Top Ecommerce Trends during the Covid-19 Pandemic

We don’t think it’s too soon to say that the COVID-19 global pandemic will likely be one of the defining events of 2020 and that it will have implications that last well into the decade.

The situation is rapidly changing. The number of people deemed safe to gather in a single place has dwindled from thousands to hundreds, to ten. Restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and gyms in many major cities are shutting down. Meanwhile, many office workers are facing new challenges of working remotely full time.

Essentially, people are coming to terms with the realities of our interconnected world and how difficult it is to temporarily separate those connections to others. To say that we are living in unprecedented times feels like an understatement. Let’s pay heed to the eCommerce businesses that are booming during Covid19

Groceries

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As people have embraced social distancing as a way to slow the spread of the pandemic, there has naturally been a drop-off in brick-and-mortar shopping. That would seem to mean there would likely be an increase in online shopping as people turn to the eCommerce to purchase the items they might have otherwise purchased in person.

Has that prediction won out? In reality, eCommerce sales are not higher across the board, although some industries are seeing significant upticks. This is especially true for online sellers of household goods and groceries. JD.com, China’s largest online retailer, has seen sales of common household staples quadruple over the same period last year. A survey by Engine found that people are spending on average 10-30% more online. 

Grocery eCommerce which already soared up in the second week of March, after shoppers turned online to find the goods they needed but weren’t available at their local grocery stores. The rest of eCommerce seems like it might be up a little bit, but no drastic peaks or valleys.

In addition to long-term quarantine type items, for groceries in general, sales are up. However, there are some behavioral changes around the way people are buying groceries.

For example, in an effort to avoid crowds at supermarkets, many people are choosing BOPIS (buy-online-pick-up-in-store) or delivery options. Downloads of apps like Instacart and Shipt that allow people to hire personal shoppers to prepare and in some cases deliver their grocery orders have increased by between 124% (for Shipt) and 218% (for Instacart). People are also choosing to buy these items from online stores more than they did prior.

Anyone who has visited a grocery store over the past few weeks knows the coronavirus crisis has become an unprecedented challenge for food retailers.

Amazon

Amazon has filled 100,000 new jobs since March, and we are adding 75,000 more to help meet customer demand and assist existing employees fulfilling orders for essential products. They also increased pay for hourly employees by $2 per hour in the U.S., C$2 per hour in Canada, and €2 per hour in many EU countries. They doubled the regular hourly base pay for every overtime hour worked and are offering extra time off with full pay for those diagnosed with COVID-19. They established a $25 million relief fund for partners (e.g. delivery drivers) and seasonal associates facing financial hardship or quarantine.

What Are They doing for Their customers

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They are increasing the capacity for grocery delivery from Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market as quickly as possible. They have enhanced cleaning at all Whole Foods Market stores and now open one hour early for customers who are 60+ years old in the U.S. (70+ years old in the UK). Customers ordering delivery from Prime Now, Amazon Fresh, and Whole Foods Market can select “unattended delivery” during checkout if they prefer not to come into contact with others. They are focusing on high-priority items to ensure the fastest delivery of household staples, medical supplies, and other high-demand products coming into our fulfillment centers.

Instacart

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Instacart is rolling out new ordering options aimed at unlocking more delivery windows amid a surge of demand for its online grocery service due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The company is introducing “fast & flexible” and “order ahead” options, which will shift lower-priority orders further out on the schedule. This, in turn, allows Instacart shoppers to instead focus on customers with more immediate needs while still guaranteeing a time slot for those in less of a rush.

The first new feature, “fast & flexible,” allows Instacart to control the delivery window assignment.

Instead of picking a time slot on a given day, customers are given a range of dates when their order could arrive. This works well for those who are now working from home and sheltering in place as recommended by their local governments. Instacart will then match the order with the first available delivery time, it says.

It’s savvy marketing on Instacart’s part to label this as a “fast” option, when it’s really about customers identifying themselves as someone who’s willing to wait.

In markets where there’s heavy demand, it’s more likely this feature will allow Instacart to push deliveries back for several days without angering customers because they’ve already opted-in to the extended window.

Toilet Paper

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Even toilet paper is being purchased online

Brick and mortar retailers in both the U.S. and Canada are reportedly limiting the amount of toilet paper patrons can buy. No wonder online purchases for toilet paper have spiked by 186%, according to the Adobe data.

Online shopping to fill the pantry

Similar to toilet paper, non-perishable foods such as canned goods and shelf-stable items (think: oatmeal, rice, pasta) are common staples in emergency preparation. It’s no surprise that online purchases of these items are up—69% and 58%, respectively.

“Right now, as consumers increasingly use digital methods to prepare for a possible emergency, retailers need to ensure smooth, frictionless, and fast experiences on their eCommerce websites and mobile applications,” Smith said. “Meeting your customers’ needs and expectations at a time like this is imperative: it could either make or break your brand.”

Hand Sanitizer

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On 4x price increases, rapid price fluctuations, upstart brands and fake listings.

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COVID-19 has led to a spike in demand for products like hand sanitizers and face masks. Manufacturers of these products, many of whom were blindsided by this spurt, have been struggling to meet consumer needs, leading to empty supermarket shelves across the world. In the online world, this void has given rise to a different set of supply dynamics – since the barrier to introducing new products and dynamically altering prices is lower on eCommerce marketplaces, we’ve seen the emergence of new brands, new sellers, new products and a certain degree of predatory pricing behavior.

Consider the hand sanitizer category on the Amazon US marketplace. None of the traditional best selling brands and products are in stock. You’d be hard-pressed to find any Purell or store brand Solimo goods that are in stock.

Home Gym

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However, it’s not all doom and gloom as the fitness industry finds new ways to reach their audience with a digital push. Many gyms are going virtual with online classes, livestreams and conducting personal training sessions via Zoom. The fitness company Beachbody has reportedly experienced a 200% growth in subscribers (approximately 1.5 million subscribers) since shifting to online classes.

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Gym Equipment Is Selling Out

In light of the recent pandemic, many people are staying home, working remote, and social distancing. Following the indefinite closure of gyms, many people are turning to home workouts in an effort to preserve not only our strength, but also sanity. 

If you’re one of the millions of people itching for a workout, don’t bother buying gym equipment – because you’re probably too late. Fitness junkies across the world have rushed to online equipment sites, leaving the majority of items out of stock. In fact, the high volume of orders have even contributed to making home workout equipment one of the few areas of business to thrive in the current economic climate.  

Tonal, the $3,000 intelligent home workout system, has tripled in sales over just the past week. The wall-mounted machine has the capability of numerous different exercises, using electromagnets to create resistance up to a maximum of 200 pounds combined.

For those more interested in cardio, the exercise equipment company Peloton is furiously cranking out thousands of bikes to meet growing demand. Despite the company cancelling all treadmill orders as it requires in-home installation, Peloton’s stocks have skyrocketed nearly 50% over the past month. The Peloton bikes offer weekly live classes, on-demand biking trails, and motivating instructors. 

For those not willing or able to make a big investment in gym equipment, there are still a few items that you may be able to get your hands on. According to fitness professionals, the top three most effective pieces of equipment to invest in are kettlebells, dumbbells, and resistance bands. While these items are selling like hotcakes, websites such as Strength Shop and Bulldog Gear are consistently restocking.

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Thomas Burn is a blogger, digital marketing expert and working with Techlofy. Being a social media enthusiast, he believes in the power of writing.

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