No doubt the most cataclysmic event on a global scale right now in 2020 is the coronavirus pandemic and it is redefining habits, especially shopping in many unusual ways.
Ecommerce has providentially become the more preferred form of shopping over mortar and brick shops.
However given the underlying health crisis leading to major lockdowns across the globe, shoppers are wondering if one still be infected by the coronavirus through packages ordered online from e-commerce retailers.
Experts are finding that the virus can live on surfaces from three hours to up to three days, depending on the material. (Note that conclusive findings are difficult to come by in these early days of the virus, and as experts continue their study of it, these numbers may change.)
That said, it’s unlikely that COVID-19 would survive on your purchased items from the time they were packed to the time you received your package (especially with the slowdown in the delivery system). And shipping conditions make a tough environment for COVID-19 as well, so it’s not likely you’ll be exposed via the package itself, either.
According to the CDC, “There is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures.” The CDC’s statement refers to packages that have been in shipment for at least several days and did not come into contact with any sources of contamination after packaging.
The World Health Organization addresses the concern as well, by saying that it is safe to receive packages from locations with reported COVID-19 cases. From their website: “The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.”
Generational Purchasing Responses to COVID-19
The response to COVID-19 hasn’t been universally felt across generations, with consumers of different age groups responding differently to the crisis.
It is important to caveat that this is a rapidly evolving situation so surveys are quickly outdated as behaviors change with the circumstances. This applies to data shared here and below.
Gen Z and Millenials.
While people in general are concerned about the growing pandemic, the youngest generations are particularly altering their purchasing behaviours.
One survey of U.S. and U.K. consumers found that 96% of Millenials and Gen Zs are concerned about the pandemic and its effects on the economy. This concern is leading them to change their behaviour more dramatically than other generations, which includes cutting back on spending, stocking up on items, and spending less on experiences.
Gen X and Boomers.
Although still concerned about coronavirus and its effects on the economy, older generations are slightly less concerned than younger generations and letting it impact their shopping habits less. For example, 24% of Boomers and 34% of Gen X said they were letting current events impact what items they purchase, compared to nearly half of Millennials.
While data shows that shopping behaviours are changing based on generational differences, we’re also seeing variations based on gender.
While survey data shows that women are more likely to be concerned about the effects of COVID-19, it also shows that men are more likely to have it impact their shopping behaviours. One-third of men, compared to 25% of women, reported the pandemic affecting how much they spend on products. Additionally, 36% of men, compared to 28% of women, reported it affecting how much they are spending on experiences (travel, restaurants, entertainment, etc.).
Men were also found to be shopping online and avoiding in-store experiences more than women. This includes taking advantage of options that limit in-store interactions like BOPIS (buy online, pick-up in store), curbside pickup, and subscription services.
Data from Stackline has also revealed the fastest growing and declining ecommerce categories in the US.
In March, disposable gloves topped the growth list, showing a 670% rise in ecommerce sales this year when compared to March 2019. Bread machines came a close second at a 652% growth rate, driven by an increase in home baking as panic buyers cause shortages of bread on the shelves of supermarkets.
Other popularly sought out items online include cough and cold products (+535%), long-lasting foodstuffs like soup (+397%) and dried rice (+386%), as well as weight training equipment (+307%) and dishwashing supplies (+275%). While some of these products have seen a surge in demand over recent weeks, it is likely that some will begin to decline in the future as the frequency of high-value purchases (i.e. of home gym equipment) and bulk buying lessen.
In contrast, and perhaps unsurprisingly, suitcases and briefcases ranked as the ecommerce products experiencing the biggest decline, with a 77% drop in sales since March last year. Meanwhile, cameras (-64%), men’s swimwear (-64%) and bridal (-63%) also saw significant downturns as a result of outdoor excursions, holidays and weddings being postponed.
Fashion retailers have lost a lot of visitors at the moment. After all, who’s buying a new outfit just to stay in the house?
According to Search Engine Journal (SEJ), due to the closure of many schools across the globe, home-schooling and school equipment queries are seeing huge spikes in demand, good news for any retailers supplying B2C education equipment.
Garden furniture tends to get a lot of searches on the weekends but has demand has been rapidly growing since more severe social distancing measures were put in place across the UK and U.S. last week.
And of course, home gaming and entertainment have both skyrocketed over the past week or so. Both Xbox and Netflix have seen notable spikes in search interest over the past week.
Travel has also understandably nosedived. Traffic to lots of travel sites is ironically up, but most of it related to customer service requests or cancellations.
Indeed these are all very awkward trends for the ecommerce sector, indeed a far cry from the usual concerns expressed by shoppers and products and services usually shopped for online.