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    How COVID-19 Is Impacting Ecommerce | Salsify

    March 27, 2020
    8 minute read
    How COVID-19 Is Impacting Ecommerce | Salsify

    3 trends@4xCOVID-19 has ushered in sweeping changes for how we purchase products, with the most notable factor being the expansion of social distancing practices. Of our “traditional” patterns of consumer behavior, which — if any — will return?

    The current market has many relevant indicators that can help inform your brand’s forecasts and digital strategy.

    Online Purchasing Skyrockets as Consumers Test New Brands

    Social distancing and isolation have — for the time being, at least — drastically accelerated the trend towards online shopping. A new study from L.E.K. Consulting and Civis found that COVID-19 has increased online spending from between 10% and 30% across grocery and non-grocery purchases.

    Retail marketing automation company Listrak lists the increase in ecommerce revenue at a whopping 40% in its recent data. Marketing intelligence firm Valassis found that 42% of consumers are shopping online more since the start of the outbreak in its mid-March survey.

    Valassis also found that consumers are using the current circumstances to test out new offerings from different brands. According to its survey, 19% of respondents said they are feeling less loyal to their current favorite brands, and 13% said they are looking for new brands to try.

    Ultimately, brand manufacturers that can acquire these customers in these uncertain times might be able to transform them into loyal advocates when things start to return to normal.

    New Salsify Data Shows Where Shoppers Spend Time

    Customers are shopping more, but what are they buying online? Our recent internal data highlights significant spikes in traffic to product pages across several categories between mid-February and mid-March.

    Here are the 10 product categories with the largest positive traffic spikes, listed in alphabetical order:

    • Baby
    • Beauty Products
    • Electronics 
    • Food
    • Health, Vitamins, and Supplements
    • Household Essentials
    • Personal Care 
    • Pets
    • Sports and Outdoors
    • Video Games

    Considering how much time we are collectively spending inside, household purchases make sense. People also continue to invest in bath and body products while practicing social distancing — a reassuring data point. (The data also shows that we might also be playing too many video games these days.)

    The Rise of Food and Beverage on the Digital Shelf

    One of the most interesting trends stems from the food and beverage category. Consider the following statistics that highlight the growing importance of these categories online:

    While these are trends we have been seeing in the market for some time, several weeks ago, the notion that nearly two-thirds of consumers would be looking to buy groceries online was unthinkable. If one were to place bets on the industries least likely to return to “normal” after social distancing, food and beverage would be a pretty safe wager.

    Food and beverage manufacturers many decisions to make soon about how they will address these rapid changes. Brands that can quickly pivot to provide excellent digital experiences — while ensuring products are well-positioned on platforms like Drizly and Instacart — will be the ones that stand to succeed in the long term. (Even after consumers start to return to local grocery and liquor stores.)

    A 5-Year Transformation in a Matter of Weeks

    “We see this unfortunate period accelerating structural changes in consumer shopping,” wrote Seth Sigman, an analyst at Credit Suisse, in a recent report, highlighting that it could accelerate by as much as five years.

    The next five years of growth in online shopping is happening right now — over the course of weeks. Revolutionary changes like this often result in a fissure between companies that are equipped to handle shifts with agility and speed and those that are too slow to adapt.

    Even if some shopping habits return to “normal,” it’s doubtless that the industry has been altered.

    For those looking for guidance on how to navigate the coming weeks and months, our upcoming content series focused on the commerce impacts of COVID-19 could help your brand gain the insights it needs to develop new strategies and tactics.


    Looking for more insights about the current state of eCommerce? Check out our full 2020 Consumer Research Report here for insider knowledge to help you win on the digital shelf.


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    Written by: Jason Fidler

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