Consumers adjust to the ‘new normal’ in April: shift from seeking distraction to more varied indoor activities

It seems like the initial impact of the pandemic in Europe is now behind us. Where consumers’ first reaction was to stockpile, it now looks like consumers in The Netherlands, Germany and Norway understand the longevity of the situation.

Our previous blog posts have shown that in the last two weeks of March, consumers turned to the easiest form of distraction: food and entertainment. The new wave of data now reveals that, going into April, consumers also inevitably needed some variation in passing time at home. As a result, they got up off the couch and started consuming more physical experiences.

Where certain categories saw an initial dip in online purchases, our second wave of data shows that these categories now make a – sometimes impressive – recovery. Additionally, we see clear patterns in The Netherlands, Germany and Europe, as well as apparent differences. A clear conclusion for all countries is that consumers are slowly but surely adjusting to life with corona.

Norway: e-commerce growth (+27%) since corona outbreak is driven by only a few product categories

The overall growth in online purchases in Norway is largely driven by heavy (>100%) increases of purchases within Take away food, Toys and Food/groceries. Interesting in Norway is that Fashion never really experienced a decrease in purchases directly following the corona outbreak. Instead, Fashion is a category that has stayed strong throughout the pandemic. The same goes for Toys, Hobby articles and Home decor/furniture. 

But on the other hand, Norway also stands out as the country that has the largest number of categories that show a continuous decrease in purchases since the corona outbreak. Aside from Tickets and Travel/Transport, Norwegian consumers have also purchased less and less Pet food/supplies, Electronics/Telecom, Hardware/building materials and Gardening tools.

The Netherlands: growth in all categories results in a +24% increase in e-commerce purchases since the corona outbreak

In contrast to Norway, the growth in number of e-commerce purchases in The Netherlands is driven by a large number of categories. Directly following the corona outbreak, Dutch consumers did not reduce online purchases across many categories in the same Germans and Norwegians did.

Since the Dutch have increased online purchases across many categories, their barriers to switch from offline to online purchases has been lower – regardless of the product category. Sporting goods is one example of a category that only has grown continuously in the Netherlands. Besides the categories Tickets and Travel/Transport, there is no category in The Netherlands that has shown a continuous decrease in e-commerce purchases since the start of the pandemic.

Germany: moderate growth in e-commerce (+15%) since corona outbreak

Compared to Norway and the Netherlands, consumers in Germany have increased e-commerce purchases moderately at +15% overall growth with Hardware/building materials and Food/groceries showing the strongest growth in terms of number of purchases.

As in the Netherlands, ‘activity-based categories’ such as Hardware/building materials and Gardening tools have shown a continuous growth since the corona outbreak.
But what differs in Germany is that more play-oriented categories such as Toys and Hobby articles have not grown online at the same pace as in Norway and the Netherlands. And Sporting goods has decreased continuously since the corona outbreak, where it has seen a growth in both Norway and the Netherlands.

E-commerce in the ‘corona-era’ reaches maturity stage

Looking at The Netherlands, Germany and Norway, and the amount of e-commerce purchase since the beginning of the corona outbreak, we see a consecutive increase in number of purchases for the categories Food/groceries, Take away food, Health/Health food products and Media/Entertainments. For Tickets and Travel and transport, we see a continuous decrease in purchases. Consumers immediately started to purchase less and they have continued to decrease purchases even further in the past two weeks.

In all countries, the product categories Fashion, Beauty/Cosmetics, Toys, Hobby articles and Kitchen appliances took quite a hit during the initial impact of the corona outbreak. However, these categories have made an impressive recovery, as the amount of purchases is even higher than before the corona outbreak.

With Research Wave 2 added to our dataset, we can now conclude that the initial impact of the pandemic particularly resulted in consumers avoiding travelling and out-of-home entertainment as well as meeting other people. For most consumers, staying at home meant bringing both food and entertainment to their own living rooms instead. And now - as consumers understand the longevity of the pandemic – they have re-evaluated their wants and needs.

As a result, consumers have started making online purchases in categories in which they initially reduced e-commerce purchases, in order to satisfy a secondary set of needs. Consumers’ e-commerce purchases have therefore moved from the initial phase of mainly consuming food, groceries and media, to a more normal state in which consumers choose more varied products and experiences.

What does this mean for merchants?

Consumers’ e-commerce purchases are on the rise, and that implicates higher demands on merchants. Find out more on what merchants can do to adapt to these changes in our next blog post.