Kelly Davidson
Kelly Davidson 20 April 2020
Categories Ecommerce

How Covid-19 Is Changing Ecommerce

Coronavirus is a serious health threat that most of us have never experienced before. Every business owner, worker, and individual will need to take all of this as seriously as possible. Of course, some industries felt the impact more than others. In this article we will explore the impact on ecommerce.

The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on all of us and has changed the way we live. Gyms, movie theatres, nightclubs, and restaurants all over the globe had to be closed down, which made our routines quite different than we are used to. We had to make many adjustments to our lifestyles. Possibly the biggest one was in the way we do shopping.

With entire cities going into lockdown mode, going out to buy food, or necessary health,  safety and hygiene products is much more difficult. People have been advised to avoid public places altogether, meaning that companies are forced to adapt, and change the way they conduct their business, and try to appease the general public. Today, we’re going to see how the coronavirus has impacted ecommerce.

Different People Reacted Differently to the Pandemic

For the first couple of weeks, many people got caught up in the situation and resorted to stacking non-perishable items, hygienic products, and most noticeably, toilet paper. Why is that? Popular psychologist, Paul Marsden says that in order to explain this phenomenon, you have to look at our basic fundamental needs:

  •       Autonomy (the need to be in full control of our lives at all times)
  •       Kinship (the need to help and protect our family members)
  •       Capability (the need to feel like you’re making the right choices)

All of these emotions are always present in our lives. They are also much stronger during a time of crisis. But different groups of people had different responses to the crisis. A consumer-research company, First Insight conducted a study to see how people of all ages adapted their behavior to the situation. Let’s take a look at how different generations responded to the outbreak during the first few weeks. 

  • Millennials: The youngest generation in the United States has altered their shopping habits the most. They are worried about the current situation, which made them cut back on trips, experiences, and other luxuries.  
  • Gen Z: Staggering 96% of Generation Z are worried about the effects the coronavirus will have on the economy. Most of them are trying to save as much money as possible, which leads them to stock up on food and supplies.
  • Gen X: Gen X, on the other hand, are far less worried than the younger generations about the economy. That’s lead them to keep their shopping habits basically the same. Only a third of them have made any significant changes to their lifestyle.
  • Boomers: As one might’ve expected, Baby Boomers are the least concerned with the epidemic. Less than a quarter of Boomers – 24% to be exact – have made any changes to their shopping habits in the past two months. The biggest change is that they shop less often than before.

How Covid-19 Impacted Different Product Categories

During this time, people were gravitating towards certain products more than others. This makes perfect sense because people tend to go after things they feel they need the most during a crisis. Let’s take a look at which product categories got a boost in popularity since the crisis started and which ones become less desirable than ever.

Safety Products

US consumers have been stacking up gloves, masks, sanitizers, and antibacterial products like never before. A recent Adobe report reveals that spray sales surged by more than 800% while cold, flu and cough medicine has grown by almost 200%.


Unsurprisingly, another category that has seen a dramatic increase is non-perishable food. These are items that can stay on your shelf for months and even years. Nielsen research suggests that dairy products and shelf-stable milk substitutes have been up 300% in the last month.

Luxury Goods

People simply are not looking to buy expensive merchandise or services at the moment. Vogue estimates that the luxury industry could potentially lose $10 billion this year alone because of the outbreak. The numbers are especially high in Asia, where the outbreak started last December.

Apparel and Footwear

The fashion industry got it the worst. Many brands have been forced to close the retail branches of their business until further notice. Large brands like Patagonia, Nike, and DTC have all been forced to close their physical stores in the past two months. Overall apparel and footwear sales are down 20%.

Can Ecommerce Companies Overcome Covid-19?

If you’re a small business owner, this entire situation may look bleak. More than 42% of retail store owners are concerned about their customers and their shopping habits at the moment. However, the situation might not be so bad. You simply need to recalibrate your strategy and start targeting the right customers at the right time on the right devices.

As market research indicates, mobile purchases are projected to surpass $3.5 trillion by the end of 2021. However, since most people are staying indoors, we can expect personal computer sales to increase in the next few months. You should probably start studying the habits of PC users and see what you can do to change your marketing strategy in accordance with their needs.

How should you reach your audience? Opportunities are seemingly endless. According to GoodFirms research, here are the four most effective advertising strategies:

  •       Content marketing
  •       Pay per click advertising
  •       Email marketing
  •       Social media marketing

Final Thoughts

How will this situation change e-commerce? In truth, only time will tell. It’s important to note that while some branches and niches like jewellery,  expensive furniture, and designer clothes will suffer, the ecommerce market as a whole won’t take a huge hit.

People are increasingly using digital methods to stack up on non-perishables, shelf-stable items, and emergency supplies. The numbers for all of these products have been going up and we can expect the trend to stay the same in the months following the pandemic.

As an e-commerce professional, you just need to adjust your operation to the needs and expectations of your customers and you’ll be fine, no matter how long the pandemic goes on for.

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