As the holiday shopping season approaches, retailers should keep an eye on the product types that helped lead to the massive increase in online sales during the COVID-19 crisis.

Sherry Zhao, marketing director at CouponBirds

Retailers have long used historical data to forecast their future earnings better. As ecommerce vendors look back on the massive changes 2020 brought, it can seem difficult to plan for the rest of the year. However, while shifts in consumer demand have occurred, certain patterns have also emerged. 

With a Q2 that saw a 25% increase in overall ecommerce spending, some retailers have shifted their product offerings towards high-performing categories to retarget their focus for the holiday season. Looking ahead to the later months of the year, retailers should keep an eye on key categories that have led to the recent increase in online sales. Here are the most-searched product categories during COVID-19, according to CouponBirds data.

Health and wellness

It’s no surprise that during a pandemic, searches for health products have skyrocketed as much as 81%, according to our internal data. What’s more interesting is the specific types of products causing the boost. Items often sorted into the wellness category have seen the bulk of the additional search volumes. For example, searches for essential oils have jumped 61% this year, a clear sign that consumers seek comfort in their shopping. 

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Other related items that bring relaxation and peace-of-mind, like bath products, have also been winners in 2020’s ecommerce surge. Moreover, health and wellness products make excellent holiday gifts, presenting retailers an opportunity to offer discounts on such products as an incentive to consumers and stand out from their competitors.

Games and entertainment

While searches in the game category have risen 65%, it’s important to note which products within such a broad category are rising. One game maker reported puzzle sales soared 370% for his company. The popularity of board games, jigsaw puzzles, and card games are performing well in light of COVID-19 because as consumers increasingly stay and work from home, the options for entertainment become quite limited. 

Retailers looking toward the holiday season would be wise to amplify their promotion of games and other entertainment items. Here, a regional approach can be suitable. This category’s outlook is especially noteworthy. Historically, board games and other in-home entertainment gain even more popularity in winter months when the weather is less suitable for going outdoors.

Online education

The state of remote education is still in flux, with some countries, states, and school districts all creating their own online learning plans for 2021 and beyond. Additionally, many university campuses are going fully remote or expanding their remote learning offerings to comply with social distancing and, potentially, to widen their student base. The result? A 58% increase in search volume for online education-related products. 

Consumer tech products such as laptops and tablets have seen strong sales growth, selling millions of more units than this quarter last year. The Online Education category builds on that tech to expand to more niche products, like microphones, webcams, and services that facilitate better eLearning. This can include offering courses to customers who need your expertise but can’t leave home to get it. Consider offering your own online courses to attract more of this growing search volume.

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Fitness equipment

Gyms are some of the last places to reopen after pandemic shutdowns. Facing the dreaded “quarantine 15,” online shoppers have flocked to retailers offering fitness equipment. This has brought about a 51% higher search volume for the at-home fitness category than 2019. Retailers pursuing a new fitness sales strategy should keep their demographics in mind. Not every buyer has the budget or space for a state-of-the-art treadmill. However, smaller, more niche products have seen increasing popularity. Products like a kettlebell set can still carry a relatively high price point, yet also offer the consumer a quality product that doesn’t take up too much room in their potentially makeshift home gym. 

Once again, the holiday season will be key for the further growth of this category. While quarantine scooped up many motivated exercise fanatics, it missed just as many people who instead dedicated their stay at home orders to sourdough bread kits. So there should be a good number of people with fitness resolutions on their 2021 New Year’s’ resolutions. 

Meals

It may seem like a paradox: More time at home, but less time spent cooking. Yet as restaurants remain closed and people grow tired of cooking, the search volume for prepared meals is 49% higher than ever before. And while search volume and new business are up, these services also are undoubtedly celebrating the sheer mass of meals made at home. Companies like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh were designed with working professionals in mind, meaning they assumed breakfasts and lunches may be on the go or taken at an office. However, with the workforce firmly at home, the appeal for existing consumers to use their products multiple times a day and purchase at a higher rate has undoubtedly boosted their outlooks. 

Retailers can use this increased popularity as a model for their services. If subscription pre-planned box meals are suddenly in vogue, how can you adapt your products and services to a similar model? Subscription packages, contract services, and ready-made solutions are more appealing now that customers feel constricted by all the time they spend at home. Offering greater convenience is a central key for any online retailer looking to increase their sales numbers ahead of the new year. 

Couponbirds is an online leading coupon platform.

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