Australian ecommerce grew more than 80 per cent year on year (YOY) in the 8 weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared by the World Health Organisation.
The figures are contained in a new report from Australia Post called Inside Australian Online Shopping 2020 eCommerce Industry Report.
According to report author Ben Franzi, General Manager, Parcel and Express Services Australia Post, “Though it’s still too early to say how the industry will look post-pandemic, it’s clear this crisis has set a new baseline. We had predicted that by 2025 online shopping would account for 16–18% of total retail spend, but the recent growth we’ve seen suggests the pandemic has brought this forward. We’re anticipating that by the end of 2020, online spend will hold a 15 per cent share of the total retail market.”
However while COVID-19 supercharged online sales, other data from the report suggests growth was already strong before the virus sent the population into lockdown.
For instance, the Black Friday/Cyber Monday 2019 sales was a record-breaker, according to the report up more than 31 per cent compared to 2018, with the authors noting, “As shoppers become more accustomed to this event, so to do retailers and in 2019 this shopping festival spanned more of the industry than previous years.”
The report benchmarked the 30 days from Black Friday onward against the Month of April and found that online purchases were up 7 per cent higher in April compared to the 30 days to 18 December 2019 which encompassed Black Friday and the Christmas rush.
For context, the authors also say that April is traditionally a quiet month for eCommerce, as shoppers recover from their Christmas profligacy.
The report says, “This influx of purchasing in April 2020 brought the number of households shopping online for the month to a massive 5.2 million, an increase of 31 per cent when compared to the average in 2019. Consequently, online goods spend grew by 95 per cent year on year in the same month. This industry-wide shift has been as dramatic as it has been swift and will no doubt alter future buying behaviour. While the current acceleration we’re seeing may begin to steady, many of the changes we’ve seen are likely here to stay through the rest of 2020 and beyond.”
As to what we were wasting our money on in between oom meetings and overeating, the report provides some interesting insights.
“Wine and liquor has been a hot favourite for Australians during the pandemic, with online purchases peaking during March and April, and reaching highs of over 160 per cent YOY,” say the authors.
Initially, however, shoppers were hunting for essential items Panic buying leading to stores rationing which meant customers shifted online to buy groceries, pharmaceuticals, hygiene items, alcohol, and toilet paper.
“As government messaging on restrictions became clearer, understanding grew of what could and couldn’t be obtained easily, leading to a more measured consumer approach towards buying essentials.”
Overtime spending shifted to entertainment, self-improvement, DIY, comfortable and casual clothing.
Fashion demand softened initially, but soon rebounded recovering to single-digit growth rates before reaching highs of 100 YOY, as more active and leisurewear was purchased (or as buyers felt the impact of all those extra home-cooked meals on their expanding waistlines.
Media, which includes books and stationery, bounced around a bit as back to school and university sales were hit by the shutdown but improved as the year went on and everyone had finished watching reruns of Kolchak the Night Stalker, and the Tiger King (Carole definitely fed him to the Tigers, come on, you’re all thinking it!) and people turned back to books.
Finally, the authors say Department store purchases also grew by whopping 400 per cent YOY over the Easter week, presumably because you are more likely to find a sales assistant lurking in your own home than on the shop floor of David Jones or Myers.