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Polina Kedis
Polina Kedis 11 September 2023

Ukrainian Digital Landscape in 2023 — newage. Annual Research

We at newage. conduct annual research on the Ukrainian digital landscape. We gather all available and proprietary data on the online behavior of Ukrainians and share this compilation with clients and partners to enhance our collective understanding of the market in which we operate.

The year 2023 will be no exception, and we are prepared to present how many Ukrainians use the internet and what they do online.

Among other things, we have examined how people’s online habits have changed, how the advertising market is recovering, and how blackouts and massive rear-area shelling have impacted user and advertiser behavior.

newage. Digital research 2023 – en 

How Has the Ukrainian Audience Changed and How Many of Us Are There Now?

Currently, there is no official information about the population in Ukraine. The last report from the State Statistics Service on this matter dates back to January 2022, and even that report did not cover the occupied areas of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions and Crimea.

Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion, Ukraine’s population has undergone significant changes: millions of people have become refugees, internally displaced persons, or found themselves under occupation.

Accordingly, a year ago, we had the following situation regarding the population and the number of internet users:

Since then, Ukraine has reclaimed some territories, and a portion of refugees and internally displaced persons have returned home. However, the war continues, and people continue to seek safer places to live.

Number and Condition of Internally Displaced Persons

In a year, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has decreased by almost 1 million. Some IDPs have returned to their hometowns, while others have left the country.

However, the overall number of IDPs has decreased from 6.3 million in June 2022 to 5.4 million in June 2023, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Number and Intentions of Refugees

The rate of people leaving the country has decreased compared to the first six months of the war. The overall number of refugees continues to increase, but currently, we are talking about an increase of several thousand every two weeks, rather than hundreds of thousands as it was from the beginning of the invasion until October 2022.

Overall, as of the data assessment, UNHCR reported about 8.3 million Ukrainians abroad, of which 5.1 million have obtained refugee status in European countries.

However, due to nuances in the organization’s calculations, we decided to conduct our own research based on open data. According to our estimations, as of June 2023, there were 5.8 million Ukrainians residing abroad.

We receive encouraging data from surveys conducted among Ukrainians abroad.

For instance, a study by the Center for Economic Strategy revealed that 65% of refugees plan to return to Ukraine someday, and an additional 10% intended to go back home within the next 3 months at the time of the survey.

Let’s examine the factors that motivate people to aspire to return or not to return.

Ukrainians Remaining in Occupied Territories

In calculating the number of people who have remained in the occupied territories, we relied on the State Statistics Service data on the population of the respective regions before the full-scale invasion, as well as available information on the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs).

According to this calculation, there are currently 4.3 million Ukrainians in the occupied territories.

This is a decrease from the previous year, as Ukrainian Armed Forces have liberated areas such as Kherson and parts of Kherson and Kharkiv Oblasts since the previous calculation.

Total Audience in Ukraine

Overall, over the course of the year since the previous study, there has been a significant decrease in the number of internally displaced persons and individuals who found themselves under occupation.

At the same time, the number of refugees who have sought protection through official programs abroad has increased.

And currently, we have the following number of internet users and population aged 14–70 years in Ukraine:

Changes in Internet User Behavior

Technologies

Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, there has been a rapid increase in the proportion of mobile traffic compared to desktop usage in Ukraine.

After peaking in the spring of 2022, smartphone usage started to decrease but has not yet returned to pre-war levels. Currently, 80% of traffic in Ukraine comes from smartphones.

The distribution of browser popularity has also changed, with the Google News browser becoming a significant player on mobile devices, accounting for 3% of traffic currently.

News Consumption and Top Websites

Last year, we observed a significant increase in traffic to news websites. The Ukrainian population’s interest in news remains strong, with 98% of users continuing to read news daily.

News websites continue to be a vital source of information, although they face competition in visit frequency from messaging apps and social media platforms.

Overall, the traffic of nearly all popular websites in Ukraine has decreased since the beginning of the invasion, in line with the overall decrease in audience size.

Comparing data from Gemius on the traffic of the most popular websites in March 2022 and May 2023, we see a drop in traffic even for steadfast leaders like Google, YouTube, and Facebook.

At the same time, we observe “new” sites in the top rankings, such as Rozetka, Olx, Prom, and others.

These sites were already part of the top platforms in Ukraine and are considered “new” only in relation to March 2022, as during that period, we saw a significant increase in visits to news websites, and ecommerce began to regain its prominence in the rankings in June.

At the same time, users have become more actively engaged with online shopping services since the start of the full-scale invasion.

According to Kantar, 94% of users have experience with online purchases, and 14% made their first online order after the invasion began.

How Has the Advertising Market Changed?

Recovery in the Advertising Industry

Throughout the year, Ukrainian advertising agencies and advertisers have mostly resumed their operations. Let’s examine how they assess the level of commercial activity as of the survey date compared to January 2022.

It’s worth noting that the data obtained from the survey may not have included representatives of companies that have closed down, given the low probability of their participation. However, these data are valuable as they reflect the state of businesses that have endured the toughest months and managed to preserve employment.

Interestingly, the audience is mostly receptive to advertising, with 72% of respondents in the Kantar study believing that advertising should exist, and 81% expecting brands to be “active.”

Here is a list of topics that the audience positively responds to in brand communication.

At the same time, the advertising industry is strengthening its position as an exporter.

Currently, 84% of advertising agencies participating in IAB surveys have found clients abroad, and this percentage has been consistently increasing since May 2022.

This aligns with our own experience as well, as we continue to collaborate with foreign agencies that engage us for client projects.

Job Market in Marketing

In the previous study for 2022, we observed a significant gap between the number of job vacancies and jobseekers. Even before the invasion, the number of new candidates was several times higher than the number of marketing vacancies.

In the spring of 2022, the number of new vacancies per week dropped by 5 times, while the number of new resumes continued to increase. As of summer 2023, the ratio of vacancies to resumes has returned to pre-invasion winter levels.

Conclusions

  1. Currently, there are 23 million people aged 14–70 living in the territories under Ukraine’s control, of which 18 million are internet users. Among them, 5.4 million are internally displaced persons. Additionally, 5.8 million Ukrainians have become refugees since the start of the full-scale invasion, while 4.3 million remain in the occupied territories.
  2. In Ukraine, mobile traffic significantly outweighs desktop traffic, and the gap between them increased at the start of the invasion and has not returned to January 2022 levels.
  3. There continues to be a heightened focus on news in Ukraine, with 98% of people reading the news daily. Messaging apps and social media are the primary sources of news information. News websites, which peaked in popularity in the spring 2022, have gradually left the top ranks, making way for e-commerce.
  4. 94% of Ukrainians have experience with online shopping, and 14% made their first online purchase after the full-scale invasion.
  5. Advertising agencies and advertisers are resuming their operations. 56% of agencies and 70% of advertisers report having restored commercial activity to January 2022 levels. Meanwhile, surveys show that the audience is receptive to advertising despite the circumstances.
  6. Advertising agencies have become an exporting niche, with 84% of IAB survey participants stating that they have found foreign clients by March 2023. Currently, the number of new marketing vacancies according to Work.ua matches the pre-invasion winter levels.
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