Corona impact: e-commerce purchases +6% with a huge shift in product mix

With the corona outbreak and all the measures that are being taken to stop the virus from spreading, also come changes in consumer behavior and attitude towards e-commerce.

AfterPay Insights research amongst 3,345 consumers in The Netherlands, Germany and Norway reveals that in the past two weeks, consumers are shopping differently than before the corona outbreak (read more about our research purpose). The number of purchases in Germany and The Netherlands has gone up by 7%, while Norway is stable. Not only have consumers changed their number of online purchases, but they have also started buying other products. Where consumers first mainly shopped online for ‘nice to have products’, they are now choosing to buy ‘need to have’ products. 

In this post, we share exactly which consumers have changed their behavior. You will also find out the reasons behind the change and gather more insights into what they are buying now. If you are interested in what consumers indicate they will be buying more of in the future, view our post.

Which consumers have changed their e-commerce behavior? 

Even though there are significant changes in consumer behavior, the data paints a fragmented picture. Since the corona outbreak, younger people, for example, display polarized behavior – some have increased their online shopping, while others have decreased e-commerce purchases. At the same time, older people (aged 45+) have continued to make roughly the same number of e-commerce purchases.

Another clear finding is that women have increased their number of online purchases, while men have not changed their behavior to the same extent. Almost a quarter of the ones having increased their online shopping are women aged 18-34. Most online shoppers with a higher income have also increased their number of online purchases.

Households with kids display the most polarized behavior of all different life stages: either an increase or a decrease in online purchases. Middle-aged consumers without kids and post-family consumers (kids have moved out) are significantly overrepresented among those not having changed their online behavior since the corona outbreak.

Why are consumers changing their behavior?

A key driver for consumers to increase e-commerce purchases is to avoid meeting other people in physical stores, i.e. to prevent themselves from getting infected with COVID-19. Due to spending a lot more time at home, another driver to shop more online is convenience. A third driver is that shops and restaurants are closed or have limited stock. In light of this, webshops often have a larger assortment and in that sense a better offer.

Drivers that do not significantly contribute to more online shopping are lower prices online, the difficulty to access physical stores due to reduced public transport or due to a changing need of products/services when spending more time at home.

Consumers who indicate a decrease in their number of online purchases do so partly due to financial reasons. They are also worried about society as a whole as well as their personal financial situation. These consumers not only buy less online, but are shopping less in general.

Other drivers for consumers to shop less online are wanting to support local shops and the worry to get contaminated by packages. Some consumers are also concerned that orders will be delayed or maybe not delivered at all.

How have consumers’ worries about the corona outbreak impacted e-commerce?

Without a doubt, the level of worry about the corona outbreak has a powerful impact on consumers’ e-commerce behavior. Consumers who are most worried about the corona outbreak have either reduced or increased their number of online purchases. Those who are less worried are largely unaffected in their e-commerce behavior.

Worried consumers who are shopping less, are mainly driven by a worry about their health and financial situation. And those who are worried and shopping more, are primarily worried about their own personal health.

What products are consumers buying more or less?

Not only is the amount of purchases changing, but also where consumers place their order, as well as what they buy.

Overall, consumers are buying more in the verticals Groceries, Health Food and Take Away Food with home delivery. They purchase less in the verticals Travel and Transportation, Fashion and Ticketing.

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We see some interesting differences between The Netherlands, Germany and Norway. For example,  the increase in online grocery shopping is the greatest in Germany. In Norway, the biggest shift is towards buying more toys - probably due to early school closures. In The Netherlands, hardware and building materials purchases have boomed, maybe because the partial lockdown has triggered overdue home renovation projects.

Consumers’ changing expectations of merchants: is this the new normal?

Currently, the most important reason for consumers to choose a webshop is if they have purchased there before, regardless of an increase or decrease in their online shopping.
That the webshop is perceived as secure is the second most important aspect, which is also connected to having a previous experience with the webshop. Consumers also think lowest price is important, but it is a distant third compared to the other two reasons to shop at a specific webshop. Being well-known does not appear to be a differentiating driver. Webshop demands do not differ between consumers who have shopped more or less since the corona outbreak.

However, consumers who have started shopping online more, or plan to do so in the coming month, are more demanding when it comes to the webshops they shop at. These consumers prioritize reliable and fast deliveries, clear in-stock information and want the merchant to have a wide range of products available. Demands that are also important for these consumers, but considerably less, are flexible delivery options and flexible return options. Even though these needs are smaller, it is very likely that consumers will look into this when deciding at which webshop they will place their next order.

What is coming up next?

We continue to analyze consumers’ purchase intent the coming month and we look into to the importance of specific drivers when choosing webshop. We will also share country deep dives with more in-depth information. Stay tuned!