What Consumers Are Buying 2 Months Into COVID Restrictions

Since the State of Emergency was declared due to COVID-19, over 306 million Americans have been affected by stay-at-home mandates, causing a significant impact on eCommerce.

It’s been two months since the State of Emergency was declared due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Since, over 306 million Americans (95% of the population) have been affected by stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders, causing a significant impact on eCommerce. While we’re beginning to see states slowly reopen, it appears that consumers are opting to stay online.

Source: ccinsight

As of May 10th, US retailers experienced a 94% year-over-year (YoY) increase in online revenue with orders more than doubled. Of course, some categories are experiencing more lift than others. Read on to see what Americans are choosing to purchase, now being two months into shelter-in-place mandates.

Cooking, working, home-schooling and shopping: all under one roof

Data on eCommerce sales in the COVID era is easy to come by. For that reason, we have aggregated the best data from multiple sources to help you shift through the noise. We’re not the only ones doing so. Common Thread Collective has aggregated data from nine major sources to deliver a comprehensive overview of the impact that COVID-19 is having on eCommerce and summarized it in this chart.

Source: Common Thread Collective

The chart represents the change seen in eCommerce sales in the major verticals, since March 8, 2020 compared to a pre-COVID baseline period. As of May 11, overall eCommerce sales were up 52.20%.

Medical and sanitary supplies

Medical supplies, household cleaning items, and baby products have seen the most dramatic increases in online demand. You’ve witnessed this demand first hand—you know, the empty shelves of toilet paper and tylenol? That drove people to turn online for what they cannot find in stores.

Medical products have seen the most growth in demand compared to pre-COVID times, with a +4x increase in online sales since Mar 8. Household cleaning supplies and baby products are also seeing a rise in demand online, both more than tripling their pre-COVID eCommerce sales.  

It comes as no surprise that consumers are allocating their spending toward items that keep them safe and healthy during this pandemic. But that’s not all they are buying. Groceries and work-from-home supplies have risen in demand. So have ellipticals, breadmakers and skin care products.

As these lines are written, 36 states are under state-mandated school closures, 29 states are still under strict stay-at-home orders and 22 states are under non-essential business closures. This means that millions of families are working, cooking, cleaning, home-schooling and shopping all under one roof.

Toys, wellness, and work

With schools out for the foreseeable future, parents have increased their spending on Toys & Games. These products have seen an 89.25% increase in sales, over a pre-COVID baseline period. Health & Wellness products are also seeing large uptakes in demand, driving sales up 85% as consumers take stock on their well-being. And with millions of Americans now working from home, home-office products sales are up by 85%, too.

COVID-19 has undoubtedly elicited chaos. Maintaining balance in our lives during this turbulent time is essential, and the products that have seen the largest increases in demand show us that the American people are trying to do just that.

Food and home

Source: NYT

Being +60 days into stay-at-home orders, it comes as no surprise that the online grocery and food delivery services are seeing an increase in demand. As a whole, the Food category has seen orders rise by more than 65%. With restaurants closed for dine-in in 35 states, delivery services are being used more than ever before. In fact, more than a third of Americans have ordered groceries online for the first time in the last month. Instacart saw most of the activity, resulting in a 5x YoY increase in orders in April.

Household goods and furnishing also saw a rise in demand as more people spend time in the comfort of their homes. In April, furniture sellers saw a 220% MoM increase in sales. In the same month, Bed Bath & Beyond reported a 4x YoY increase in sales of bread makers and double the number of vacuums purchased. Lastly, The Sill, saw a 50% increase in potted plant orders last month, compared to pre-pandemic months in 2020.

Beauty, sports, electronics, and apparel

Some less obvious categories seeing an increase in demand include: Beauty, Sports, Electronics, and Apparel. Consumers are purchasing from Beauty brands at a surprising growth, with products in this category seeing a 53.4% increase in sales compared to pre-COVID times. Tula, a New York-based skincare company, reported a 4x YoY increase in sales in April. Complimenting this aesthetic trend is a rise in fitness products. With closures of gyms, consumers are purchasing at-home fitness products at a rate that is 31.5% higher than pre-COVID times.

Source: NYT

For entertainment, Americans are purchasing both indoor and outdoor “toys.” Electronics and Outdoor products are seeing an increase in eCommerce sales of 24.75% and 18.95%, respectively. However, video games look to be trumping good, old-fashioned outdoor sports. In the beginning of April, GameStop saw a colossal spike in sales, reaching an astonishing 15x YoY increase.

Apparel brands have seen small lifts in sales, merely 3.03% overall. However, sweatpants and leggings seem to be the only fashion trend in America right now. Vuori and Net-a-Porter reported spikes in sweatpants sales by 50% and 40% respectively, during the first week of shelter-in-place. Lululemon saw sales triple YoY in April.

The best experiences are instant

Reacting fast to changes in consumer behavior is key to eCommerce success. As consumers flock online and try new services, we are seeing retailers begin to emphasize their mobile tech to gain loyal customers and grow their business. Airbnb, for example, is completely changing its product offering to respond to the pandemic and Shapermint, an apparel company, has too.

"If you think about long-term shifts, this is an acceleration towards digital." Alex Fitzgerald, Manager of Consumer Practice, Kearney

Creating an optimal online experience will set you apart from your competitors and build rapport with new customers. Target is a good example of this. In April, the company experienced an enormous 4x YoY increase in eCommerce transactions, many of which were performed by people who had never shopped with them before.

Target is well positioned to delight customers with its speedy eCommerce Progressive Web App (PWA) frontend and specialization in fast delivery (with the acquisition of Shipt). Other examples include 1-800-Flowers, which lifted conversions by 50% with its instant website, and Shoe Carnival, which saw a 40% increase in revenue from its sub-second site.

Amazon even calculated that a mere second added to page loads could cost them $1.6B in revenue a year. Today’s consumers expect high performing, instant experiences. And in today’s climate—they won’t accept anything else. Sub-second websites delight consumers and drive significant lifts to conversion rates and SEO traffic.

Layer0 is the only solution to consistently deliver sub-second page loads for complex eCommerce or database-driven websites. Get your site to 1-2 second loads in as little as 3 hours, or guaranteed sub-500ms median loads in a matter of weeks on Layer0. But don’t take our word for it. Spend a minute and browse through on your phone to experience the speed attainable on Layer0 for yourself.

Bottom line

Online sales in the US have surged since COVID-19 forced shelter-in-place measures upon us in mid March. Categories ranging from Home to Toys to Food to Apparel are seeing increases in online sales. Although we will continue to see fluctuation in specific verticals, consumer’s preference for online shopping will likely endure beyond the next few months.

As eCommerce companies look for ways to attract, delight, and retain more customers, site speed has become crucial for eCommerce success. And if there is something Layer0 can help you with, it is site speed optimization. Layer0 is the only solution to guarantee sub-500 millisecond median page loads for complex, database-driven websites.

These unmatched speeds are attainable through a combination of cutting-edge technology, including portable frontends built for speed with AMP and Server-Side Rendering support, predictive prefetching and a CDN as JavaScript that streams and caches dynamic content at the edge, so your site remain 5 seconds ahead the shopper.

Don’t let potential customers wait one more second—schedule a consultative conversation with a site speed expert today.

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