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Apr 03 2020

The State of ecommerce during COVID-19

Unbxd Strengthens Product & Technology Leadership Team to Drive Next Level of Growth at the Company.

Karanvir Gupta

Senior Manager - Product Marketing

Social Distancing. Lockdown. Work From Home. Non-Essential Businesses Shut. No public gathering – the world went to a complete halt, almost, as soon as COVID-19 took over the world in its grip. Let’s admit, we didn’t see that coming!

Over the last couple of weeks, COVID-19 has forced many retailers and brick-and-mortar stores to shut down and go non-operational. In more and more cities (and today as you read this piece), almost the entire world is encouraging citizens to stay indoors. This has spurred a drastic shift in the ways you and I are buying stuff. It has not only changed how we are buying but also what and when we are buying. The virus got all of us to reassess our priorities and buying trends.

We started seeing a spike in overall eCommerce activity starting 1st Week of March. Not did we know then that what was a regional emergency in China would take the form of a global pandemic and worldwide shutdown. This caused a surge in online shopping and bulk buying across the globe.

Unbxd powers eCommerce Search and product discovery across verticals for more than 1300 eCommerce sites in 40+ countries across the world. And over couple last few weeks, we closely monitored how eCommerce started to react to this worldwide pandemic and how it is going to shape itself in the times to come.

The data and insights below might as well prove useful to you in re-assessing your business priorities and being prepared for the future.

Overall eCommerce

We compared the data from the same time in the previous year 2019 to March 2020 and as well for week-on-week eCommerce activity. The charts below illustrate how the following metrics saw an increase:

  1. Site Traffic
  2. Search Traffic
  3. Transactions
  4. Conversion

We can clearly see, that consumers across the globe resorted to online search and buying to address their needs. Search traffic went up by 3% approximately and transactions went up by 3.3% starting the 2nd week of March in comparison to the 2nd week of February. Such fast was the reaction of the end-consumers to their shopping needs.

If you have a look at the Y-o-Y data, it is startling to see that for a 6.4 % increase in search sessions, transactions went up by 11.7%. Clearly, the on-site traffic and searches are being made with higher intent and likelihood of purchase.

eCommerce by Geography

We furthered our analysis by splitting the eCommerce activity by geography.

Clearly, the APAC and ANZ regions saw a huge spike in the number of transactions being done online due to being affected by COVID-19 first. This also reflects end-consumers pre-empting the lockdown and shutdown and resorting to stocking up stuff and essentials at their homes. 

ANZ observed a 13.88% uptick in online traffic and 26.42% surge in search sessions and a 51.08% increase in the online transaction for the corresponding searches made. Similar trends imply that likelihood of a purchase per search session is extremely high during such times of pandemic and crisis. 

With a 4.14% surge in search traffic and a 38.66% spike in transactions, we observed similar trends in APAC as in ANZ. However, on the contrary, we saw a dip in the overall online traffic for APAC.

US eCommerce traffic on the contrary didn’t see similar levels of a spike in either of the parameters. Site traffic went up by 3.06%, search traffic by 0.57%, and online transactions went up by 1.61%. Read for more eCommerce trends in the US.

eCommerce by Verticals

Fashion and Apparel have taken a big hit with overall site traffic seeing a dip of 8.25%, search traffic being down by 7.7% and online transactions being down by 11.04%. However, this also might as well indicate that when things are back to normal, end-consumers are going to binge-shop on these sites as a part of Retail-therapy to overcome what the world has witnessed.

As expected, Food and Grocery (under essential services) saw an increase of 55.19% in the site traffic, a whopping 188.7% increase in the search traffic, and a 304.94% increase in online transactions for the corresponding searches. This is a direct reflection of how end-consumers resorted to online stocking of food and other essentials as soon as the lockdowns and shutdowns were announced. 

B2B surprisingly saw an increase across parameters – in the Site traffic by 41.25%, search traffic by 38.51%, and transactions by 38.68%. This behavior can be a result of future shockproofing to maintain the stock supply in case of snipping off the supply chain across the globe in times to come. 

Lastly, we saw a very similar pattern in the Mass Merchants (as that of B2B) attributed to the same reasons – the fear of not maintaining enough stock when the markets open and return to normal. It saw a 14.91% surge in site traffic, a 4.87% increase in search traffic, and an uptick of 13.79% in online transactions Y-o-Y.


Clearly, the first reaction of the end-consumers during the times of COVID-19 (or for that matter any crisis time like these in the future, God forbid) is to leverage the online channels for buying and stocking up stuff. The essentials and consumables will be the first ones to start observing this change in online shopping behavior. Sectors that are heavily dependent on the supply chain and dependency on other geographies might as well see a surge in their online business about future shock-proofing. Luxury, Fashion, Apparel, and other non-essential would take a back seat in times of crisis. However, this leaves this sector with scope to prepare for the times when things get back to normal.

During these times of crisis, most of the world resorts to online channels for surfing, buying, and making decisions; with a higher intent or likelihood of purchase. We could infer that from the high transactions per search being made. Under such circumstances and to future-proof your business, it will be essential that businesses and enterprises are prepared to provide a seamless on-site shopping experience to the end consumers and shoppers.

Wishing for the world to heal and for a speedy recovery from the world epidemic!

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