The coronavirus crisis means that many areas of the world, including the UK, are on lockdown. This, paired with the resulting financial uncertainty, is restricting consumers from making non-essential shopping trips and enforcing social distancing. As a result, we’ve seen a dramatic shift in consumer behaviour, perception and purchasing habits.
A vast majority of people are either working from home or have been furloughed, which means that consumers, in general, have more time on their hands, less to do, and different priorities on how they spend their money. Priorities have shifted away from holidays, socialising and non-essential purchases like clothing, and more towards toiletries, hobbies, home entertainment, DIY, and other more home-focused purchases.
To put this into perspective, we ran a comparison between the UK’s largest DIY retailer, B&Q, and popular online clothing retailer, ASOS, to look at how their search traffic differed over the last 90 days.
This data tells us that the two popular brands previously trended similarly. However, from the 13th of March onwards ASOS takes a steady decline while searches for B&Q increase; correlating directly with the first coronavirus death in the UK and the day after the crisis changed from moderate to high-risk. From here onwards B&Q searches continue to rise, peaking on the 24th of March – the day after the lockdown was announced.
It’s clear that there was a significant shift in behaviour right from the start of the pandemic. We also see similar increases for Netflix and Disney +, as well as changes in what consumers search for on Amazon. It’s no surprise that the GlobalWebIndex report highlights that 50% of respondents are using streaming services more regularly, while 45% are spending more time on social media.
As the crisis continues, and consumer behaviour adapts, those with a strong eCommerce presence will be able to provide their audience with a seamless service when they need them the most. What we’re also seeing is a more competitive landscape for eCommerce brands as others seek to capitalise on the trend, which is putting more pressure on things such as responsiveness, speed, usability and design.
The rise of eCommerce
While many eCommerce businesses may have seen declines due to the current crisis, for many, it’s been an even busier time than usual, and while this doesn’t apply to everyone (we recognise that many companies are suffering as a result of the virus), it does shed light on how technology shapes our lives now and how different the situation would have been if it didn’t exist.
For many online brands such as Peloton, Netflix, Disney + and Zoom, they’ve seen a significant increase in users, which has been widely reported. We took a look at the actual popularity of each brand term using Google Trends to give you an idea of how this has changed since the UK went into lockdown.
Netflix, which has always been very popular amongst consumers, reported that they would be reducing the quality of their service to ensure bandwidth could cope with the number of internet users amid the increase in people streaming their services. The chart below shows that this hasn’t diminished the number of users that search for their service online.
Finally, there’s Zoom, the video conferencing service which has been the go-to for friends, family and businesses looking to connect during the pandemic. If we look at the trend line below, we can see it has seen one of the most significant spikes and ongoing popularity out of the bunch, even amidst hacking concerns.
It also goes without saying that supermarkets are in more demand than ever before, with UK sales seeing a rise of 20.6% during the month of March and with a spend of £10.8 billion in the four weeks leading up to the end of March. When we look at the search frequency for popular supermarket chain Tesco these stats also tell us that more people are opting for home delivery of supermarket goods.
It’s important to note that this uplift isn’t just felt amongst big brands or enterprises. We’ve also seen lots of smaller businesses facing uncertainty which have then been greeted with unexpected success over the last few weeks. One of our eCommerce customers even contacted us recently to ask if we could ‘turn the site off’ to prevent any more sales as they struggle to fulfil orders made via the website. This prompted us to look at the performance of our other eCommerce clients and their performance to showcase their successes.
Hopes Grove Nurseries is a locally run online-only nursery. We started working with them in 2017 and launched their current site in November that year. March has always been their best month, but this March blew every other year out of the water with a 56% increase in net sales when compared to the same time last year. Even more astonishing is the 146% difference if we look at the same figures in comparison to 2017 before the site was re-launched. In fact, in March of this year alone net sales were more than half of what their previous website used to generate in a whole year, and it’s also looking as though, for the first time, April could be their busiest month of the year.
Kent Hire is a small local eCommerce business who we recently launched a new website for. In the month of March, they reported a significant increase in traffic to the site as well as the number of enquiries. Looking at the data, we can already see a 133% uplift in new users to the site since the start of April. The client says they have been ‘overwhelmed’ since the new website launched, and are now looking to launch a second eCommerce website for a separate company.
The opportunity for business owners
It’s an interesting time in the world of eCommerce, and we wanted to use this blog as a chance to discuss the opportunity for entrepreneurs, business owners, and anyone else that is looking for an alternative income stream.
If you’ve been thinking about taking your traditional bricks-and-mortar business online, then this could be the catalyst to give it a go. Online sales are not slowing down, and while the current pandemic is seeing one of the highest peaks in online sales, it’s also changing the way consumers buy. This means that post-COVID 19, while we don’t expect the numbers to remain at the high levels they are now, we do expect to see an overall rise in online shopping that will continue long after the crisis.
What this means is that there’s an opportunity now to either take your business online or start a new venture in eCommerce. We talk about how to generate a passive income with eCommerce here. However, we’d like to emphasise that you shouldn’t feel pressured into jumping on the eCommerce bandwagon right away if you’re not able to. The shift to online shopping isn’t going anywhere and it’ll be here long after the crisis dies down. What you do need to consider is, if you are going to do it, what will the logistics be and how will you manage it long term.
In regards to current business, eCommerce or not, we’d also like to highlight that the crisis and the change in consumer behaviour also presents an opportunity for investment in digital marketing. Activities such as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Content Creation, Pay Per Click (PPC), Paid Social Advertising, Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) and Display Advertising will not only help your business to thrive online during the pandemic but also long after it’s over. These marketing activities will help you to stay relevant, competitive, and top of mind for prospective customers.
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