In our last analysis, we looked at three key markets (USA, Germany, Italy) to bring you some answers about what effect the global pandemic is having on consumer shopping behavior on Amazon.
What we saw was a change in consumer shopping trends during just one pivotal week: From the end of February until the beginning of March (the week of the 9th). During this time, a heightened awareness of the threat of COVID-19 seemed to have finally reached Europe and North America, and it showed in users’ purchases.
Of course, since the 9th of March, there have been many new developments, including:
- Countrywide lockdowns
- Restrictions to FBA inbound shipments and vendor purchase orders (only essential items) on the 17th of March and extended on the 27th. Note: Inbound shipments and purchase orders are likely to resume this week.
- Out of stock and major delivery delays for many products on Amazon
Here is an overview of the most significant changes so far:
Now, with a little more time and a lot more data, we are looking to determine the broader context for mid-to-long term buying shopping trends, with the caveat that the only constant is change. We expect that these trends and market conditions will continue to evolve. And, so too will our analyses and strategic guidelines.
This week, we are focusing on coronavirus e-commerce opportunities – categories and subcategories experiencing the most significant demand growth overall as a result of the global pandemic.
Our analysis is based on quantitative and qualitative surveys, anonymized aggregated data as well as complex analytical models.
Coronavirus: Review of Consumer Shopping Trends
We set out to discover how demand has developed on Amazon during the period when key markets, (the USA, Germany, and Italy) experienced changes to their daily lives as a result of the spread of COVID-19. We compared these changes to the ‘pre-pandemic’ era, here defined as the first six weeks of 2020 (until February 9th).
The following are the top five main categories that have seen the most growth this year, including purchasing data until March 23, 2020.
To be sure that growth is neither amplified or dwarfed by market size, these graphs have been indexed to represent the comparative growth by category using a ‘pre-pandemic’ sales baseline of 100.
eCommerce Trends & Opportunities: United States
eCommerce Trends & Opportunities: Germany
eCommerce Trends & Opportunities: Italy
Taking an overview at the top-category level, we are for the most part seeing that the early-identified growth trends are confirmed in all three markets.
Coronavirus eCommerce Shopping Trends: Slowing But Steady
Health & Household (week of March 23, 2020: -18% in the US, -8% in Germany, -28% in Italy)
- While some major categories face major decline, this one has remained relatively stable.
- The Italian market’s purchases in this category have remained constant since the advent of the pandemic. Dipping for the first time more significantly during the week of the 23rd, this category may recover enough to stay steady.
- The US market saw a steady increase through February, which peaked during the second week of March, followed by a slight decline since the 9th. Interestingly, Germany’s purchases in this category followed a very similar trajectory. Both are likely to peak again slightly with the increase of coronavirus cases if Italy is any indication.
Groceries & Home Basics
Grocery & Gourmet Food (+30% in Germany, +5% in the US)
- A closer look at Germany’s shopping trends indicates that this trend is coming in short waves, seeing the most growth near the end of February and the second week of March. A similar purchase pattern can be observed in the US.
- As long as going out for groceries remains one of the only sanctioned outings in both countries, we don’t expect this trend to take off more than it already has.
- And despite the need for delivery, you won’t see the Italian market charting in this shopping category.
- In contrast with the broad food and beverage offerings on the German and American marketplaces, the food selection on Amazon.it is comparatively limited: to mostly beverages, snacks, and dried goods.
- This might be because of a lack of demand in general: Culturally, Italians might be the least likely to adopt shopping online for food as it is typical to purchase food and especially produce from small and medium-sized family-run grocers, called ‘alimentari’.
Coronavirus eCommerce Opportunities: (Still) Growing Categories
Patio, Lawn & Garden (+319% in Germany, +133% in the US, -4% in Italy)
- In Italy’s case, a broader look shows that this consumer category is still important but simply outspent by other more powerful trends. However, this may have more to do with the lifecycle of the products purchased: Something we’ll tackle in more detail when we discuss demand sources.
- That being said, both Germany and the US markets are unlikely to have peaked yet, both seeing a significant increase in demand as recently as the week of the 23rd.
Trends: Entertainment & Activities
Video Games (+531% in the US, +499% in Germany). Why haven’t video games and gaming consoles taken off in Italy? As far as entertainment goes, this hobby is not quite as popular in Italian households, while the United States and Germany occupy second and fifth place respectively for global video game revenue.
- Toys & Games (+69% in Germany, +49% in the US)
We hinted at this in our first analysis, but now significant enough to call an activities sub-trend, is creative project purchases:
- Arts; Crafts & Sewing (+58% in the US)
- Musical Instruments (+31% in Italy, +11% in the US)
Office Products (+21% in Italy)
For Germany and the US, it’s perhaps still a bit early to track this trend. While each respectively saw their biggest increases last week, it wasn’t quite significant enough to impact the overall annual trend just yet.
Indoor Fitness & (Solo) Outdoor Sports
Sports & Outdoors (+108% in Italy, +38% in Germany)
While this eCommerce trend is likely to have peaked in Italy, seeing an increase of 299% during the second week of March, it appears to be remaining stable since. As such, we expect it will at least continue to hold for the US and Germany despite fluctuations, with the potential to peak.
New & Emerging Coronavirus eCommerce Trends
Because of Italy’s cultural similarities with the USA and Germany (as far as broad consumer shopping trends go – with a few notable exceptions and of course nuances) and has been (during this period) experiencing a more advanced stage of the pandemic, the marketplace can serve as a helpful model for trend forecasting for major markets.
DIY & Tools (+46% in Italy)
This makes sense for two reasons:
- Of course, while you are spending more time in your home it makes sense to invest in its improvement.
- The second is that whether you are working from home, recently out of work, or simply rarely leaving the house (as recommended) most of us have much more free time. This free time means ‘free’ labor for projects.
Purchases also appear to be stable in the US and German markets but are likely to not have peaked yet.
Beauty (+12% in Italy) Again, it seems that the strength of this trend in Italy could be attributed to its pandemic stage rather than cultural difference. Both Germany and the US saw significant growth in this shopping category recently, suggesting that spending growth is likely where spa culture is common.
This theory is also supported by a recent study suggesting that beauty product purchases, notably skincare, are on the rise in the USA.
In addition to two new up-and-coming trends are two relevant takeaways from the data this round:
- The cultural component (by marketplace) can’t be ignored when making shopping predictions
- Longer-term entertainment activities are likely to include a creative element
We’ll cover both in more detail, along with the seventh trend ‘Bringing the Outside In’ on the sub-level.
Coronavirus: Shopping Trends & Opportunities for Subcategories
Consumer Shopping Trends: United States
Proving the country’s love for Video Games, the American market is experiencing a massive increase in sales for the Nintendo Switch, growing since the beginning of the year by a staggering 2,979% (i.e. almost times 30)!
With ‘Outdoor Storage’, ‘Patio Furniture & Accessories’, and ‘Gardening & Lawn Care’ consumer shopping subcategories all experiencing growth rates between 198% and 438% – it’s safe to say consumers in the US are serious about investing in ‘Backyard Betterment’.
It should be no surprise that creative activities in the US market manifest in a major increase in ‘Arts & Crafts’ and ‘Needlework’ categories.
Two driving forces for that:
- ‘Replacement’ shopping trend. Arts & Crafts make up an approximately 36 billion dollar industry in the United States – dollars which are largely spent at brick and mortar stores.
And, while the debate rages on over whether these stores are considered ‘essential’ or not, many will be at least encouraged to venture online for some or all of their craft purchases.
- A renewed or completely new interest in sewing and crafts.
Habitual ‘sewists’ under normal circumstances tend to sew less during the spring and summer, in favor of outdoor activities. But, 2020 is likely to be an exception for obvious reasons.
Furthermore, many feel compelled to answer the call for home-sewn masks where there are shortages.
Finally, why not pick up a new (indoor) hobby? Google Trends show searches for ‘sewing’ and ‘DIY’ on the rise in the US.
It looks like fitness and outdoor activities are a mainstay, with a (huge) 479% increase in ‘Sports & Outdoor Play’ overall so far.
And, just as all three markets share a love for sports, they certainly also share a love for music. (While the top charts emphasize this growth primarily in the US and Italy, the German market is also strong in this category.)
Involving skill-building and entertainment, learning to play an instrument is a great go-to while we’re confined to our homes. Keyboards & MIDI are up 238% in the United States.
In other forms of indoor entertainment, ‘Puzzles’ purchases increased by 187%.
Consumer Shopping Trends: Germany
German consumers share the US’s appreciation for the Nintendo Switch, showing an impressive 844% growth in this shopping category.
Also charting significantly is the Playstation 4, up 687%. Under normal circumstances, the next anticipated increase in game-spending would take place just before Christmas – which is why the latest iteration, the Playstation 5, is scheduled to be released at that time.
To see such a spike in sales for a soon-to-be superseded console demonstrates German consumers’ sense of urgency for entertainment now. These sales may also, in part, be bolstered by the fact that the Nintendo Switch is now sold out, with only third party options currently available for sale on Amazon.de.
Just as ‘Arts; Crafts & Sewing’ soared at the top level in the states, there’s a trend suggesting that German consumers are also looking for creative projects to entertain themselves. ‘Craft & Paint’ grew by +375%.
While ‘Garden Furniture & Accessories’ (+495%) and ‘Gardening’ (+431%) are firmly planted (pun intended) in the ‘Backyard Betterment’ category, the huge surge in ‘Flowers & Plants’ (+754%) might be an effort to bring the outside indoors.
A cliche for a reason, Germans are known to love nature and hiking – a hobby that’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep up as traveling is discouraged.
‘Sports & Outdoor’ (+562%) activities remain strong at the overview level, including ‘Skateboarding (+400%) and Skateboarding & Rollerblades’ (+951%) seeing very significant growth. This shows a persistent interest to play outdoors – but solo – with respect to social distancing directives amid coronavirus concerns.
Both sports (skateboarding and rollerblading) double as a form of transportation, which will surely come in handy as the German government recommends against using public transit.
Finally, still impressive at the overview level, German consumers are bringing their spring and summertime outdoor pastime, Table Tennis, either indoors or into their own backyards (+725%).
Consumer Shopping Trends: Italy
Significant growth in ‘Paintings And Treatments For Walls’ (+353%), ‘Materials for DIY’ (+124%), ‘Products for Construction’ (+74%), and ‘Electric & Hand Tools’ (+38%) show that Home Improvement is so far one of the strongest consumer trends this year for Italy. And, could be an indication of what’s to come in other markets.
Craving creative projects too, ‘Paper, Blocks And Exercise Books’ increased by 162%.
Like in the USA, Italian consumers also expressed an interest in musical instruments but showed a stronger preference for ‘Guitars & equipment’ (+241%) over keyboards.
Indoor Fitness is still strong, with the trends we observed in the last analysis holding true: ‘Fitness & Gym’ (+178%) and ‘Martial Arts’ (+113%) – a cultural pastime – growing significantly overall.
Finally, let’s dig into the details of one of Italy’s newly charting top trends, ‘Beauty’, which we’ve slotted under the umbrella trend of Self Care:
- Mani Pedi (+148%)
- Bath And Body (+59%)
In times of stress, a ‘spa day’ is a common answer. Having spas closed but no shortage of stressors, it is only natural that Italian consumers should want to bring these rituals inside the home. Because of the popularity of spas and spa services in the US and Germany, a similar spending pattern in these markets is likely to follow suit.
Key Takeaways: eCommerce Trends & Opportunities During the Coronavirus Pandemic
A more broad overview of this year’s purchasing data on Amazon validates the coronavirus-era shopping trends we observed at the beginning of the month – with the important addition of ‘Home Improvement’ & ‘Self Care’ shopping.
In addition, a broader look highlights that, in addition to the coronavirus pandemic stage, cultural differences will have an important impact on accurately predicting shopping behavior.
In sum, we can confirm the rise in the following consumer shopping trends during the onset of the coronavirus crisis in major markets:
- Groceries & Home Basics (‘Grocery & Gourmet Food’ up 30% in Germany and 5% in the US)
- Survival Shopping (‘Health & Household’ seeing a quite modest relative decline in the US, Germany, and Italy)
- Backyard Betterment (‘Patio, Lawn, & Garden’ up 319% in Germany and 133% in the US)
- Entertainment & Activities – with a nod to creativity (‘Video Games’ sales soar in the US and Germany, up 499% and 531% respectively)
- Indoor Fitness & (Solo) Outdoor Sports (‘Sports & Outdoors’ up 108% in Italy and 38% in Germany)
- Home Office (‘Home Office’ up 21% in Italy)
- Bringing the Outside In (From ‘Plants’, up 754% in Germany, to ‘Puzzles’, up 187% in the US, to cultural pastimes such as Table Tennis, up 725% in Germany, and Martial Arts, up 113% in Italy, these marketplaces are bringing their hobbies home.)
- Home Improvement (‘DIY & Tools’ up 46% in Italy)
- Self Care (‘Beauty’ up 21% in Italy)
The long term viability of these trends will depend on the type of demand and product purchasing lifecycle.
It’s our hope that providing insights about the current trends on Amazon might illuminate potential eCommerce opportunities for sellers and vendors.
On that note, for answers, educational resources, and meaningful conversations around the Amazon and eCommerce space, check in at our COVID-19 resource center where we will be posting new content regularly.
For a weekly update summarizing everything you need to know for your Amazon business as it relates to the COVID-19 outbreak, sign up for our newsletter.
Lastly, if you have any questions or suggestions for topics for further study, please do drop us a line below.