The Impact of COVID-19 on E-Commerce GMV, Part 5

April 22, 2020

This is part five in an ongoing series. Prior posts are available here:

  • Part 1 covered GMV trends from Jan 1 – Mar 17, 2020
  • Part 2 covered GMV trends from Jan 1 – Mar 22, 2020
  • Part 3 covered GMV trends from Jan 1 – Mar 31, 2020
  • Part 4 covered GMV trends from Jan 1 – Apr 12. 2020

Since our post last week, stimulus money has been provided to much of the population in the United States. So, Part 5 in this series is the “stimulus bump” edition. 

As a reminder, because there are so many changes on a daily basis, we’ve built a COVID-19 resources page to help you keep up with major developments in e-commerce. This blog post is designed to provide an update on ChannelAdvisor aggregate gross merchandise value (GMV) trends.

First, some important points to understand before digging into the data:

  • This data is based on marketplaces GMV aggregated across our entire customer base globally and compares Jan 1 – Apr 21, 2019 against Jan 1 – Apr 20, 2020. The final dates are offset by one day due to leap year.
  • The data presented below highlights only specific marketplace categories, which are merely a subset of all categories. Because marketplaces have different category structures, the data is presented using categories that have been standardised by ChannelAdvisor.
  • This data is not a proxy for overall e-commerce activity or the performance of any individual business, including ChannelAdvisor or any individual marketplace.
  • The data shown below is based on a year-over-year comparison of trailing 7-day GMV and is expressed as percentage growth, but with actual numbers removed. The Y-axis scale is different on each graph.
  • All calculations are done in USD. Global currencies are converted to USD using the conversion rate on the day of the order. These results are not normalised to account for fluctuating exchange rates. Please note that there has been significant volatility in various currencies, such as GBP, which may impact these trends.

Through the course of this series, we’ve highlighted a number of broad categories. Below, we’ll highlight the stimulus bump impact on various categories and dive a bit deeper into sporting goods and some non-essential health and beauty subcategories.

The Stimulus Bump

Three top-level categories that we have consistently highlighted in this series include “computers/networking”, “health and beauty”, and “home and garden.” Since the crisis kicked into high gear in mid-March, these have been three of the higher-performing categories as we have documented in previous posts. In mid-April, about the time the stimulus payments arrived in the United States, we saw an increase in year-over-year growth rates in each of these categories, though not quite as much in health and beauty.

However, looking deeper into health and beauty in an update from the last post, non-essential subcategories such as fragrances and nail care have benefited significantly from the stimulus bump.

Other top-level categories also saw higher year-over-year growth as a result of the stimulus payments in the United States.

As of April 20th, the categories highlighted above were at least back to the year-over-year growth rates from earlier in 2020 with some, such as “sporting goods” and “consumer electronics”, having exceeded the earlier growth rates. “Jewelry” growth has returned, at least for now, to levels seen earlier in 2020. The “cell phones and accessories” category has only recently bested earlier growth rates. “Business and industrial” has been the steadiest category, avoiding the large swings up or down seen in some of the other categories.

While the evidence that the stimulus contributed to an increase in e-commerce growth rates beginning in mid-April appears clear, we should note that the period April 19-22 (of which April 19-20, 2020 are included here) aligned with Easter weekend in 2019. Thus, we should expect year-over-year growth rates on these days to have a slight bump due to slightly reduced e-commerce activity over that long weekend.

Sporting Goods

In Part 3, we highlighted a number of subcategories under sporting goods. As we have seen, the subcategories performing best in this environment have been those associated with consumers spending more time at home, with many gyms closed down in the near term. Each of the subcategories highlighted below are still growing much faster than earlier in 2020, with treadmills yet to show signs of slowing down.

By way of contrast, subcategories associated with group events such as baseball and softball (which are combined in the chart below) are underperforming the overall sporting goods category. Interestingly, year-over-year growth rates in golf are still below what they were earlier in 2020 despite the fact that many golf courses remain open. While fishing is a sport best enjoyed with others but one that allows for social distancing, fishing-related subcategories dipped in late March but have since recovered close to where they were earlier in 2020. Finally, growth rates in subcategories associated with biking remained flat through the early periods of the crisis but have since taken a nice upturn beginning in the last week of March.

Conclusion

Stimulus payments in the United States have helped release pent up demand among consumers, resulting in an increase in year-over-year GMV growth rates across nearly all major categories over the last week or so. It will be interesting to observe the steady state in these categories as we move past the impact of the stimulus in the United States. Increasing jobless claims, widespread continuation of work-from-home and school-from-home policies, and governments worldwide beginning to discuss opening up their economies in phases create a lot of variables in the weeks ahead.

In closing, we would like to reiterate from our original blog post that the COVID-19 pandemic has created extreme turmoil globally. The impact on supply and demand and the way people work is in the news daily and can be seen in the data above. The impact seems trivial relative to the personal toll. Nevertheless, the job of ensuring that food, medicine, and other essentials make their way to people globally is important to keep society functioning as normally as possible while we work our way through the current pandemic. So, in addition to thanking medical professionals, researchers, and others for their heroic efforts in treating the sick and trying to find a cure, we’d like to thank those of you in the factories, in the grocery stores, in the distribution centers, and in the delivery trucks helping to bring us the items we need to live.