How the world is watching, reading, chatting and shopping during the pandemic: Rakuten Insight Data

Over the past 14 months, the global pandemic has fundamentally changed the world — the way we live, work, travel and shop. Facing lockdowns and subsequent restrictions to retail and leisure activities, people around the globe are engaging with the digital world in new, more expansive ways.

Even as some countries slowly return to some semblance of normalcy, this unprecedented experience will likely leave a lasting impact on the way we engage with each other online.

Recently released survey results from Rakuten Insight, conducted among 7,200 consumers across 14 markets in APAC, EMEA and the U.S. late last year, captures this changing behavior. It focuses on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on shopping, reading, watching and chatting habits, and perhaps provides a hint on what’s to come next.  

How is the pandemic influencing the way we watch, read, chat and shop? Rakuten Insight Global surveyed consumers across 14 countries to find out.


Across the map, people are spending more time watching entertainment content, particularly on streaming platforms such as Netflix (which has seen a 35% increase in watch time), Amazon Prime (+ 20%) and Rakuten TV (+ 10%). The smartphone was the clear winner for enjoying entertainment content in Asia, while the TV was device of choice for viewers in the UK and U.S.


On average, time spent reading books across all markets increased by 70%. The smartphone (53%) — which was an especially popular option in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam — took the number one spot overall on the list of popular devices used for reading, followed by print books (31%), tablets (9%) and eReaders (7%). Some companies, like Rakuten Kobo, allow readers to move back and forth seamlessly between mobile apps and designated eReading devices like the Kobo Forma, increasing daily reading opportunities for users on the go.


Surprisingly, neither time spent on social media, nor time spent on video calls saw major changes in Japan, the UK or the U.S. In contrast, respondents from India, Indonesia and the Philippines reported considerable increases on these metrics, to the tune of 70%, 58% and 62% respectively.


Less surprising: Online shopping’s tremendous growth. Brick and mortar retailers have increasingly digitalized their offerings to compete with established e-commerce players. Since the start of global lockdowns last year, online shopping has shot up in popularity.

The number of respondents who reported shopping online almost every day (38%) and monthly (31%) saw notable increases, while those who claimed to never make online purchases decreased. The top online shopping category was food and drink, followed by household items.

More than a year into the global pandemic, it’s clear that entertainment and online shopping has helped to make time at home just a bit more enjoyable. Now, as we set our sights on a post-pandemic future, we are curious to see what the new normal will look like.

We always aim to share the good things in life — like great films, deals, reads and connections – to make the time more rewarding. Visit Discover Rakuten for more information on how we are empowering our users to watch, read, chat and shop with joy.

To read the full report from Rakuten Insight, visit here.

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