An analysis of traffic to the Top 2000 North American ecommerce sites shows that site visits during March through June 2020 increased 19% year over year collectively and 125% on average. The analysis shows office supplies and sporting goods as the fastest-growing categories in terms of traffic compared with 2019.

Consumers shopped online in record numbers so far this year, boosting website traffic for many online retailers.

Site visits to the Top 2000 North American ecommerce sites collectively increased 18.7% year over year during the three-month period from March to June 2020—the peak of the coronavirus pandemic and store closures in the U.S. On average, the Top 2000 online retailers grew traffic 125% year over year, getting a bump from fast-growing categories like office supplies and sporting goods, the latest Digital Commerce 360 analysis shows.

Digital Commerce 360 analyzed 2020 traffic data from web measurement firm SimilarWeb to highlight trends on which ecommerce sites consumers browsed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding lockdowns. The Top 2000 include Digital Commerce 360’s Top 1000 and Next 1000 online retailers, which are the largest North American retailers ranked by 2019 ecommerce sales.

The analysis shows the Top 100 retailers, which include retail giants like Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc., accounted for 80% of the collective growth in traffic. That’s unsurprising, given the Top 100 accounts for approximately 82% of web sales generated by the full Top 2000. Still, the Top 100 grabbed a bigger share of traffic during the pandemic: Over the same three-month period in 2019, the Top 100 represented 75% of site visits to the Top 2000 retail sites.

Office supplies retailers’ traffic jumped the most, according to the data. The 62 Top 2000 retailers in the category collectively grew site visits 58.1% year over year. This makes sense, as many companies and schools went at least part-time remote during nationwide lockdowns, pushing consumers to purchase home office supplies.

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Hardware and sporting goods were the second- and third-fastest growing categories. The hardware category includes  large retailers like The Home Depot Co., which operates more than 2,000 stores in North America—all of which remained open during lockdowns. Home Depot’s stores complemented online sales, as more than 60% of Home Depot’s online orders were picked up at a store during its fiscal Q2 ended Aug. 2.

Similarly, sports equipment retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods’ ecommerce sales grew 194% during its Q2 ended Aug. 1, and its stores fulfilled three-quarters of ecommerce orders. Dick’s Sporting Goods credits its strong traffic and sales to consumers shifting to a more athletic and active lifestyle as they spend more time working and exercising at home.

Not all retailers benefited online this year, however. Site visits for jewelry retailers in the Top 2000, for instance, fell 7.5% during March-June 2020 compared with the same year-ago period, according to Digital Commerce 360’s analysis. Traffic on apparel sites declined 4.2% year over year.

Ecommerce shopper behavior during COVID-19

Digital Commerce 360 has kept track of consumer sentiment throughout the pandemic. Here are the results of some recent surveys regarding how the coronavirus pandemic has affected online shopping habits.

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For almost half of consumers surveyed, Amazon has become a more important resource in 2020. What’s more, a quarter of consumers say they can rely on Amazon for same-day or next-day delivery.

When asked specifically about shopping online for cosmetics, skin care and hair care products, respondents said they purchased more on Amazon for these items since the pandemic began. More than 40% purchased fewer cosmetics products in general during the pandemic because of canceled social gatherings/events or smaller personal budgets.

Statewide lockdowns, store closures and the fear of contracting the coronavirus have kept consumers from shopping in stores. Therefore, retailers had to quickly adapt this year, particularly with fulfilling orders. For example, many retailers launched curbside pickup as a way to get products to consumers safely. As of August 2020, 43.7% of the 245 retailers with stores ranked in the Digital Commerce 360 Top 500 offer curbside pickup, a sharp increase from 6.9% at the end of 2019.

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17% of shoppers tried curbside for the first time after the pandemic began in March, and about a quarter said they used curbside pickup multiple times. More than 30% of shoppers surveyed said they had a positive curbside pickup experience, versus just 6% who cited a negative experience.

When it comes to the delivery experience, more than half of respondents said order tracking has met or exceeded expectations during COVID-19. 36% said they were pleased with timely deliveries, which isn’t bad considering the hurdles retailers faced this year.

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