Featured | May 14, 2020

Ecommerce and digital behaviour changes since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown

Ecommerce and digital behaviour changes since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown Image

The UK’s lockdown may have only been announced 7 weeks ago, but the difference in the day to day now seems like it was several months. The awkwardness of setting up video calls and ensuring people can see your screen now seems to have (mostly) disappeared. It is now just a normal part of daily life both along with a sudden rise in interest in exercise, baking banana bread and alcohol.

At the very start of this we (like many other agencies and in-house marketers) called for calm and made the case for marketing activity to continue where possible, even if it has to be in an altered form. Now we have had over a full month in lockdown, we’ve analysed data from a range of eCommerce companies to see how things have changed, and how it has impacted marketing.

Devices

Changes in device usage was one of the things that first stood out to us during the initial stages of lockdown. The below graph showed us that ads for one of our ecommerce clients were triggering more on desktop/laptop than before.

This did not happen because of any bid adjustments, but likely because many people are taking shopping behaviour to their laptop/desktop as they work from home. 

However, this has now changed. Data from Global Web Index shows us how people in the UK are saying they are spending more time on their smartphones.

This is also backed up by our own data. The graph below shows the change in devices used to browse eCommerce websites from March to April for our eCommerce clients.

This is further supported by the data below, which shows ad impressions by device. The top bar shows the data for April, with the March data being shown in the striped bar.

It seems that the initial big swing to desktop has levelled out and people are back to predominantly browsing on their mobiles.

Time of Day

The severe disruption to our normal routines and daily lives have caused an interesting shift in the times of day we’re browsing. The below data shows the YoY change in the hour the people visit eCommerce websites.

Whilst the percentage change is relatively low, this data encompasses over 5 million sessions so this does result in changes for thousands of users. 

There are some thought-provoking interesting observations from our data. We’re used to seeing traffic and impressions spike during commuting hours, but now the vast majority of people have no commute, more browsing and search behaviour is taking place during the 9-5 hours (the ‘normal’ working day). 

The drop in evening browsing is also prominent. There are likely multiple reasons this is happening, but a couple of plausible reasons may be that:

  • People are trying to ‘unplug’ in the evening in an effort to forge some sort of work/life balance in these different circumstances.
  • People on furlough do not need to wait till outside of work hours to shop.

Traffic

Whilst this of course is a huge KPI for many marketers, it is a difficult one for us to analyse across the board for a couple of reasons. Firstly, year on year comparisons are very difficult as there are many variables such as search rankings, and campaign budgets that could drastically sway data. For example, a 30% increase in traffic may be a result of a year’s worth of SEO work rather than the Coronavirus. 

Secondly, the way coronavirus has impacted search volumes varies massively across industries. The clients we have analysed come from a variety of industries including; beauty & cosmetics, furniture, clothing, lifestyle and childcare. Largely these industries haven’t been as negatively impacted as some others. 

The below tweet from @eCommerce shows impact across industries:

So, this is a metric that needs to be analysed on a client by client/industry basis. Using the Rising Retail Category information from Google as well as the fantastic Trends tool from SEO Monitor, allows you to see growth for specific search terms as well as topics. Matching your own website data with the change in search volumes will help show you if traffic to your site is rising or falling in line with search volume and if you can capitalise on any opportunities.

Social Acquisition

Whilst Social acquisition data is susceptible to the same issues mentioned above, we did want to highlight this channel as there are some interesting findings for our eCommerce clients. There is a fair bit of variance between brands, but all brands are seeing an increase in traffic from Social. On average traffic from Social channels is up 85% Month on Month. 

Whilst this could be a result of increased brand activity, the Global Web Index data (previously mentioned) shows that 32% UK users are saying that they are spending more time on social channels.

Across all markets, that is broken down into the following demographics:

Conversion Rate

For some clients we have seen a significant change in conversion rate, which has resulted in a large uplift in revenue. Whilst this does vary by industry, in general there has been an uplift across the board. We have noticed that brands with smaller AOVs have had the largest increase in conversion rate.

For some clients there has been a huge difference for April YoY:

eCommerce Client 1
eCommerce Client 2

The second client was affected by store closures, but rather than cut marketing budget they diverted it to paid search. The returns have been impressive, with a 232% increase in conversion rate and huge increases in revenue. Their current ROI for paid search is over 600%. Now online is now their only source of revenue, they have seen great returns by investing in it.

Takeaways for Digital Marketers

Our data only makes up a tiny fraction of the full eCommerce market in the UK, so it’s essential to assess your own data when trying to find insights for strategic recommendations. Whilst some industries may still be negatively affected, there are many companies that are going through a boom and are experiencing the same things that our clients are. 

Whilst we don’t know what even the short term future holds, it is essential for marketers to act now whilst we are in a period of significantly increased online shopping. To help maximise your returns, the below recommendations are based on some of the data above and our own analysis of SERPs and companies.

1. Ensure you’re making use of automated bidding to account for changes in device and time behaviour.

Whilst you should be using automated bidding anyway, it is essential to do this now whilst there are such massive fluctuations in browsing behaviour due to the current circumstances. Using automated bidding means you will not lose out on unexpected changes for your particular circumstances and in reality, it should give you a lot more time to perform research and analysis, which is of heightened importance right now.

2. Make sure your shopping feed is set up properly

Understably, there is disruption in supply chains and stock. Ensure that your feed is set up to properly account for this so you are not bidding on items that you cannot fulfill orders for. 

The example below shows an Argos shopping ad for the term ‘Exercise Bikes’ which has seen a monumental increase in YoY searches from 60.5k searches last April to 673k this April.

However, the product is not available for delivery and is not available within a 30 mile radius (not that I should be travelling excessive distances anyway). 

There is a possible argument that I could be remarketed to later down the line when this product comes back in stock. However that may not be a tactic that guarantees vast returns with a timely purchase like this, which is very likely inspired by the lockdown.

With such a sharp increase in search volume for this (as well as many other searches), a badly optimised feed could lead to poor ROI from shopping.

3. Update your Ad Copy, Meta Descriptions, Titles and Body Copy

For many people, their reasons for shopping for certain items and the factors that influence a purchase decision have changed. This means our messaging should change to suit that. 

The Global Web Index study has highlighted factors that are more important when online shopping than before.

If you’re able to offer some of these factors, then it is essential to highlight them. This is especially important in your ad copy and meta descriptions as it can help increase click through rate and traffic. 

In some instances, we have seen brands create specific pages for products that are in-stock or are available for quick delivery. With the increase in search volume and conversion rates, this could be a great way to add confidence to those looking to purchase.

Let’s Get Social (With Social Media)

Data clearly shows that Social Media usage has seen a sharp increase during this period. With such volatility in search volumes, social channels can be a great way of driving traffic to your website. 

If you want to reach new audiences beyond your current fanbase, then the good news for marketers is that CPCs for paid ads on Facebook have dropped.

With cheaper click costs, incredible targeting options and higher usage from the general population, now is a fantastic time to invest in paid social media advertising.

5. Get Your Local Listings In Order

Whilst we are still uncertain of when the high street will reopen (in whatever form that may be), now is an opportune time to ensure that your Google My Business and Local Listings are all in order. 

When shops are allowed to be open, it is likely that the public are going to heavily rely on online sources to find out crucial store information. Ensuring that your local SEO is well optimised will be crucial to driving footfall back into stores. 
This guide from Google shares some great advice and information for updating your GMB.

“When written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters – one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.”

John F. Kennedy

The absolute priority for businesses should still be the health and wellbeing of staff and customers. If that can’t be guaranteed, then operating like before is simply not worth the risk. 

But for those who have adapted and can operate in a safe manner, the current situation has created an opportunity for marketers to attract a whole wealth of new customers who have never thought before about shopping online for the products you sell. Whilst the future landscape is another topic entirely (but one we’ll be discussing soon), the current climate cannot just significantly boost your revenue in this short period, but also give a foundation for sustained long term growth.

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