7th April 2020

Changes in E-Commerce Buyer Behaviour During Lockdown

Mike Blackburn

We've seen some really quite dramatic changes to the way people are shopping online since the Prime Minister encouraged everyone who could to work from home. This post looks at the five most common changes we've seen across our clients that operate e-commerce sites and tries to explain what might be behind the changes. From this, we suggest some ways in which retailers might consider adjusting their offer to better serve their potential customers.

1. Sales are going through the roof if you have the product

What's happening

All of our e-commerce clients that have continued trading and serve the end-consumer market have all seen quite dramatic increases in revenues since people were sent home and the government furlough scheme was announced.

In the weeks prior to Boris Johnson's announcement on the 24th of March sales were really struggling but the upturn since has been remarkable. One of our retailers has actually described it as being like the run-up to Christmas in terms of sales.

Why this might be

This is probably quite an easy one to understand, prior  to the 24th of March there was a load of uncertainty, people were being laid off and in fear for their jobs as the crisis grew. The announcement of the furlough scheme restored confidence that people would still have jobs at the end of the pandemic and assured them that they would have enough to get buy and spend on a few luxuries to make life more comfortable during isolation.

In addition, the high-street was shut down meaning that many sales that would previously have gone towards the big brands were diverted to smaller independent online retailers.

What retailers should do

The simple message from this one is that if you can keep trading do. As long as you have access to stock and a workforce that can work safely during the pandemic then keep ongoing.

What you shouldn't do is try to profiteer from the crisis, don't put up prices simply because you can. Remember, customers you win today can become customers for life provided they don't feel ripped off.

2. Customers have got proportionally younger

What's happening

E-Commerce Customer Age Profile.pngE-commerce shoppers have always typically come from younger age groups but since the lockdown, our clients have seen on average a 15% swing towards shoppers aged 45 and under.

Shoppers under the age of 45 are now accounting for a higher proportion of sales for most of our clients when this is combined with the higher sales levels, in general, this is quite an increase in the number of younger customers for our clients.

Why this might be

There could be a few factors driving this change, but the one that springs to mind for us is disposable income. As restaurants and bars are all shut younger people have fewer ways in which to spend the money they have left-over at the end of the week. Instead, they're choosing to spend their money online.

Older consumers are more likely to be concerned about what the future may hold and so their spending patterns will not perhaps demonstrate the dramatic changes we've seen in the younger population.

What retailers should do

Ensure you have products that meet the requirements of younger people who might be shopping for your products, items that are on-trend and in tune with a younger audience's particular requirements.

3. Sales through mobile devices are more important

What's happening

E-Commerce Site_ Share of Traffic by Device Type.pngMore or less overnight many of our retailers saw an average 20% swing in favour of customers accessing their website through mobile devices. 

What was interesting that this swing was typically achieved at the expense of both desktop and tablet generated traffic. 

Why this might be

A lot of shopping used to be done during lunchtimes on office computers. With a higher proportion of people being at home, more consumers are using their phones to shop.

The other issue could be the limited number of computers in houses, in a single household there could be three or four people fighting to use a single computer. Something has to give and it could be that people are shopping on mobiles to keep the computer free for work or other activities.

What retailers should do

Make sure your website is as mobile-friendly as it can possibly be. Ensure your checkout process works effectively on mobile devices and consider using services like Paypal to simplify payments.

4. Paid advertising channels deliver a bigger share of sales

What's happening

Virtually all the growth we're seeing is coming off the back of paid advertising on search engines and social media platforms.  The other channels are typically maintaining their sales but not growing at anywhere near the rate of the paid routes to market.

Specifically, Google Shopping campaigns are flying, spending more money and generating higher returns that we'd usually expect.

Why this might be

We think the reason for this trend is down to a desire to ensure people get their products promptly.

Consumers are afraid that websites might not be trading properly at the moment. They worry that whilst sites might take their money there may be no-one working to ship the product quickly. 

We think people have perhaps figured that if a business is advertising it's going to be working properly and shipping product. 

serp.pngIn addition, we think Google is showing more ads than they would normally. We seem to be seeing more and more search results pages carrying shopping results panel on the right-hand column.

We've got no hard fast quantifiable evidence on this but we certainly seem to be seeing many more of these types of pages than we have done historically. I hate to think Google has changed it's page structure to supplement its income as a result of the crisis.

What retailers should do

There are three things a retailer should be doing at the moment to take advantage of this:

  1. Make sure there's clear messaging on your site to reassure people you're trading as normal. This should be on every page, not just the homepage because you never know where people are going to land on your site.
  2. You should invest in shopping campaigns even if you've never done so before. The beauty of a shopping campaign is that you can set a desired rate of return at which you'll make money and then quickly see if they're paying off for you.
  3. You should consider a paid social campaign to get your brand in front of relevant audiences.

5. One day is much the same as another

What's Happening

On most e-commerce sites we'd expect to see variations from day to day in terms of sales, Thursday and Fridays often being the worst days of the week for sales as people tend to go out in the evening and spend less time at home shopping. Likewise, the weekend could be boom-time for some businesses whilst others may see reduced sales and traffic.

At the moment though everyday seems to look like every other the peaks and troughs in terms of traffic and sales seem to have been eliminated.

In addition, it seems that people are stopping browsing earlier by around an hour that they would have done prior to lockdown.

Why this might be

Every day does seem the same, there's no real differentiation between Tuesdays and Thursdays anymore as our activities are by necessity limited to the home.  Every day is now an equal shopping opportunity.

Perhaps people are going to bed earlier too, exhausted by a long day in front of a laptop screen or having had their fill of the latest box-set from NetFlix.

What retailers should do

To be honest, there doesn't seem to be a lot a retailer can do about this trend other than ride it while it lasts.

If you rely on customer support to make the sale try to ensure you have people manning your helplines when they're needed.

Help when you need it

If you think this information is useful and you'd like to try to do more to compete during the crisis don't hesitate to call us on 0161 402 3170 or drop us a line at info@i-com.net.