Data from Amperity shows the COVID-19 crisis has changed where consumers are buying, their spending priorities and the kinds of devices they use to shop online.

Research from the customer data platform Amperity shows how much consumer behavior has changed since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. 

For the period from March 1 through April 30, overall retail sales dropped 41% compared with the same period a year earlier—driven mainly by store closures. In-store purchases for the period fell 69.9% year over year, while online sales decreased 8.3%.

Sales in some merchandise categories rose significantly in March and April, as widespread stay-at-home orders prompted by the pandemic began. Overall sales of food and beverage products (online and offline) increased 75.5% for the period compared with a year earlier. Also showing substantial year-over-year gains were the health and beauty (up 25.1%) and footwear and accessories (up 22%) segments.

Hardest-hit categories in March and April (online and offline) were fashion and apparel, which were down 40.8% compared with a year earlier and home, jewelry and leisure products, down 65.3% year over year.

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Within the fashion and apparel segment, sales dropped across the board. Comfortable home attire categories were among the most resilient. For example, sales of leggings declined by 27.3%, which was the lowest sales decrease among the fashion and apparel categories Amperity examined. Jewelry sales fell 57.4%, more than any other fashion and apparel category.

Amperity derives its numbers from anonymized data from more than 100 North American retail brands. The brands cover multiple retail segments, including fashion and apparel, footwear, health and beauty, and food and beverage. 

Coronavirus boosted sales on smartphones and social media

The coronavirus pandemic has changed not only what consumers bought online during March and April, but also where and how they made the purchases.

For example, mobile purchases grew by 23% compared with 2019. Amperity attributes increased mobile sales to a boost in stay-at-home screentime during the pandemic, along with the improved user experiences of brands’ mobile sites and apps since last year. By contrast, online sales on non-mobile devices dropped 43.8%.

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Purchases made on social media rose 84.7% year over year driven by a record usage of social networks during the period, Amperity found. Purchases made directly from retailer’s websites grew 57.9% year over year and purchases made in response to email grew 22.1% in March and April compared with 2019. Affiliate marketing sales online grew by 6.6%. Not all online media did well. Sales based on search engines dropped 4.7%, and revenue generated from online display ads dropped 28.2%.

Sales data demographics

During March and April, retail sales (online and offline) declined 58.9% among men and 46.5% among women, according to Amperity.

Looked at by age, retail sales in March and April dropped the least among ages 60-69 (down 28.2%) and those ages 70 and older (down 25%). People in those age cohorts are more likely to be out of the workforce, and thus tend to be less directly affected by furloughs, layoffs and work-from-home arrangements, Amperity says.

Retail sales fell most sharply (56.5%) among consumers aged 40 to 49. Sales to consumers 30-39 dropped 46.3% and sales to consumers in the 20-29 age group dropped 29%.

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