Ecommerce Explodes in April, With BOPIS More Popular Than Ever

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Key insight:

All that social distancing during the month of April led to huge year-over-year spikes in online shopping, with record-breaking sales logged for retail and buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) orders.

Some of the data in Adobe Analytics’ April ecommerce report, released today, is an almost comical snapshot of the current moment: Online pajama sales rose more than 143%, online grocery shopping is up 110%, and online alcohol sales surged 74%.

But the most surprising thing, according to Adobe Digital Insights director Taylor Schreiner, was an increase in electronics prices due to supply chain disruptions coupled with the surge in online consumer demand.

“Electronics have been on an almost uninterrupted downward trend since Adobe started tracking prices more than six years ago,” Schreiner said. “The past three months have seen an end to that constant downward price trend.”

Apparel retailers, struggling in the face of forced store closures across the country due to Covid-19, have been using Black Friday-level discounts to encourage online shopping, according to Adobe. And while consumers can generally expect discounts around May and June as retailers swap out seasonal products, the sales came early this year.

Online retail prices in April were 12% lower than they were in March—a drop that’s usually only about 2.9%. Helped by price cuts, online apparel retailers saw a 34% year-over-year sales increase in April.

Shelter-in-place orders have also increased consumers’ reliance on online shopping, while disruptions to shipping have pushed them to seek products at stores closer to home over the last couple months. “We’ve seen a tripling of BOPIS purchases year-over-year for the first three weeks of April,” Schreiner said.

The shopping strategy allows consumers to “get the goods they need quickly and from the retailers they know, while also letting retailers shift their retail footprint into a distribution system and hold on to their place in people’s lives,” he said. “BOPIS has been a win for everyone in this extremely challenging time.”

Another notable shift is how grocery prices have jumped—something that’s generally relatively stable—as more consumers switch to online shopping for groceries. But, according to Adobe’s data, it’s not the rising price of staples like eggs and meat that are responsible for the uptick. Instead, it’s shelf-stable processed foods that are getting more expensive due to increased consumer demand.

“As consumers stock up their pantries, the online prices of shelf-stable items have crept up,” he said.

The data also showed a 74% spike in alcohol sales between March 11 and April 21, and significant jumps in online sales of grocery items, electronics and books. Despite disruptions in supply chains for electronics and books, both are experiencing “surprising parallel changes,” Schreiner said. People are demanding more of both products while working and hanging out at home—something that’s not likely to change until the era of social distancing has passed.

“When I look at these data, I see indications of radical shifts in how people go about their day,” he said. “People are ordering online rather than going to the store; stocking up their pantries from their web browser; using mobile apps to buy dress shirts to pair with pajama bottoms; and decking out their home theater and home office while sitting at their kitchen tables.”

Those shifts mean that consumers, retailers and policymakers all need to reevaluate the trends that they were previously relying on, he said.

The data shows further evidence of ecommerce growth that’s been a near-constant refrain since the pandemic ushered consumers into their homes in mid-March. And while some companies are scrambling to make their products available through direct-to-consumer platforms, others are reaping the benefits of strong ecommerce systems that they already had in place.

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