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Impact of Coronavirus on eCommerce: Transactions Peak as Digital Becomes the Only Store (Update 6)

Jean-Marc Bellaiche
April 7, 2020
Read Time: 4min

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

After weeks of browsing for necessities only and preparing their homes for weeks (months?) of quarantine, consumers everywhere are resuming some of their normal buying behaviors. And with non-essential stores closed indefinitely in many western countries, digital is providing most of the answers to customer needs today.

We have captured and analyzed billions of user sessions since the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak, and have been sharing week-by-week updates on the latest trends in consumer behavior across industries.

Our study includes more than 5.6 billion sessions and 27 billion page views, captured over the last 14 weeks of 2020, from January 6th 2020 to April 5th 2020. To understand how Covid-19 is affecting global eCommerce, we’ve compared recent weeks 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).

In last week’s update we wrote about the surge in traffic and transactions recorded in the grocery sector, but also the increases observed across KPIs in the fashion industry. 

These are the trends we recorded this week:

Traffic and Transactions Surge as eCommerce Habits Resume

Total visits across all industries were up +3.2% last week from the previous week, contributing to a +10.3% increase since the very start of the outbreak (or, reference week). We also recorded a +18.0% surge in transactions in the last week, bringing the total increase in the number of transactions since the beginning of the crisis to +32.6%.

What does this tell us? That after dedicating the first few weeks of home quarantine to procuring the most basic of necessities — starting with food and health items, and then moving on to home office and fitness equipment — consumers are now resuming some of their normal shopping habits.

And with non-essential brick-and-mortar stores still closed in many places, digital has shifted from convenience to necessity when it comes to making routine purchases. With traffic and transactions remaining steady or increasing across many of the verticals we analyzed, we are observing digital compensate for the pausing of offline retail.

Impact of the Coronavirus on digital traffic since the beginning of the outbreak:

Coronavirus impact on online traffic by industry

Impact of the Coronavirus on digital transactions since the beginning of the outbreak:

Coronavirus impact on eCommerce transactions


Home Decor and DIY Sectors Get Digital Makeover

Faced with the prospect of several more weeks at least of home quarantine, many consumers spent some of their time and budget this week on improving — or at least thinking of improving — their pad. 

Some have found it hard to stare at their apartment or house all day without itching to make improvements, and consumers clocked in +46.8% more hours browsing furniture and DIY supplies since the start of the oubreak. This is the greatest increase in browsing time recorded across all industries.

Last week in particular saw a sharp increase in the volume of visits to websites from this sector  (+22.8%). Many consumers last week hit purchase on items to upgrade their home office or living space, with a big +52.3% increase in the number of transactions compared to the previous week. In fact, this collective enthusiasm for home improvement and furniture has caused transactions in the Home Decor/DIY sector to more than double since the beginning of the outbreak (+101.4%).

The sector also recorded a +82.6% increase in the conversions rate — one of the largest rises observed across industries.

Grocery Store Supply and Consumer Demand Align

Visits to grocery sites were down for the first time in six weeks, dropping -9.3% last week compared to the previous week. But despite this slow down, overall traffic volume has grown a massive +189% since the beginning of the outbreak. 

Meanwhile, transactions were up +19.6% last week from the previous week, contributing to an +80% increase since the beginning of the outbreak.

The combination of this slight dip in visits and increase in purchases could signify that customers are slightly more realistic this week about the delivery slot situation (scarce!), and are perhaps more accustomed to and willing to agree to product substitutions. Grocery stores everywhere have risen to the challenge of increasing consumer reliance on home delivery, and have come up with innovative ways of managing shifting customer behaviors.


Grocery sector: Traffic (Index 100: pre covid-19):

Traffic supermarkt

Grocery sector: Transactions (Index 100: pre covid-19):

And Then There’s Tiger King

While visits to TV/Streaming sites have grown a healthy +25.2% since the start of the crisis, transactions have escalated +125.9% as consumers look for alternatives to in-person socializing.

Interestingly, last week, both transactions and visits were down since the previous week (-16.8% and -12.5% respectively) — perhaps reflecting the fact that many consumers have now picked out and signed up for the subscription services/Netflix shows that will get them through quarantine.

Beauty Sector Sees a Spike in Visits and Transactions

As consumers resume some of their eCommerce routines (and run out of face cream or their favorite shampoo), personal care purchases are once more a thing, following on the heels of a bit of a resurgence two weeks ago. This renewed interest also reflects the way many players in the beauty industry have been focusing their promotions and homepage campaigns on hand soap and other necessities. 

In fact, the Beauty and Cosmetics sector recorded an impressive +24.3% increase in visits last week compared to the previous week, coupled with a +36.7% surge in transactions. This contributes to a whopping +106.1% boost in the number of transactions since the start of the outbreak, for a modest +14.2% increase in the volume of visits.


Cosmetics / Fashion sectors: Traffic (Index 100: pre covid-19):


Cosmetics / Fashion sectors: Transactions (Index 100: pre covid-19):

Moving Up the Maslow Pyramid of Needs

The Fashion sector recorded a second week of growth in the volume of transactions (+20% compared to the previous week). This sector is now above pre-Covid-19 levels with a recorded +22.9% increase in the number of transactions since the start of the oubreak. 

There seems to also be light at the end of the tunnel for the Luxury and Watch /Jewelry sectors, with transactions still below normal but up last week by respectively +18.5% and +53.5%.

At the top of the Maslow pyramid of needs, it is worth noting that the Tourism and Events sectors are still completely amorphous with -90% dip in the number of transactions compared to our reference week.


Luxury / Jewelry sector: Traffic (Index 100: pre covid-19):


Luxury / Jewelry sector: Transactions (Index 100: pre covid-19):

We will keep monitoring the data over the coming weeks to bring you timely updates on how events are impacting various sectors. In the meantime, sign up to our upcoming webinar, Showing Up For Your Digital Customers (Apr 15 @ 1PM ET) — a discussion around how to adapt to consumers’ fast-changing needs with our Head of Strategy Jean-Marc Bellaiche and special guests from Kohl’s.

Feature image by stokkete



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.