Covid-19 is having a significant effect on e-commerce. The lockdowns and social distancing caused by the pandemic are speeding up the growth of e-commerce, leading to the emergence of new businesses, product types and access to broader markets. Many experts believe that the current e-commerce boom in online sales underlines a permanent move towards online transactions.
US figures from QuantumMetric show that as of April, there was a 68% year-on-year (YOY) growth for retailers, surpassing a previous high in January 2020 of 49%. The Canadian and US e-commerce sector has seen a remarkable YOY increase of 129%, and online orders grew by146% overall. As the threat of lockdowns loomed In February 2020, conversion rates for online ordering grew by almost 9%, a figure that reflects a sense of urgency usually demonstrated by shoppers on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
What did experts predict?
This year’s Cyber Monday was predicted to be the biggest-ever day for online sales, with consumers expected to spend around $12.7 billion––a growth of 35% on the previous year.
According to statistics from Adobe Analytics, Black Friday online sales hit a new peak as they increased by almost 22%. The surge was accredited to people’s desire to avoid crowded shopping malls, choosing to shop from their living rooms instead.
On Black Friday this year, customers shopping online spent around $9 billion, a rise of 21.5% year on year. This statistic puts the day in second place after Cyber Monday 2019 for the highest spending day for e-commerce in US history. Adobe predicted that this year’s cyber Monday would be the largest ever day for digital sales, with anticipated spending of between $10 billion and $13 billion, an increase of between 15% and 35% on the previous year’s figures.
Luxury items and gifts such as games consoles, smartphones and TVs are usually the most sought after items on Black Friday, and they proved to be popular purchases. But this year, consumers added to their shopping carts items that they would previously have bought in-store, such as alcohol, groceries and clothes.
The sales started early this year, with retailers showcasing their holiday season offers both in-store and online in October, so customers had less incentive to head out to the shopping malls on Black Friday.
On Black Friday itself, Adobe found consumers spent $6.3 million per minute online, or $27.50 per person, on average. Spending on smartphones surged 25.3% year over year to reach $3.6 billion, representing 40% of total e-commerce spending. Click and collect orders also boomed, with a growth of 52% over the previous year’s figures for Black Friday.
Flying off the warehouse shelves were toys to keep the kids entertained indoors, such as Lego sets and Hot Wheels. Amazon Echos, Fitbit watches and smart TVs were also high on customers’ wish lists.
But this year, increasing numbers of consumers are also turning to online purchasing for groceries. On Black Friday, online food shopping surged by almost 400% compared with the daily average for October. Adobe also found that online purchases of pet products rose by nearly 250% while shopping for personal care products rose by an astonishing 556%.
Were the predictions accurate?
While some predictions for the growth of e-commerce this season proved over-optimistic, US e-commerce retailers took almost $11 billion on Cyber Monday, the biggest spending day so far recorded in the history of online retail.
But despite these headline figures, online sales grew by only 15.1% year on year from 2019, less than half of the 35% growth in e-commerce for Cyber Monday Adobe had forecast. It also indicated a slowdown from 2019’s Cyber Monday, when e-commerce grew year on year by nearly 20% from 2018.
A perhaps unexpected effect of the pandemic on consumers has been to fuel their support for small and local businesses that might otherwise be struggling. Small Business Saturday saw the most significant growth, with an increase of 30.2% in e-commerce year on year.