Coronavirus + Ecommerce: What to Know

Plenty of uncertainty exists within the digital marketing community on how the Coronavirus outbreak will impact e-commerce now and for the near future. It is, overall, still a very delicate and complex topic to be discussing.

Nonetheless, we here at Sales & Orders know how important is is that we continue to remain open and to communicate what we are seeing.

First, What “They” Are Saying

Coming from Search Engine Land’s own Greg Sterling, plenty of speculation still surrounds the current atmosphere from the perspective of retailers themselves.

Greg’s article explicitly points to a recent survey of only 304 retailers done by Digital Commerce 360 – a survey that asked simply for expectations as opposed to actual experiences noted.

304 is an important number to note as it is reflective of not only a very small (almost microscopic) control group but also that which consists of only US-based merchants. 

Even so, the information is just as important to digest as if it were that of a survey of 10,000 retailers given the nature of this globally-impacting disease:

Digital Commerce 360 Coronavirus ecommerce survey

(Source: Digital Commerce 360)

What I personally keyed in on as I read through the article was this particular paragraph:

“Otherwise, the survey expresses retailer concerns about the supply chain and consumer demand. Asked about what they’re doing to respond to coronavirus, 20% said they’re “taking aggressive action,” 44% said they were “taking some action” with more to come, and the remaining 36% were taking a wait-“and-see approach.”

The way I see it, staying informed is only half the battle. What you do with the information is the other half, and that half is what’s most crucial in a time like this.

Now, What WE Are Seeing

Before I go on I want to stress the importance of staying open minded. The data I am about to share with you – while telling in many ways – is also limited to the amount of time it has taken for us to collect it.

What I can tell you:

    1. Our control group is far greater (over 8000 accounts) than that of the survey performed by Digital Commerce 360 as we look at all retailers using our app and currently advertising Google Ads using Shopping campaigns – not just on US-bases stores
    2. The data represents just shy of 30 days of past performance data aggregated across all of these accounts. Is that enough? Never, but its more data based on the larger control group and is based entirely on aggregated performance metrics, not speculation or conjecture
    3. We were only able to collect and share impression and click data for Shopping Ads on Google at this time which is important to note since most retailers not only consider Google to be their #1 channel for advertising but is where the majority of their ad budget goes to.

Coronvirus 30-day Google Shopping data for ecommerce


On its own, the data is showing a nominal increase over time which is to be expected given not only the significant number of retailers aggregated in our control group. A positive takeaway is that it is in fact an increase as opposed to a decrease in shopper behavior.

What we can infer from the data is that as shoppers are forced to stay home more, they are likely spending more time shopping online. 

To be frank still, because the data is an aggregate, we still must be aware of performance by sector or retail vertical as well since some business types may be seeing a decline versus others seeing a steady gain.

BOTTOM LINE: More so than ever before, it is beyond crucial that retailers make smart, data-driven decisions about their marketing, advertising, and their businesses as a whole.

Being Mindful is the Key

What I’ve shared with you today can only be described as extremely short-term outlooks. In speaking with not only our users and customers but ALSO prospective users and customers the general consensus has been that things remain steady.

There have been only a very small number of reports to not only the contrary but also to the extremes of the contrary such as businesses shutting down completely.

So, what things should retailers be focusing on right now?

    1. Don’t Panic, Use Data – I could throw report after report at you but none of it will really matter in the end. Instead of harping on the little picture, you should be focusing on the big picture. Keep a close eye on your data, your performance trends, and look to that for guidance on the what to do next.
    2. Be Both Proactive & Reactive – This is something that you should never change but more than ever it is crucial that you are making the right decisions, at the right times, for the right reasons. This includes keeping your product feeds in check and healthy, ensuring your ad campaigns are not running out of budget, and reacting to any glaringly important trends in performance.
    3. Customer-First Mentality – Whether you or your business has been directly or indirectly affected by the coronavirus outbreak, remember that your customers are very much experiencing the same or similar woes, doubts, problems as you are. Keep your lines of communication open and even consider upping your customer service game a few notches to ensure or even boost shopper confidence with you.
    4. Be Smart, Stay Healthy  This goes for you and your staff, however small or large your business may be – because without you or your staff there cannot really be a business, can there? Remain up-do-date on current events and stay connected with information from your local and from federal authorities. Follow best practices to help curb the spread of this disease. If possible, adjust your staffing policies to allow for primarily remote working.

The one thing that I, personally, will NOT do is speculate on your behalf. I don’t necessarily know your business or your products. I don’t know your limitations or lack thereof.

That would firmly put me in the “let’s wait and see” category.



, ,