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New Online Shoppers during the Coronavirus Outbreak

The coronavirus outbreak and subsequent shelter-in-place orders have created a digital-only world. Social distancing measures continue to keep people at home. Being thus homebound, online shopping behavior during the coronavirus outbreak has led to new shoppers flocking to ecommerce outlets. New online shoppers have increased on average more than 50% year over year.

In buying necessities online as the only means to secure those items, people are becoming more comfortable with online shopping during coronavirus. In efforts to redesign their homelife, consumers are spending more on Pet Supplies, Home Furnishing, and Home Decor retail categories. Homes have become our world. And they are buying more to fill that world.

What Are Online Shoppers Looking for During the Coronavirus Outbreak?

  • Since the beginning of March, as people started to store meat and other grocery items, we have seen that people would more likely go for the combo meals.
  • Combos and samplers have been some of the most popular preferences of the online shoppers across the majority of industries.
  • When it comes to the Tools and Hardware retail  industry, online shoppers are now more focused on home improvement projects with a DIY approach. Overall demand for woodworking tools and gardening category tools have also seen a spike.

Could These New Online Shoppers be Permanent Consumers?

In a presentation with our partners at BWG Strategy, NetElixir’s Founder and CEO Udayan Bose spoke on the lasting changes in online shopping behavior. Despite the surge in new online shoppers, there is no historical precedence for this situation. Consumers are turning to ecommerce because of the forced closure of brick-and-mortar stores; online shopping becomes their only alternative. 

We are unsure of the life-time value of these customers. We are unsure how long customers will stay online or how much they will purchase within this time frame (as we don’t yet know the length of time we will be considering as the crisis continues).

Consumers, on average, are making more transactions online now than during the same time in 2019, but the average order value is not increasing at the same rate. 

However, despite the uncertainty surrounding new online shoppers and their long-term behavior, it is important to approach them through the means of helping. Helpful engagement will promote your brand’s credibility and reliability. This will encourage consumers to return to you post-coronavirus.

Throughout the month of March, website conversion rates have increased for all retail categories within our dataset, except for apparel. Online shoppers are quickly converting to purchasing consumers.

Online conversion rates updates during coronavirus
Average site conversion rate per retail category for March 2019 compared to March 2020.

It is important for marketers and business leaders to be nimble, have access to the right data, and be cognizant of rising and falling trends. Given the current situation, things are changing weekly and even daily.

At NetElixir, we will continue to study the online shopping behaviors of these new customers throughout the course of the coronavirus outbreak and beyond.

Opportunities for Marketers to Capture New Online Shoppers

Because customers are converting more quickly and CPCs have reached historical lows, there is an opportunity to invest more in advertising. You want to get your brand and products on the screens of your potential customers. 

Google ad spend has a potential of a strong return on investment. Amazon ad spend has also increased, but not as significantly as Google. Because of supply chain disruptions and prioritizing selling essential items, Amazon has not seen as dramatic a positive impact as Google ad spend.

new online shoppers boosting ecommerce sales during coronavirus outbreak
Forced closure of brick-and-mortar stores have encouraged shoppers to become more comfortable with online shopping. But will these customers stay with ecommerce post-coronavirus?

First and foremost, as the Food and Grocery retail industry is experiencing unprecedented year over year growth, there is massive online demand that justifies an increase in ad spend. We could see a lasting change in grocery ecommerce as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

There is also a “massive opportunity,” Bose says, for home furnishing, home decor, pet supplies, tools and hardware, and gifting retail categories. These categories are growing, conversation rates are increasing, and CPCs are down. Now is the time to invest.

Bose suggests keeping a small portion of ready money to capitalize on spikes of conversion rates and transactions during these short-lived opportunities amid these ever-changing times. Swift marketers should be able to pivot accordingly to new data revelations and insights. 

Now would also be a worthwhile time to try new avenues and experiment with small changes. Entice those new customers, test what draws them in. Move forward with what you learn and this could help you retain these customers once brick-and-mortar stores reopen.

Apparel Industry Update

Apparel Ecommerce during coronavirus outbreak
Kaki Zell, Co-Owner and Vice President of Ames Walker, will joined NetElixir’s upcoming webinar for a live Q&A. Zell will share insights into how Ames Walker started producing masks to turn around their recent sales.

Because of the fashion and apparel industry’s seasonality hindrances, increasing ad spend may not be the most strategic move during these times. A conservative ad spend and a shift to focusing on strengthening your website will help your business post-coronavirus. Focus on SEO and earned media to conserve your budget, while simultaneously helping customers find and recognize your brand.

The stimulus checks may have prompted some economic boom, resulting in the apparel industry’s first week over week positive trend. To discuss innovation in the apparel industry, Kaki Zell, Co-Owner and Vice President of Ames Walker, will join NetElixir’s upcoming webinar on the impact of Covid-19 on retail ecommerce. Our webinar will air live tomorrow, April 23 at 2 PM ET.

Zell will participate in a Q&A on how Ames Walker re-engineered their manufacturing capabilities for a turnaround amid these trying times.

Additional Insights

Register for our upcoming webinar which will be the fourth installment on our updates on how the coronavirus outbreak is impacting ecommerce sales and online shopping behavior at https://www.netelixir.com/covid-19/.

You can watch our March 11 webinar here, which was the first of the series on tracking the impact of the coronavirus on ecommerce sales and online shopping behavior.

Our March 26 update webinar featured our first Retail Superhero, Parag Shah, the Vice President of Grocery at Wakefern Food Corporation for Shoprite,  and detailed over a month’s worth of research.

The third webinar in our impact of Covid-19 series, which aired on April 9, featured UPS’s President of SMB and US Marketing, Gerard Gibbons, for a live Q&A.

Further Reading on Ecommerce Updates During Coronavirus

Our Founder and CEO Udayan Bose emphasizes the importance of real data. Real-time data, gathered daily by our Retail Intelligence Lab, shares a glimpse into how people are coping day by day. For further reading, you can see our prior retail analytics updates on retail ecommerce and online shopping behavior:

Originally published April 22, 2020. Updated May 29, 2020.