E-Commerce Alert: Peak Season erupts mid November, driving e-commerce purchases to 2020’s highest peak so far – and Black Friday hasn't even started yet

We have added new research data for mid-November (interviews conducted November 12th to 22nd). E-commerce purchases have by mid-November grown to +61% in the Netherlands, +51% in Norway and +42% in Germany. This is a yearly high for all three countries, being based on consumer interviews that ended Sunday before the start of Black Week.

Our research now contains responses from over 57.000 consumers in The Netherlands, Germany and Norway over a period of eight months. The long-term online purchase trend reveal the same development patterns across all three countries, but with differences in magnitude, and it can be divided into 5 distinct phases:

The first phase in April/May sees a boom in e-commerce purchases. Our results show that this is driven by restrictions and a virus scare. During this period, e-commerce purchases peak at +32% in Norway, +37% in Germany and at +51% in The Netherlands.

During the second phase, in June and July, restrictions are eased and e-commerce purchases dampen. Consumer motivations also change, convenience replaces being (partially) locked down as the key driver for online purchases.

Going into the vacation period, the third phase of development shows a slight increase of pre-vacation purchases in July, followed by a seasonality low point where e-commerce purchases bottom out during August. At this point, e-commerce purchases are (compared to before the global pandemic) at ±0% in Germany, +5% in Norway and +15% in the Netherlands.

In the fourth phase we see a strong post-vacation recovery of online purchases starting in early September. E-commerce growth continues to increase at a steady pace throughout October, as the second pandemic wave hits and country restrictions again are tightened.

And during the fifth phase – the phase that we are currently in – we are entering peak season with Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Even before this week, e-commerce purchases hit an all-time high surpassing the initial peak that we saw in April/May. E-commerce purchases have by now grown to +61% in the Netherlands, +51% in Norway and +42% in Germany.

Peak Season impacts e-commerce purchase growth in mid-November

During late October and early November we saw that the e-commerce purchase growth was impacted by the tightened restrictions causing consumers to spend more time at home, in combination with a shift of purchases from brick-and-mortar stores to online channels.

In mid-November we don’t see a coninued shift of consumer spend from offline to online. I.e. the online purchase growth in mid-November across all three countries is not at the expense of offline purchases, consumers’ total purchases have instead increased.

We also see that the tightened restrictions that decreased time spent out-of home in late October/early November has not continued in mid-November (Norway excluded). As neither time spent out-of-home nor a shift of purchases from offline to online has impacted the online purchase growth in mid-November, we can conclude that this growth in online purchases is caused by another factor – the peak season.

For in-depth insights into Black Friday and Cyber Monday, read our blog posts about Dutch, German and Norwegian consumers’ expected sales week behavior.

What is next? 

Stay tuned for an upcoming wrap up of Black and Cyber Week as well as an outlook on the final stretch of consumers' Christmas shopping.