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How Does COVID-19 Affect User Behavior? Part I: Online Supermarket

  • Jean-Marc Bolfing

The lockdown has had very different effects on the use of digital services in different sectors: some sectors are experiencing an unexpected rush, while in other sectors traffic has literally collapsed. We analyze the changes in online user behavior in the course of the lockdown in a small series. The online grocery trade will be the first.

The Facts

We have immersed ourselves in the data of an online supermarket using digital analytics. The findings from this individual case can be used as an indicator and generalised for the entire sector. For the analysis, the period from March 13 to April 5 during the lockdown was compared with the weeks before that from February 24 to March 12, 2020.

More Visitors Who Stay Longer and Order More

The rush to the online supermarket is reflected in all key analytics figures: 250% more page impressions, 66% more visitor sessions, 130% longer average session duration and a doubling of the order volume.

The sharp increase in the number of page impressions was primarily the result of increased interest. At times there was even an „admission regulation“ active in the online supermarket investigated, which metered the number of users in the online shop to prevent server overload. However, the increase in visits did not generate the same amount of orders. There are various reasons for this: the availability of goods was not always guaranteed, the servers were not always able to handle the larger volume and were therefore temporarily unavailable. The most important reason, however, was bottlenecks in delivery dates: Delivery capacities could not be adapted to demand at such short notice. Customers therefore had no or no suitable delivery date to choose from, which is why they did not complete their order.

This is how much higher the figures are compared to the previous month.
This is how much higher the figures are compared to the previous month.

Increased Number of Men Shopping Online

There has been a slight shift in the gender ratio in relation to visitor sessions: The percentage of men in the online shop has increased from 37% before Corona to 42%. Correspondingly, the proportion of women has decreased from 62% to 58%.

Seniors Are the New Online Shoppers

The proportion of visitor sessions in the 65+ age group has increased from 14% to 24%. An increase in the proportion took place in all age groups over 45. Correspondingly, the share of all age groups under 45 years of age has decreased, in some cases massively. The 18-24 age group now accounts for only 7% of the clientele instead of 13%.

The shift of user sessions in the different age groups.
The shift of user sessions in the different age groups.
The most popular products were fruits and vegetables: bananas, potatoes, cucumbers, broccoli and co. almost alone make up the top 10 list of purchased items!

Best Sellers: Disinfectants, Toilet Paper and ...?

The sales of disinfectants increased already from March 10th, but partly came to a standstill, probably because the article was sold out. Like probably other articles that users searched for by means of free text search (sometimes more than 10 times more than in the pre-Corona period): Yeast, Dettol, flour, toilet paper were the top search terms. But these are not the articles that sold the most. The most popular products were fruits and vegetables: bananas, potatoes, cucumbers, broccoli and co. almost alone make up the top 10 list of purchased items!

And yes, Corona beer also sold better: more than twice as many orders were received for it. This, however, only in the period from 10 to 22 March compared to the previous year, and probably more so because there was a special offer for it. After that, consumption flattened out again.

Conclusion – More Traffic and New Target Groups

The restrictions and probably also the fear of infection kept many people from buying food stationary in the supermarket. Instead, food was increasingly bought online. Other goods were only available online anyway due to the closure of the shops and also caused a rush of visitors. However, the corona virus has not only brought more traffic, it has also mobilised new target groups for online food shopping: The proportion of senior citizens and men has increased massively.

Our Series – Online User Behavior at COVID 19 Times

On 13 March 2020, the Federal Council decided on drastic measures to slow down the spread of the corona virus. On 16 March it even declared an „extraordinary situation“: All shops offering non-essential goods and services were closed. Only grocery stores, take-aways, company canteens, meal delivery services and pharmacies remained open. The population was urged to stay at home and to observe distance rules. We want to analyse the changes in online user behaviour in the course of the lockdown in more detail in a small series.

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