Pulse Report for Ecommerce
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Ecommerce Sales Trends Analysis
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September 1, 2020
August online sales apparently reflect a reshaped back-to-school season
Consumers continued to spend online in August at levels considerably higher than a year ago, although the year-over-year difference was not as dramatic as it has been in recent months.
One theory: Back-to-school sales this August look very different from a year ago.
Ecommerce sales across all sectors were 34% higher in August compared to August 2019, according to Signifyd’s latest Ecommerce Pulse data. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, a number of commerce verticals saw spending well above that average and some verticals performed below average.
Luxury Goods, for instance, saw year-over-year sales increase by 133% in August. The bump is notable because the category saw some particularly tough weeks during the pandemic, given the economic uncertainty unleashed by COVID-19 and the fact that people were simply not going out for long stretches. The increase marks the category’s best month by far since the start of the pandemic.
Sales of Commodities & Collectibles, a category that includes precious metals, were up 138% over August 2019. The vertical tends to be more volatile than most, as consumers view it as a safe haven in uncertain times and because prices for some of the products that make up the category fluctuate in response to outside factors.
Auto, Parts and Tires continued its strong run, with August sales running double what they were a year ago. For month after month, the vertical has consistently performed at 100% or more of the previous year’s numbers. In fact, since April, it’s only had one month in which sales didn’t double (they were up 96% in July) and they’ve reached as high as 134% of the year-ago month.
The Fashion, Apparel & Luggage vertical experienced interesting movement for the last full month of summer. With the school year beginning in the U.S., Europe and much of the world, the category reported ecommerce sales up 83% over August 2019. A healthy boost, to be sure. But the figure represented a decline from previous pandemic months, when year-over-year sales were up from 136% to 181%.
It is possible that uncertainty about what the 2020-2021 school year will look like has changed the nature of the back-to-school shopping season, which aside from the winter holidays is retail’s biggest selling season.
August’s ecommerce figure across all verticals — up 34% — was the smallest year-over-year increase for any full month during the pandemic. Part of that performance, no doubt, is attributable to extremely healthy spending in August 2019, likely attributable to back-to-school shopping.
There are indications this year that back-to-school spending will be less concentrated and perhaps delayed compared to years past. The National Retail Foundation found in a July survey that consumers had only completed an estimated 17% of their back-to-school shopping.
Of those who still needed to do most of their shopping, 54% said they were delaying because they didn’t know what their children were going to need. Hard to know, when you’re not sure where they’re going to be learning — in school or at the dining table?
“By any measure, this is an unprecedented year with great uncertainty, including how students will get their education this fall, whether they are in kindergarten or college,” NRF CEO Matthew Shay said in a foundation blog post.
Meantime, the Washington Post reported that back-to-school buying patterns appear to be different this year and that economic uncertainty is also a factor for consumers.
“Normally I’d easily spend $700 on school supplies, clothes and a few pairs of shoes,” Diane Perry, a parent and furloughed Disney World employee, told the Post. “But this year, I don’t know what she’s going to need, or when. And I’m still trying to figure out how to pay rent and buy groceries.”
It’s possible that this year’s back-to-school season will stretch out until the early holiday season shoppers begin making holiday purchases. At any rate it is likely retailers will see those sales eventually, as the course of the school year becomes clearer.
Just another indication of how different retail is in the age of COVID-19.
August 12, 2020
Latest Ecommerce Pulse Data shows new consumer habits are holding
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.
July 8, 2020
Ecommerce sales in June were up 62% over a year ago
Consumers spent dramatically more online in the month of June than they did a year ago, a significant shift in shopping behavior that had everything to do with the global coronavirus pandemic.
Signifyd’s Ecommerce Pulse data showed that ecommerce sales were up 62% in June 2020 over June 2019. The monthly total continues a general trend line we’ve been following week-over-week since early March, just before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
As stay-at-home orders were issued across the globe and non-essential retailers closed the doors of their physical stores, consumers turned to online channels to buy everything from needed supplies to wanted distractions.
The buying followed a pattern that is understandable in retrospect. Early in the pandemic, shoppers stocked up on groceries, pet supplies, baby needs. They famously caused a run on toilet paper and even dramatically drove up the sales of bidets, according to executives at Signifyd customer Build.com.
Soon after, with overall ecommerce sales running about 50% higher than pre-pandemic days, diversions turned into a big seller. At-home workout equipment, puzzles, video games and goods listed in the Alcohol & Cannabis category saw strong sales.
In late April, with the weather turning nicer in most of the world, cosmetics and apparel experienced a boom — perhaps a sign that consumers were getting out more — or at least longing to get out.
It became apparent that consumers were establishing new buying habits. Shoppers who had never, or rarely, shopped online were turning to digital channels — and they were coming back repeatedly.
Eventually, the dramatic week over week increases in sales moderated. Ecommerce sales overall still registered well beyond their pre-pandemic levels, but they were clearly settling into what would be a relatively consistent range. In short, spending appeared to have adopted, If not a “new normal,” then a “now normal” pattern.
Sales in the 13 major retail categories tracked by the Ecommerce Pulse began moving in a relatively narrow band for the most part. Some categories and products would still occasionally exhibit significant swings, but it was difficult to know whether the fluctuation was being driven by pandemic-related needs and anxieties — or whether something else was at play.
For instance, Signifyd saw a major increase in fireworks sales on its Commerce Network through most of the summer, but especially leading up to the July 4 holiday. Hardly surprising, especially for anyone who’s experienced the proliferation of nightly neighborhood fireworks sessions taking place throughout the U.S.
Because of the myriad factors that influence ecommerce spending, we’ve decided to shift the primary focus of the Ecommerce Pulse to a monthly look at year-over-year online spending.
Comparing this month’s spending to spending in the same month a year ago, rather than comparing this week’s spending to the spending in a benchmark week leading up to the pandemic removes major effects like seasonality from the equation.
For instance, the month-over-month view of online sales showed ecommerce spending in June down 17% compared to May. The specific factors in the decline are difficult to determine, especially before the Commerce Department releases its June retail figures. It’s possible that the reopening of more brick-and-mortar stores drew some of the spending that would otherwise find its way online.
It’s as likely that consumers were less focused on buying goods in June and more focused on outdoor activities and the sorts of summer vacations they could embark on given the restrictions and complications posed by the pandemic.
June 24, 2020
Numbers show widespread ecommerce adoption
Ecommerce sales in the week just ended were 27% higher than they were in the days leading up to the World Health Organization’s declaration that the spread of COVID-19 had reached pandemic status, Signifyd’s Ecommerce Pulse data shows.
The spending increase is worth noting as the pandemic rolls into its 17th week, because the sameness of day-to-day life with the coronavirus can serve to desensitize us to remarkable things that are happening around us.
The parade of weekly double-digit increases in overall ecommerce sales numbers since the pandemic began is a strong indicator that the changes we’ve seen in shopping behavior will be lasting. The intensity might wane, but new online consumer have taken ecommerce to a new level and they will most likely continue to shop online.
As has always been the case, the overall changes in ecommerce spending does not tell the story of individual verticals, but the vast majority of those are also seeing sales well above pre-pandemic levels.
The week-over-week ups and downs for individual verticals for the seven-day period ending June 29, were fairly evenly split. And overall week-over-week spending online was down 3%.
Two categories — Fashion, Apparel & Luggage and Commodities & Collectibles — had particularly strong weeks. Spending in Commodities & Collectibles was up 39% for the week. The category, which includes precious metals, such as gold bars, is now seeing an 88% increase in online spending compared to the week of Feb. 25 to March 2, which we use as a pre-pandemic benchmark.
Fashion and apparel saw sales rise 11% week-over-week, which continues a fairly positive run over the past three months. Spending in the category is up 34% compared to pre-pandemic sales.
Other notable sales shifts for the week include declining sales in the Electronics category and the Leisure & Outdoor categories, both relatively strong performers throughout the pandemic. Electronics sales were off 12% for the week and Outdoor & Leisure fell 15% week over week.
Only two categories are experiencing sales below what they were before the pandemic hit. Beauty & Cosmetics sales are down 3% compared to pre-pandemic levels and Business Supplies, which has been adversely affected by the temporary closure of non-essential businesses, is seeing sales 22% below pre-pandemic receipts.
The higher online spending is being driven in part by new shoppers — consumers who rarely or never shopped online. After being forced to buy online as favorite non-essential stores closed, many of the current class of new online users are continuing to shop digitally. Signifyd’s data shows the number of new online shoppers increased by as much as 140% during the pandemic and that the growth has remained robust.
Emarketer attributed much of that growth to shoppers who are 45 years old or older and who never developed an ecommerce habit. The market research firm says in a June report that the number of online shoppers aged 45 and older will increase by 5.8% in 2020. Before the pandemic the firm was predicting a 3.2% increase in the cohort.
June 17, 2020
Electronics and Health & Beauty continue to see online sales increase
The Health & Beauty and the Electronics categories continued their upward trend in the week just ended as online spending overall continued to plateau, according to Signifyd’s Ecommerce Pulse data.
As brick-and-mortar shopping continued to become more prevalent throughout the world, the pace of ecommerce spending dropped 2% week over week. However, some verticals that had been hard hit at times during the pandemic showed signs of sustained recovery.
Just two weeks ago, online sales in the Health & Beauty vertical were down 30 percent compared to pre-pandemic sales, using the week beginning Feb. 25 as a benchmark. But after two solid weeks in a row, including the most recent week’s 20% rise in ecommerce sales, beauty is now trending just 5% below its pre-pandemic performance.
Electronics, which has seen its share of down weeks (and during one week in April reported sales down 36% from pre-pandemic days) was up 13% for the most recent week, following a 9% sales boost the previous week. Overall, weekly sales in the category are now 93% above where they were the week beginning Feb. 25.
Based on the most recent Ecommerce Pulse data, sales in only two retail categories are below where they were prior to the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Beauty, as we mentioned, is one. The other is Business Supplies, which was hard hit by the closure of many businesses in the face of stay-at-home orders and because of employers’ desire to keep employees safe.
In fact, weekly ecommerce spending in the Business Supply category is lagging its pre-pandemic numbers by 24%. Still, the category has been performing better as economies around the world begin to open up or open up to a greater degree. For the week ending June 22, sales in the category were up 21%.
The category was one that Signifyd data shows consumers were willing to invest in when government stimulus checks arrived. An analysis of transactions made with debit cards used by the U.S. government to issue stimulus payments showed a 228% increase in spending on business supplies in the days after the cards arrived at taxpayers’ homes.
The Business Supply surge is something of a bright spot, indicating that businesses are opening up or plan to be opening up soon. The category could serve as an economic barometer as the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. continue to rise. If business owners think better of reopening offices and shops or if government authorities revert to stricter regulations governing business openings, the category’s expansion could fizzle.
Most of the verticals that the Pulse follows moved up or down in a narrow band, as they have for several weeks now. The Consumer Medical Supplies & Supplements category was flat. Alcohol, Tobacco & Cannabis registered no change. Luxury Goods spending was up 1%.
The fact that modest changes are replacing the wild swings that were common in the early weeks of the pandemic is likely a sign that consumers are settling into a “normal-for-now” that sees pantries stocked, rooms redecorated, entertainment needs met and summer in much of the world in full swing.
June 10, 2020
Ecommerce sales are up slightly as economies continue to open up
Overall online spending increased 3% during the seven-day period ending June 15, as most retail verticals continued to see only moderate ups and downs when it comes to online sales. That said, the two largest week-over-week increases came in categories that have had their share of rough weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Fashion, Apparel & Luggage category saw sales rise 13% over the previous week. Overall, spending in the category is 25% higher than it was during the week of Feb. 25 to March 2, which we’ve used as a pre-pandemic benchmark.
Likewise, spending on Beauty & Cosmetics rose 12% for the week. That was not enough to allow the category to claw its way back from a deep hole compared to pre-pandemic days. Beauty & Cosmetic spending overall remains at 21% below its pre-pandemic level.
Ecommerce spending for all categories for the week just ended is up 33% over the late February / early March benchmark week.
All of this comes on a day when the New York Times and others were reporting on what was a spectacular May for U.S. retailers — at least spectacular by the numbers. Retail sales, including online and in-store, rose 17.7% month-over-month, a record increase, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. The caveat, of course, is that the May surge is in comparison to April’s numbers. April set a different retail record — it saw the worst monthly decline in retail sales on record.
Still, this is a time when retailers are anxious in general and are particularly anxious for good news. That goes for consumers, too, who have by all evidence been enthusiastically greeting the opening up of the economy. News videos and photographs have shown open restaurants; crowded bars and beaches; and lines to get into some brick-and-mortar stores.
Stimulus payments to U.S. taxpayers also likely played a role in May’s bright numbers. On May 20, the government distributed stimulus payments using 4 million prepaid debit cards. Comparing transactions using that brand of debit card before and after May 20, reveals a 28.4% increase in spending in the stimulus period.
Signifyd data shows that Business Supplies spending through the payment method increased 228% after the stimulus and Home Goods sales were up 191% — potentially signs that a significant number of U.S. residents were preparing to reopen small businesses, while another segment was still focused on making improvements at home.
The feeling of increased freedom brought on by the loosening of pandemic-related rules could be a factor in the boost to apparel and cosmetic sales. Signifyd data showed a similar bump at the end of April, as the weather in much of the world was turning pleasant for the first time this year and consumers shifted spending from stay-at-home items to getting-out-of-the house items.
Other than the significant increases in apparel and cosmetics — and a respectable 9% increase in electronics sales — the main verticals followed by the Pulse moved up or down in a fairly narrow band. Grocery & Household Good was down 7%. Sales of Alcohol, Tobacco & Cannabis, and Commodities & Collectibles both fell 5%.
Some subcategories showed more significant movement. Baby Products spending was down 15%. Weapons & Accessories, which posted a big sales increase two weeks ago, dropped 13% in the most recent week. And sales in Party, Gifts & Occasions were up 30% headed into Father’s Day weekend.
June 3, 2020
Ecommerce sales appear to be seeking a “new natural”
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.
May 27, 2020
Consumers continue to turn to ecommerce as more retail sales channels open
As more retail channels open up in more places in the United States and the world, ecommerce sales are still 40% higher than they were in the pre-pandemic days, though weekly jumps in the double-digit percentages are no longer assured.
Overall ecommerce sales were down 8% for the seven-day period ending June 1, after rising only 1% the previous week. The figures appear to reflect a plateauing of sales increases rather than a reversal of fortune as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
The story was more nuanced than the overall numbers, as it always is.
The Business Supply vertical, which has largely been struggling since the World Health Organization declared the pandemic, for instance, had a strong week, up 16% from May 26 to June 1. It could be that as economies open up spending is up for business needs — but it’s a little too soon to know for sure.
The only other category that the Ecommerce Pulse regularly follows that posted an exceptional week was Commodities & Collectibles, a vertical that can run on emotion, as well as market forces, given that it includes precious metals, such as gold bars.
The category, which has seen some wild upswings since shelter-at-home orders began being issued, was up 24% for the most recent week. Overall, Commodities & Collectibles are up 48% since the last week of February, which serves as a pre-pandemic benchmark.
In all, six verticals in addition to Commodities & Collectibles find themselves outperforming ecommerce’s 40% overall spending increase compared to the benchmark week. Leisure & Outdoor is up 139% for the entire Ecommerce Pulse reporting period. Auto Parts & Tires has risen 79%; Electronics is up 78%; Alcohol, Tobacco & Cannabis increased 69%; Home Goods & Decor is up 46% and General Merchandise has climbed 41%.
Beauty & Cosmetics continued its rough run, after showing some signs of life in late April and mid-May. Spending in the category was down 16% two months into the pandemic after declining 18% the previous week. The slump has dropped the vertical into negative territory — down 8% compared to pre-pandemic spending. It joins Business Supplies (down 17% overall) as the only two categories exhibiting lower spending in the most recent week than they did before the pandemic.
Fashion, Apparel & Luggage and Luxury Goods both continued their on-again-off-again performances, both being off-again in the most recent week — apparel was down 15% and Luxury Goods were off 11%.
As has been the case in recent weeks, the shifts in spending — whether up or down — tended to be moderate. That can be a good sign, an indicator of stability and that both consumers’ states of mind and the ecommerce corner of the economy are steadying themselves in the face of disruption.
In fact, the only change reminiscent of the wild swings of the early weeks of the pandemic showed up in one subcategory the Ecommerce Pulse follows. Sales of Weapons & Accessories were up 79% week over week.
May 20, 2020
Consumers’ spending choices could offer a clue to what’s to come next
Signifyd’s Ecommerce Pulse data continued last week to tell the story of life during COVID-19 in specific retail verticals as opposed to dramatic increases in online spending overall.
After spiking in mid-April at a pace 85% higher than pre-pandemic levels, ecommerce spending has settled in at about 50% more than it was in the weeks leading up to the pandemic. For the seven-day period ending May 25, ecommerce spending was up 1% week-over-week, putting it at 51% higher than it was during the last week of February, which serves as a pre-pandemic benchmark.
As we pass the Memorial Day holiday in the U.S. and much of the world heads into summer, consumers seem to be easing up on pandemic purchases and returning to more typical buying patterns — with much more of that buying happening online than was the case before COVID-19.
Leisure & Outdoor spending, a category that became symbolic of shelter-at-home, saw its third straight week of declines during the week just ended. It could be that coinciding with news photos of relatively crowded beaches and parks, consumers are no longer stocking up on puzzles, games, video entertainment and home gym equipment. Indeed, if you drill into the vertical’s Media, Toys, Hobbies & Games subcategory, you’ll see a 12% drop in spending.
Even with last week’s overall drop of 5%, following weekly declines of 8% and 6%, sales in the Leisure & Outdoor category are up 137% over sales during the last week of February. Likewise, sales in Alcohol, Tobacco & Cannabis, a leading category during the pandemic, saw its fifth consecutive decline, dropping 4%. It’s still up 60% from pre-pandemic levels.
Also of note: Commodities & Collectibles, which has experienced some dramatic sales spikes during the pandemic fueled by precious metal sales, saw its most severe decline since the Ecommerce Pulse began tracking pandemic spending behavior. The somewhat volatile category’s 37% week-over-week drop matched its worst week, which was recorded in early April.
Another category that suffered its worst week in the pandemic era was Beauty & Cosmetics, which has been showing what retail consultant Shelley Kohan referred to as “sawtooth” behavior, perhaps owing to consumers’ uncertainty about spending in a down economy. The category was down 18% week over week, though still up 10% since the end of February.
Both Fashion, Apparel & Luggage and Electronics have seen some sawtooth behavior of their own during shelter-at-home. And both were on the upswing in the most recent week. Electronics was up 17% week over week, a performance that helped it crack the 100% mark for spending increase since the pandemic began. Overall, the category is up 109%
Fashion, Apparel & Luggage, which has had its share of disappointing weeks, was up 11% for the week ending May 25 and up 37% for the pandemic period.
In the end, the week overall might represent something of a pause in spending as consumers wait for end-of-the-month paychecks and to see what in-store shopping will be like as more retailers open brick-and-mortar stores in some modified way.
May 13, 2020
Beauty and Cosmetics enjoys another strong week online
The increase in ecommerce spending since pre-pandemic days appears to have settled in at about the 50% range despite the opening up of brick-and-mortar stores in many parts of the United States and elsewhere.
Overall ecommerce spending was down 1% for the week ending May 18, according to Signifyd Ecommerce Pulse data. The week’s pattern, in fact, was much like the previous week. Eight of the 13 major categories that the Pulse tracks were down for the week, seven of them by single-digit percentages. The modest changes, both up and down, left ecommerce spending up 49% since the last week of February, which marks the pre-pandemic baseline for spending.
One standout category during the week just ended was Beauty & Cosmetics, which was up 21% for the week. The category has been making an uneven, but steady, climb since the first week of April, which left the category up 34% over the end of February.
Potential mini-trends reveal themselves deeper in the data. For instance, it appears consumers have become more confident that they will be able to find the supplies they need, as signs of stockpiling have abated. Sales in the subcategory of Baby Products dropped 20% last week and Consumer Packaged Goods (think paper products) and Pet Supplies were down 8% and 3% respectively.
The week also marked a subtle shift in how consumers were spending to support recreation and diversion. Consider the Leisure & Outdoor category, which has been a strong performer throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Sales are up 132% in the vertical since the pandemic began, largely due to the fact that it includes games, puzzles, video games and in-home workout equipment.
But if you plunge into some of the subcategories in the vertical, you see a glimmer of evidence that homebound consumers are focusing more on getting outside as the shelter-at-home and modified shelter-at-home days drag on and the weather improves. For instance, sales of media, toys, hobbies and games fell 1% last week. Meantime, consumers spent 16% more on the outdoor subcategory, which includes equipment designed for camping, hiking and fishing.
Retail analysts had been wondering whether one particular indoor venue would draw consumers with new-found freedom — stores. Non-essential retailers are opening up in more states, at least for buy online, pick up in store and curbside pick up. But polling numbers, anecdotal evidence and data show that consumers are in no rush to shop in physical stores.
Opportunity Insights, a Harvard University-based, non-profit research center, found that the opening of businesses in states such as Georgia, Texas and South Carolina had little effect on consumer spending. In fact, spending in those states contracted before non-essential stores were ordered closed and appear to have not loosened up even as stores are being allowed to reopen.
A recent Harris Poll found that 89% of those surveyed had concerns about returning to physical stores to shop. And a Washington Post / University of Maryland survey found that 67% of consumers were not comfortable with the idea of going into an apparel store.
Yet, ecommerce continues to perform at peak-season levels, a pattern that we should see hold or increase as newly reopened stores rely on buy online pick up in store or at the curb, either to assuage customers’ fears or to adhere to local regulations.
Signifyd data showed BOPIS and BOPAC orders had reached more than 300% of their pre-pandemic level by last week It’s a trend that could very well grow as more states allow retailers to open despite some consumers’ concerns about shopping in store.
May 6, 2020
Ecommerce sales are up 50% since the beginning of the global pandemic
Ecommerce sales remained up more than 50% for the COVID-19 pandemic period, as wild gyrations in sales figures by retail vertical abated last week, according to Signfyd’s most recent Ecommerce Pulse data.
Spending for the week ending May 11, moved up and down in a narrow band, with the exception of Business Supplies sales, which dropped 23%, its biggest fall since the Ecommerce Pulse began tracking spending in late February.
On the positive side of the ledger, Luxury Goods sales were up 6% for the week, continuing a run going back to March 23, during which the category has not recorded a decline in sales. Overall, Luxury Goods sales are up 45% since the week of Feb. 25, which serves as a baseline for pre-pandemic spending.
Luxury Goods was also among last week’s bright spots, along with Fashion, Apparel and Luggage and Beauty & Cosmetics. The Fashion category and Beauty & Cosmetics category both had slower weeks, with Fashion sales falling 1% and Beauty down 4%. Still, Fashion is up 22% for the entire Pulse period and Beauty remains up 10%.
Overall, the week just ended saw 10 of the 13 categories the Pulse tracks weekly move up or down by only single-digit percentages and one — Home Goods and Decor — remained flat. The week produced numbers similar to the results from two weeks ago, including showing overall ecommerce sales down 3% for the week.
While we’ve been careful not to draw solid conclusions from one week of data, the most recent week’s numbers appear to fit a loose pattern. Overall ecommerce spending will run relatively hot one week and cool off the next. That said, this week’s 3% decline is one of only three in the 10 weeks studied by the Ecommerce Pulse that produced overall sales lower than the previous week.
It comes at a time when the consumer price index is at its most anemic since the Great Recession, falling 0.8% in April, and the core index, excluding food and energy prices, had its worst month since 1957.
While it is far too early to connect the two, when prices are falling in a recession, economists do worry that consumer spending will slow. The thinking is that consumers will hold back on buying in anticipation of even lower prices in the future.
There are also signs that consumers are bracing for tough financial times by saving more and spending less. The savings rate in the United States increased to 13.1% in March, up from 8% in February.
Finally, as more states and countries allow non-essential brick-and-mortar stores to open in some capacity, it will be interesting to see whether some of the new-found online spending reverts back to physical stores.
Whether and how the three trends develop will be something worth watching in the coming weeks and could provide some valuable clues as to how the recovery in general will unfold.
That said, ecommerce spending has increased dramatically overall since late February, meaning that a small pullback leaves spending at a level far beyond where it was before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In fact, online spending in the week just ended was 51% higher than it was at the end of February.
Spending in every retail vertical, save one, that the Ecommerce Pulse tracks weekly remains higher than it was before the pandemic became a fact of life. In fact, they are well above pre-pandemic levels, with Leisure & Outdoor up 152%, Electronics up 88%, Commodities & Collectibles up 76% and Auto, Parts & Tires up 75%.
The only category in which sales have fallen below pre-pandemic levels is Business Supplies, which is down 28%, presumably due to the fact that many businesses have been closed for weeks or months.
April 29, 2020
Homebound consumers begin to look outward
The latest Ecommerce Pulse data indicates that consumers are focused on getting out of their homes, as the verticals consisting of Luxury Goods, Beauty & Cosmetics and Fashion, Apparel & Luggage all continued to come out of hibernation during the week just ended.
In a week that saw more countries and U.S. states relax their stay-at-home restrictions, overall ecommerce spending was up 10% for the week ending May 4, with the biggest gains coming in categories associated with personal appearance and socializing.
It could be that shoppers have concluded that sweatpants and baseball caps aren’t going to cut it much longer.
Conversely, sales of toys, games, media and hobby materials were down slightly for the week as were Sporting Goods, which recorded some big weeks in March and April, perhaps because the sub-category includes at-home exercise equipment.
The week-over-week increase in overall ecommerce spending reversed the slight retreat in spending we saw last week. The boost means that ecommerce spending has increased 56% since the last week of February, a time before the full ramifications of the coming pandemic were widely understood.
The week-over-week increase in spending on luxury items, cosmetics and apparel — up 20%, 16% and 12% respectively — is fodder for jokes about Walmart selling far more tops than pants in the midst of the pandemic and the like, but it comes with a serious side, too.
Luxury Goods in particular had been battered by COVID-19 and the temporary store closings and shelter-at-home policies that resulted. By the end of March, the category’s sales had declined by more than 30% since a month earlier. Just a month ago, the category was down 24% from late February.
But a strong April has pushed the category to the point where the sales of Luxury Goods are up 37% since the last week of February.
Fashion, which saw sales fall 32% during the first month of the pandemic, showed its first signs of serious life two weeks ago, recording a 38% week-over-week sales increase. Last week’s strong performance has the category up 23% overall from its pre-pandemic level.
The Beauty & Cosmetics category is now up 15% since late February, recovering from a skid that saw its sales dip by 24% in the pandemic’s early going.
In fact, all but one of the 13 main categories that the Ecommerce Pulse tracks weekly are seeing an overall increase in sales since the week of Feb. 25. Business Supplies, the only category in the red for the full Pulse period, nonetheless recorded a strong week, with sales increasing 19% — possibly a sign that some businesses are investing in reopening plans.
While categories associated with getting out of the house were on the rise last week, a number of categories more associated with sheltering in place saw their sales fall week over week.
Besides media, toys, hobbies and games, which dropped 5%, and sporting goods, down 2%, Alcohol, Tobacco & Cannabis sales were down 2% for the week. The category, by the way, was still up 87% for the entire Pulse period, dating back to late February.
Also down was Commodities and Collectibles, a category that includes precious metals, such as gold bars. The category was down 9% for the week, but thanks to some impressive spikes in earlier weeks, the category was still up 87% for the entire Pulse period.
One sub-category, which showed strong sales early in the pandemic, before leveling off, was back in a big way last week. Sales of Weapons & Accessories were up 86% week over week.
April 22, 2020
Six-week run of big ecommerce sales plateaus
For those who wondered how long ecommerce sales could keep up their torrid growth rate in the time of COVID-19, their answer came this week. For the first time since the first week of March, total ecommerce sales fell week over week, according to Signifyd’s Ecommerce Pulse data.
The drop, 3% for the week ending April 27, would hardly be notable except for the previous six straight weeks of increases — often dramatic, double-digit-percentage increases. The run started with the declaration of the global pandemic and a spate of stay-at-home policies and regulations. The weeks of upward trajectory left sales up 42% for the period beginning at the end of February.
The week-long cooling of consumer spending could simply be a sign that shoppers are set for the time being in terms of necessities and satisfied with their purchases of items aimed at making life at home — like always at home — more comfortable and enjoyable. It could be that those who are still working are waiting for end-of-the-month paychecks.
Or it could be an early sign of a subtle recalibration. With some states opening more businesses and others discussing plans on how they will do so, consumers might have hit pause while they wait to see how some of these rumblings shake out.
All theories for now.
If we’ve learned anything in two months of tracking swings in ecommerce data, it’s that one week does not a trend make — and so we will see.
As the overall spending number might suggest, sales were down in more categories than they were up in. Do you like bright spots? (Because we do.) The business supply category saw its second consecutive weekly increase, up 5% this week after a 3% increase last week. With most businesses and offices closed, the category had been battered and remains down 22% since late February.
It is not as if online sales fell off a cliff in the week just ended. While nine of the 13 major categories we track every week saw sales declines, all but three were single-digit declines.
Fashion, Apparel and Luggage and Beauty & Cosmetics, which both have struggled and bounced back, were struggling again. Fashion sales declined 11%. Beauty was off 17%, knocking it back into negative territory (down 3%) for the entire Ecommerce Pulse period.
The other big loser for the week was Alcohol, Tobacco & Cannabis, which experienced a 19% drop in sales, its first decline since the week before the World Health Organization declared the pandemic on March 11.
In fact, the week just past, looks very much like the week of March 3 to March 9, a time when the novel coronavirus was in a significant way entering the consciousness of consumers in the United States and Europe. Overall ecommerce sales were down 2% that week. That week also saw nine of 13 categories register sales declines, mostly single-digit-percentage declines.
One important distinction: Nearly all the major categories started the most recent week at a much higher base before experiencing modest sales declines.
For instance, Leisure & Outdoor, down 5% for the week, is up 130% since late February. Commodities & Collectibles, down 6% for the week, is up 104% for the entire period. Luxury Goods, which were flat for the week, are still up 13% for the period, thanks to strong demand in recent weeks.
And so it is for Electronics; Auto, Parts & Tires; and Alcohol, Tobacco & Cannabis, all down slightly for the week but up for the period by 70%, 72% and 84% respectively.
April 15, 2020
Ecommerce spending is up 46% since COVID-19 restrictions began
The dramatic COVID-19-induced rise in ecommerce spending saw record acceleration during the week just ended, most likely fueled by government stimulus payments meant to stoke the economy while keeping consumers on their feet.
Ecommerce sales increased at their highest rate since late February, shooting up nearly 25% during the week that ended April 20, according to Signifyd’s Ecommerce Pulse data. This week’s jump far surpassed the previous record of 18% recorded just the week before. It also contributed to a 46% increase in ecommerce spending overall since late February.
Consumers spent broadly last week, buying into some categories that had generally suffered since the coronavirus began to dominate the news and jurisdictions started issuing stay-at-home orders. In fact, by the end of the week, every retail category — save one — showed an increase in sales for the entire period covered by Ecommerce Pulse data.
Spending patterns showed a mix of consumers using their stimulus money (up to $1,200 per taxpayer) to satisfy pent-up demand, fill needs for practical items and possibly fortify their savings by investing in non-cash assets.
In terms of pent-up demand, some categories that had scuffled along for stretches of the stay-at-home period saw strong sales. Auto, Parts & Tires was up 56% for the week, building on a positive run that started more modestly at the end of March. The category is now up 90% for the entire Ecommerce Pulse period, which started Feb. 25.
Electronics experienced some much-needed relief, with revenue up 38% for the week, a far better showing than early weeks of double-digit losses, followed by gains in the low single digits. Also up 38% was Fashion, Apparel and Luggage, a category that had been more battered than benefited by the shift in consumer spending. And shoppers returned to Consumer Medical Supplies and Supplements after four weeks where the category’s change in sales ranged from a low of declining by 18% to a high of being up just 8 percent.
Consumers also moved back into some categories that had cooled after seeing big spikes early in the shelter-at-home period. It’s reasonable to assume that stockpiled supplies were again beginning to run low, as spending on Pet Supplies increased 25% for the week after being down 5% the previous week. Consumer packaged goods — including toilet paper, paper towels and cleaning supplies — was up 13% after four straight down weeks, including a 21% drop in late March. And Adult Toys & Novelty, a category that saw sales drop 5% two weeks ago, was up 46% for the week just ended.
Commodities & Collectibles, which saw one of the largest weekly increases early on, was again a high-demand category with sales up 61%. The keen interest in the vertical, which includes precious metals such as gold and silver, might indicate that some stimulus-pay recipients are mooring their wealth in what they consider to be safe harbors in volatile economic times.
Despite the uncertain times, consumers continue to spend and with all but essential brick-and-mortar stores closed, they are doing their spending online. The Ecommerce Pulse uses the week of Feb. 25 to March 3, as a benchmark — a time before the coronavirus was top of mind for most consumers and a time before shelter-at-home orders had begun.
Between that time and now, ecommerce spending is up nearly 50%, according to data collected from Signifyd’s Commerce Network, a collection of thousands of retailers selling in more than 100 countries. And while the magnitude of increase in sales varies by retail category, spending is up nearly across the board. (With most businesses closed, Business Supplies is down 25% since the benchmark week.)
Some steady performers continued to post impressive gains leading to gaudy overall growth figures for the entire period covered by Ecommerce Pulse data.
Leisure & Outdoor, which includes games, toys, puzzles and indoor exercise equipment, is up 141% for the period. Spending in the Alcohol, Tobacco & Cannabis category increased 127% over the time studied. Auto, Parts & Tire’s big week now has it up 90% overall. And Electronics spending has increased by 73% since late February.
April 8, 2020
Hard-hit ecommerce sectors see some relief as sales fluctuations moderate
Retail sectors that had been hard-hit by coronavirus-caused stay-at-home orders and the pall of the pandemic saw some relief in the week just ended, sales data from Signifyd’s Ecommerce Pulse shows.
Both the Luxury Goods and the Beauty & Cosmetics categories had strong weeks — ranking No.1 and No. 2 in sales increases. That’s after suffering in the early days of the shut-down as consumers focused more on need-to-have than want-to-have purchases.
Beauty & Cosmetics sales were up 32%, following up on last week’s 29% increase in sales. The category has now seen a 24% sales boost overall since the end of February. Just two weeks ago the category was down 30% for the period stretching back to just before the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other categories that took their lumps in the early weeks of the pandemic also showed signs — or continued signs — of recovery. Fashion, Apparel & Luggage notched its third-straight week of growth, up 11%, for instance.
Consumer Medical Supplies & Supplements (down 10%) and Consumer Packaged Goods (down 15%) suffered the most in the week just ended. Most of what is sold in the medical category, of course, is not COVID-19 related. As for Packaged Goods, the decline is likely a natural pull back after a spate of panic buying of products like toilet paper and paper towels.
Beyond the big weeks for Luxury Goods and Beauty & Cosmetics, and good news for some other categories, the seven-day period showed continued strength in ecommerce spending overall. Sales were up 18% since the last week of February. That week serves as a benchmark of sorts, as it was the week before shelter-at-home policies started rolling out in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere.
Along with solid growth, the overall trend was a continuing move toward homeostasis. The majority of categories moved up or down by percentages in the single or low double digits. Some categories that had seen monstrous growth weeks returned to earth.
The trend toward shopping that looks a little more normal began to surface last week with fewer categories swinging wildly in either direction. It’s a trend that makes sense. Living, working, learning, recreating, worshipping etc., at home is what we do now. Consumers are finding their footing. They’re building routines. They’ve acquired the new and different things that they need for a new and different lifestyle.
But many are acquiring those things in ways they haven’t before — by shopping almost exclusively online while all but essential retailers have closed their brick-and-mortar stores. And all of it plays out in the flattening volatility of ecommerce transactions.
Leisure & Outdoor, which is up 112% since Pulse tracking started, was up just 3% for the week. Grocery & Household Goods, which not surprisingly saw a triple-digit-growth week as news of stay-at-home orders circulated, was down 5% the most recent week. Despite the loss, the category is up 32% for the full period. And Baby Products, which also had a triple-digit week early on, finished the most recent week up 7%.
Even subcategories that had experienced periods of 70% growth during the stay-at-home orders, moderated during the most recent week. The Media, Toys, Hobbies & Games category was up 3%, after hitting 70% growth the week the first statewide stay-at-home orders were announced. Weapons & Accessories sales declined 4% after increasing 69% three weeks ago. And Adult Toys & Novelty sales dropped 5%, after seeing a 70% increase last week.
While this week’s story appears to be one of rebalancing shopping preferences, buying in the era of COVID-19 has been anything but predictable. It will be interesting to see what the next week brings. And having that additional week’s worth of data will give us that much clearer a picture of where we’re headed.
April 1, 2020
Ecommerce sales are strong, if unpredictable, as the pandemic rages on
Consumers continued to embrace online shopping as they created new routines in a world marked by a virulent virus and the need to stay home as much as possible. Weekly data from Signifyd’s Ecommerce Pulse showed that ecommerce sales were up 17% week-over-week, contributing to a nearly 14% rise overall since the end of February.
In fact, the increase during the week ending April 6, marks the biggest increase to date.
But, as we’ve mentioned before, the rising tide of ecommerce does not translate into higher sales for every retail vertical. Driven by unusual circumstances and practical needs dictated by the coronavirus, consumers have concentrated their spending in certain verticals at certain times while pulling back from others.
For the seven-day period just ended, consumers continued to focus on items that make life at home more comfortable, while also spending in some verticals they have largely neglected since the national conversation turned to COVID-19, pandemics and lockdowns.
Spending in the Leisure & Outdoor category, which includes games and hobbies, was up 34% for the week and 106% for the period since the week of Feb. 25. Yes, jigsaw puzzles are a thing. And so are video games — boy are they.
Also up in the 30% range was the Alcohol, Tobacco & Cannabis category, which has seen its percentage increase in sales rise every week since the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic.
Somewhat more surprising among the categories that experienced double-digit sales increases were Luxury Goods, up 10%, and Beauty and Cosmetics, up 29%, both of which have seen lackluster or worse sales before and during the coronavirus quarantine.
Still, the fluctuations fit the pattern of the COVID-19 era, which is: There is no pattern. Last week, we noted that groceries and the category containing toilet paper and paper towels were down significantly after earlier weeks in which they showed huge gains. Baby product sales were also down (37%) last week, after more than doubling in sales earlier in the month.
Oh, and this week? Sales of baby products were up nearly 50%.
It’s possible, when it comes to categories such as luxury and beauty, that as consumers settle in to the reality of sheltering at home, they begin to consider purchases that were typical back when things were normal.
Beauty was a prime suspect for pent up demand, notching significant sales declines in three of the first four weeks tracked by the Ecommerce Pulse. In fact by the end of last week, sales had dropped 30% since the end of February. Now, the strength of sales last week has the category approaching break even.
Electronics has not seen the same effect, but got a glimmer of good news last week. The category has been battered since the end of February, with sales falling 38% between then and now. Last week, however, sales were up 2%, which is something in these discouraging times for the category.
Other changes worth noting for the week ending April 6: Auto Parts and Tires notched it’s second consecutive week of 15% increases, ending an ongoing sales skid. Grocery was up 13% following two down weeks after a monster increase the week a number of shelter at home orders were announced.
Obviously, online sales fluctuate overall and by category every week. But a stress-inducing event like the current pandemic causes more dramatic swings. There is panic buying and buying by those seeking to take advantage of strong demand by selling goods on secondary markets. Think surgical masks, hand sanitizer, toilet paper and disinfectant.
The wild swings make life difficult for merchants who are expending a great deal of energy just maintaining business continuity. Online retailers’ employees are working from home and their supply chains are complicated by disrupted manufacturing and the need to keep warehouse and delivery workers safe.
But weeks into the coronavirus era, it is evident by the numbers that retailers and retail workers are continuing to deliver.
March 25, 2020
Sales continue to grow amid dramatic swings
The venerable market forces of supply and demand appeared to be driving online shopping behavior during the week of March 24 to 30, as residents in much of the world sheltered at home to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Overall, ecommerce sales are up 4% since late February. For the week ending March 30, sales increased 9%, as categories like apparel, auto parts and even luxury goods rebounded after falling through most of March.
Still it was a week of ups and downs — depending on the vertical — that reflected two trends: Demand has waned as shoppers realize they have what they need and that they’ll be able to buy more as needed. And supply remains tight on some items, paper products for instance, that still have been hard to come by.
Products that flew off the digital shelves early in the pandemic have slowed considerably. Groceries, which saw a 110% sales increase in mid-March, were down 25% the week of March 24 to 30. The story was similar for consumer packaged goods, which includes toilet paper and paper towels. And even commodities and collectibles, which includes gold bars and other precious metals, slid 28% week-over-week after two weeks of strong growth.
Slowing sales were also evident in baby products and pet supplies, both of which saw strong sales in mid-March as consumers first braced themselves for a long stretch of staying at home. The pattern could be an indication that in some categories, the pandemic has prompted consumers to buy more, faster than they normally would. That could mean that retailers in particular verticals, like baby products and pet supplies, are simply getting an advance on sales that typically would be spread out over a longer period.
The dramatic fluctuations have been well documented with stories of spikes in face masks, hand sanitizers and protective gloves. But each day seems to bring new stories of rapidly rising demand. Demand for digital thermometers, for instance, have surged to the point where innovators like Kinsa, a maker of internet-connected thermometers, have a real-time view of fever spikes around the country, according to the New York Times.
Meanwhile, the trend toward buying items to make home more entertaining and comfortable continued from previous weeks during a week that saw government stay-at-home guidance and policies extended through April. Home goods, and leisure and outdoor products — think games, video games, exercise equipment — continued to notch increases last week, though not as robust as the week before. The category including alcohol and cannabis saw its biggest gain of the month, up 17%, though the category has reported sales increases in each of the weeks since the pandemic was declared.
Fashion, apparel and luggage also bounced back, a trend that the news of the week reflected with Nike, for instance, reporting that digital sales increased 35% in its quarter ending in February, a period during which much of China was under shelter-at-home orders due to the coronavirus.
March 18, 2020
COVID-19 drives consumers to the two Gs – groceries and gold
From now on there will be before COVID-19 and after COVID-19, which is evident everywhere, but especially in consumer data. The week that the disease caused by the coronavirus was declared a pandemic, online sales spiked.
In particular, grocery sales were up 110% for the week of March 10 and the category that includes gold bars shot up 123%. The numbers tell the story of a collective desire for security and the ability to protect what is dear.
The sale of baby products soared 123% as employers began sending workers home indefinitely and rumors of stay-at-home orders began to circulate. Pet supplies sales were up 59%. And no, the difficulty in securing toilet paper was not just gallows humor — package goods were up 160%, no doubt driven by sales of TP and paper towels.
Clearly with the spread of coronavirus, appetites had changed. The sale of luxury goods dropped 20%; beauty and cosmetics were down nearly the same and electronics were off 15%.
Fraud trends also look to be changing amid the chaos and order spikes brought on by consumer anxiety. In a time when 43.1% of online shoppers tell Signifyd they use no more than four passwords across all their online accounts and 41.7% said they don’t change passwords on retail accounts, experts see a fraud wave coming.
The ecommerce environment is likely to provide the kind of chaos that fraud thrives in for weeks or months to come. Consider March’s gyrations:
- The week of March 3 saw typical ups-and-downs in sales that could be seen for any number of reasons, during any number of times of the year.
- The following week (March 10 to 16) saw the massive swings noted earlier.
- The most recent week (March 17 to 23) saw swings moderate considerably.
In fact, data for the most recent week, ending March 23, showed some slowing of sales, with grocery sales down 19% and baby goods falling 38%. And toilet paper and paper towels? The sale of packaged goods dropped 21% in the week just ended. Even gold’s increase leveled off, with sales in Commodities & Collectibles rising 31%.
We’re collecting more data to determine whether the slowdown was because popular items were sold out and retailers couldn’t meet demand or because consumers were taking a break from stockpiling essentials. Where will consumers turn next?
There are indications that they are settling in at home for the long haul. Sales of Home Goods & Decor rose 15% the week of March 23 and the Leisure and Outdoor category was up 38%, perhaps reflecting purchases of exercise equipment, games, hobby-related items and outdoor furniture to make staying at home more stimulating and more comfortable.
Figures are derived from the Signifyd Commerce Network
March 11, 2020
As COVID-19 reality set in, consumer habits shifted wildly
The World Health Organization’s declaration that the spread of COVID-19 had reached global pandemic levels was evident in the ecommerce sales data for the week ending March 16. The stretch saw government orders in various parts of the United States that residents stay home, meaning that those who could work remotely began a regimen of working from home.
It was the week that the reality of the destructive sweep of the coronavirus became evident. Beyond the shelter-at-home orders, major sports leagues and organizations suspended all competition. Large events were cancelled. Beloved actor Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Williams, announced that they had tested positively for the virus. Suddenly someone millions could relate to became the face of the disease.
Coronavirus was becoming very real. And with that, ecommerce sales spiked, particularly sales of items that brought a sense of security and comfort — and those that appeared to be in short supply due to panic buying among some.
Online grocery buying, which had declined 4% the previous week, skyrocketed by 110% as consumers became more skittish about the notion of joining dozens of others in supermarket aisles. The flight to safety was also apparent in a big jump in the sales of Commodities & Collectibles, a vertical that includes precious metals, such as gold bars. Sales in the category spiked by 123%.
And, as covered extensively in the media, paper products — particularly toilet paper and paper towels — became extremely hot commodities. Sales in the consumer packaged goods category were up 160% the week that the crisis officially became a pandemic.
There was also clear evidence that consumers were intent to take care of those who depend on them the most. Sales in the baby products category more than doubled, increasing 160%, after remaining flat the week before. And pet supplies sales increased by 59% the week of March 10, after having fallen 6% the week before.
It was the start of what would no doubt be weeks of sales fluctuations fueled by emotion, need, supply and demand.
March 4, 2020
Early March saw the quiet before the coronavirus storm
While the devastating effects of the coronavirus in China had been widely reported by early March, the reality of the coming pandemic was just beginning to take hold in the United States and Europe, where clusters of cases were being seen.
Ecommerce sales the week of March 3 reflected the relative normalcy of the times with moderate fluctuations in sales that could be seen for any number of reasons during any number of periods during the year. Only two retail verticals showed sales variances in the double digits compared to the week before.
Notably, the sales of business supplies spiked — sales were up 79%, according to data from Signifyd’s Commerce Network. Numbers don’t explain themselves, but such an increase makes sense with the prospect of major business disruption on the horizon.
It’s likely that America’s C-suites were focused more intensely on the world news of the spread of COVID-19. Executives and managers no doubt watched as regions and countries were locked down and employees were told to work from home, unless they were in essential roles with organizations that were doing essential work.
It would not be unreasonable to speculate that some executives were beginning to execute on their business continuity strategies. Beyond forecasting and pivoting, they were making purchases that remote workers would need for the mid-to-long term and stocking up on those supplies they’d need to keep their operations running.
In a way, the first week of March provides a baseline — the time before COVID-19, even though technically the coronavirus was upon us. The data shows a relative calm compared to what was to come. Coronavirus had not yet created the sort of change in shopping habits that it no doubt would.
Consider, for example, the data around what often becomes the most popular items in times of natural disaster or disruption. Consumer packaged goods sales — the category that includes toilet paper and paper towel — were flat for the week ending March 10. Baby products sales actually fell from the week before.
That storyline would change abruptly.
The Latest Ecommerce News
The Ecommerce Pulse Report from Signifyd was designed to provide ongoing coverage of changes and trends in the ecommerce landscape during the COVID-19 pandemic. The data in this report illustrates how ecommerce verticals are performing now in comparison to the pre-COVID benchmark period. Data is aggregated by category across 10,000+ ecommerce merchants globally.