Consumers turned to ecommerce for shopping in July in big numbers, further evidence that habits formed during the pandemic lockdown are persisting even as more brick-and-mortar stores open.
Online retail spending was up 87% compared to July 2019, Signifyd Ecommerce Pulse data showed. Consumers splurged on electronics, apparel, home goods and leisure, and outdoor products, spending considerably more in those categories compared to last summer. In fact, spending in each of those categories more than doubled year over year.
They also spent heavily in categories more associated with comfort and security. The Commodities & Collectibles vertical, which includes precious metals like gold bars, was up 181% over a year ago and grocery sales were up 114% in July 2020, compared to July 2019.
Retailers and retail analysts are watching the numbers carefully as they test the common wisdom that consumer habits formed in the midst of COVID-19 will endure for years.
Groceries & Household Goods offers a prime example. Before the pandemic, online grocery sales were a sliver of revenue in the vertical. But even though supermarkets have been considered essential retail during pandemic lockdowns and other business restrictions, online orders soared.
Many consumers were simply not attracted to the idea of spending 45 minutes or an hour inside with their neighbors as they navigated narrow aisles in search of the week’s dinners.
Sure, online grocery sales were growing before the pandemic. And they were growing faster than many other retail categories, primarily because they had so much room to grow. Sales in pre-pandemic February, for instance, were up 31% over February 2019.
But, it turns out that was nothing. With shelter-at-home orders issued beginning in March, online grocery sales started an epic run: up 112% year over year in March, up 117% in April, 95% in May, 107% in June and 114% in July.
There are other signs in the numbers of a new way of doing business. Five months into the pandemic, curbside pickup has not lost its luster. Drive-up shopping opportunities were few and far between before the pandemic. And then suddenly it was the only option for those who wanted to buy things from retailers that had been deemed non-essential.
By mid-April, buy-online-pick-up-at-the-store orders on Signifyd’s Commerce Network were running nearly 500% higher than they were at the beginning of the year. The most recent Ecommerce Pulse data shows that buy-online-pick-up-at-the-store-or-the-curb orders are still nearly three times what they were in January.
The latest Ecommerce Pulse numbers help make the case that retail has changed for good. Still, even after five months of living under the pandemic’s rules — which are new and vary widely by geography — it’s still too early to declare a sea change.
It will be interesting to look for clues by digging through the back-to-school shopping data, particularly when there are so few who are actually going back to school. And the coming holiday season will be another interesting gauge of consumers’ long-term preferences as deep tradition clashes with pronounced trepidation.