Blog 100 – Two years of tracking and two years of change

Blog 100 cannot go without notice. It has been two years since the start of our consumer tracking and blog writing. What started off as a vision for Thought Leadership, soon also turned into provision for bespoke insights to help our merchants grow. Leveraging insights to make business decisions and build campaigns on, adds to quality of loyalty, and build relationship.

So many questions, so many learnings. To celebrate blog 100, we look back to see how, not just our and consumers’ lives have evolved, but also how things change over the course of 2020, 2021 and the first few months of this year of 2022.

So, what are the biggest fluctuations in product categories? How much change is visible re online volumes and spending? And consumer needs 2020 vs 2022: how are they evolving, thus changing? Read it all here!

Product categories

As the past two years seem to be all over the place. We see the same effect with product categories. The biggest hit is obviously for the Ticket/Travel category. With everything closed all over the world, and with all people restricted to their homes, there is nowhere to go or to buy tickets for. It is fair to say that this product category is a smaller category compared to other categories (e.g., Fashion, Media/Electronics, etc.). 



The lowest ever share of Tickets/Travel is only 2% (April 2020 and March 2021). Those two months are the proper lockdown months in Europe. But at the same time, Ticket/Travel also sees a decedent increase when the restrictions are lifted. In the spring and summer months of 2020 and 2021, followed by the autumn, the share is reaching a solid 7% to 8% again. After a small Omicron-dip in December ’21 (6%), it rises to 8% in February. With the arrival of spring and the farewell of the pandemic, it is to expect that Tickets/Travel will only continue to grow.

Sports/Craft/Play and Media/Electronics are categories that are always on the move due to seasonality. The spring season and holiday (sales) events make the numbers to go up for these categories. Springtime equals playtime. Better weather comes with better number for purchases in hobby articles and toys. Peak Season with Black Friday deals and just before Christmas sales boosts Sports/Craft/Play again for kids’ toys and purchases in Media/Electronics. The big dip for Media/Electronics follows in January, to go up again after summer.

The battle of the top 2: Fashion and Food/Health 
The top 2 in product categories is different every month. It is not a constant change of categories, but the interchange of two steady categories: Fashion and Food/Health. In the early days of our tracker, we see that Fashion started off in second place, making a steady growth from March onwards, with a small dip in August. Especially the colder months leading up to December are popular month to make purchases in fashion. Holidays and holiday sales event drive these purchases in Fashion. 

Food/Health competes with Fashion in the top 2. At the start of the pandemic, Food/Health has the biggest share of online purchases. Supermarkets and restaurants quickly started to sell their produce online, as consumers are ordered to stay at home, wearing the old comfortable sweatpants. The need for Food/Health products will always be there and is even higher when all other product categories are of smaller importance (e.g., in a pandemic). In June in 2020, stores started to open again, the virus felt contained and health worries down. From that month on there is a clear drop in share of Food/Health. But with the Delta variant in autumn, combined with the holiday season food festivities in full swing, the category takes the lead again.

Interesting to note is the substantial difference between Norway and the UK. Food/Health is a lot smaller in Norway. But the British share is high and steady. The battle for the top 2 in Germany and the Netherlands is fueling the average.

Volumes and spending

How much online shoppers buy online each month depends on the time of year, and the lockdowns in early 2020 and 2021. The volumes in 2020 are higher compared to 2021, but people also worried a lot more about their health in 2020. The conclusion we draw from all that is that 2020 was an abnormal year when it comes to online volumes. The lockdowns and health worries push the volumes up. In 2021 the volumes and health worries were lower. Consumers felt safe enough to go out and buy in brick-and-mortar shops again. That concludes the abnormality of 2020, and the more ‘regular’ number in 2021.

However, we do need to address the hockey-stick effect that still happen in December 2021. The simple explanation for this effect is the Peak Season sales events and the growing budget of consumers’ Christmas gifts. 

The online spending sees a similar pattern. Our first measurement is from March 2021. The spending goes up a little in the summer months. Most likely because consumers like practicing their (seasonal) hobbies. In autumn the spending dips, to only go up again for the Peak Season. The period leading up to jam packed festive December is traditionally one of everyone’s most expensive times of the year. We conclude the same with our data. Holiday sales events have consumers spending more and getting ready for the holidays.

Online vs offline shares

As aforementioned, we see that a lockdown, Peak Season, and health worries drive online volumes and spending. that rules, too, for the share of online vs offline spending. The fluctuation lies in the summer and holiday season. These two events pull shoppers to the online realm. Once those periods are behind us, the share of online spend decreases again. The current share of online (44.8%) is slightly smaller compared to offline (55.2%). But the summer months with a larger spend online is not far away. We expect change and the share to go up again at end of spring.

Needs

As our online shopping experience matures, as do our needs. Having used the webshop before was most important for choosing a webshop at the very early stages of our tracker. Then Flexibility and third; Perceived as a secure webshop. Now, two years down the line, there is a shuffle of the order of importance for choosing a webshop. 



Flexibility now comes first. Flexibility is a need that holds multiple needs: payment, returns and delivery. Heavy Online Shoppers’ (10+ online purchases per month) demands on ‘fastest delivery time’, ‘flexible delivery options’ and ‘flexible payment options’ have become slightly more important during the past year because of the gained experience of online shopping. The more experience a shopper has, the higher the need for flexibility.


I have used this webshop before no longer is the most important need to attract shoppers, but is an important need to Retain shoppers. Especially for light shoppers.

Security

If an online shopper feels doubts about the webshop’s security, there is a chance the shopper will abandon the basket in check out. However, experience comes with age and two years of shopping online. People now know better, feel experienced and have figured out the world of e-commerce. This experience makes a sense of security less important. 

New needs on the future horizon

Our blog does not stop here with the celebration of number 100. It is only the beginning so no changes there. But we are looking forward to learning and writing about the many new and exciting, unexpected, and obvious changes. Time will only tell what will happen in the coming monthly trackers and upcoming years. Worldly events, good and bad, will for sure have an effect on Needs, Volumes, Behaviors and e.g., Trends and Motivations. 

As we continue with our research, as will our blog. Number 200 is now on our horizon. Our journey towards this number 100 and to 200 is a rocky one, but with many valuable learnings and insights. We can already predict many changes in the landscape of e-commerce. We look forward to what is yet to come and hope to welcome you back onto our blog every week.

Until in the near Future,
AfterPay Insights.