COVID-19 Commerce for the Week of May 11, 2020

COVID-19 Commerce for the Week of May 11, 2020

A lot can change in a day, let alone a week. The commerce insights project has been tracking how COVID-19 continues to affect consumer spending around the world. Here are some of the top e-commerce trends we’ve spotted over the past seven days.

US Stimulus Checks Spark Surge in Online Retail Spending

The release of US stimulus checks seems to have correlated with a huge rise in online retail spending — especially within home and leisure industries.

Since the middle of March, when President Trump first announced the trillion-dollar stimulus package, online retail growth year-over-year across the board has risen from 9% during the week leading up to March 22 to 118% in the week leading up to May 3.

Sales within the home and leisure industries saw the biggest growth, rising from -1% to 136% in the same period. Fashion and accessories have also enjoyed an online uplift from -9% to 86%.

The retail trends perhaps vindicate the government’s intent to restart the US economy, although many question whether consumers are spending their stimulus checks — which are meant for essentials — on the right things.

UK Online Sales Plateau Ahead of Lockdown Exit

Online retail growth in the UK fell this week for the first time since April 30th. This followed rumors of the lockdown exit announcement, which was subsequently made by the British government on Sunday, May 10.

Some shops in the United Kingdom will reopen as early as June 1st, so we’ll be keeping an eye on the country to see how it compares to other European nations who have recently relaxed lockdown restrictions. The trend is that e-commerce generally falls off.

AI Alone Cannot Adapt to the “New Normal” Fast Enough

After seven or more weeks of working from home, consumers continue to change their purchasing habits. Rapidly. Much faster than the AI-powered automation technology marketers use to engage customers.

That’s because AI’s algorithms are only as good as the data that gets fed to them. No AI predicted the shift to digital, much less the pandemic. It’s never happened before. 

So how is AI handling the shift to e-commerce and customers shopping in ways they never have?

Not well. Or, not well without the human touch.

A great article from MIT Technology Review shows what a lot of marketers already know: Good data creates good personalization, and automation is the only way to scale that personalization. But as the pandemic has shown, you really need to watch your real-time performance closely — like minute by minute in some cases, because that’s how fast a behavior can trend. If you don’t have an e-commerce solution in place, you’re going to lose out to brands who do.

But as the MIT Technology Review article points out, simply having AI in your platform does zero good if you don’t have the analytical and strategic skills of the human marketer monitoring customer engagement and adjusting as necessary.

This challenging time offers us opportunities too. In the article, Rajeev Sharma, Global VP for Pactera Edge, points out that, “A pandemic like this is a perfect trigger to build better machine-learning models.”

Data Insights for the Week

The Americas

While states reopen in various stages, e-commerce has dipped this week in the US. However, several South American countries continue to see phenomenal revenue growth.

Revenue Increase Leaders at a Glance

Europe

The United Kingdom announced partial reopening for businesses last weekend, and since then, e-commerce sales have dropped. However, other countries like Finland, Belarus, and Russia are surging.

Revenue Increase Leaders at a Glance

Asia Pacific

This week we saw some positive growth throughout Southeast Asia. Apart from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, most countries were experiencing severe declines in growth prior to this week. Thailand is the most successful of these at the moment, but don’t count out India, Japan, and even China.

Revenue Increase Leaders at a Glance

Top Product Trends of the Week

Key Product Trend Insights: After several weeks at the top, tripods are starting to slow down as athletic wear and equipment are back on the rise with heart rate monitors and biking shorts rising the fastest.

Growth Rate of Online Transactions

There is a shift from pure-players to online retail, but for the most part, e-commerce is still strong in the Americas and Europe. APAC has started rebounding too, now with more countries having a positive growth rate.

Following are the growth trends we see this week, but you can explore Regional and Countries trends in more depth.

Trends by Region

Pure e-commerce: Europe’s on the upswing, though different countries are facing the “reopening slump.” APAC’s also doing better this week with more countries having positive growth trends.

Retail online: With the Americas and Europe both on a downward trend this week, just look at the spike for APAC. No coincidence that retail shot up as countries eased restrictions, especially in Thailand where revenue growth shot up 66% over the last two weeks with 175% growth YoY.

Trends by Country

Pure e-commerce: South America is the big grower this week (Argentina, Chile, and Columbia – along with Ireland in Europe – all have over 200% revenue growth YoY). Most notable in the Americas, Peru has risen swiftly to 105% revenue growth.

In Europe, Belarus and the United Kingdom pure-players continue to grow, though more incrementally than before. It’s nice to see Sweden, France, and Germany also growing over the previous two weeks.

Australia and New Zealand have switched places this week, with Australia taking the top spot in APAC. Thailand bears mention: While they are seeing a modest 29% growth rate, many countries in the region have had negative growth rates up until now.

Retail online: Mexico, Columbia, and newcomer Ecuador are all seeing over 200% growth, with Canada not far behind. The United States has dropped 8% over the last week.

Turkey is seeing the most online retailer growth again this week. While the United Kingdom has fallen a little over 30% in revenue growth, Russian retailers have grown to 152% in YoY revenue growth, a huge rise over the last two weeks. France has consistently been improving as well, though Finland achieved 90% revenue growth YoY, perhaps a great sign that life is slowly getting back to some kind of normal.

The big news in APAC online retail is Thailand with 175% revenue growth. Australia is also growing at a lower but stable rate of 9% over the last two weeks.

More to Come…

Check our blog next week to see the latest commerce trends from commerce insights. Or, if you work for a company that has access to data that would improve and expand commerce insights, we’d love to talk to you and get you involved. Never before has open collaboration been more important.

You can also find previous COVID-19 Commerce recaps here.

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