COVID-19: Impact and Opportunities for Online Retail

This article shares the COVID-19 impact and opportunities for e-commerce.

The revenue impact of the global coronavirus outbreak differs by sector.  The Johnson Redbook Index reported that general merchandise sales increased during the first week of March, as shoppers stockpile supplies and buy in bulk. However, in other sectors, revenue has fallen.  Morgan Stanley shared that total retail traffic fell 9.1% in the first week of March, apparel retail traffic fell 3.9% and luxury retail traffic declined by 14.7%. These declines are expected to deepen through March.  CNBC published a long list of stores that are temporarily closing their stores through March, including VF Corp, Lush Cosmetics, Levi’s Strauss, the Gap, and many others. This list is expected to grow.  Furthermore, a recent Coresight Research survey also found US consumers will avoid public spaces such as shopping malls if the outbreak worsens. Given all of this, it is certain that discretionary spending on categories such as apparel, footwear* (see notes below for more detail), and luxury will continue to slide.


1. To mitigate your risk in traditional retail, it is imperative to establish your business on Amazon, and do so quickly. This is particularly true for apparel brands, footwear, outdoor gear, cosmetics, and luxury goods.  Why Amazon?  Amazon is the number one e-commerce retailer in the US, with 206MM people in the US shopping there every month. In fact, Bloomberg reported that demand for Amazon delivery has surged in the past few weeks as a result of the coronavirus. Brands need to establish a solid presence on Amazon quickly or potentially face dire business outcomes.

2. Changing behaviors brings business opportunities too For the first time ever, toilet paper is now the number one searched item on Amazon, beating out N-95 masks, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizer (surely a sign of the apocalypse)!

We are seeing spikes in search for other product categories as well, including:

 Shelf-stable food staples. The top items are pasta, rice, soup, bread, and peanut butter – these are now in the top 100 searched items on Amazon! We expect this change to continue to fuel a continued shift towards increased food shopping on Amazon.

 All consumer packaged goods, particularly personal care, health care, paper goods, bulk staple items and items that are regularly replenished

 Immune-boosting supplements (not simply “vitamins”), including elderberry, echinacea, omega 3, and vitamin C. Search for pet supplements is also on the rise

 Board games for kids and family. The games that are winning conversions this week are Pandemic, Guess Who, Jenga, Connect Four, Clue, and Trouble

 Activities for kids, particularly Playdoh, children’s art supplies, craft supplies

 Sales for children’s workbooks and general study aids.

 Although sales for “regular” footwear is down on Amazon, we are seeing a surge in sales for both men and women’s running shoes (at levels higher than historical seasonal patterns), possibly driven by more consumers working out at home.

3. Apply careful (and creative) inventory management.  This would include strategies to sell any unsold inventory from Q1 (leveraging promotions, marketing spend, and other tactics), leverage faster fulfillment strategies to move inventory quickly, and updated accurate demand planning for the next quarter to minimize online out-of-stocks while balancing warehousing fees.

4. Win brand share and execute paid search smartly. Brands may need to refresh their keywords and copywriting to stay relevant during these uncertain times, step up their digital marketing spending even more to gain brand share, and optimize their listings. In the best of times, winning share is not easy.  But now more than ever, it is critical to execute your digital marketing plan smartly and efficiently. Many sellers will be flocking to e-commerce to help drive sales so be prepared for heightened competition. Be aware that because of scaled-back sports entertainment, some bigger brands may be shifting more of their advertising spending online, which may drive up PPC. Monitor your brand share on Amazon to ensure that you are gaining against your competitors, and be sure to use a combination of automated and manual keyword bidding.

The COVID-19 impact on businesses is overwhelming, but HINGE COMMERCE is here to support you!  Our expert team of copywriters, digital marketing managers, operations staff, account managers and data analysts have over 100 years of collective Amazon experience. We will bring our army of resources to help optimize your business on the platform.   

We hope that you and your loved ones stay safe. The HINGE COMMERCE team is here to support your online business in these uncertain times.  Contact us now to learn how we can help.

What's your reaction?

HINGE COMMERCE is a technology-driven, full-service eCommerce consulting agency. We help you grow your eCommerce business by delivering expert marketplace content and omni-channel consulting.

10290 Alliance Rd, Cincinnati, OH 45242

Service Links

Badge indicating "Amazon Ads Verified Partner" status, showcased in the website footer.
Round logo with purple background, featuring a white laurel wreath and the text "registered salsify partner" centered in the footer, with a geometric icon above the text.

Hinge Commerce © 2024. All rights reserved.