The state of eCommerce: Here's what's trending

66 days. That’s the amount of time it takes for a new habit to stick. Our lives have been turned upside down, and we’ve been forming new habits and picking up new hobbies much longer than that. The way we interact, the way we work, and the way we shop have changed considerably. We are creatures of new habits as a result of a pandemic.

As such, we’re seeing dramatic shifts in shopping behaviorsAdvertisers are adjusting strategy, rightfully so, taking cues from consumers and where they’re spending more time: with online entertainment and eCommerce. These new habits will shape our collective futures, and we’re breaking it all down for marketers right here. Amidst all these evolving changes, one thing is for certain, eBay Advertising is committed to helping marketers create meaningful shopping moments with real intent data and build trust and loyalty for the long-term. Let’s jump in.

No Longer a Convenience But A Necessity

The Covid-19 pandemic has had repercussions in almost every sector forcing many people and businesses to adapt to a new reality. Employees are working remotely. Local restaurants have moved from dine-in to takeout and delivery-only model. Instructors are conducting classes virtually. Parents are trying to survive homeschooling with online learning tools. Even doctors have adapted telehealth appointments. This new, at-home, online world is a daily adjustment and is most evident in online shopping trends. There has naturally been a stark drop-off in brick-and-mortar shopping. This period of isolation and uncertainty for many has resulted in dramatic overnight shifts in shopping behaviors. From bulk-buying to online shopping, people are changing what they’re buying, when, and how to adjust to their #newnormal. As such, eCommerce shopping has truly gone from a convenience to a necessity, and eBay is proud to be here for the more than 100M+ monthly visitors making at-home living a little easier. According to Comscore, eCommerce visits began a steady upward climb starting in February, picked up mid-March, and continued to rise in April while millions of consumers worldwide in quarantine shopped from the safety of their home for goods, services, and entertainment online. Changing behaviors have resulted in several product categories experiencing a surge in demand — and although a lot of them are practical, others might seem unexpected.

Online grocery shopping has picked up tremendous steam. More than half of shoppers reported placing an online grocery order in the past four weeks. Among those who bought groceries online during the pandemic, 33% placed their first-ever online grocery order. For many shoppers, these new patterns will result in a permanent routine. 31% of U.S. shoppers surveyed by Acosta—including 50% of millennials—reported being very or extremely likely to continue using online grocery pick-up or delivery once shelter in place orders are lifted.


Shoppers are Staying Healthy, Well Groomed, Productive and Entertained at Home

Many sources have been tracking and measuring eCommerce sales during the pandemic, including eBay, and the consensus is clear. Many categories have universally seen a surge in transaction volume year-over-year beginning in March:

The stark fluctuations in what people are buying within these categories reflect the current volatile climate. At the start of the crisis, CPG products were in high demand as panic pantry stockpiling put supply chains into overdrive. Soups, rice, grains, milk, and cream were high on the list as well as toilet paper and OTC cold medicine. Empty shelves due to high demand for health and safety products drove people to eCommerce marketplaces for their immediate needs. While these early trends reflected necessity, other trends also emerged.

April average daily eCommerce sales were up 48.5% over March with most of the growth coming from an emerging category of goods the industry is calling “New Essentials.” These are any items that help consumers feel more comfortable at home and typically fall under the Office Supply, Health & Beauty, Home & Garden, Home Improvement, and Pet Supply categories. For example, sales in Health & Beauty increased 53% and Home & Garden sales increased 54% by March 15 when stay-at-home orders first took effect. COVID-19 has never deterred consumers from shopping. It just changed what we shop for. Shipra Gupta a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, brings up an interesting theory: “We shop so we can feel some agency over this uncontrollable situation.” And the proof is in the numbers. Web-only online retailers were up 52% YoY. The number of online orders in the U.S. and Canada was up 56% YoY.

eBay has definitely seen these “New Essentials” rise to the forefront. Our marketplace has seen similar trends, along with a few others, as a result of necessity, new hobbies, and new passions consumers have picked up along the way. People come to eBay for one thing: to shop for what they love, what they need, and everything in between. Whether marketplace loyalists or people rediscovering eBay, shoppers are turning to eBay now more than ever as their trusted marketplace. What are they shopping for? Here’s what’s been trending lately:

Information is constantly changing during this pandemic due to the uncertainty surrounding the virus. This feeling of instability coupled with fear makes shopping patterns almost unpredictable. However, one thing is for sure, as consumers continue to turn to eBay for their needs, they will join a community of avid shoppers who not only love eBay’s huge selection and competitive pricing but are also passionate about #shoppingsmall and supporting local brick-in-motor retailers participating in the Up & Running Initiative. In fact, in a recent study, 64% of eBay shoppers said eBay is their go-to site for “hard to find items,” while 57% prefer eBay for fulfilling “interests & hobbies.” And half of shoppers indicated that they prefer eBay for deals and discounts, which will undoubtedly continue to drive shoppers to eBay as the looming recession unfolds.


Advertisers are Following the Consumer and Shifting Dollars to eCommerce

How are marketers responding? A recent study out of Advertiser Perceptions reported 49% of advertisers are taking their cues from ever-changing consumer behaviors and modifying their marketing strategy and spending to engage consumers where it matters most – online entertainment and eCommerce. In fact, 33% of respondents have moved dollars to eCommerce, and 28% of brands have even launched a new, unplanned campaign.

Marketers said increases in their programmatic activity will come from new or existing budgets, less so from other programmatic placements. 52% of programmatic budget increases will be at the expense of Traditional Media.

But it’s more than just a matter of engaging consumers where they’re spending more time that is attracting marketers. Marketplaces like eBay, by their very nature, are also inherently brand safe. Buyers and sellers can engage on a platform that’s free of unsavory and controversial content during a time when contextual relevance and meaningful moments are most critical. In tough times, they can even serve as a respite for distressing or tragic news. Ensuring brand safety is something eBay Advertising is particularly focused on which is why we’ve implemented procedures and taken steps to obtain third-party accreditation from the IAS and received our 2020 TAG Recertification.

It’s the responsibility of all digital publishers to put the right protections in place to ensure brand messages continue to be served to real shoppers and buyers with real purchase intent, not bots. And with mountains of first-party shopper data from our logged-in users, brands can sleep well at night knowing that the overall integrity of their brand, messaging and marketing dollars will not be jeopardized by online bad actors or placed in an unfair and unsafe marketplace.


The Power of Real Intent

For advertisers, eCommerce is a bright spot driving significant reach and full-funnel advertising solutions. eCommerce provides brands the ability to put their messages in front of shoppers with real intent. Consumers come to eCommerce marketplaces like eBay intending to make a purchase. Every visit, every purchase, every item viewed, every category shopped, every ad campaign engaged with – the list goes on – results in billions of shopping insights. With the advent of eCommerce platforms and online transactions, advertisers no longer have to depend on content-based assumptions about whether or not a consumer is intending to buy something. And, while they’ve gotten us much closer to true intent, third-party data providers don’t provide the transparency or robust set of intent signals that advertisers need to power successful campaigns.

New Habits Shaping our Future

On average, it takes 66 days for a new habit to stick. We’ve been forming new habits as a result of COVID-19 for well over 66 days. And with many shelter in place initiatives extending through May and even June, one thing is for certain, we’ll carry our new habits into our future. Whether it’s constantly washing our hands, turning to eCommerce as our go-to shopping destination, or brands taking a more humanistic approach to advertising, COVID-19 will have a lasting effect. In a recent Kantar study, 51% of consumers alone said their future online purchases will stay the same as last month.

“Long term, we and others in the industry predict that the shift in consumer behavior – opting for online purchases – is likely to outlast the crisis.”

Debbie Guerra, Executive Vice President, ACI Worldwide

It’s time to embrace new consumer habits, advertising strategies, and lean into real consumer intent. We’re just scratching the surface of what is possible, and eBay is committed to shoppers, sellers, and brands now more than ever. While a lot has changed, eBay continues to be a place where advertisers can invest in the power of real intent data to stay top of mind, fuel consideration, drive sales, and build trust and loyalty for the long term.

Want to learn more about shopping trends as a result of COVID-19 and how you can tap into the power of real intent? Contact eBay Ads today.