Home » COVID Updates » Updates on Coronavirus Impact on Ecommerce Sales and Shopping Behavior

Updates on Coronavirus Impact on Ecommerce Sales and Shopping Behavior

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Yesterday, NetElixir hosted our third installment on our updates on coronavirus impact webinar series. We share the real data regarding how seven retail industries are affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Overall, our data shows that ecommerce sales have continued to increase during the coronavirus outbreak for the majority of retail categories within our dataset. Below is a summary of the information presented by NetElixir’s Founder and CEO, Udayan Bose, regarding the real-time data the NetElixir Intelligence Lab has aggregated and analyzed.

Our analysis has now spanned nearly two months and we divide the data into the following two week periods:

  1. The Beginning, from February 9 to February 22
  2. The Spike Starts, from February 23 to March 7
  3. The Outbreak Spreads, from March 8 to March 21
  4. The Second Spike Starts, from March 22 to April 4

We analyzed the daily data of ecommerce sales, online shopping behavior, and ad spend for these time periods, comparing the data of 2020 to 2019 to see any year over year changes. The retail categories we considered in our dataset were: Apparel, Home Decor, Tools and Hardware, Food, Gifting, Pet Supply, and Home Furnishing.

Gifting in the Time of Coronavirus

The gifting retail category had an inspirational increase in year over year ecommerce sales between March 22 and April 4, 2020 when compared with the 2019 data. Overall, gifting saw over an 80% year over year growth.

New shoppers continued to increase for the gifting category as well. Gen Z in the age group of 18-24 had a 4% increase in the amount of new online shoppers, while Millennials in the age group 25-34 had a 3% increase in new shoppers. Older aged groups decreased slightly. During this time of uncertainty, with coronavirus disproportionately affecting older people, we can infer that people are buying gift baskets and greeting cards for their parents and grandparents to send support and well wishes. Compassion and small gifts go a long way in keeping us connected.

updates on coronavirus impact on ecommerce sales and new online shoppers in gifting
The year over year growth of new online shoppers for the gifting retail ecommerce industry. Gen Z and Millennials have the greatest increase from 2019 to 2020.

Bose notes that we are seeing a “fundamental shift in how people search, shop, and buy.” We are seeing families and loved ones come together during this time of crisis.

For these new, compassionate shoppers, latency dropped 10 hours within a month. Latency measures the time span between initial website landing and first purchase. Shoppers are taking less time to complete their paths to purchase, meaning they are spending less time comparing and researching different options.

The South and Midwest sections of the United States are contributing to the highest percentage of these new online shoppers to gifting. The Midwest specifically had the highest growth rate in year over year new shoppers. During this time of crisis, we see shoppers turning to faith and compassion products.

If we consider the Elements of Value Pyramid from Bain and Company, we can surmise that gifting and greeting purchases fulfill the emotional aim of reducing anxiety and the life changing aim of providing hope.

Updates on How the Coronavirus Impacted Online Shopping Behavior

Shoppers are continuing to make their purchasing decisions more quickly. Marketers and retailers who rely on real time data and updates should invest in winning new customers because new customers have a higher chance of converting to shoppers more quickly.

For all retail categories, except apparel, conversion rates have increased when compared to 2019. The food retail industry specifically has seen a dramatic increase of two to four times the 2019 daily conversion rate over different days throughout the course of the outbreak.

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

The question remains, however, if once the coronavirus crisis subsides, will we see these shifts in consumer searching and buying behavior result in permanent shopping habits?

Updates on How the Coronavirus Impacted Ecommerce Sales

March 8 to 22 was perhaps the most influential period for online shopping behavior. This week saw an enormous jump in the number of orders by new online shoppers. This was the week where most non-essential brick-and-mortar stores were shuttered and social distancing measures went into effect across states. The Western Hemisphere saw the number of coronavirus cases spike and Italy had seen nearly a week of lockdown. Based on our data, most retail categories may have had the highest percentage of regular brick-and-mortar shoppers turn to online shopping during the third period (March 8 to 22) in our study.

Since then, the percentage of orders coming from new shoppers to the website have held steady:

new online shoppers during the coronavirus outbreak
During the third period (in grey), we see a spike in new online shoppers, particularly for the food ecommerce category.

With the exclusion of the Apparel retail industry, ecommerce sales continue to grow at a rapid pace across categories. Food, specifically, has seen an explosion in sales, with year over year growing nearing 580%. Ecommerce sales for Gifting, Tools and Hardware, and Pet Supplies retail categories also grew at a significant rate, experiencing high double digit year over year growth. 

Updates on How the Coronavirus is Impacting CPC and Ad Spend

CPC is in constant decline across all retail categories within our dataset. Home Furnishings and Tools and Hardware retail categories saw their first negative year over year change.

Data-driven marketers who rely on real time insights increase their ad spend. There is an opportunity to win new online customers from a mixture of high conversion rates and historical low CPC.

Given the circumstances, smart marketers need to be nimble. 

April Forecast Update

During our previous webinar on March 26, NetElixir forecasted how the retail categories within our dataset would grow over April. Data for the first week of April reveals that we have been too conservative in our estimates.

Coronavirus updates; april ecommerce sales
Data collected from NetElixir Retail Intelligence Lab.

Additional Insights: Get the Real Data on Coronavirus

We will recap what advice and insights our Retail Superhero presented in Monday’s blog. NetElixir was privileged to have UPS as our Retail Superhero, represented by Gerard Gibbons, President of SMB and US Marketing. 

You can catch up on the entirety of our webinar updates from yesterday below.

While we have covered an extensive dataset, it is by no means exhaustive. If you are interested in discussing specific insights for your category, please email us at shareinsights@netelixir.com

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 and detailed over a month’s worth of research.

For further reading, you can see our prior retail analytics updates on retail ecommerce and online shopping behavior:

Originally published April 10, 2020. Updated June 24, 2020.