Impact of the Coronavirus on Digital Retail: An Analysis of 1.8 Billion Site Visits


Anthony Bossan

March 5, 2020 | 2 min read

Last Updated: May 28, 2020

With the coronavirus outbreak leading to travel restrictions and affecting daily activities in several regions of the world, many have also been predicting the impact of the virus on brick-and-mortar retail and global ecommerce activity.

We analyzed 1.8 billion user sessions and 50 million transactions across 1,400 global websites to understand if and how digital consumer behavior has changed over the last two weeks.

We compared the conversion rate, number of transactions, number of visits and session duration between the week beginning 2/16 and the week beginning 2/23.

Here are the findings:

Purchases on Travel Sites Drop by a Fifth

With consumers limiting or abandoning travel plans in light of the outbreak, the outbreak is having a serious effect on the travel sector, and our data confirms lower engagement and a significant drop in sales.

Purchases on travel sites decreased by a fifth (-20.8%), while the average conversion rate on those sites also took a hit (-8.5%). Overall, consumers spent less time browsing trips, with 13.5% fewer sessions, and a 14% fewer hours spent browsing these sites.

Metrics on hospitality and hotel sites also dropped across the board with a 6.5% decrease in site visits and a 7.7% dropoff in conversions.

Transactions on transportation sites were down 6.6% and the average conversion rate also dropped slightly 0.8%.

Average Conversion Rate for Grocery Sector Increases by 8%

As reports come in of panic-buying in some areas of the world, we observed a surge in conversions on household and grocery items, and a significant increase in the number of hours spent browsing essential goods.

Supermarket sales went up by 16% and the average conversion rate for the sector increased by 8.1%. Premium online grocery purchases went up by a fifth (19.9%), while consumers clocked in 25.7% more hours browsing for groceries.

Large retailers and marketplaces saw sales increase by a fifth (21%) with a hefty conversion rate increase of 14.8%. Our data showed shoppers also spent 44% more time on these sites.

27% More Transactions for Health Retailers

Consumers also made 10.3% more visits to sites selling healthcare products including pharmacies and health food retailers. Visits were 23% shorter but the number of transactions increased by 27.3%, bringing the average conversion rate up by 15.4% and suggesting many shoppers were browsing with specific items in mind.

Sports Equipment Sales Drop by a Third

Sporting equipment retailers recorded a hefty 28.4% decrease in transactions, and a 9.5% dip in the conversion rate. There were 21% fewer sessions and overall, the amount of time spent on these sites decreased by 10.7%.

Conversion Rate Goes Up 7.3% in the Fashion Sector

Fashion retailers recorded a steady number of visits, yet sales and the average conversion rate both went up 7.3%. Visitors also spent 13.9% more time on these sites.

For stores specializing in lingerie, the increase was even greater, with a surprising 35.1% jump in the number of transactions week on week.


Customer behavior can be unpredictable. Our sweep of 2020 benchmark data cuts through the noise, bringing you key digital patterns, and insight into how people like to browse across industries. We analyzed over 7 billion sessions across 9 verticals on 400 global sites this past year and consolidated this data to fish out crucial trends and patterns.

Download our 2020 Digital Experience Benchmark today.