The research, from Fresh Relevance, indicate that consumers are preparing for returning to work from the office by investing in their wardrobe. They also suggest many are preparing for the social distancing rules on public transport by investing in a private vehicle.
The findings, taken from a sample of 278 businesses within Fresh Relevance’s client base, reveal that eCommerce as a whole has benefited substantially from the closure of physical stores and consumers moving online, with online sales increasing by 59% between March and May 2020.
The impact of the pandemic on eCommerce revenue varies by industry. Online retail sales levelled out to stay between 160-180% of their pre-crisis level, after an initial boost throughout March. Following the easing of lockdown restrictions and with consumers starting to book domestic holidays for the summer, online travel saw an uplift across May. After online travel bookings fell to 23% of their pre-pandemic level in March and April, revenues improved significantly in May to 58% of their normal revenue.
The findings also highlight how the pandemic is continuing to have a mixed impact on retail verticals, as consumer purchasing priorities shift as the crisis progresses. In March, when consumers adapted to life in lockdown, verticals like food/drink, books/film and sports/hobbies recorded a significant increase in online revenue. In May, the verticals automotive, fashion and jewellery saw an uplift, in line with safety measures being eased and consumers enjoying the sunniest May since 1957.
After automotive online sales fell to just 65% their normal revenue in March and April, they managed to return to their pre-pandemic level in May. Alongside the automotive recovery, online fashion revenues increased to 156% and jewellery to 151% on average in May, as more people prepared for their return to the office and updated their wardrobes.
Mike Austin, CEO and co-Founder, Fresh Relevance, comments: “Over the last three months, we’ve seen online sales grow as consumers adapt to new routines and switch to online shopping during the temporary closures of physical stores. But even with non-essential stores due to open this month, eCommerce revenues are expected to remain strong as consumers have become accustomed to the convenience of online shopping and are dubious about returning to life as it was.
The uplift in automotive, fashion and jewellery sales in May is particularly telling; it indicates that consumers have started preparing for life in the new normal once restrictions are further lifted and people can return to working from the office.
Although still not great news for travel, we can see an encouraging trend towards recovery as people start to make plans for their summer vacations, even against current government regulations. This suggests there is pent-up demand which will be unleashed when overnight stays are permitted.
As the situation continues to change and we enter a ‘new era’, the challenge for companies selling online will be maintaining growth under more difficult trading conditions. With the economy and marketing budgets being heavily impacted by the pandemic, fostering loyalty by putting the customer at the heart of all initiatives will be key. A reduced budget doesn’t necessarily mean having to make sacrifices; navigating the next phase will be about prioritising the marketing tactics that are proven to make the customer’s life easier and that deliver predictable ROI.”