PHILADELPHIA — Consumers have continued purchasing convenience items during the coronavirus pandemic, but they are increasingly not leaving their homes to do so. Many consumers might stick with online shopping even after shelter-in-place orders are lifted.
“Right now there are a lot of people trying and learning new behaviors, and not all of them are simply going to go back to the way that it was,” said Lori Buss Stillman, vice president of research for NACS, during the 2020 NACS State of the Industry Virtual Summit.
Stillman cited a survey from Brick Meets Click and ShopperKit that found that 43% of U.S. households that ordered food online in the past few months say they will continue or are extremely likely to continue shopping online after the crisis subsides.
Online convenience retailer goPuff has been tracking shopping behavior on its platform as more cases of COVID-19 spread through the United States. The Philadelphia-based retailer, which does not operate physical stores, charges a flat $1.95 delivery fee for its rotating online catalog of products normally found in c-stores. Its analysis revealed a nearly 90% increase in customers ordering at least once per week since March 2019. Also, goPuff has seen a 55% increase in order value since the start of 2020.
“GoPuff has established early leadership in terms of taking the convenience store and really making it available to consumers online,” said Stillman.
Click through for goPuff's week-by-week breakdown of how the pandemic is changing the shopping behavior of some consumers and what it could mean for online commerce after shelter in place …
Week of March 9
Consumers began buying large quantities of toilet paper, frozen foods, canned goods and baby food in the week the United States reached 4,596 cases and the federal government declared a national emergency. Whereas “candy” was the top search term on goPuff in the previous week, this week’s top term was “water.” Other data points from this week:
- Charmin orders increased 211% overnight on March 12.
- Units per order for bathroom products jumped 44% vs. the previous week, while cleaning products rose 21% per order.
- Purell buyers stocked up, leading to a 97% increase in units per order vs. the 2019 average.
- Digital thermometers in Seattle—an early COVID-19 epicenter—jumped 500% vs. the previous week.
Week of March 16
This week saw consumers settle into social distancing measures as the number of U.S. cases grew past 43,781, and approximately one in three Americans were under shelter-in-place orders.
- The “cooking” category saw a 112% increase over the previous week, while frozen and canned items also saw double-digit lifts.
- As people began to work and go to school virtually, goPuff saw a 127% increase in school and office supplies orders this week alone.
- Orders for sexual health products and playing cards also began to increase.
Week of March 23
As the United States passed 163,788 cases, many social distancing measures were extended through April 30. Coffee orders grew 42% vs. the previous week, while energy drinks also outpaced average growth.
Around this time, an unsubstantiated viral text message claimed that ibuprofen exacerbates COVID-19 symptoms, and shoppers should instead use acetaminophen. The goPuff data shows acetaminophen brands growing rapidly over the previous three weeks while ibuprofen orders stayed flat. As information debunking this myth emerged, shoppers purchased brands from both categories more evenly.
Week of March 30
As each week in relative isolation passed, the goPuff customer base grew to include slightly older consumers and those who shop on the platform earlier in the day. At this point, while shoppers were visiting goPuff more frequently, they were less likely to search for hand sanitizer and water than they were in the weeks before. Shoppers began to return to their usual ways of shopping on the platform during this week.
Week of April 6
As shelter-in-place orders become the norm, consumers began using goPuff to purchase at-home grooming products. The goPuff beauty category had grown by 113% since the first week of March. The platform also saw a double-digit volume increase in orders in the past week for Gillette and Venus shaving products.