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Ecommerce sales appear to be seeking a “new natural”


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With non-essential retail stores opening up in nearly every state in the U.S. and in many places around the world, ecommerce sales appear to be seeking their natural level, even if that level is a new natural, Signifyd’s most recent Ecommerce Pulse data shows.

Week-over-week online sales dropped for the seven days ending June 8, in nearly every vertical the Pulse regularly monitors. Nonetheless, ecommerce sales overall remained nearly 30% higher than they were before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a world pandemic.

There is little question that consumers are releasing their pent-up demand to get out after months indoors by releasing themselves from being pent-up in their homes. Images from U.S. beaches, alfresco restaurants and Las Vegas casinos provide a picture of a restless country grasping for anything that feels like the pre-pandemic days.

And they are heading to stores — and even malls — no matter that the experience they’re finding bears little resemblance to the shopping they did in February.

Online spending for the week of June 2 to June 8 dropped 8%. Despite the decline, overall ecommerce spending remains up 29% from pre-pandemic levels, which the Pulse defines as the seven-day period from Feb. 25 to March 2.

And going vertical by vertical, online spending is currently up in most categories when compared to early March. The Leisure & Outdoor category is up 103% over pre-pandemic levels, Auto, Parts & Tires sales have increased 63%, Commodities & Collectibles are up 59% and Electronics are tracking 57% above where sales were in the benchmark week.

In fact, of the 13 categories tracked by the Ecommerce Pulse, all but two — Business Supplies and Beauty & Cosmetics — are selling more online today than they were before the pandemic. The two down categories have suffered through much of the period of stay-at-home orders.

Demand for business supplies — sales are down 36% compared to pre-pandemic days — waned no doubt in connection with offices and small businesses closing. It’s possible that Beauty & Cosmetics, where sales are lagging their pre-pandemic heights by 30%, have not been as big a focus when most of us are staying home most of the time.

Where there were week-over-week gains, they were modest, according to the latest report, with Commodities & Collectibles, General Merchandise and Luxury Goods up 8%, 3% and 2% respectively. On the decline side, the hardest hit verticals week over week, include Beauty & Cosmetics, down 24%, Business Supplies off 23% and Alcohol, Tobacco & Cannabis sales declining 18%.

While plenty goes into shifts in consumer spending, it will be interesting to see, as in-store shopping becomes more accessible, whether awkward COVID-19 shopping experiences will drive consumers back to online options for more purchases.

Signifyd has been seeing for weeks how the pandemic experience is shaping consumers’ new habits. New online shoppers that flocked to ecommerce, most likely for lack of alternatives, have returned to digital options again and again.

And online shoppers are taking advantage of options to pick up their orders in the store or at the curbside. Transactions that involved an online order picked up at or just outside the store have been running as high as 350% above normal and have regularly been registering more than 200% higher than they did before the pandemic.

Mike Cassidy

Mike is lead storyteller at Signifyd. A former journalist and a retail geek, he covers ecommerce and the way technology is transforming digital commerce. Contact him at mike.cassidy@signifyd.com; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.