Shoppers Are Still Increasing Their Online Spending & They’re Looking for Alternatives to Amazon

Six months after pandemic restrictions were first put into place in the U.S., consumers are adapting to the new landscape and the impact of the coronavirus is clearer to see. A new study by CommerceHub contrasted consumer responses in August with those from March, identifying that shoppers are moving away from Amazon and yet staying online. It also predicted that e-commerce sales could even rise in November.

E-commerce enablement platform CommerceHub conducted a survey of over 2,000 consumers and found that 89% plan to spend the same or more on e-commerce over the next 90 days, likely coinciding with the holiday season and need for gift-buying. This choice to spend online, even as stores have reopened across the country, demonstrates a more permanent shift towards online spending than may have been initially thought.

The choice of e-commerce over brick-and-mortar also reflects enduring shopper views on safety; nearly 85% expressed some level of reservation about shopping at physical stores. Although consistent for the majority of every demographic, this concern increased with age: Baby Boomers reported being more concerned about social distancing in-store than millennials and Gen Z-ers.

Within e-commerce, CommerceHub also found that a swath of consumers were turning away from Amazon in favor of other online alternatives. According to the survey, over a third of shoppers have been opting for sites like Walmart, Target and eBay instead, as a result of out-of-stock inventory and shipping delays from Amazon.

Roughly 35% of consumers from across demographics have been making this move since March, with smaller brands also able to benefit from this search for other options. CommerceHub attributes that, in part, to the ability of other brands and retailers to manage their inventory in a more successful way. For instance, only 2% of orders processed by CommerceHub were canceled by the brand due to being out of stock.

A customer picks up his package at an Amazon Hub Counter
Due to Amazon prioritizing orders of essential products, some shoppers looked to other brands for nonessential purchases.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Amazon

“Amazon made decisions to prioritize orders for essential goods and changed the mix of products in their own warehouses,” said Erik Morton, SVP of product and strategy at CommerceHub. “Brands who drop-ship retained control of their products and were able to keep fulfilling for other retailers through the drop-ship model.”

While smaller retailers may still find it challenging to compete with these titans, the survey had positive news for all apparel merchants. Apparel (25%) was one of the three most popular categories for future consumer spending once the pandemic subsides — along with essentials (36%) and entertainment (25%).

E-commerce is not the only permanent new favorite among consumers. Just as many smaller businesses launched DTC and online presences, offering curbside pickup is another way that smaller retailers could win. Of those surveyed, CommerceHub found that 67% were convinced of the appeal of curbside pickup and would plan to continue using the service in post-pandemic times.

Most of these scores were consistent across the country, but there were a few differences between states. New York was the most likely to find shopping online convenient (75%) and most likely to prefer home delivery, as opposed to in-store or curbside pickup (70%). This may be attributed to the greater reliance on public transit there, as opposed to states where cars are more common such as Texas and California.

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