Impact of the Coronavirus on eCommerce: How the Unfolding Outbreak is Affecting Customer Behavior Across Industries (Update 2)


Anthony Bossan

March 12, 2020 | 3 min read

Last Updated: May 28, 2020

Since last week’s reporting on 1.8 billion user sessions, we’ve been continuously analyzing digital behavior across key industries to understand in real-time the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on global eCommerce activity.

By comparing a key set of visitor metrics (including traffic, transactions, time spent, etc) week to week, we’re able to uncover patterns in shifting online and shopping, putting facts behind the digital business trends everyone is talking about.

In today’s analysis, we compare data from billions of user sessions across 1,400 global websites, gathered over the course of three weeks:

Week 1 — 2/17 to 2/23
Week 2 — 2/24 to 3/1
Week 3 — 3/2 to 3/8

The Travel & Hospitality Sector Declines Continue

The traffic and transaction data on travel and hospitality sites confirm significantly fewer visits, with traffic dropping steadily from week to week. Dwindling transactions also reflect the recent travel restrictions and bans, and the general uncertainty over upcoming travel and holiday plans.

Visits to hotel and holiday park sites dropped –6.5% between weeks 1 and 2, decreasing a further 11.4% in week 3. The transactions gap also doubled week on week, with a –5.4% drop between weeks 1 and 2, and an –11.9% decrease in week 3.

Holiday booking sites recorded a slightly different trend, with traffic dropping by –12.9% from weeks 1 to week 2, followed by a slighter decrease of –6.4% in week 3 so customers main remain optimistic the situation is temporary. Transactions took a definite downward turn, with –19% fewer transactions from weeks 1 to 2, and a further –11.3% dip in week 3.

Meanwhile, traffic to car rental sites went down –13% in the first period, and –7.4% in the second. Transactions dropped by –8.3%, and then again by –9.2% in week 3.

Consumers Are Stocking Up On Necessities & Health Items

Reports of panic buying, empty shelves, product shortages and even store-imposed limits on certain purchases have been flooding the news. Our analysis shows that in the digital world, consumers have also been flocking to stores to stock up on essentials.

Traffic to grocery stores went up 7.1% between weeks 1 and 2, and another 10.3% between weeks 2 and 3. Transactions shot up 15.7% in that first period and increased a further 10.9% in week 3.

Visits to premium grocery stores — which initially went up by 4.7%, but in the second week period dropped by –6% — reflect the trend for stocking pantries with necessities. The number of transactions confirms this back to basics with week 3 recording a –20.7% decrease in sales, after an initial increase of 19.9% in the previous period.

But it’s not just groceries people are ordering in.

Visits to healthcare sites (think health food stores, vitamin stores, etc) went up 11% between weeks 1 and 2, and a whopping 24.6% between week 2 and 3. Sales rocketed by 27% in that first period, and 7.1% in the following week.

Social Distancing & The Impact On Digital

As officials restrict gatherings in certain regions of the world, and major sporting events get suspended, individual consumers are also spending less time on sites related to outdoor pursuits and more time consuming digital media.

Traffic to sporting goods stores went down –18.3% between weeks 1 and 2, and dropped again by 11.3% between week 2 and 3. Transactions fell –23.1% in that first period and –13.5% in the following period.

Our analysts also noticed that visits to footwear sites dropped slightly in the last few weeks (by –4.2% in the first period, and –1.8% in the second), with sales following suit and dropping –11.1% between weeks 2 and 3.

Visits to retail tech sites, on the other hand, grew from week to week: 11.5% in the first period and 5.5% in the second. Transactions also went up by 12.7% in the first period and 4.5% in the second. Again these figures reflect a greater reliance on technology as more meetings turn remote and people adapt to shifting working conditions.

Meanwhile, visits to media sites (news, tv, radio, etc) shot up 16.8% in the first period, and 14.2% in the following period. Tellingly, the number of hours spent on these sites increased by 22.1% between weeks 1 and 2, and by 13.9% from week 2 to 3.

Ironically we noted a change in trend for B2B Saas: traffic to B2B SaaS sites was down –5.7% between weeks 1 and 2, but shot up by 11.8% between week 2 and 3, perhaps reflecting a growing need for businesses to boost their digital strategies as more and more purchases, events, meetings and transactions shift from offline to online. The number of hours spent browsing these sites went up by 5.8% between weeks 2 and 3.


We will keep monitoring the data over the coming weeks to bring you timely updates of how events are impacting various sectors. In the meantime, our 2020 Digital Experience Benchmark report is available to download, and contains key verticalized insights on how today’s consumer likes to browse.


Hero image via Adobe Stock, by chonlatit