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on March 19, 2020, at Wall Street in New York City.
JOHANNES EISELE | AFP via Getty Images
Looking up at the bull’s horns while the bear swipes us down should be every business’s focus in the wake of Covid-19. Volatile stocks, record unemployment rates, and predictions of our worst recession yet are naturally spurring companies of all sizes into cost-cutting defense, which is natural—most people’s natural behavior in times of crises is to look inside for solutions or protection.
Recessions, while always difficult to navigate, have fostered some of the most impressive companies in history. The Great Depression brought us GE, Disney, and HP, who all benefited from marketing while their rivals cut back. The Great Recession brought us companies that ushered us into the digital age and opened up the gig economy—Airbnb, Credit Karma, Uber, Slack, Venmo and Square.
These companies were successful because they looked outside for opportunities as times changed, and came up with products and services the world needed. There were many signals that illustrated their eventual rise — but their success was fueled by a world looking for alternative work during hard times.
During the recession, just before Airbnb was founded in 2008, searches for the keyword “mortgage” were beginning to drop, and the number of real estate, rental and leasing contractors was increasing by almost half a million. The share of the U.S workforce in the gig economy as a whole rose from 10.1% to 15.8% in 2015. People were looking for ways to reduce their costs, and earn more anyway they could.
Airbnb, and many other examples that fueled desire for alternative income in 2008 and 2009, were born from loss — we lost 533,000 jobs in 2008, the biggest drop since 1974.
The desire for alternative work arrangements stuck. As we came out of the great recession, the number of people doing alternative work rose by over 3%.
Back to 2020. After the coronavirus fades from the public mindset, what might be the next “gig economy” born from this recession, what is going to be the next AirBnb, or Uber?
Looking at a variety of data sources shows these as the categories will be ripe for startup innovation.
Home improvement: 140% growth in consumer interest
The combination of empty grocery store aisles and springtime has driven many people to garden and raise livestock, increasing self-sustainability.
The entire home and garden category has seen a 140% increase in page views in the last month. Consumers are specifically interested in gardening and plumbing, which has seen an 245% increase.
Plumbing is an entirely new topic we’ve seen emerge in the last month. As toilet paper shortages forced some to use alternatives, plumbers have been busy snaking toilets—but many consumers are simply learning how to do so on their own.
Perhaps a new marketplace of local service providers, a “Seamless” of plumbers will be born, and consumers will be a “click away” from getting someone to come and fix their plumbing. Marketplaces like TaskRabbit, Handy and Thumbtack will thrive, and new players will emerge.
Pet products: 50% growth in consumer interest
Lockdown has been an opportunity for animal shelters, who have urged people to adopt while home—and it’s working. New Yorkers have adopted 10x more pets than usual and Los Angeles has seen a 70% increase in adoptions from shelters. In fact, shares of Chewy, a popular pet marketplace, are up 7%.
Over the past month, we’ve seen a 50% increase in pageviews related to pets.
We’ll start to see a whole new host of pet-related businesses—from the basics of food, toys and grooming, to mainstream TV channels for dogs like dogtv.com, more dedicated Netflix original shows for pets to keep them entertained, a proliferation of homemade meal services for cats and dogs like NomNom, virtual dog training courses, and tools to communicate with your pet like Hunger For Words.
Home beauty products: 36% growth in consumer interest
Consumers are getting more comfortable with performing their own haircare and skincare routines.
At home beauty and wellness alternatives are currently experiencing double digit growth, a trend that we’ll see impact the beauty industry permanently. It’s not an entirely female phenomenon. Hair clipper sales have soared 200% and more and more men are more likely to shave their heads in quarantine.
Page views related to haircare and skincare products DIY home kits has increased—we’ve seen 36% and 1.7% increases respectively.
Companies providing not only the beauty products themselves, but also those providing custom training services, communities and more, will thrive. Perhaps beauty companies will offer VR filters people can swipe through at home like those offered by Pinterest and others. Once consumers like what they see, companies will then supply products to make them look like the filter.
Gaming: 145% growth in consumer interest
This may be obvious—video games and board games are providing all types of people with a welcome escape in lockdown. The Nintendo Switch is flying off the shelves, and the company currently can’t make enough game consoles to meet the demand. This is due in part to one of their new releases, Animal Crossing, which has drawn the attention of the masses from across the globe.
In fact, as many people turn to safe, at-home entertainment, the U.S, has spent $1.597 billion on gaming hardware—a blockbuster amount—since the great recession, when we spent over $1.8 billion on hardware.
Our enthusiasm for gaming has been reflected on the open web. We’ve seen a 145% increase in gaming page views on publisher sites.
There’s a huge opportunity for people to connect through video games—it could be the sports’ world next frontier, as eSports are currently outperforming their goals. Games that include world building scenarios, the ability to socialize and incorporate exercise will thrive post-pandemic.
Fitness and Health: 2,000,000% growth in consumer interest
Most of the health-related news cycle revolves around obesity in relation to coronavirus deaths, but also, educational content on how to not lose weight in lockdown. Searches for ‘weight loss‘ have steadily increased the more time we’ve spent in quarantine, and the more fitness and health apps we download. According to Statista, we downloaded over 2.6 million home workout, no equipment apps in March of this year.
Staying healthy sustainably, and while sedentary, is a challenge. But some companies are starting to figure it out. Blue Apron recently made a comeback as more and more people look to learn to cook healthy, and Peloton stock is up 4% in the last month.
We’ve seen a huge spike in searches related to weight loss since the global pandemic began.
Now stuck at home, we’re now more aware of our fitness, which may build habits that stick around. With so many healthy food, fitness and exercise options available, there’s an opportunity here for aggregation of the market.
I’m optimistic. Entrepreneurs, this is your moment
The news cycle is a direct reflection of what’s grabbing consumer attention in real-time. Successful businesses will heed it’s advice and use it to “look outside” in times of crises, but also how to “look inside” effectively to determine where to save costs and make responsible business choices.
There is not enough content that speaks about why the opportunity in all of this for existing companies, and new companies that will be born now and be with us forever. For the next Airbnb of healthcare, of fitness, of home improvement, look outside.
Data analysis was sourced from aggregated readership data from more than 1,000 Taboola publisher partner websites in the U.S. and our Taboola Newsroom product, which analyzes more than 8 billion page views per month. Data for this piece was analyzed from readership associated with more than 16 million page total views related to the topics outlined in each section, from March 2020 through April 2020.
Adam Singolda is the founder and CEO of Taboola.