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 Convenience has been superseded by necessity, and as a society, our reliance on digital has perhaps never been greater.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

 

What Not to Do on the Homepage: UX Advice for Fashion Retail 

The homepage is often a key webpage for direct and organic search channels for players in the retail fashion industry. In addition to being a crucial step in the browsing process for users, it’s also an opportunity for businesses to introduce and showcase their brand identity through editorials and fashion trends.

However, according to the data we collected in Q1 of 2019, fashion retail homepage bounce rates were as high as 40% across all devices. Users also still spend an average session time of 7min on desktop and 3min 41s on mobile. (Remember, Contentsquare measures bounce rate as having only seen the single page and leaving the site). 

It can be difficult to know what kinds of design iterations will help prevent users from exiting without having viewed at least a few product pages. It’s also impossible to create the perfect homepage, but we have some great tips to follow if you’re looking to improve the design of your fashion eCommerce homepage. 

Don’t place text on cluttered areas of images

Although images and photography are crucial for communicating brand identity and editorial content, make sure you choose images that are text-friendly. Place text over emptier areas of the image, change the image, or place text on an overlay. Always use white text unless brand guidelines say otherwise. Users tend to skip over text that is too long, too small, or just difficult to read. Keep in mind: any information must be easy to digest at a fast pace, especially for mobile users.

Don’t make the hero image the full length of the page

If you’re showcasing your Fall/Winter looks, consider using a static banner —a prominent, single banner on the page that does not have rotating content, one that allows other content to be seen above the fold. We often find the exposure rate — how far down the page visitors scroll — drops drastically below the fold line. 

A hero image that spans the full length of the page could mislead users into thinking there is no other content. Because the average length of mobile pages is around 3,400px, we need to encourage users as much as possible to scroll past the fold line.

Don’t automate carousels

If you’re showcasing new collections or promoting sitewide discounts, avoid automatically rotating slides within the carousel. Instead, use static carousels that do not include more than three slides to allow users an opportunity to digest both the image and information in each slide. Users should be able to use arrows to easily move from one slide to another. 

Although there is a big debate in the design world over whether carousels are effective, we see much less exposure and engagement on the second and third slides. Automating carousels can rob users of control over the experience and as a result, they are more likely to ignore it if the slide moves too quickly for them to read.

Don’t hide primary CTAs or category links below the fold

Instead, make sure they are clearly above the fold line; try placing them on an uncluttered area of the image. You want to encourage users to immediately begin browsing, whether it leads them to a category page or list page for product catalogs that are currently being prioritized. 

Try placing a horizontal category slider at the top of the page and evaluate whether that improves your users’ browsing process. 

 

 

Showcase editorial content that is space-conscious and easy to interact with

Make sure that any editorial images on the homepage lead the users to specific categories, seasonal collections, or product pages. Giving them a purpose beyond aesthetics encourages users to explore beyond just the homepage and can help increase session time.

Here is a great example from Ralph Lauren:

 

 

The above image on the left showcases the bag as both aesthetic and functional, enticing users with beautiful photography, while leading them to the product page. The text is succinct, easy-to-read, and placed on an uncluttered area of the image. 

The carousel placed on the right provides even more options for the user to view additional products for the upcoming season. Both the image and carousel do not extend past the screen, making it easy to view. Part of the content of the next section is viewable, avoiding the false bottom and encouraging users to scroll further.

Making design iterations to your site never ends. As user behaviors continue to evolve faster than ever, it’s important to continuously evaluate and reassess the performance of individual elements on your pages. It’s important to make design changes based on the needs of your user base, not the general users of the industry. 

Don’t forget to regularly check on other players in your industry for inspiration, as there is much to learn from the digital experiences and websites you enjoy. But remember, just because a competitor does it, doesn’t mean they are improving the experience of their users. So be inspired, yes, but consult your own customer data before implementing changes.

 

Hero Image Via: Rawpixel.com, Adobe Stock

Fall/Winter Fashion Campaigns: How Brands Are Capitalizing On High Interest in New Collections

With fashion month in full bloom in the world’s four most glamorous cities, retailers and luxury brands are capitalizing on the collective excitement for all things sartorial to showcase their new Fall/Winter looks online. And judging by our findings, consumers are more than ready to give their wardrobes a makeover and explore new styles…

In this article, we examine the effects of Fall/Winter apparel campaigns on digital customer behavior, as well as their impact on revenue. 

Methodology 

To paint a clear picture of how US consumers respond to Fall/Winter collections campaigns, we analyzed data from 24 global fashion brands (including luxury and mainstream brands), focusing on their US sites. Our analysis runs through a month and a half worth of data, representing 98 million user sessions, spread out over 510 pages.

As part of our analysis, we compared the performance of Fall/Winter campaigns (or “new collections”) with that of the end-of-Summer 2019 campaigns (or “old collections”). 

Let’s learn more.

Fall/Winter 2019 Launches Increase Overall Revenue

The happy news for retailers is that the recently-launched Fall/Winter collections reaped larger average carts across all 3 devices. In fact, overall revenue was up 6.74% from the end of the summer campaigns, with the most impressive leap observed on tablet (+6.56%).

Conversion rates, however, did not follow the same upward trend — not on two device types, that is. . Desktop conversions on new fall collections stagnated at 2.19%, signaling no change in the conversion rate between the old and new collections. Tablet conversions lessened by 3%, further handing the victory torch to the end-of-summer collection in terms of conversion rates.

On the contrary, new collections on mobile outperformed old ones, with a 4.43% rise in conversions.

While the mobile conversion rate increase is slight, it nonetheless signals a significant opportunity for retailers, and a clear indication that consumers are willing to shop for new looks on their smartphone. Brands should thus not neglect capitalizing on their mobile UX

In fact, they should design with a mobile-first approach to digital. Aside from holding stock in revenue, mobile continued its high traffic trend. It was the most-trafficked device in BOTH old and new collections, hovering at around 72%, dwarfing desktop and tablet usage, which came in at 22.5% and 6%, respectively. 

Increased Acquisition Spend Leads to Higher Traffic

Now that we shined light on what is arguably the most important impact of Fashion Week, let’s veer into the beginning of the user journey: how visitors entered the websites we surveyed. 

According to our data, paid acquisition campaigns around the new collections paid off (pun intended). Brands primarily relied on paid sources to draw more users into Fall/Winter looks, including paid search campaigns (display ads) and paid social campaigns.

These paid acquisition campaigns resulted in traffic increases across all devices, with a whopping 289% growth in traffic from display ads and a sturdy 178% growth from paid social ads. It seems that if a brand is willing to put money behind ads for Winter/Fall fashions, customers are more than willing to click. 

Visitors Seek Fall/Winter Inspiration On The Homepage 

A high-level view of the digital customer behavior on the homepage reveals that, by the time the new collections roll in, visitors are eager to discover new trends and styles. 

The new styles drive a peak in customer interactions, with a higher click rate on the homepage slideshow (64% up from clicks on Summer items) and on the product tiles right below (+17%). 

There are fewer clicks on the search bar, which figures, as most consumers appear to be in a discovery/inspiration phase, accessing the new styles through the more visual, inspirational elements of the homepage. The click rate on the cart also goes down around the new season launch, corroborating the idea that consumers are primarily window-shopping.

It’s a good time for brands to make sure they’re getting the most ROI from the inspirational elements on the homepage, since the excitement for new season looks translates to heavier engagement with these areas of the site. Optimizing product pages to capitalize on this heightened interest is also key: if visitors are clicking on your Fall sweaters tile, make sure you follow through with a relevant selection of items and an easy path to conversion.

Inspirational Content Shouldn’t Slow Down The UX 

But with all this inspirational and visual content showcasing the season’s must-have items, some brands are running into speed issues.

On desktop, for example, homepage loading times were up 50% after the launch of the Fall/Winter collection — from 2.09 to 3.14 seconds. With a 4% increase on mobile, it seems brands have overall made some effort to keep load times down on smartphones.

It’s a delicate balance to achieve— on the one hand, you want to give consumers all the inspiration they are willing to consume, but not at the cost of stalling the customer journey. Analyzing customer interactions around each element of the page will help teams determine which content is truly driving conversions and which underperforming elements can be optimized, or altogether removed.

Fashion Week Campaigns Don’t Stimulate Store Locator Use 

Customers shopping for Fall looks seem less inclined to continue their journey offline than those looking for end-of-summer bargains. On mobile, the reach rate on the store locator was down -6% for consumers browsing the Fall/Winter collection. Desktop was hit the hardest with a -14% dip in the store locator reach rate.

It could be that with back-to-school, back-to-work, and general September busy-ness, many shoppers don’t have time to go to the stores. Then again, conversions are down too, so it could be that this is a time for window shopping and eyeing up what’s on offer for the months to come.

Optimizing New Collections Campaigns

The unveiling of Fall/Winter collections is a potent engagement driver, and consumers are not shy about clicking on ads and images to be educated about the new season’s looks. With higher engagement and revenue, these campaigns have plenty of potential. 

From post-click optimization to ongoing analysis of your key homepage areas, a granular read of your customers’ experience will uncover any areas of opportunity and help you refine underperforming content.

Remember to reduce your page loading times (long loading times are a major UX offense) and create seamless mobile experiences to reel in the most profit from this short-lived yet critical shopping season.