What Businesses Should do to Survive COVID-19
With everyone’s eyes fixed are focused on CDC data, the general public anticipates drastic shifts to the way they used to live and consume items they want and need.
In turn, businesses understand that these changes are about to affect their entire business management systems — from supply chain to ecommerce adoption or expansion. And to stay ahead of the game and make informed decisions, there is data they need to look at.
Coronavirus Impact on User Behavior
Since 52% of consumers are trying to implement social distancing, more people are now shopping online for a growing number of new product categories. So, it is not just about a rapid rise in online purchases, but about the nature of that demand.
Some of the biggest retail chains have already been announcing that they are expanding their ecommerce sales. But COVID-19 has expedited this process. And although these businesses may seem to be better equipped to serve the novel customer needs, due to the pandemic, this shift is spanning out of control. Consumers start purchasing in categories that weren’t forecasted to see such a rapid rise in online shopping.
So, with the long-awaited yet accelerated shift towards online shopping, consumer behavior at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic is mostly about user behavior.
Thus, with insights from SEMrush data, we will reveal:
How the consumer demand has been changing within the past few weeks,
Which industries have seen the biggest spike in traffic,
Which products top the list of most searched online.
COVID-19 Top Impact by Industries
You would assume that the Health category would see the highest spike in search traffic. A. J. Ghergich has shared some interesting insights on health-related search trends during the coronavirus outbreak.
However, we have already been within this crisis for a while, and health is not the only matter preoccupying everyone’s minds now. It is all about getting through the quarantine and shelter in place orders. So, people start adapting to this “new normal,” and leisure/hobby categories are seeing the highest volatility at the moment.
We have also accumulated traffic data on hundreds of top websites across each industry with the highest volatility (SEMrush Sensor). Considering these industries are historically high-volume search categories, even a few percent increase implies millions of new site visitors.
So, let’s look at each industry that is seeing the biggest spikes in traffic and online searches in more detail.
Coronavirus Impact on Demand for Consumer Goods
Books & Literature (+16%)
It is not unusual that the Books and literature category is seeing the overall highest increase in traffic. We have also noticed the continuing rise of audiobooks with Scribd and Audible taking spots within the top list. Whereas, sites like Scholastic and Chegg are now a must-visit for students forced to stay and study at home.
Health eCommerce (+9%)
Health ecommerce brands see the second-highest traffic increase across all industries. Big pharmacy chains are absolutely dominating the online searches— Walgreens, CVS, Riteaid, and others. However, we can spot some newcomers as well.
The third most visited site is Goodrx, a telemedicine startup that allows tracking prescription drug prices and discounts on medications.
Home Decor (+7%)
With the shelter in place regulation, your house becomes your office, your school, a restaurant, and all those places you used to visit. So, many consumers turn to search for home decor — for pleasure or purely utilitarian purposes. Once again, we didn’t notice anything unusual about the user preferences for home decor brands - IKEA, HomeDepot, and Pottery Barn are among the most visited websites.
In comparison to previous industries, it may seem like a 5% increase in traffic is nothing, but retail is the category with over 14 billion monthly traffic. So, just within three months, it gained over 1.5 billion new visitors.
When almost all brick-and-mortar retail is shut down or considered dangerous to visit, all the everyday necessities — from groceries to that new iPhone charger — have to be purchased online. So, it is not surprising to only see the ecommerce blue chips within the top 10.
Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Apple, and Aliexpress — all of these giants are absolute winners of this coronavirus crisis. You can read up more on market winners and losers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in our latest post.
Stay-at-home order did not discourage consumers from thinking about fashion. After all, we will all get through this coronavirus crisis and leave our houses eventually. Moreover, many clothing brands have promoted big discounts and sales to drive consumer demand.
Although your local Macy’s and JC Penney are currently closed, almost 2.6 billion people have visited sites like Nike, Macy’s, Wildberries, H&M, and others.
Coronavirus Impact on Growth of Consumer Interest in Products
Now that we understand what is going on within the highest-growing industries for ecommerce, let’s get to the breakdown of what products are seeing the biggest rise in demand.
Home appliances, hobbies, and sports gear product categories are topping the list, as people shift their leisure activities indoors and turn their homes into an all-in-one space. The monthly searches for products from these categories have doubled and sometimes quadrupled.
The sports gear’s biggest spike belongs to kettlebells searches that have risen four times just within one month. The rest of the products are straightforward — Peloton, stationary bikes, and other exercise equipment.
You would expect to see air purifiers, freezers, and refrigerators to become more popular when people tend to stock up their houses with food and spend an unprecedented amount of time at home. What is puzzling, though, (puzzles take #2 spot in growth in the Hobbies product category). Also, “bidet” has witnessed the biggest search growth across the home appliances category.
Walmart’s Fastest-growing Products During COVID-19
Walmart is one of the biggest ecommerce players during the coronavirus outbreak.
And the most profound changes in consumer behavior and product preferences are visible when you look at Walmart.
It seems surprising to see that the top 20 most visited Walmart product pages have nothing to do with groceries. Video game consoles with Nintendo switch consoles absolutely dominating the market. Toilet paper and bath tissues, disinfecting wipes, and hand sanitizers are the topmost viewed products on Walmart’s ecommerce site.
eBay’s Fastest-growing Product Categories
eBay is another longstanding player in the ecommerce space. So let’s take a brief look at the product categories that are seeing the biggest spike during the coronavirus.
SEMrush’s data on eBay’s fastest-growing product categories proves the data we shared above. The biggest spikes occur within the fashion and hobbies categories if you look at the top 20. The only new products we see here are smartphones (probably, due to rumors that iPhone’s supply chain is under threat) and auto parts product pages.
Ecommerce & Consumer Trends During Holidays at the Time of COVID-19
Recent Easter Example
If what we have seen from the data above signifies some less obvious turns in consumer demand and preferences, some things remain the same. Holidays will always be holidays, regardless of any pandemic. So, we have taken a look at search queries that peaked throughout Easter time.
During the previous years, people rushed to the brick-and-mortar businesses to shop for Easter goodies. The inherent idea remained with us this year, with only one exception — during the coronavirus pandemic, people went online grocery shopping.
Here is the data on the search volume changes within the past two weeks for some of the most popular Eater-related keywords:
It seems like holiday season buying habits are staying with us, while the means of purchasing them change. So, it is clear that ecommerce businesses or brands selling online can rely on some conservative forecasts over their holiday marketing campaigns even throughout the pandemic.
What is more, given your product is on sale online, double down on digital marketing campaigns at the times of unprecedented online shopping spikes. For instance, the “Easter egg” keyword has seen a 20% increase in search queries YoY:
So, if the pandemic continues to spread, watch out for “conservative” consumer behavior during the holidays that are coming up our way. Then, adjust your digital marketing strategy to make the most of the shift towards shopping online.
What Ecommerce Businesses Have to Do Now
It is already clear that the coronavirus crisis will bring a long-term boost for ecommerce businesses, given they manage to stay in business during the rocky economy and shrinking consumer purchasing power.
But the economic difficulties will pass, while consumer behaviors will continue. Ecommerce habits tend to become even stickier once people go online. So, even if in the short-term, you may feel discouraged to invest in building an ecommerce future for your business. In the long-term, you are likely to double on the benefits.
If you are already selling online...
Right now: Update your Google My Business page with the latest information on your business. This post will guide you through the process.
Optimize your website for higher rankings, increased traffic, better user experience, and conversions. Your online customer experience has to be well thought through and smoothly executed to make sure you make the most of this emerging trend.
Go multichannel: Try to make sure your product is present across various platforms — from marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Aliexpress, Google Shopping, Facebook Shopping to social media to review forums. This will bring you scalability and ensure you are everywhere your customers want you to be.
If you are not selling online yet...
Offer gift cards for products that can be booked, paid for, and redeemed later.
Get a market share of existing buyer demand: Place your product on the most active marketplaces for your product category. Amazon, eBay, Aliexpress, Google Shopping, Facebook Shopping, and Instagram’s Shop feature — all of these platforms are available at your fingertips.
- Get your business online, even if your business is inherently brick-and-mortar. Such companies are also doing some incredible things online - from gift vouchers to social media contests. By being present online, you can not only tap into existing consumer demand but create one. So, get your business online as quickly as possible and slowly build up your online authority.