Exclusive data and figures: What does the end of lockdown mean for online sales?

Trend Watch 10th edition

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Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, our conversational platform has registered nearly 35 million transactions and more than 54 million messages between consumers and more than 2,000 brands around the world. The analysis of this data allows us to put together a Trend Watch to inform the decision-makers. This 10th edition is dedicated to the end of the lockdown. Businesses are reopening, how will online traffic evolve for online sales? Your questions answered here. 
Key-points:
  • E-commerce activity remains high despite the end of the lockdown. We are seeing +53% more visits and +61% more sales on the sites of our clients in the consumer goods sector during the week of May 11th compared to the first week of March
  • Activity seems to be recovering very slowly but continues to slow down in the tourism sector, with traffic cut in half and -71% transactions in the week of May 11th compared to the first week of March
  • Customer Insights: the messages exchanged on our platform deal less and less with coronavirus. We recorded 3 times fewer coronavirus-related conversations than during the week of March 16th; the start of lockdown.

 

COVID-19 will undoubtedly leave lasting effects, one of them is the acceleration of digital use. Commercial activity shifted online at breakneck speed in many countries around the world as governments declared lockdowns. Will e-commerce continue to perform at an all-time high once the crisis is over? The answer is yes, partly, for McKinsey. "We expect changes in consumer preferences and business models to outlast the immediate crisis. This has begun to play out in China, where there has been a 55 percent increase in consumers intending to permanently shift to online grocery shopping, and an increase of three to six percentage points in overall e-commerce penetration in the aftermath of COVID-19."* Since the beginning of the month and especially on May 11th, measures to end the lockdown have been gradually increasing in Europe and around the world. This is an opportunity to observe the evolution of digital activity, and to get a first glimpse of post-crisis trends. 

 

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1. Traffic and transactions: E-commerce continues it’s upward trajectory while tourism remains off the table

The progression of coronavirus has created a response in online commercial activity globally, resulting in an explosion of traffic and online sales for multiple players in the consumer goods sector. In Italy, e-commerce sales for consumer products rose by 81 percent in a single week, at the beginning of March.* Thus, as the end to social distancing begins in numerous regions around the world, we now have to question, how will e-commerce evolve
 
New online habits have come to stay as part of our daily lives; at least, that’s what the research from GlobalWebIndex shows. It reveals that nearly half of the world's consumers do not plan to return to physical stores "for a while" or "for a long time" once the rules of isolation have been relaxed. In fact, only 9% of shoppers say they are ready to revisit shops "immediately" after the measures are lifted.** 
 
It comes as no surprise that the data collected from our platform, represented in the graph below, confirms the clear preservation of digital activity in the first weeks of May. Since the week of May 11th, which marks the first week of the end of the lockdown in France, traffic continues to grow on the sites of our clients in the consumer goods sector (+53% visits compared to the first week of March). We also recorded a 61% increase in online sales during the week of May 11th compared to the first week of March, after a peak of +65% at the end of April.
 
Among the verticals that seem to be benefiting from the lockdown, let us note the breakthrough of the fashion & jewelry sector, which achieved +31% of sales in the week of May 11th compared to the previous week, and that of household equipment, with +6% of transactions.
Graph #1-4
Lets turn to the tourism and transportation sector. The measures put in place during the lockdown, travel bans and border closures have hit tourism activities hard, threatening the market to close a third of its global turnover by 2020, according to UNWTO.
 
Will the relaxing of health restrictions around the world have a positive impact on travelers' plans? Our statistics show that it is still too early to tell. Consumers seem to be waiting for new travel announcements to replan trips. The graphs below show the evolution of traffic and online sales for our customers in the transport, tourism and travel industry. The week of May 11th, traffic on industry sites is up slightly but is still half of what it was in the first week of March. Transactions are experiencing the same trend, going as low as -71%.

 

Graph #2-3
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2. Online conversation volumes are gradually returning to normal.

Purchasing advice, requests related to delivery times, cancellation, or the postponement of orders, etc. the need for online support and reassurance has never been more important than during this crisis. Since the beginning of March, we have been observing very high volumes of conversations on our platform. 
 
  • In the consumer products industry, conversation volumes have been steadily increasing since the beginning of the crisis, even doubling by the end of April. The week of May 11th, we see the beginning of a slowdown, with a 9% drop in conversations compared to the previous week. However, volumes remain well above pre-crisis averages, with still +84% more conversations compared to the first week of March. These high volumes are linked to the strong e-commerce activity in this sector.
  •  In the transport, tourism and travel industry, concerns related to the health crisis began at the end of February. Unsurprisingly, conversation volumes, are therefore half of as large as was recorded at the beginning of March. Online conversations resumed during the week of May 11th (+23% compared to the previous week), in correlation with the uptick in traffic.
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3. Customer insights: visitors ask less questions related to COVID

Which subjects are visitors asking brands? Our platform allows us to collect and analyze the content of online exchanges, in order to track customer concerns in real-time. As shown in the graph below, since the beginning of March, conversations mentioning terms related to COVID-19 have continued to grow across all sectors, seeing a peak in the week of March 16th. However, the trend is slowing drastically. During the week of May 11th, conversations related to coronavirus showed twice as high as in early March, compared to 6 times in the week of March 16th; the beginning of lockdown.
the progression of COVID-related conversations slowing
The end of the lockdown along with strict health measures should lead to a return to normal delivery times and conditions for orders. However, this turnaround is not yet observable on our platform, as the crisis has left a large amount of uncertainty about current and future measures in its wake. The graph below represents the evolution of conversations dealing with delivery or cancellation of orders on our platform since the beginning of March. These have more than doubled since March 16th. The volume of conversations about delivery or cancellation of orders remains twice as high in the week of May 11th. 
Delivery issues and queries decline
 
Sources : *McKinsey & Company, Adapting customer experience in the time of coronavirus, 2020
**GWI, Coronavirus Research, April 2020 Multi-market research wave 3