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on September 25, 2020 by Drew Kramer in Marketplaces

What the Data Says: COVID-19 Impacts on Consumer Behavior | Whitebox

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has led to a transformation in consumer shopping behavior. With many physical stores closed and customers now prioritizing health and safety, online platforms like Amazon have become even more essential. The result has been an ecommerce increase that analysts previously thought would take years to arrive. 

According to a Digital Commerce 360 analysis of US Department of Commerce data, US brands saw a 30.1% jump in ecommerce sales during the first half of 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. Recent data from Whitebox support this increase. 

Our findings show that certain customers have been more likely than others to shop online during the pandemic. In particular, unmarried males from eighteen to twenty-four years old without postsecondary education, who earn less than $50,000 per year, have made up the greatest increase in unique Amazon customers in May of 2020 compared to March of the same year.

Customers’ purchases also significantly increased in certain categories, like health and fitness, while decreasing in others, like travel-related accessories. Understanding these changes can inform your brand’s marketing philosophy and strategy as you confront the challenges and opportunities to come. With our commitment to corporate social responsibility and expert knowledge of the ecommerce landscape, Whitebox can help you rise to meet the moment.

New Amazon Customers by Demographic

Quickly adjusting to shifts in consumer spending keeps brands agile in uncertain times. That’s why it’s important to choose a fulfillment partner, like Whitebox, that offers data-driven insights into your customers’ behavior. Recent findings from Whitebox reveal that the number of unique customers making a purchase on the Amazon marketplace increased in May of 2020 vs. March of the same year. We tracked these customers by demographic:

Age

The biggest change in unique customers to Amazon came from the youngest age group: consumers ages eighteen to twenty-four. This group showed an increase of 17.15% in May vs. March of 2020. The oldest customer age group—those sixty-five and older—had the next largest increase of 14.06%. Since COVID-19 presents greater risk for older people, it makes sense for these customers to turn to ecommerce as a safer way to shop. 

Household income

Among various income brackets, the lowest earners showed the biggest jump in unique visits. Those with household income below $50,000 had a 17.42% increase. The $50,000–$74,999 income bracket showed a 12.91% increase. 

Education

Customers with less education also comprised a larger share of the increase in unique Amazon visitors. Those with less than a high school education showed the biggest bump: 24.15%. High school graduates had the next largest increase, at 16.56%.

Gender and marital status

Unmarried customers overwhelmingly exhibited a bigger increase in unique visitors than their married counterparts, with a 24.46% bump vs. 6.97%. The difference between genders was not quite as significant. Male unique visitors increased by 14.25%, whereas females showed a 9.72% jump.

Vertical Trends in Consumers’ Online Searches 

Whitebox also found that customers’ product searches across various verticals shifted in response to the pandemic. The biggest shift has been away from travel-related products. Not needing new luggage for the time being, customers have switched to searching for items they can enjoy from the safety of home. 

Whitebox noted a 545% drop in search frequency for travel accessories in the period between May 2019 and May 2020. However, four other verticals saw increased customer searches:

  • Home and fitness searches increased by 81%.
  • Lawn and garden searches increased by 39%.
  • Home improvement searches increased by 16%.
  • Jewelry searches increased by 36%.

Spending behavior has followed a similar trend, with some brands observing an uptick in sales of luxury goods. Customers who budgeted for travel, entertainment, and dining have reallocated those dollars to other verticals. That’s good news for ecommerce brands, and Whitebox can help you respond to growing demand with our range of services—including scalable warehousing and fulfillment.   

A Bird’s-Eye View: Cross-Channel Insights

If you’re like many growing ecommerce brands, you leverage multiple channels besides Amazon—like auction marketplaces (for example, eBay), daily deals sites (for example, Groupon), and social media. New customer acquisition has grown across these platforms, too, pointing to a larger shift in how consumers research and make purchases. 

A widespread trend

Whitebox found that new customer acquisition increased 53% across all channels between January and May 2020.

Just as importantly, these new customers keep coming back. We noted a 53% increase in repeat purchasers across all channels during this same time period. In fact, that represents the highest increase we’ve seen over the past twelve months. This has likely resulted from both the jump in new customer acquisition and the fact that more people have turned to ecommerce as a way to socially distance. 

Comparing channels

Platforms besides Amazon have seen significant growth due to COVID-19. Even before the pandemic, Walmart had started making gains on Amazon’s market share of online sales. Yahoo Finance reports that in certain categories, like groceries, Walmart trailed Amazon by only 2%

Whitebox also found that Shopify had a slightly higher repeat purchase rate than Amazon in 2020. And trends like consumer ethical decision making have boosted some platforms’ popularity. The handmade craft marketplace Etsy reports that sales jumped 79% in April. Customers bought nearly 12 million face masks on Etsy during that four-week period.  

So what does that mean for you? While Amazon remains the dominant marketplace for ecommerce brands, diversifying your channels is a useful strategy. Whitebox can help you identify which platforms fit your long-term marketing goals. 

What the data says

The data shows that COVID-19 has driven more consumers to take their shopping online—a trend we predict will stick around. Our findings on Amazon customer acquisition, online searches by vertical, and customer acquisition across all channels highlight major shifts in how customers make purchases. These changes point to big opportunities for ecommerce brands like yours.

But whether they prioritize health and safety or want to shop with brands whose business ethics they admire, today’s online customers have a wealth of options. Whitebox can help ensure your brand stays top of mind—starting with the right technology tools. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

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