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.
After weeks of working from home, working out from home, socializing from home, and doing just about everything from home, data shows that consumers everywhere are in the mood for a little home improvement. With a +22.8% increase in the volume of visits to home decor/DIY stores last week (compared to the previous week), it seems that many have come to the realization that working from your bed is not all it’s cracked up to be.
In fact, consumers have increased the time they spend browsing furniture and home furnishings by +46.8% since the start of the outbreak — the largest surge in browsing time observed across all retail sectors. And looking at the number of transactions, these home makeovers are not just virtual. Transactions on furniture and DIY sites in the UK and US were up +52.3% last week from the previous week, contributing to a +101.4 increase in home purchases since the start of the crisis.
So what exactly are consumers itching to change around the house?
How Towels And Linens Became The New Necessary
The volume of products browsed in the linens / bath linens category shot up +96% last week compared to the previous week, with transactions in this category almost doubling over the same period (+96%). It could be that staring at their bed every day is the push many need to finally get rid of that old duvet cover, or it may be less of an aesthetic decision and more of a practical one.
While 85% of people in America may own a washing machine, legions of renters in major cities like New York don’t, relying instead on laundromats — considered “essential businesses” in many areas of the country. But with millions of people trying as much as possible to avoid trips outside the home, and the CDC recommending you don’t share personal household items when caring for someone who is sick, it makes sense that consumers are looking to increase their supply of sheets and towels.
Home Is Where The Office Is
If you’ve ever subscribed to a furniture store or large retailer email list, your inbox is probably inundated right now with invectives to smarten up your home office. Home office inspiration landing pages and promotions on office furniture have been proliferating the past couple of weeks, and a quick scan of the data shows that consumers are indeed looking to upgrade their work stations.
Visits to pages featuring desks, lighting and tables were up significantly this week from last — in that order (see table above). Those three categories also accounted for the greatest increases in the volume of purchases, with a +95% increase in table sales, +92% in lamp sales and +87% for desks.
Spring Has Sprung
For those lucky enough to have a garden or yard to sit or play in to offset cabin fever, it’s hard to not notice that, even during a global pandemic, plants will bloom in April. Pages featuring garden items and outdoor furniture got +33% more attention this week than last, and the volume of transactions on these items was also up +33%. And with supply chain issues becoming a regular occurrence on grocery stores around the world, victory gardens are making a comeback.
Other product categories that are seeing more traffic and purchases include kids’ room decor — +16% increase in volume of products browsed and +44% more purchases this week compared to last. And purchases of sofas and armchairs have also recorded somewhat of a surge, with a +66% increase in purchases from the previous week.
The growing interest in home furnishings and decor is very much in line with the generalized surge in eCommerce traffic and transactions recorded in the past couple of weeks. Total traffic across sectors was up +3.2％ last week from the previous week (+10.3％ since the start of the crisis) and transactions were up +18％ (+32.6％ since the start of the crisis). As consumers navigate a new reality without access to brick-and-mortar shopping, their reliance on digital is now almost entire, and for many brands websites are adjusting to becoming the only store. And with the overall conversion rate up +82.6% since the beginning of the outbreak, the home decor sector seems to be carving out its place as one of the necessary digital businesses.
Join our webinar next week, From Convenience to Necessity: How the Coronavirus Is Impacting the Grocery Sector, featuring our Chief Strategy Officer Jean-Marc Bellaiche, this insight-packed webinar will share our latest findings on customer behavior and how the grocery industry is adapting to the new reality — April 16th at 1 pm.
Impact of Coronavirus on eCommerce: Online Supermarkets Adapt to Surge and Fashion Makes a Comeback
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.
As one third of the planet navigates a new reality on lockdown, people everywhere are leaning on digital to fulfill basic needs and obligations such as buying food, educating their children or getting their jobs done. Convenience has been superseded by necessity, and as a society, our reliance on digital has perhaps never been greater.
Our analysts have tracked billions of user sessions since the start of the Coronavirus crisis to bring you week-by-week updates on how consumers across the world and across industries are browsing today. Our study includes more than 5.2 billion sessions and 25 billion page views, captured over the last 13 weeks of 2020, from January 6th 2020 to March 29th 2020. To understand the impact of Covid-19 on 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 highlighted the challenges of the online grocery sector, as traffic surged but supply chain issues prevented some stores from meeting consumer demand for products and delivery slots. We also recorded a significant increase in transactions on sporting goods sites (after an earlier drop in both traffic and sales), reflecting a desire by consumers to stay fit at home. The cosmetics sector was also in recovery, after brands refocused their promotions around hand soap and personal hygiene products. And as people settled into quarantine, streaming and news sites recorded a significant boost in traffic, while retail tech sites saw more transactions on laptop, televisions and gaming consoles.
These are the trends we recorded this week:
Overall: Traffic and Transactions Are Trending Upwards
Global digital traffic was up +7% last week compared to the reference week — an +8% increase from the previous week. Transactions were also up, with a +12% increase from the start of the outbreak (or +9% increase from the previous week).
In fact, all the metrics we have been analyzing week on week recorded a positive difference last week, with a higher number of page views, longer browsing sessions and a higher conversion rate than during the week ending 3/22. This acceleration confirms the pattern of higher engagement observed over the past two weeks, as consumers settle into quarantine and expand their reliance on digital.
Traffic and Transactions Surge in Online Grocery Sector
Traffic to online grocery stores is up +219% since the beginning of the outbreak, shifting the industry from one of convenience to one of necessity. Transactions are also up (+50% compared to the reference week), but the gap between traffic and purchases highlights the challenges faced by the industry, as stores struggle to meet demand and securing a delivery slot becomes a daily challenge for many households.
The big change this week is that in many countries, online supermarkets have improved their supply chain, while at the same time many consumers have lowered their expectations, accepting substitute products and later delivery slots. As a result, transactions which were down the week ending 3/22, were up the week ending 3/29.
In the UK, where many stores have now ironed out some of the issues caused by the previous week’s traffic surge, there was a +220% increase in transactions last week compared to the previous week. Chains like Iceland, for example, are now able to deliver again this week, while last week online delivery slots were reserved to the elderly and most vulnerable.
In France, online grocery stores have come up with innovative ways to cope with the surge in demand, including supermarket chain Carrefour, which is now making consumer queue a few minutes before accessing their e-stores and is also offering “baskets of essentials” — a selection of basic items in categories such as produce, pets, cleaning etc.
Grocery stores have also been focusing on their homepage messaging, and on communicating to their customers how they are responding to their needs. Sainsbury’s, for example, has promised a “price lockdown” for the upcoming weeks and are being transparent about their efforts to prioritize home delivery for those who need it most.
Fashion Makes a Comeback
After weeks of dwindling traffic, the fashion sector recorded a sharp increase in visits last week from the previous week (+31%). Transactions also went up +32% from the previous week, confirming a renewed interest in browsing for apparel among global consumers. This is good news for fashion retailers, and goes some way to compensating for the lag observed over the last few weeks. As we speak, after a significant drop in traffic and sales at the beginning of the crisis — a traditionally slow time of year for apparel brands — the fashion sector is seeing the same level of transactions as before the start of the outbreak.
A deep-dive into the traffic data from individual countries shows that the greatest uptick in interest is in the US, where many fashion players have been pushing strong promotions and heavy discounts. This is good news as it shows some reactivity from consumers and also some optimism as for potential upcoming use of their new Fashion purchases.
Finally, it is worth noting that the retail tech, home/furniture, beauty and retail healthcare sectors continue to do quite well in terms of the volume of transactions, with increases of between +30% to +60% between the week ending 3/29 and our pre-outbreak reference period. This reflects a clear shift in consumer behaviors, with people actively equipping their homes for quarantine (laptops, gaming consoles, TVs, home office, soap, vitamins).
Online banking transactions were also up last week, as consumers moved from branch banking to managing their money online (applying for credit, opening savings accounts, trading, etc).
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, our 2020 Digital Experience Benchmark report is available to download and contains key vertical insights for improving the full customer journey.
Photo credit: icarmen13
Healthy Transformations: Rewarding Your Customer Experience with a Direct to Consumer Approach
Over the next 12 months, we’ll be sharing advice on how to grow and strengthen your digital business with a holistic approach to customer intelligence. Join our healthy digital transformation club to stay in the know.
Customer proximity, engagement marketing, consumer-driven innovation… 2020 is the year to take your understanding of customers to the next level. And no one knows this better than the new crop of Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) brands, who are challenging traditional digital commerce channels and reinventing the way businesses communicate, engage and connect with their customers.
A slew of big-name start-ups of the past few years have set up shop as DTC businesses. Even legacy brands like Nike are making moves to reduce their reliance on third-party vendors like Amazon. So what is behind the direct to customer marketing appeal?
In Praise of a Truer Connection With Your Customers
The name says it all. Many of the D2C newcomers are leveraging this unmediated business model to build a stronger, closer — in short, more direct — connection with their audience.
With a greater hold on consumer engagement through ownership of the whole customer journey, brands are at liberty to analyze the moments of connection to better adjust the CX to their customers’ needs and wants.
Customers in 2020 value seamlessness, yes, but also authenticity, originality, added value, and a customer experience (CX) that ticks all these boxes. Some audiences will be responsive to a company’s sustainable supply chain; others want a beauty brand designed for real people.
In the brave new D2C world, a brand’s core value proposition has to be defined (and delivered!), as it is a cornerstone of engagement marketing.
One of the benefits of all this customer closeness is that it breeds innovation. The D2C superstars, with their tight audience relationship, are leading through disruption; innovating new ways to engage customers and nurture loyalty over time.
In fact, these success stories often transcend the product that launched them in the first place. For example, on its website, Away says it makes “everything you need away, and nothing you don’t.” GoPro’s About Us page mentions “celebrating moments” and “capturing life.”
Achieving this level of connection implies a solid understanding of what matters to your target audience, which brings us to UX data.
Leveraging Behavioral Data For Greater Customer Proximity
Addressing your audience directly gives you privileged access to customer intelligence, and to the digital insights you need to optimize your CX.
Owning the end-to-end user journey affords brands exhaustive insight into their visitors’ UX — from their customer journey, to their in-page behaviors, to their interactions with individual page elements such as images, form fields, etc.
This kind of in-depth reading of your customers’ behavior will reveal your biggest experience hits and misses, flag the changes that should be prioritized and convey where your greatest opportunities lie.
After all, how can you build the ideal customer journey without a solid understanding of what your visitors are trying to achieve in the first place, or how they would prefer to go about it? The way customers move through your site and interact with it are all clues to decipher intent — itself a necessary signal for personalization and customer connection.
Aligning customer wants and a brand message via an engaging experience is something the leading D2C brands have mastered. And today, putting customer experience metrics in the hands of all those who have a stake in the CX has never been easier.
Widening access to this data is key to achieving the level of agility and excellence that customers today expect. Customer preferences fluctuate fast and furiously, and your team’s ability to keep up with them needs to be just as swift.
The DTC Approach: Putting Customers at the Heart of Things
Whatever your business model, there is much to learn from D2C brands’ commitment to customer-centricity. Developing a unique brand narrative, defining a clear value proposition and leveraging your ownership of the customer journey to improve the digital experience for all visitors are just some of the ways you can increase customer engagement.
In the end, all roads lead back to customer experience analytics. Whether you want to control the creative concepts or the technical aspects of your UX, a surefire way to unlock actionable insights is through the use of metrics that capture the nuances of human digital behavior. Does your message resonate? Are you helping visitors achieve their goals? Is your digital experience (DX) frustrating or delightful? There’s much to discover on how your visitors are using your digital properties.
So go ahead, sow your wild oats via a DTC approach and stay informed on your experiences and customer behavior. After all, the ‘20s are here. Let’s make them roaring for your UX.
Want to learn about how our DTC clients leveraged smart UX analytics to improve their content and ROI goals? Download our DTC report.Is Disruption Coming To The Auto Sector? We Quizzed Two Experts For Their Viewpoints
The end of dealerships, online vehicle shopping, pure players, smart cars… Has the auto sector been speeding down the digital transformation highway? We quizzed two digital auto experts to find out how disruptive the auto industry is about to get…
Our first interview is with Jérôme Jean, Digital & Regional Marketing Manager of Toyota in France. Interviewed by David Robin, Associate Director of Colombus Consulting, we learned about the automotive landscape in the digital space.
Colombus Consulting: Let’s dive straight in. What does a successful customer experience (CX) in the auto sector look like?
Jérôme Jean: It’s pretty simple: it’s an experience that is completely linear — from the search engine or website all the way to the dealership visit. These last few years, Toyota has focused heavily on digital to improve the customer journey.
It was crucial for auto manufacturers, whose distribution network has not evolved in 30 years, to become more agile. The aim was to offer a renewed buying experience with a mainly digital pre-sale journey.
We thought about how we positioned our brand and our vehicles at every touchpoint. What experience do we want our customers to have in the dealership? And today we have a new challenge: customers show up very well informed and really challenge our salespeople…
Particularly nowadays, competition is so fierce…
Yes, that’s true of other manufacturers’ eCommerce platforms, but also with pure players who have a radically different approach. There is also one thing no competitor can get around: having actual dealerships so that customers can have a live experience and “feel” the product.
So does that mean the auto sector is moving from hardware to software..?
Yes, absolutely. First of all because you need to add a digital dimension to the dealership experience, which requires having one single database — in our case, Salesforce.
The software is going to continue to evolve fast with smart cars. Tomorrow, diagnosis, preventive interventions, vehicle upgrades — all of those will happen remotely. The auto sector’s approach to marketing will shift increasingly to mobile. We will be able to offer new apps and services to make our customers’ lives easier. Manufacturers will finally connect with their customers on a daily basis.
“The auto sector’s approach to marketing will shift increasingly to mobile.”
Where are we at with online sales today?
The online retail market is gaining traction. All manufacturers, especially in England and Scandinavia, have been testing online sales of new vehicles. 2020 will be a pivotal year with the emergence of online sales platforms. The real question is: what is being sold? Selling new vehicles is the Holy Grail… except that today, the used vehicle market is much more mature. But will it work? I don’t think that online sales will dominate the market or spell the end of dealerships. In my opinion, digital will be one extra sales channel that will hopefully allow us to market to a younger customer base.
Next, our own Geoffrey Vion interviewed Brice Renvoizé, Digital & Experience Manager at SEAT Groupe Volkswagen on marketing, data and CX in the automotive sector.
Contentsquare: How did SEAT restructure to meet the digital challenges of a fast-evolving sector?
Brice Renvoizé: We transformed our digital marketing strategy 2 years ago, with a restructuring of teams based on data and customer experience. Today, our Influence division is responsible for increasing brand awareness and our Digital Customer Experience division is in charge of optimizing the customer journey. The customer journey is changing fast and we’re seeing a decline in dealership visits.
Has this changed your mission at all?
Our objective today is to prove the business value of digital, and to drive more traffic to our dealerships, which is where 100% of our sales still happen. Drive to Store is our main KPI and all our digital innovation takes into account the dealerships as a key part of the buyer journey.
The SEAT ID is an example of how our digital strategy is evolving. This unique client/prospect identifier will remove all barriers between our digital interfaces, dealerships and smart cars. It guarantees a friction-free experience in both the physical and digital world — it’s the ability to keep members in our ecosystem, which includes offering new services.
Yes, third-party services (music streaming, paying for gas…) are included in a monthly payment thanks to the connectivity revolution in the auto sector.
On the product side, we’ve already disrupted the status quo by launching a “no strings attached” car. A Netflix-type subscription where you can return/exchange your car and change your mileage — all this in an easy way, with no fees. Every last obstacle in the experience has been removed! With this level of service, we’re answering the needs of the new generation, who is more interested in usage than ownership.
Will people be buying their car online anytime soon?
No, not yet. We all still need contact with a product that remains a unique type of purchase. But digital can simplify the process: online deals with financing offers, estimates for a trade-in…
So it’s not the end of dealerships just yet… But how do they connect to digital?
We can remove the barriers between the two. We measure showroom visits that come from mobile traffic. The information shared during the experience on seat.fr. makes it easier for the vendor to understand the client.
The experience both online and offline still needs to improve thanks to considerable personalization. The key to personalization will be customer ID and data.
Can you describe your data strategy?
It helps us save on acquisition and focus instead on conversions. How? By personalizing messages depending on profiles and segments, by way of optimizing touchpoints to increase conversions. Ads we will go even further with the SEAT ID and the smart car. Today, data is used for marketing, tomorrow it will be used for business and service.
Hero image credit: SergeyBitos, Adobe Stock