This Is How Much Online Retailers Are Gaining in Sales Amid Coronavirus Fears

As Americans hunker down in their homes to stem the spread of the coronavirus, retailers have already begun to see gains in shoppers’ online spending over the past few weeks, one study suggests.

Data from predictive retail analytics firm Quantum Metric found that the COVID-19 outbreak, which has forced state and local governments to impose quarantines and limit movement within some major metropolitan areas, has driven consumers in the United States to do their shopping on digital platforms. According to the study, U.S.-based retailers with both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce channels have experienced a 52% revenue growth rate online between the fifth and eight weeks of 2020 (Jan. 27 to Feb. 23) — the period when the illness began its rapid spread outside of Asia.

What’s more, the analysis found an 8.8% increase in conversion rates, compared with the same period the previous year, indicating that many more of the shoppers who were visiting websites actually made a purchase. To reach these results, Quantum Metric analyzed roughly 5.5 billion anonymous and aggregated U.S.-based consumer retailer visits, both on the web and with mobile, from Jan. 1, 2019 through Feb. 29, 2020.

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The firm explained that the notable shift to e-commerce is a result of local stores running out of stock due to delayed shipments; consumer stockpiling or accumulating enough goods to ensure they don’t run out; or shoppers actively avoiding public or crowded places. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has indicated that the coronavirus can be transmitted through human-to-human contact.

Since Quantum Metric concluded its data analysis at the end of February, the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. — as well as the government response — has ramped up significantly. As of today, more than 5,700 Americans have tested positive for the virus and at least 93 have died.

Although researchers at the firm forecast a potential revenue boost from consumer stockpiling to certain retailers’ Q1 reports, it suggested that the impact might not be enough to churn out a “great” quarter. This is because many companies have already announced widespread store closures, resulting in a loss of foot traffic and a subsequent dent in their bottom lines.

“In-store shopping has always generated more consumer spending, so the increase in online may not make up for any lost in-store traffic,” added the analysis. “The data does, however, clearly demonstrate the benefits that these retailers, who excel at offering digital products, are having on our society right now.”

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