Just as COVID-19 has changed so many aspects of daily life and interactions, it appears the pandemic also has altered the way we communicate online.
Rather than signing off by wishing someone "a wonderful day," we now urge them to "stay safe" or "stay well."
That is among the findings of a recent analysis of chat conversations between vehicle shoppers and dealerships from Gubagoo, a retail technology vendor that specializes in conversational and digital retailing tools. In a review of close to 20 million chat conversations from 2019 and 2020, the company's data science team found that the terms "coronavirus," "pandemic" and "COVID-19" appeared for the first time last year — not surprising, considering this virus is new.
Yet terms that express well wishes, such as "have a wonderful day," nearly disappeared in favor of expressions of health and well-being, according to Gubagoo.
"We've been in the midst of an unusual time, and so it's very much at the top of people's awareness, even when they're meeting for the first time," Drew Delaware, chief marketing officer for the Boca Raton, Fla., company, told me. "We're aware that we're meeting in a pandemic, we're not shaking hands, so things are different. And of course that will creep into our language."
The analysis also yielded insights about consumers' interest in particular services. Shoppers asked about at-home test drives and vehicle deliveries 11 to 12 times more frequently than in 2019, according to Gubagoo, and those phrases stayed high throughout 2020. Consumers asked about buying a vehicle online 136 percent more often last year than in 2019.
Those patterns, illuminated by analyzing consumers' inquiries, send signals to dealerships about the value of providing digital retailing and at-home services, Delaware told me.
"My hope would be that dealers are able to catch these signs," he said. "Certainly seeing trends like this and understanding what wider pools of data are saying can only help."