Coronavirus impact on online sales

How Covid-19 has affected ecommerce: what to sell online (and where) in the new era [NEW research]

What to sell online in the times of Covid-19? Where to sell specific products? How to increase your online sales?

To help you answer these questions, in this post we’ll share with you a comprehensive analysis of the impact of Covid-19 on domestic and international ecommerce sales. Our data is based on 158M products listed on international eBay sites.

The primary goal of our analysis was to find out what and where to sell online after Covid-19 so sellers can make informed decisions and grow their sales quicker than ever before.

Let’s dig in.

What are top-selling items on eBay and other marketplaces after Covid-19? Download our FREE report to learn more!

coronavirus brexit ecommerce impact march

Covid-19 & international ecommerce: analysis by Webinterpret

The primary goal of our analysis was to help international online sellers pinpoint what products and on which markets to sell in the current competitive ecommerce environment.

In this article you’ll find major findings, recommendations and takeaways from the study.

The goal of our analysis

  • Identify the types of products and international ecommerce markets with the highest sales potential
  • Compare supply and demand to identify saturated markets / categories (i.e. when the supply is much higher than the demand)
  • Check the impact of Covid-19 on sales in different markets / categories
  • Help online sellers increase their sales.

Key details about our analysis

  • Webinterpret analyzed a number of various international ecommerce markets and product categories to help sellers choose the ones with the highest sales potential.
  • We checked around 158M products (820M product offers on different markets) listed between 2018 and 2020 of around 60,000 eBay sellers.
  • The eBay sellers we analyzed were our customers selling on main eBay sites in Europe (the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain), the USA and Australia as well as a number of smaller eBay markets, e.g. Austria, Canada and Ireland.

Impact of Covid-19 on domestic & international ecommerce sales: findings*

*The information, data and guidance provided in this whitepaper is for general information purposes only and does not constitute professional advice.

#1. Falling international ecommerce sales after the outbreak of the pandemic (March 2020)

  • After the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic we observed a significant drop in international sales. This lasted for about 2-3 weeks in March 2020.
  • On average international sales were down by around 24%. This varied strongly between markets and between different product types.
    • International sales dropped the most in France, the UK, Spain and Australia: by 30-35%
    • In the USA, Germany and Italy the drop was less severe: 15-22%.
  • The decrease in international online sales was caused by uncertainty (both on the buyer and and seller side) as well as issues with international deliveries and restocking. As a result, there was a lower demand for international products and some sellers suspended their businesses.
  • Domestic sales behaved differently, depending on the country. Domestic sales:
    • Remained unaffected in Italy and Australia
    • Dropped in France (-37%) and in the USA (-14%)
    • Increased in the UK (+13%), Germany (+24%), Spain (+29%).

coronavirus impact ecommerce march 2020 chart

#2. Soaring ecommerce sales after the initial shock (from the end of March till August 2020)

  • After the initial shock and the coronavirus outbreak taking the world by surprise, sales began to improve. The highest numbers were reached:
    • For domestic sales: between mid-April and mid-May
    • For international sales: between late May and early June.
  • The peak sales season lasted around 3 months till mid summer (July/August).
  • Overall, the sales increased by 25% for international sellers and by 43% for domestic sellers. The increase varied between markets (comparing the same period 2020 vs. 2019).
  • The strongest boost in international sales took place in the USA (+31%), the UK and France (both +22%) and exceeded Christmas sales by 5% (and lasted 3 times longer).
  • The impact on domestic sales was even bigger. At the peak season, sales on all markets exceeded Christmas results by 18%. The high sales season lasted around 4 months: ca. 3 times longer than the Christmas sales period.
  • Australia showed different sales dynamics. International sales dropped in March by 35% mostly due to international sellers’ issues: a reduction in international supplies and buyers purchasing fewer imported goods as a result (the situation was back to normal in late April). Domestic sales were not affected in March and April. A sales boost occurred in early July (international sales increased by 18% and domestic sales grew by 35%).

coronavirus ecommerce april august chart

#3. The impact of Covid-19 on product categories

Overall, the pandemic has had a positive effect on ecommerce sales and has increased product demand and online purchases. This has been due to social distancing and people spending more time at home, working remotely, exercising at home, children learning remotely, etc.

As a result, international sales increased in the following categories in the majority of markets:

  • Sporting Goods
  • Toys & Games
  • Business, Office & Industrial
  • Garden & Patio
  • Home, Furniture & DIY
  • Home Appliances
  • Cameras & Photography.

At the same time, categories with cosmetics and clothes suffered the most as people who stayed at home seemed to have focused less on their looks.

The heatmap below shows the pandemic impact on international sales on different markets.

coronavirus ecommerce impact product categories ebay

#4. Market saturation

With around 1.7 billion listings, eBay is a very competitive marketplace. As a result, in some categories it may be hard to make your products stand out.

When assessing competition, it’s important to consider a market saturation level: a metric that measures a relation between product supply from sellers and demand from buyers.

Small markets and niche categories saturate faster as there’s less demand from buyers. In contrast, bigger markets and popular categories have a much higher capacity and can effectively accommodate bigger supplies from sellers.

Market saturation vs. sales potential: analysis

  • In general, markets with the biggest sales potential for international sellers are markets with the highest demand and highest capacity, such as the USA and the UK. Such markets are still able to absorb new supplies. This means that sellers can still achieve dynamic sales growth when expanding their inventories. The sales potential is definitely there despite the temporary turbulence caused by Brexit.
  • Other markets with high sales potential include France, Germany and Italy. Based on our observations, in these markets supply has grown slightly faster than demand in recent years. International inventory is at a stable growth stage.
    • As there are early signs of saturation in these markets, product optimization to improve listing visibility and its attractiveness is playing a bigger and bigger role, e.g. price and shipping optimization, adding good photos and product descriptions, improving SEO (title, attributes to match search filters), advertising and promotion, etc.
  • As to Australia, Spain, Canada and other smaller eBay markets (that are already at a slow growth or at a saturation stage), product optimization is key.

Important! When analyzing market saturation, consider different product categories since the level of saturation will vary between specific categories.

#5. So what and where to sell online in practical terms?

Depending on the country, the following categories are worth focusing on:

  • The UK: Sporting Goods, Health & Beauty, Cameras & Photography, Sound & Vision and Garden & Patio
  • The USA: Sporting Goods, Toys & Games, Jewellery & Watches, Health & Beauty, Business Office & Industrial and Antiques
  • France: Health & Beauty, Cameras & Photography, Home Appliances, Garden & Patio
  • Italy: Health & Beauty, Garden & Patio
  • Spain: Toys & Games, Business Office & Industrial, Health & Beauty
  • Australia: Health & Beauty, Cameras & Photography.

Due to the unmet demand in these categories in given markets, there’s a big sales potential for international products.

The heatmap below shows the unmet demand in different markets

coronavirus ecommerce sales potential

A word of caution

When we talk about what to sell online, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should sell these specific products. Your final decision will depend on multiple factors, such as competition, demand in the markets you sell, (unexpected) world events or your specific business situation.

No strategy is likely to guarantee you’ll pick a best seller every time, but you can still maximize your chances of success by making informed decisions based on data.

Key recommendations for online sellers

#1. Maximizing product visibility is crucial for ecommerce sellers. Competition is huge, especially on some saturated markets. If we take eBay:

  • Consider advertising with eBay Promoted Listings
  • Ensure that recommended attributes are in place in your product listings and they match eBay search filters.
  • Use free shipping in categories where buyers prefer (or expect) free delivery.

According to Noemie Colin, Product Manager at Webinterpret, specializing in ecommerce advertising:

To increase product visibility (and sales) and beat competitors, sellers should re-evaluate their advertising strategies. For example, if eBay sellers want to see a significant boost in sales, I’d recommend eBay Promoted Listings. Sellers using Webinterpret’s Promoted Listings tool on international markets see a 58% uplift in sales and a return on ad spend at a level of 27:1 on average.

It’s worth mentioning, there are no costs for using this tool, only if it results in sales!

#2. If you offer products in one of the following categories, make sure that products are available on all major markets:

  • Sporting Goods
  • Toys & Games
  • Health & Beauty
  • Cameras & Photography
  • Home Appliances
  • Garden & Patio
  • Business Office & Industrial.

#3. European sellers shouldn’t underestimate the sales potential of the US ecommerce market. They should also consider offering products at shipping rates attractive to US online buyers.

Covid-19 & ecommerce: conclusion

During challenging times, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, ecommerce sellers can maximize their revenue and minimize risks by pinpointing what to sell and where to sell specific products.

There’s no foolproof way of getting it right every time, but using reliable data can help you better understand which products and markets have the highest sales potential.

In many cases it’s worth testing different marketplaces and international markets. Having multiple streams of income will help you maximize your sales potential and minimize risks.

Ecommerce vs. Coronavrius & Brexit: free download

Learn what to sell online after Covid-19!

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