Pandemic Recovery: Have North American Downtowns Bounced Back?
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Pandemic Recovery: Have North American Downtowns Bounced Back?

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Pandemic Recovery: Have Downtowns Bounced Back?

As we continue on our journey towards recovery from the impacts of the pandemic, North American offices that sat empty for months have started to welcome back in-person workers.

This small step towards normalcy has sparked questions around the future of office life—will office culture eventually bounce back to pre-pandemic levels, or is remote work here to stay?

It’s impossible to predict the future, but one way to gauge the current state of office life is by looking at foot traffic across city centers in North America. This graphic measures just that, using data from Avison Young.

Change in Downtown Office Traffic

According to the data, which measures foot traffic in major office buildings in 23 different metropolitan hubs across North America, remains drastically below pre-pandemic levels.

Across all major cities included in the index, average weekday visitor volume has fallen by 73.7% since the early months of 2020. Here’s a look at each individual city’s change in foot traffic, from March 2, 2020 to Oct 11, 2021:

CityCountryChange in Foot Traffic
Austin🇺🇸-51.70%
Calgary🇨🇦-54.50%
Boston🇺🇸-54.90%
New York🇺🇸-60.50%
San Francisco🇺🇸-60.80%
Edmonton🇨🇦-62.20%
Houston🇺🇸-67.90%
Chicago🇺🇸-68.10%
Vancouver🇨🇦-68.20%
Los Angeles🇺🇸-68.60%
Philadelphia🇺🇸-69.00%
Washington, DC🇺🇸-69.40%
San Francisco Peninsula🇺🇸-70.00%
Denver🇺🇸-73.50%
Nashville🇺🇸-75.60%
East Bay/Oakland🇺🇸-76.10%
Atlanta🇺🇸-77.50%
Dallas🇺🇸-79.80%
Montreal🇨🇦-80.30%
Toronto🇨🇦-81.20%
Miami🇺🇸-82.20%
Silicon Valley🇺🇸-82.60%
Ottawa🇨🇦-87.70%

The Canadian city of Calgary is a somewhat unique case. On one hand, foot traffic has bounced back stronger than many other downtowns across North America. On the other hand, the city has one of the highest commercial vacancy rates in North America, and there are existential questions about what comes next for the city.

Interestingly, a number of cities with a high proportion of tech jobs, such as Austin, Boston, and San Francisco bounced back the strongest post-pandemic. Of course, there is one noteworthy exception to that rule.

A Tale of Two Cities

Silicon Valley has experienced one of the most significant drops in foot traffic, at -82.6%. Tech as an industry has seen one of the largest increases in remote work, as Bay Area workers look to escape high commuter traffic and high living expenses. A recent survey found that 53% of tech workers in the region said they are considering moving, with housing costs being the primary reason most respondents cited.

Meanwhile, in a very different part of North America, another city is experienced a sluggish rebound in foot traffic, but for very different reasons. Ottawa, Canada’s capital, is facing empty streets and struggling small businesses that rely on the droves of government workers that used to commute to downtown offices. Unlike Silicon Valley, where tech workers are taking advantage of flexible work options, many federal workers in Ottawa are still working from home without a clear plan on returning to the workplace.

It’s also worth noting that these two cities are home to a lot of single-occupant office buildings, which is a focus of this data set.

Some Businesses Remain Hopeful

Despite a slow return to office life, some employers are snapping up commercial office space in preparation for a potential mass return to the office.

Back in March 2021, Google announced it was planning to spend over $7 billion on U.S. office space and data centers. The tech giant held true to its promise—in September, Google purchased a Manhattan commercial building for $2.1 billion.

Other tech companies like Alphabet and Facebook have also been growing their office spaces throughout the pandemic. In August 2021, Amazon leased new office space in six major U.S. cities, and in September 2020, Facebook bought a 400,000 square foot complex in Bellevue, Washington.

Will More Employees Return or Stay Remote?

It’s important to note that we’re still in the midst of pandemic recovery, which means the jury’s still out on what our post-pandemic world will look like.

Will different cities and industries eventually recover in different ways, or are we approaching the realities of “new normal” foot traffic in North American city centers?

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Technology

iPhone Now Makes Up the Majority of U.S. Smartphones

Apple’s flagship device has captured a modest 16% of the global market, and Android dominates globally. Why do so many Americans keep buying iPhones?

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iPhone Now Makes Up the Majority of U.S. Smartphones

One of the most iconic tech moments of the 21st century is Steve Jobs, in his signature black turtleneck, holding up a small device: the iPhone. Since that introduction at the 2007 Macworld conference in San Francisco, iPhone has gone on to become a global phenomenon, with over 1.2 billion units now sold around the world.

Today, the smartphone market is a fiercely competitive space.

On a global scale, iPhone has carved out a respectable 16% of the smartphone market. In the U.S., however, the iPhone has managed to win the hearts and minds of more consumers. New data from Counterpoint Research via FT notes that iPhones now make up 50% of the overall installed user base* in the United States.

With a plethora of smartphone brands available to American consumers—and many at lower price points—what is it that makes this brand so popular?

ℹ️ “Installed user base” is a particularly interesting statistic because it doesn’t just track devices that are sold over a given period, it looks at all the devices that are still in use.

 

iPhone: The Apple of America’s Eye

Experts point to a number of reasons why Apple’s flagship device outperforms in the U.S. compared to other markets.

  • Apple has the highest brand loyalty of any major smartphone maker. 9 in 10 U.S. iPhone users plan to purchase an iPhone as their next device.
  • iPhones appear to depreciate at a slower rate than other devices
  • Broadly speaking, consumers in the U.S. have less price sensitivity than consumers in many other countries.
  • Apple has been vocal in their messaging about protecting user privacy and data, and that message appears to be resonating with consumers.

This last point is worth digging into in more detail.

Winning the Privacy War

Personal data protection and cybersecurity have become mainstream concerns in recent years, and Apple has made security a priority.

Of course, security breaches can and do occur, regardless of what device is being used. That said, a recent survey by Beyond Identity indicates that iPhone users were less likely to be victims of security breaches, and were more likely to recover data in the event of a breach.

Infographic showing survey data on security breaches and severity

The survey also points out that iPhone users were less likely to have sensitive data, such as images and videos, credit card information, passwords, and personal data compromised when breaches occurred.

These findings aside, Apple has also been bullish on branding its devices as safe and secure. The “Privacy. That’s iPhone.” campaign launched in 2019, and most recently, Apple has put the data broker industry in its crosshairs through a new series of ad spots.

Simply put: whether or not iPhone is more secure than other devices, Apple has used its marketing muscle to sway public opinion at a time when Americans are focused on privacy. And based on these latest installed user base numbers, that strategy appears to be paying off.

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Misc

The Most Searched Consumer Brands in 2022

From Netflix to IKEA, this map of the world highlights the most searched for consumer brands around the world.

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The Most Searched Consumer Brands in 2022

View the high resolution of this infographic by clicking here.

In today’s fast-paced world, a strong brand is a powerful asset that helps a business stand out in a sea of competition.

What are some of the most popular brands around the world? One way to gauge this is by looking at Google searches to see what consumers are searching for online (and therefore, what brands they’re paying the most attention to).

This graphic by BusinessFinancing.co.uk uses data from Google Keyword Planner to show the world’s most searched consumer brands in the twelve months leading up to March 2022.

Methodology

To source this wide of a dataset, the team at BusinessFinancing.co.uk first compiled a list of well-known brands, using a number of reputable sources including Forbes, the Financial Times, BrandDirectory, and more.

From there, the team created a shortlist of popular consumer brands. This year, they focused on businesses that sell products and services, so some of the big tech companies like Google and Meta were excluded from the 2022 ranking.

Next, the team used Google Ads API to extract search volume data for the shortlisted brands. They looked at a couple of things:

  • The monthly average of searches over the last 12 months for the brand name alone (e.g. “Nike”)
  • Brand name with the corresponding sector added to the keyword (“Nike clothing”), which helped offset the skew in search volume for generic terms like “Apple” or “Amazon”

They did this for every country in the world with data available. Here’s what they found.

The Top 5 Most Searched Brands

While Netflix is the most frequently searched brand in the highest number of countries (92), Amazon takes the top spot when it comes to total search volume.

Here’s a look at the top five most search brands by average global monthly searches:

BrandAverage global monthly searches (March 2022)# Countries Most-Searched In
Amazon335,400,00042
Netflix140,200,00092
eBay80,600,0006
Walmart76,100,0002
IKEA55,300,00014

But a brand’s search popularity doesn’t necessarily reflect that the business is thriving. For instance, in April 2022, Netflix announced it had lost around 200,000 subscribers throughout Q1.

The week of the announcement, Netflix’s stock price dipped below $200—the lowest it had been since 2017.

Smartphones

Apple and its iPhone take the top spot when it comes to smartphone searches, which may be unsurprisingly considering the top five best-selling smartphones in 2021 were all iPhones.

Most Searched Smartphones 2022
View the high resolution of this infographic by clicking here.

It’s worth noting that the top five best-selling smartphones only capture a fraction of the overall smartphone market, and while iPhones are undeniably popular, they only make up 16.7% of worldwide smartphone sales.

Gaming

Epic Games, the creator and platform of Fortnite, maintains its status as the most searched-for gaming brand worldwide, with an average of 14.9 million global monthly searches.

Most Searched Gaming Brands 2022
View the high resolution of this infographic by clicking here.

No other gaming company came close to Epic Game’s search volume. For instance, Nintendo, which came in second place, only averaged 3.2 million searches a month.

However, Nintendo still managed to generate more than $16 billion in revenue throughout 2021, triple the gross revenue that Epic Games made the same year.

Fast Food

KFC was the most searched fast-food company in more than 83 countries, making it the most popular worldwide.

most popular brands by search volume fast food
View the high resolution of this infographic by clicking here.

However, it’s worth noting that, while McDonald’s ranked first in fewer countries, it had a higher global monthly search average than its fried chicken competitor.

In 2021, KFC generated approximately $2.79 billion in global revenue, while McDonald’s brought in $23.2 billion.

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