How COVID-19 is affecting e-commerce

How COVID-19 is affecting e-commerce

The global epidemic of COVID-19 has had a significant impact on consumer’s purchasing behavior, and e-commerce is no exception. As the pandemic situation changes, the online purchasing landscape has changed along with it. A quick response and take charge attitude are the keys to the survival of a company or brand. Let’s take a look at the current state of e-commerce.

Consumer reaction to COVID-19

As COVID-19 spread worldwide and more cities took shelter-in-place and lockdown restrictions, people’s purchasing behavior changed dramatically. The “panic buying” of masks and groceries were likely a psychological defense by buyers against uncertainty in the future.

And changes in purchasing behavior due to the effects of COVID-19 have varied by generation and gender. Younger generations, known as Generation Z and Millennials, are experiencing reversals in purchasing behavior, such as refraining from over-consumption compared to older generations. Also, when comparing men and women, men are reducing their consumption in response to COVID-19 and are more likely to avoid shopping in physical stores.

How e-commerce revenue is changing

The shelter-in-place and lockdown restrictions to combat COVID-19 has naturally led to a significant drop in sales at physical stores, but what about online sales? Overall, online sales are up 10 to 30 percent, according to a study conducted by ENGINE Insight, a global, media, and marketing services company. However, sales are not growing in all areas of retail. The rise is noticeable in online sales of groceries and daily necessities.

Grocery e-commerce sales surged in the second week of March because many products were sold out at local supermarkets and grocery stores.

Other areas are changing more slowly than grocery and food items, but there are still significant differences in sale fluctuations between industries.

In addition, various subscription grocery and home goods services have also seen significant increases in both revenue and conversion rates.

What are the most affected categories?

As the pandemic situation changes, the products that are selling well also continue to change. E-commerce retail categories that are particularly affected by COVID-19 include:

• Health-related products
Sales of health care and safety products, such as masks, hand sanitizers, and pharmaceuticals have increased significantly.

• Preserved foods
Sales of milk, oat milk, dried beans, and fruit-based snacks for long-term storage in preparation for an unknown length of home quarantine have increased significantly.

• All other food and beverages
In addition to food for stockpiling, sales of food and beverages in general are also increasing. Purchasing options that bypass crowded stores, such as delivery and BOPIS (buy-online-pickup-in-store), are popular.

• Streaming services
As the amount of time spent at home has increased significantly, revenues of streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu also jumped, with new platforms from movie studios also providing streaming services for the first time.

• Luxury products
Luxury brand products are an area that has suffered a decline in sales due to the influence of COVID-19 as well as its dependence on the Asian market.

• Fashion and apparel
The apparel industry has closed many physical stores due to shelter-in-place and other restrictions, resulting in a decline in revenue. Online sales for fashion and apparel are also down about 20%.

Variable online pricing for services and goods

Why is there such a disparity in prices between certain online items? According to the “DEI (Digital Economy Index)” data released by Adobe in March 2020, product apparel prices have declined significantly because people are not dressing up to go out as often. However, overall e-commerce prices have remained stable due to large, steady sales of relatively price-stable food and other products. COVID-19 reduced the price of airline tickets due to less personal and business travel, which has conversely also helped to reduce inflation in the price of goods online that require air travel.


The influence of COVID-19 has greatly increased the volume of activity in the market. It is difficult to predict the future, but you are the one who knows best how your customers will react to it. If you are able to pay attention now to your company’s e-commerce trends to adequately meet the needs of anxious customers, you will be able to grow your brand’s loyal customer base in the future. 

Author: Hitomi.N

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