E-Commerce Data Reflects the Ongoing Shift in Consumer Behavior
As stores shut their physical doors and more people are home-bound, consumers’ shopping behaviors are changing quickly. Due to everything from safety concerns, lack of stock in stores, and social distancing requirements, a vast and unprecedented majority of shopping is now being done online. In fact, in a survey we conducted with over 3,000 members of the Influenster community, 41 percent of respondents said that they're currently shopping online for things they would normally shop for in-store. Shopping data from the Bazaarvoice Network of over 6,200 brand and retailer sites reinforces this — we saw a 21 percent increase in online orders in March 2020 vs March 2019.
What Shoppers Are Buying More of
As a result of this large shift to online shopping, there were order increases across almost all categories in our network last month. For example, hardware saw a 65 percent uptick, as people look to busy their idle hands and complete do-it-yourself projects around their homes that they’ve been putting off. With many now working from home and setting up home offices, office supplies (45 percent increase) and software (61 percent increase) also saw major spikes in orders. As adults look to entertain themselves and their children, we saw an increase in sporting goods (86 percent) and toys and games (60 percent) purchases. Consumers are also increasingly turning to shopping online for groceries, many for the first time, and subsequently, food, beverages, and tobacco saw an 85 percent increase in orders. “Groceries” was the No. 1 thing that survey takers said they were buying more of right now, with 76 percent of respondents indicating this.
What Shoppers Are Buying Less of
The only verticals that saw a decrease in orders were apparel and accessories (-4 percent), as consumers have had to cancel plans they would normally buy clothes for, religious and ceremonial (-32 percent), since large events like weddings and holiday celebrations have been banned around the world, and luggage and bags (-39 percent) since unnecessary travel has been discouraged.
What Shoppers Are Prioritizing
In addition to what they're buying, consumers’ purchase priorities have also very much shifted as a result of COVID-19. According to our survey respondents, before the pandemic, their main priorities when purchasing were quality (48 percent), price (47 percent), and brand (24 percent). Now, they’re mostly focused on availability (49 percent), price (36 percent), and quality (34 percent). It makes sense that availability is such a concern — over half (58 percent) of respondents said that they have experienced product shortages at stores from which they've tried to make a purchase. When asked if they feel like they have access to essential and nonessential supplies, 44 percent said that they're getting by, but it’s tricky. Only 24 percent said that they have been able to get everything they need quite easily.
Once life is able to return to normal, what will these numbers look like? The large shift of consumers to online shopping is sure to accelerate innovation in e-commerce across a variety of industries. Will these necessary advancements keep consumers shopping online? Or will they want to return to physical stores when they're able to? While 43 percent of survey respondents said that they will return to shopping how they did before the crisis once it’s over, 41 percent said that it’s too soon to tell.
Brands that provide a seamless, informative online experience are poised to succeed during this challenging time. Companies must work hard to effectively translate the virtues of an in-store visit — great product information, ease of pickup and interaction, customer service — to their websites in order to win with shoppers today and in the future. As consumers continue to have these digital shopping experiences, it will be interesting to see how many will adopt these habits in a post-pandemic world.
Suzin Wold is senior vice president of marketing at Bazaarvoice, the leader in ratings and reviews.