Impact of Coronavirus on eCommerce: New Sense of Hope Drives Sales Up

Jean-Marc Bellaiche
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April 22, 2020
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Read Time: 4min

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.

With brick-and-mortar stores and businesses closed in many regions of the world, consumers have refocused their spending habits on digital. Getting things delivered to your door is the hallmark of being a consumer in times of quarantine, and as people settle into the new social distancing norm, many eCommerce sites are seeing an increase from their regular traffic and transactions.

We’ve tracked 7 billion actual visitor digital sessions since the onset of the Coronavirus outbreak to keep you up to date with how the pandemic continues to affect digital consumer behavior. To bring you the freshest, most relevant insights, we’re analyzing visits on more than 900+ websites in 26 countries. 

To chart the progression of several KPIs (traffic, transactions, pageviews, and more), we’ve been comparing data from the past week to the period immediately preceding the global reporting of the outbreak (or, the first 6 weeks of the year, which we call the reference period).

Here’s what we found this week:

ECommerce Traffic and Transactions Continue to Surge

Traffic and transactions across industries continued to gain momentum this past week, with visits increasing by +6.8% from the previous week, and transactions recording a double-digit surge of +11%. This represents the second strongest week-on-week growth since the start of the crisis. So how does all this digital buying activity compare to pre-Coronavirus levels? On the traffic side, the incremental increases observed over the past seven weeks translate into a +22.7% hike in the number of site visits. This extra traffic is also resulting in more sales, with transactions increasing by +45.2% compared to pre Covid-19 levels.

If the pace of growth observed in previous weeks indicated a gradual resuming of browsing and shopping habits, the most recent surge clearly shows that consumers have fully adopted an eCommerce lifestyle, shifting many of their typically physical purchases to digital. The trends we’ve observed in the past couple of months very much reflect consumers’ order of priority, with, before confinement started, a first wave of activity driving growth for sectors associated with necessities (grocery, healthcare products, etc). When confinement started, a second wave saw increases in traffic and transactions for the next tier of priority sectors, such as tech equipment, media, etc. We then saw shoppers up their engagement with home/ decor / DIY sites — a consequence of the redefinition of home as office, school, and (only) place to socialize. And lately consumers appear to be returning to sites that could hardly be defined as “necessary,” such as Fashion or Luxury but nonetheless form an essential part of normal eCommerce habits.

Fashion Sector in Recovery Mode, Encouraged By Aggressive Discounting

Whether people are tired of loungewear or Zoom chic is where it’s at right now, there has been a resurgence of the fashion sector (transactions up +23% last week), partly encouraged by aggressive promotions and sales campaigns. In the US, transactions on apparel sites almost doubled from the previous week (+99%), while globally, volume of sales is up +63% from the start of the crisis. According to our data, consumers are browsing more fashion sites (visits up +24%), viewing more pages (+38%) and spending longer on these sites (+7% time spent) — all signaling greater engagement than before the shutdown of stores.

Luxury Stages A Comeback While Jewelry Sector Growth Suggests Gift-Giving Is Back

It was a good week for luxury globally as well (transactions up +21% in a week), and in particular in the US (+45% increase in the volume of weekly sales). Meanwhile, mass jewelry and watch purchases went up +20% last week (+22% in the US), signifying a widespread return to gifting following weeks of more focused purchasing. It could be that consumers in the US are also preparing for Mothers’ Day, replicating a similar trend to the one observed in the UK in the week leading up to March 22nd (Mothers’ Day in the UK).

Media Among Sectors Experiencing Slowdown While Grocery Sector Stays Steady

After surging late February and early March, the volume of traffic to media sites was down for the fourth week in a row with a sharp -15% this past week compared to the previous week, indicating perhaps that the initial wave of news and information consumption hit a peak and is now on a downward trend. 

Like last week, visits and transactions to grocery sites were very slightly down (-3% for both). Globally, traffic and transactions in the digital grocery sector have stabilized over the past two to three weeks at a rather high level (x2.7 pre-Coronavirus traffic levels and x1.7 for transactions). And despite this recent steadying, the grocery sector is still in the lead in terms of traffic growth, with the last two months of lockdown leading to a +167% surge in visits compared to pre-crisis levels.

Travel Sector Sees First Positive Results In Weeks As Consumers Dream Of Escape

It’s no surprise that the sectors hardest hit by lockdown orders and travel restrictions have been the tourism and hospitality industries. And yet, after weeks of bad news, trends finally started to shift this past week. Visits to travel sites grew by +8% over the last seven days, while transactions increased by +24%. And while the sector is still very much in the red (transactions are still at -90% compared to pre-crisis levels), this week-on-week growth indicates consumers are getting a bit more opportunistic, looking ahead and planning future travel. This uptake of tourism transactions last week is particularly strong in the US (+40%) and Germany (+35%), somewhat strong in France and the UK (both +27%) but less acute in Asia (only +7% last week despite the re-opening of some markets)

Travel and hospitality brands have been particularly inventive with their messaging and offering of late, trying to keep customers engaged despite the uncertainty over when normal travel planning might resume. ClubMed resorts have been helping out homeschooling parents with activities to keep the family entertained while one holiday cottage rental site in the UK is encouraging travellers to book their trip two years in advance.

 

Join our webinar this week, How the Coronavirus is Impacting the User Journey: Connecting with Users in the Stay-At-Home area. In this webinar, we partner with the digital experts at Multiplica to bring you the freshest data on customer behavior in lockdown, as well as tips on how to create a meaningful brand experience during these trying times.

 

Author

Jean-Marc Bellaiche

Jean-Marc is the Chief Marketing, Partnership & Strategy Officer. Prior to working at Contentsquare, he was a SVP Strategy and Business Development at Tiffany & Co from 2014 to 2018. Before that he was a Senior Partner at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) for 22 years, where he led the global luxury, beauty and fashion practice