Since COVID-19 has kept the world indoors over the past six weeks, it’s led to significant ebbs and flows in ecommerce and online shopping behaviour.
Non-essential businesses have been forced to temporarily shut down, leading to a whole new online shopping landscape as retailers and brick-and-mortar store owners migrate online to sell through their websites, Amazon, social media, and other online channels.
We’ve compiled search and shopping data from a number of industry sources and surveys to illustrate how COVID-19 has changed online purchasing patterns and priorities.
Panic Buying Shopping Behaviour
Once the coronavirus was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, consumers immediately shifted to stocking up on essentials, both in stores and online.
Panicked shoppers filled their carts with medical supplies like masks and hand sanitizers, as well as household essentials like toilet paper and non-perishable foods. These items were almost extinct within weeks, leading to shady price gouging.
This response is how some people react to crisis and uncontrollable situations – we try to regain some of that control over our lives.
“Panic buying can be understood as playing to our three fundamental psychology needs,” says Paul Marsden, a consumer psychologist at the University of the Arts London, in an interview with CNBC. These three needs are autonomy, relatedness, and competence.
Autonomy refers to our need to feel in control of our actions; relatedness means our need to feel like we’re doing something good for our families; and competence relates to our need to feel like smart shoppers making smart purchases. These three factors are why ‘retail therapy’ exists, as it responds to these personal needs in different ways.
COVID-19 has only added new wrinkles to this mindset – namely, the added uncertainties that have creeped into many areas of our lives, along with the crowd mentality, in the context of seeing other people stock up, and therefore believing you should do the same.
COVID-19 Shopping Behaviour – Demographic Trends
Different demographics are responding to the coronavirus pandemic in different ways when it comes to their shopping behaviours online:
- Gen Z’ers and millennials are experiencing the largest variance in online shopping behaviours, according to a U.S. consumer study conducted by Agility PR Solutions. These behaviours were defined by stocking up on essentials, and cutting back on experiences and general spending.
- Gen X and boomers have been less concerned about the coronavirus, showing some, but not as significant, changes in how they shop online. For example, just 24% of Gen X’ers and 34% percent of boomers say their buying habits are being affected by COVID-19, compared to 50% of millennials.
- In terms of shopping behaviours between men and women, data shows that while women are more likely to be concerned about COVID-19, it’s men whose shopping behaviours are changing. For example, 36% percent of men said their spend on experiences has shifted, compared to 28% percent of women. Men were also found to take advantage of things that limit in-store interaction, like buying online/pick up in-store, curbside pickup, and subscription services.
Which Products and Industries are in High Demand?
According to data from Rakuten Intelligence, grocery ecommerce soared in the second week of March and continues to experience strong sales. This was in response to shoppers being unable to find items in grocery stores due to panic shopping, forcing them to go online and stock up.
Along with groceries, other ecommerce industries experienced similar spikes in sales. Common Thread Collective has been delivering regular updates on COVID-19 data related to ecommerce shopping behaviour, which you can see in the graph below:
As we can see, medical and household items dominate ecommerce, with industries like baby products, cleaning supplies, food & beverage, work from home, and health and wellness experiencing up to 375% increase in sales. Toys and games, which can be considered ‘non-essential’, was the leading vertical in that respective category.
As we can see in this data from performance branding company WITHIN, subscription and convenience services have seen strong upward trends in both revenue and conversion rates.
Finally, digital stream services like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ are getting more subscribers as people have no source of external entertainment, and are looking for ways to occupy their time during self-isolation.
In terms of search engine queries, products related to homeschooling and school supplies, garden furniture, craft supplies, and home gaming and entertainment have all seen steady upswings in searches, which gives you an idea of what people are doing in their homes during these unique times.
Which Search Terms are Dropping?
It’s no surprise that fashion-related queries have sharply declined – people aren’t in a rush to buy new clothes if they’re stuck indoors. Both retailers and ecommerce brands like Asos are experiencing this dip in search and demand.
Travel-related queries have also taken a nosedive, which correlates to the previous ecommerce data we mentioned that showed declining overall spend on experiences. Interestingly, travel websites are getting high amounts of traffic, which are predominantly related to customer service and cancellation requests.
The luxury goods industry, spanning across entertainment, food, and travel, have dropped too; Vogue Business projects losses up to $10 billion in this industry through 2020 due to COVID-19.
What Business Owners can do with New Ecommerce Data
We all know that that life will get back to normal some day, but we don’t exactly know when and how gradual that process will be. What we do know is how consumers’ behaviour is changing as a result of COVID-19. As people get more accustomed to purchasing essential and non-essential products and services online, this will become part of their norm, even after restrictions loosen.
Whether you are already in business or planning to start something new, now is the time to strategize how you can sell and promote your products and services online without the need for physical contact.
Regardless of the industry you’re in, it’s imperative you have an online presence considering how buyers’ behaviours are shifting. Try your best to increase brand visibility online by putting your products on as many channels as you can – integrate ecommerce capabilities into your website, leverage social media, get on Amazon and Google Shopping, improve your SEO for search terms that your customers would be searching for.
Whether you consider your business “essential” or “non-essential” during this pandemic, COVID-19 will pass, and people will want your products as their lives get back to normal. The question is, whether your business is ready to be found online and take orders, now that your customers are even more inclined to purchase almost everything they need online.
We have an e-commerce set-up and marketing formula that will turn your business into an online shop, and get your products and services in front of your target market.
If you have a product or service that you know people need now, and beyond COVID-19, but are not sure of how to set up a user-friendly e-commerce site that’s easy for you to manage and a pleasure for your customers to visit, then contact us to help you get started quickly and successfully.