Impact of Coronavirus on eCommerce: Digital Activity Decreases But Pure Play Brands Set To Emerge Stronger (Update 16)


Jean-Marc Bellaiche

June 24, 2020 | 3 min read

To provide understanding during this uncertain time, we are monitoring the impact of coronavirus on online consumer behaviors. See the latest data on our Covid-19 eCommerce Impact data hub.

As countries and cities open up again, or move to the next phase of their post-Covid plan, consumers everywhere are reconnecting with what it means to go into a non-essential store to make a purchase. We’ve been paying attention to digital shopping behaviors this past week (and since early March), to understand how the Coronavirus crisis has impacted online activity and businesses across industries. 

We’ve analyzed more than 10 billion sessions — monitoring traffic, transactions and customer engagement — to see how the unfolding situation has affected digital business. To understand these changes, we’ve compared data from each week with the period immediately preceding the introduction of social distancing and store closures in the West (or, the first 6 weeks of the year, which we call the reference period). 

This is what we observed this past week:

Traffic Goes Down For Fifth Consecutive Week But Transactions Remain Strong

Global digital traffic has been decreasing steadily since mid-May (coinciding with the first wave of store reopenings in Europe), with a new -4% drop in the volume of visits this past week. This puts digital traffic today at +6% pre-Covid levels, although a breakdown by industry shows that some sectors are still seeing up to +45% more visitors than back in February.

Transactions however have not been dropping at quite the rate of digital traffic, with a -3% drop this past week, that does little to make a dent in the +29% transaction increase recorded since the onset of the crisis.

The UK is responsible for the greatest leap in the volume of digital transactions (+63%), while France and Germany have recorded slightly more conservative increases (+14% and +17% respectively). The US numbers are very aligned with the global average, with +28% more digital sales than before the introduction of quarantine measures.

ecommerce traffic - impact of coronavirus ecommerce transactions - impact of coronavirusTraffic to Fashion Sites Stabilizes As Pure Play Businesses Emerge Stronger

Traffic to apparel sites remained steady this past week after several weeks of dwindling digital activity. Transactions were also stable, following a 40 point drop since late May, and the volume of digital sales today is +20% greater than it was before the crisis started. 

We also compared traffic and transactions between click-and-mortar and pure play brands, and found that, since reopening, pure players (with no / limited retail) are experiencing more stability with their digital activity. Brands with physical stores are doing slightly better today than their online-only counterparts, but their volume of transactions has been decreasing steadily since late May, while pure play brands appear to be maintaining the increase in sales week on week. As of now it certainly looks like digital-only brands are emerging stronger from the Coronavirus crisis, particularly when you consider that for these storeless brands, extra traffic and transactions are net gains while for retailers the surge of online business was there to compensate for the drop of retail activity.

Grocery Sector Loses Traffic But Digital Sales Still Strong

Online grocery traffic continues on its downward trend, having steadily decreased since the massive surge in the third week of March and a more discreet peak in early April. This last week brought a -13% drop in the volume of traffic to grocery sites, but despite this latest decrease, the sector is still enjoying +40% more visits than before the first social distancing orders. And while transactions may have dropped -15% this past week, the global volume of online grocery transactions is still +58% higher than before the start of the crisis.

The breakdown by country reveals different dependencies on digital for food and household staples with France almost back at its pre-Covid levels of digital grocery transactions, the US at around +50% more, and the UK in the lead with more than double the number of sales. As other non-essential businesses open their doors, it will be interesting to see how a ‘return to normal’ shopping habits impacts the collective reliance on online grocery stores.

Tourism Sector Still On The Road To Recovery

Traffic and transactions on travel sites went up +7% this past week, marking another week of growth for the sector that has suffered the most since the start of the crisis. This latest positive chapter makes a small impact on the sector’s digital activity, and globally, travel sites are still experiencing -43% less traffic than it was back in February, and are recording -44% fewer transactions.

France is catching up faster than any other country we analyzed, and is today seeing -20% less traffic than it was before the start of lockdown and -25% the number of transactions. The US is the country that has suffered the biggest drop in visitors although interestingly, transactions are picking up faster in the US than in the UK, despite the UK boasting more traffic.

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