There is no question on how disruptive to commerce, in general, this COVID-19 Pandemic has been. Anything from Retail closures, closed borders, hoarding of medical supplies, social distancing to lockdowns. It can be said that everyone at every level of society has been affected in one way or another. That being said, there is a sector of commerce that’s seeing significant upsides during this difficult time: eCommerce.
This is a 2-part blog to cover the various aspects to which data exists on the impacts of COVID-19. We will be discussing the reactions and surveys of consumers during this uncertain time.
Shopping Habits - Overview
A Kantar study suggests that an increase of 50% of online spending has taken place with the pandemic response measures being introduced, but 60% of consumers look to continue their current purchase behavior past the pandemic. A significant shift in purchasing behavior, accelerating the eCommerce space, with non-essential workers spending more time on the internet working at home – the emphasis of online presence has been magnified considerably. In today’s isolation-based strategy pushed by governments to slow down the spread of COVID-19, people look to social media, their phones/text/internet, as well as Skype/conference calling VoIP using tablets/PC’s. Sharing resources of available products/services to replace what used to be a trip to the store – thus the word-of-mouth is in high gear for products on demand.
Kantar source: https://www.kantarmedia.com/
Here are some industries that you might suspect, or not to seeing a boom in their online stores:
Internet-connected sex toys are booming: https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/teledildonics-remote-sex-toy-sales-covid19-coronavirus-pandemic-975140/
March 2019 vs March 2020 Comparisons (ACI Worldwide data):
97% increase in Home Products
137% in DIY Products
163% in Garden Essentials
6% for Electronics
7% in Jewellery
97% with Online Gaming
6% of Telecom
Panic Buying increased 30% of retail sales at Tesco UK.
Master of Malt sales see a 200% increase in online alcohol sales
Guns and Ammunition sales – through the roof!
Online Fashion sees a 30% drop in sales.
ACI Worldwide source: https://www.aciworldwide.com/
Shopping Habits – Details
The approach of the online behavioral change is not just a herd shift to online purchasing. Differences show up between Men vs. Women, Bulk-buying to grocery shopping, when it is done, and how.
Without getting too deep into the psychology of a human undergoing a society going into a lockdown you have a range between an organized “Prepper” that is in constant vigilance and being a survivalist vs. a day worker that barely has a sandwich in their refrigerator. Both react to the same event, but both react very differently where one looks to decide to bug-in or bug-out (already supplied and prepared) while the other extreme heads to the shop to clear out the shelves of their toilet paper supply (still unexplained by psychologists on that behavior). Most lean towards the latter as the “Prepper” community is rather small.
In order to satisfy their own insecurity of what the near future may bring, purchasing supplies in case of store closures makes sense. Panic buying is both an effect of that insecurity as well as reacting to what others are doing – panic buying and clearing the shelves. Other than “Monkey-see, Monkey-do” (Crowd mentality), it is a self-reinforcing behavior. The old hunt-and-gather behavior kicks in, and instead of being focused on their mundane daily tasks, the focus is on gathering what is perceived to be the best set of items that will get you through this difficult period. Infinite scenarios are being played out in everyone’s heads approaching the edge of chaos theory. This is why the introduction of the shutdown mandates had to be in steps so as to get the population to take the measures seriously in an orderly fashion.
Take Away: If you have an online store that carries the items in demand, the value of promotion reduces but it is all about availability and ability to deliver to the client. Price sensitivity drops significantly in lieu of availability. And if some of the items are not in demand, the promotion will have little to no effect as the panic-buyer is focused on their survival list.
Effects of COVID-19 on eCommerce Platforms - ConvertCart
On April 8th, 2020 a press release by ConvertCart announced that their system will now provide real-time reports of key product categories being sold on their platform. This helps see the key items being in demand during the pandemic, lockdown and with time progressing, what shifts in product demand with information emerging on the news. They track revenue, transactions and session trends for each industry.