How COVID-19 is Impacting Online Shopping Behavior

People turn to e-commerce in light of COVID-19 anxiety.

Image of a hand pointing to a shopping cart on a screen.

Mounting concern over the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States is having an impact on online shopping behavior, according to data from Adobe Analytics, which monitors the eCommerce transactions of 80 of the top 100 U.S. retailers.

While COVID-19 is hurting in-store traffic for some retailers, others have seen surges in online shopping, as anxiety over the virus increases.

“We’ve all seen the memes and photos of what some store shelves look like as people prepare for the worst,” said Nate Smith, Group Manager of Product Marketing for Adobe Analytics. “Stores are running out of basic necessity items like toilet paper and hand sanitizer and we think that is a significant driver of online shopping at the moment. Add to that the fact that many people are also trying to avoid large gatherings and public places, and it’s easy to see why online shopping for COVID-19 related items is up. Americans are taking Coronavirus very seriously, and taking measures to protect themselves and their loved ones.”

What are people buying online given the current state of the COVID-19 outbreak? Below we take a look at some of the most common purchases, and provide insight into what is driving the uptick for these products online.

Online shopping surges for COVID-19 virus protection

Both officials and medical experts are encouraging Americans to take action and keep their hands clean and away from their faces. And Americans are listening. Ecommerce purchases of the virus protection category of products such as hand sanitizers, gloves, masks and antibacterial sprays have surged by 817%, according to Adobe’s analysis.

People are stocking up on meds online

With countries now putting in place COVID-19 travel restrictions to minimize the spread of the virus, U.S. consumers are stocking up on over-the-counter meds, most likely to be prepared in case they do catch the virus and need to self quarantine. Adobe’s analysis of eCommerce transactions found that purchases for cold, cough & flu products have increased 198%, while online purchases for pain relievers increased 152%.

Even toilet paper is being purchased online

Brick and mortar retailers in both the U.S. and Canada are reportedly limiting the amount of toilet paper patrons can buy. No wonder online purchases for toilet paper have spiked by 186%, according to the Adobe data.

Online shopping to fill the pantry

Similar to toilet paper, non-perishable foods such as canned goods and shelf-stable items (think: oatmeal, rice, pasta) are common staples in emergency preparation. It’s no surprise that online purchases of these items are up—69% and 58%, respectively.

“Right now, as consumers increasingly use digital methods to prepare for a possible emergency, retailers need to ensure smooth, frictionless, and fast experiences on their eCommerce websites and mobile applications,” Smith said. “Meeting your customers’ needs and expectations at a time like this is imperative: it could either make or break your brand.”