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A Big Data Look at the COVID-19 Economy Finds It's Bad but Not All Bad

This article is related to the COVID-19 economy but there shouldn’t be any doubt at this point that this pandemic has affected everyone on the planet.

My position as CEO at Oxylabs gives me a birds-eye view of trends in data because we see so much of it. This update will provide you with some insight into how a few key sectors performed in April, and also give some good news because, despite the prevailing negativity, some sectors have improved.

April Data Extraction Results

Before reading this summary, you may want to refresh your knowledge on the state of big data by reading our trend report from last year. It will provide context to this article by giving you a stable foundation on the state of how big data had performed prior to the big changes we have seen so far in 2020. 

All figures and research presented here are derived from data on the types of requests processed by our industry-grade data extraction solutions, residential and data center proxies.

What’s Down: Underperforming verticals

As a result of the lockdowns, consumer spending crashed globally. Since spending can account for up to 70 percent of an economy,  local stores and restaurants have seen some of the sharpest losses.

Accordingly, in the digital world, we have seen the sharpest decreases in consumer spending and related employment sectors, as follows:

Human Resources

It’s no secret: people are either facing severe cutbacks or losing their jobs entirely. Reports from the United States are showing that 23 million people were unemployed as of the end of April,  with the overall unemployment rate surpassing 15 percent. McKinsey’s research is showing almost 25 million jobs lost in the European Union with a possible peak unemployment rate of 11.2 percent. On a worldwide scale, the United Nations International Labour Organization expects working hours to decline by 6.7% in Q2 2020 – the equivalent of 195 million full-time jobs.

With these types of statistics, it then comes as no surprise that our data center reports a 12.9% decrease in the HR sector in April vs March. Data scraping of job sites is critical to the hiring process of many organizations, so this decrease may have a large part to do with recent freezes in hiring.

Travel Flights & Accommodation

Most travelers choosing to cross borders these days are being forced to quarantine for 14 days following arrival in most places. Along with lockdowns preventing movement, this is likely the main reason for the drop in data extraction activity in the flight’s sector, which has shown a 76.5% decrease in April vs. March, and 90% decrease for April vs. February.

The travel accommodation sector has fallen accordingly, showing a 21.8% drop between April and March, and a 33% drop between April and February.

What’s Up: Top-performing verticals

Thankfully, not all sectors are down. According to our research department, some sectors are up with the most notable gains being seen for cybersecurity and new product releases.

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity spans an area of business activity that includes the security of computer systems, networking systems and online surveillance, along with services that provide protection from service disruption.

This area saw a gain of 14.7% in the last month, making it one of our top performers. The following case study demonstrates how one company in the cybersecurity space expanded in the last period. Company names have been changed to ensure anonymity : 

Case Study: “Cybercom Data Intelligence Inc.”

“Cybercom Data Intelligence Inc.” is a data collection agency that provides research to government institutions and other global governance organizations concerning the activities of the public on social media.

Current Challenge: One of their clients, a government agency, requested data on public perceptions regarding certain policy initiatives associated with the COVID-19 issue. In addition to this information, they also requested data disclosing information on posts sharing alternative opinions or offering guidelines in opposition to the official government directives on the issue.

Solution: Proxies were used to scrape publicly available data from web forums and published articles comments. Additionally, they were used to scan for specific keywords and phrases linked to the issue that provided the required information.

Thanks to web scraping practice and the use of proxies, Cybercom successfully captured the data required in order to provide the requested information to their client. 

Product releases

Another top-performing vertical is an area we call “product releases”. The information obtained here mostly comprises the market research activities conducted prior to creating and/or releasing a new product. This can include information on demographics, psychographics, income levels, education levels, interests and consumed media sources. This area showed the best performance increase of any category, climbing an impressive 83% between April and March.

Case Study: “OnlineFitness365.com”

“OnlineFitness365” is a new company that creates contracts with fitness professionals to stream their classes online for the public on a membership basis. Since lockdown restrictions were preventing people from going to the gym, management decided to capitalize on the opportunity to obtain a greater market share of the online fitness market.

Current Challenge: With free classes and multiple platforms all over the internet, competition is fierce in the online fitness industry. Despite that, “OnlineFitness365” still believes there are underserved portions of the overall fitness market that demands targeted fitness classes of higher quality than what is available for free. For the purpose of refining their business strategy, they wanted to discover what markets are underserved and what their specific needs might be. 

Solution: Proxies were used to scrape data from various e-commerce sites to discover the most popular equipment being purchased for use in home workouts.

The marketing team discovered what equipment was most popular, and then coupled this research with other market data to revamp their existing strategy to target new markets.  This allowed them to increase market share and capture a greater portion of their target audience than what existed prior to lockdown restrictions. 

A Final Word

This article is being written as economic activity continues to decline and the need to stay competitive and adapt becomes more crucial than ever. It’s times like this when I’m reminded of The Law of Conservation of Energy that states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It can only be transferred or changed from one form to another.

Economic activity may be declining, but it’s not disappearing. Whether it’s being transformed or transferred, data scraping can give us the information needed to take action and stay competitive.