Originally published 4/1/2020
With an overwhelming amount of information available about the impact of COVID-19, it can feel difficult to identify which information is relevant to your business and how it should shape your strategy moving forward.
With a network of over 6,200 brand and retailer sites as our client base, we have unique visibility into shopping activity. To combat some of the fatigue from combing through multiple information sources, we will be regularly compiling data from across our network to help you understand how this pandemic is influencing consumers.
We will be watching for patterns and changes in shopping behavior – increases and decreases in product page views, orders placed, reviews submitted, and more. We’ll be looking at the data globally and across more than 20 product categories and comparing it to the same time period in 2019, as well as earlier months in 2020. As new, significant trends emerge, you can expect us to provide updates here.
April outpaced March in growth year-over-year
Based on the data, March 2020 growth was massive for e-commerce, but April 2020 grew even faster with every indicator we track (page views, order count, review submission, question submission) more than 3x the March 2020 numbers, and growth in each is growing more than 2.5x faster than it was pre-crisis.
March ended with a 25% YOY growth for page views, and April ended with an 88% increase. Page view growth has accelerated every week since the week beginning March 15.
Order count is also trending upward, with April 2020 year-over-year growth of 96%. For comparison – March closed with a 21% YOY increase in order count. While in March, browsing behavior (page views) was outpacing purchasing behavior (order count), this trend has reversed in April, with consumers buying more this month.
While the week of April 19-25th had the highest percentage of year-over-year growth for order count, order count slowed a little bit over the final week of April.his could potentially be because the end of the month may be a more challenging time for consumers financially, particularly with unemployment climbing.
Shoppers are leaving more reviews and asking more questions about products
When looking at the number of reviews submitted by consumers across our clients, March saw 0% growth year-over-year — that changed drastically in April with a 37% increase year-over-year. Many shoppers have made a larger percentage of purchases online than they have in the past, which could be triggering more post-interaction emails than usual. Spikes in review submission often occur after spikes in purchases. The delay accounts for shoppers receiving their items. To date, review submission has surpassed growth seen in this time frame last year. The partial week of April 26-30 saw the highest review submission YOY growth this year so far with a 64% increase.
Question submission saw even larger growth. In April, question submission was up 57% year-over-year, compared to just 4% YOY in March. The week of April 19-25th saw the highest YOY growth for question submissions with a 77% increase.
This influx of reviews and questions from shoppers helps other shoppers make informed purchases and buy with greater confidence. For brands, this influx supports conversion and provides additional customer insights at a time when shoppers needs are changing.
Brands should identify highlights and lowlights of their products from reviews, compile or update an existing list of frequently asked questions, and respond to customers as they reach out. Shoppers will remember the brands who made their quarantine easier.
April was all about entertainment, activity, and DIY
When COVID-19 was first declared a global pandemic, consumers rushed to buy non-perishable food items, face masks, and home office supplies. And our network data reflected that.
When we first looked at data towards the end of March, the top categories for page view growth were Business and Industrial, followed by Toys and Games, Food, Beverage, and Tobacco, Office Supplies, and Health and Beauty. Finishing the month of April, the top categories for page views were Toys and Games, Arts and Entertainment, Sporting Goods, Animals and Pet Supplies, and Business and Industrial.
Looking at order count growth, March saw Food, Beverages, and Tobacco growing the most year-over-year, followed by Sporting Goods, Business and Industrial, Software, and Health and Beauty. For April, the top five categories were Hardware, Sporting Goods, Vehicles and Parts, Business and Industrial, and Arts and Entertainment.
Shoppers have adjusted to the new normal and are finding ways to keep occupied and productive during an uncertain time period. They took this month to build their home gyms, find new forms of entertainment, take extra care of their pets, and start DIY projects at home, including car repairs.
Overall for April:
- Page views are up 88%.
- Order count is up 96%.
- Submission of reviews is up 37%.
- Submission of questions is up 57%.
- 15 of the 21 categories we track are seeing growth across all four key indicators, and 19 out of 21 categories we track are seeing growth in both page views and orders
Trending upwards in April:
- Toys and Games had the largest increase in page views (261%), as well as a 155% increase in order count.
- Arts and Entertainment saw a 166% increase in page views and 171% increase in order count. Reviews (103%) and question submission (31%) are also up.
- Sporting Goods is seeing positive increases across page views (152%), order count (220%), review submission (22%), and question submission (49%).
- Animal and Pet Supplies experienced a 145% lift in page views and 53% increase in order count.
- Business and Industrial (includes work safety gear and medical products) is still in the top five for page views (145%) – and has been since we began tracking in March – and also saw a 188% increase in order count.
- Hardware had the largest increase in order count (324%) and had positive increases across page views (125%), review submission (17%), and question submission (41%) as well.
- Software had the second highest question submission growth at 221%. Page views and order count are both still trending upwards at 111% and 130%, respectively.
- Services (includes education, financial services, real estate, and travel) is still in the top categories for increase in order count, with a 108% increase.
- Health and Beauty is still in the top ten for order count (152%).
- Apparel and Accessories is seeing positive growth in order count for the second week in a row. Page views and order counts are both up at 30% and 39%, compared to 4% and -4%, respectively, at the end of March.
- Food, Beverage, and Tobacco had the highest increase in review submission (230%). Order count (158%) and page views (120%) are still increasing YOY.
- While page views aren’t faring well for Religious and Ceremonial, they saw a 600% increase in question submission year-over-year, which is the highest increase in question submission for the month. Order count was also up 34%
Trending downwards in April:
- Luggage and Bags is still the only category to see both a decrease in page views and order count.
- Luggage and Bags had a 13% decrease in page views and a 17% decrease in order count. While still decreasing, April is faring better than March.
A look back at March
Online shopping is on the rise, with browsing outpacing buying
Throughout the month of March, data from our network shows that customers started to prepare for the long haul of being home. Year-over-year, we saw page views and order counts increase 25% and 21%, respectively. Looking at order numbers for 2020 in itself, March orders are up from February. While order count in 2020 saw a 2% YOY increase in January and a 6% increase in February, it jumped to a 21% increase in March, when social distancing and shelter-in-place advisories started to become widely adopted.
In addition, the top ten days with the most orders on our network in 2020 happened in March. Order count began to surge on March 11th, the same day the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic and the US-Europe travel ban was announced.
Essentials and entertainment are priority purchases
We saw year-over-year page view and order count increases across almost every product category. Food, Beverages, and Tobacco, Toys and Games, and Sporting Goods were the three categories that were in the top five for growth in both page views and order count. As consumers evaluated what they needed to live comfortably and entertain themselves and their children for the duration of stay-at-home orders, it’s not surprising these are the categories they’ve been drawn to. The growth in the Food, Beverages, and Tobacco category was especially noteworthy as more shoppers have turned to online grocery shopping, some for the first time. Similarly, categories like Business and Industrial (includes work safety gear and medical products), Office Supplies, and Software also saw high growth in March.
While consumer browsing activity is on par with last year for Apparel and Accessories products, buying behavior is down. Understandably, browsing and buying behavior for Luggage and Bags products are down as consumers are not leaving the house or traveling.
Read on for specific data points by category:
March closed out with a 25% increase YOY for page views and a 21% YOY increase for order count.
Trending upwards in March
- The Food, Beverages, and Tobacco, Toys and Games, and Sporting Goods categories were the only three categories that were in the top five for both page views and order count in March.
- Food, Beverages, and Tobacco saw a 66% increase in page views, an 85% increase in order count, and an 87% increase in review submissions.
- Toys and Games saw a 90% increase in page views and a 60% increase in order count.
- Sporting Goods saw a 47% increase in page views and an 86% increase in order count.
- The Business and Industrial category (includes work safety gear and medical products) had the highest growth in page views in March (91%).
- Software was in the top five categories for order count (61% increase) and had the highest growth of any category in the number of customer questions submitted last month (102% increase).
- Office Supplies saw a 90% increase YOY in review count and 13% increase in questions.
- Services (includes education, financial services, real estate, and travel) saw a 31% increase in review count during March.
- Electronics saw a 14% increase in questions.
Trending downwards in March
- Religious and Ceremonial and Luggage and Bags were the only two categories to see both a decrease in page views and order count.
- Religious and Ceremonial finished March with a 31% decrease in page views and a 32% decrease in order count.
- Luggage and Bags had a 14% decrease in page views and a 39% decrease in order count.
- Apparel and Accessories, while page views were up for March at 4%, the order count decreased by 4%.
During this time, we want to be a resource for you. In addition to the shopping activity data from our network, we will be regularly providing information and resources to help brands and retailers be successful, in spite of the unique challenges today’s environment presents. View all of our COVID-19 resources here.