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Online spending in March provides hints of life in the new normal

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COVID cases took a brief upturn in mid-March, but it didn’t curtail a rising, more-relaxed trend among shoppers. With some pandemic restrictions eased and warmer weather evolving,  omnichannel sales rose 197% from a year ago. The number was driven by a 600% growth in buy online, pick up in store, or at the curb, electronics sales and a 442% gift-card spending spree in home goods, according to Signifyd’s Ecommerce Pulse data. Consumers also welcomed back widespread St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, shopping for decorations and perhaps downing a few beers,  maybe a few more than usual.  

But the best indicator that life may be returning or at least headed toward some normality is that  luggage and travel accessories sales (remember travel?) are up 61% from a year ago. There’s hope. 

Convenient payment methods drive ecommerce sales

Consumers have responded favorably to purchase options that make online transactions easier and more tempting… and hopefully keep customers coming back. In sporting goods, payment options of buy online, pick up in store or at the curb (BOPIS/BOPAC) fueled an increase of 197% compared to a year ago, with buy now, pay later plans (BNPL) adding another 44% increase to the vertical. Overall, the ecommerce increase in customer demand for BNPL plans rose 40%, Signifyd data shows.

What you need to know
  • Consumer spending in March grew 197% from a year ago, and the average order value increased by 79% overall.  
  • Shoppers continue to respond to tempting ecommerce purchasing options. Buy online and pick up in store (BOPIS) transactions surged in March in certain verticals, including a 600% increase in consumer electronics and 197% rise in sporting goods, compared to a year ago. 
  • Gift cards continue to be a favorite among shoppers in March, with gift-card sales and gift-card spending up 83% and 10% respectively from a year ago, boosted by an incredible 442% spike in home goods gift-card spending.

All these purchasing options have figured significantly in the increase of overall online sales, with the average order value up 79% over the past year.  

“Based on the totality of transactions passing through Signifyd’s network, we see that this cohort of new users is buying online for the first time, and then returning to shop online again at the same or another merchant within one month,” J. Bennett, Signifyd’s senior vice president of operations and corporate development, has said to explain pandemic-era online shopping trends. “Returning to shop in short order is the way new spending habits form and share-of-wallet shifts.” 

Online apparel sales and order values were both up in March

The past couple of years have been a journey in ecommerce — and merchant efforts to provide a better experience overall has helped calm shoppers’ concerns, especially in apparel.  Sizing guides, reviews about sizing, easier return processes and expanded descriptions and photos helped boost March sales in apparel by 25% and increase the average order value by 21% compared to a year ago. Meanwhile, fraud pressure — measured by the change in very risky orders — was up 177% in the high fashion category (orders of $500 or more) and 25% in the fast fashion category (orders of $250 or less). 

In fact, even customer abuse – also called friendly fraud – in the apparel vertical was down 4% compared to a year ago.  Customer abuse is when shoppers receive a perfectly fine order but claim it never arrived (INR), or claim an item was damaged when it wasn’t, or that an item was significantly not as described (SNAD). 

This so-called friendly fraud by customers is generally an attempt to scam the system and receive an undeserved refund or get an item for free.  Consumer electronics, which skyrocketed in sales and in average order value in March, also suffered a rise of 23% in customer abuse, including a 64% increase in SNAD claims.  Overall, in all verticals, customer abuse in March rose 10% from last year, with SNAD claims up 40%.  

Online fraud pressure increased 125% in March

But then there’s the not-so-friendly fraud. These fraudsters are always lurking, and March was no exception. Signifyd data recorded a jump of 125% overall in fraud pressure, which is a measure of orders containing sufficient red flags to be presumed fraudulent. Though apparel was down overall in consumer abuse, fraud pressure increased in the high fashion, fast fashion and jewelry and watches categories, driving the vertical to an overall 79% fraud increase year-over-year,  Signifyd data shows.  

For Signifyd merchants, sales and ecommerce growth were not deterred. As Matthew Collier, Signifyd’s senior vice president of customer success, said recently: 

“Our team is motivated by helping customers solve problems related to fraud and payments challenges while building incredible customer experiences.” 

Signifyd Data Analyst Phelim Killough contributed to this report.

Photo by Getty Images


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Maryann Hudson

Maryann Hudson

Maryann Hudson is a freelance writer based in Southern California. She is a former investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times and the author of two books dealing with issues in youth sports. She is the editor of thecensustakers.com. Contact her at thecensustakers@gmail.com; or on Twitter @thecensustakers.