Selling online after Covid-19

Selling online after Covid-19 & Brexit [FREE ebook]

COVID-19 and Brexit continue to affect international ecommerce sales. Online shopping has changed. The questions remain:

  • What, where and how to sell online in the current online environment?
  • What are top-selling items on eBay, Amazon and other marketplaces?

You may sell on marketplaces or through your own website. Either way, if you understand the current business reality and know how to identify products and markets with sales potential, your business can not only survive, but also thrive.

This is also the topic of our comprehensive whitepaper:

What, where and how to sell online in the new ecommerce reality impacted by Covid-19 and other events?

Download Ecommerce vs. Coronavirus & Brexit Guide

brexit coronavirus free download

In our whitepaper you’ll learn about*:

  • Top-selling items on eBay and Amazon (including a practical checklist)
  • Impact of Covid-19 on international ecommerce (analysis by Webinterpret)
  • Optimizing product listings to improve their visibility on the marketplace (analysis by Webinterpret)
  • Impact of Brexit on international ecommerce
  • Lots of expert advice from our analysts and ecommerce specialists.

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

The pandemic is not what we’ve prayed for, but the reality is that it’s a good time to widen your audience and potentially your product offer.

Covid-19 & international ecommerce: analysis by Webinterpret

Webinterpret conducted a comprehensive analysis of the impact of Covid-19 on domestic and international ecommerce sales and how online shopping has changed.

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

The analysis was prepared by Adam Harasimowicz, Data Scientist and Product Manager at Webinterpret.

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.

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.


What to sell online (and where) after Covid-19: results

In general we noticed the following patterns. For the detailed analysis and charts, download our whitepaper.

#1. Falling international ecommerce sales after the outbreak of the pandemic (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%.
  • 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.
  • Overall, the sales increased by 25% for international sellers and by 43% for domestic sellers.
  • 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%.

#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.

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 impact of the pandemic 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.

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. 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.

In markets with early signs of saturation (e.g. France, Germany or Italy) product optimization to improve listing visibility and its attractiveness is playing a bigger and bigger role, e.g. price and shipping optimization, improving SEO, advertising and promotion, etc.

#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

For more information about what sells best on eBay and Amazon, check out our articles and download our FREE guide:

ebay amazon top selling items free download

What, where & how to sell online after Covid-19: key recommendations for online sellers

#1. Maximizing product visibility is crucial for ecommerce sellers, for instance by adding recommended attributes in product listings, by offering free shipping or by advertising. Competition is huge, especially on some saturated markets.

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 that 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.

Optimizing product listings to improve their visibility on marketplaces: analysis

One of the ways to maximize international conversion rates is by optimizing product attributes and improving product listing visibility as a result.

The actions we’ve taken (based on our recent analysis) have significantly increased our sellers’ listings visibility and revenue. They’ve been described by Jesús González-Rubio, Product Manager at Webinterpret, specializing in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Translation.

#1. Product listing visibility on marketplaces

Product visibility is a term that describes how likely a particular product is to be found by a potential buyer. Product visibility is affected by the particularities of the search engine and the interface implemented by the marketplace. A clear example of this are the widespread search filters:

ebay listing optimization increase views chart 1

Search filters on marketplaces help buyers refine their searches and see only those listings that match the criteria defined by the search filter. In other words, only products that contain the attributes (or item specifics on eBay) and values defined by the search filter will be displayed in search results.

#2. Localizing marketplace listings: challenge

Finding corresponding product attributes can be tricky when a product listing is localized on different international sites or markets of a given marketplace. In other words, the attributes in the original listing may not correspond with the recommended ones in the destination market.

The challenge goes beyond the simple translation of specific attributes.

Let’s say, an original product listing on eBay Italy contains an attribute called “Colore”. We want to localize this listing for eBay Spain. It may seem obvious that we should simply translate”Colore” (Italian) into “Color” (Spanish).

This, however, may result in product visibility issues. The recommended attribute in the destination market (in this case Spain) may not be a direct translation but a different word / phrase, e.g. “Color principal”. Such situations are quite common on different markets / sites of the same market.

#3. Webinterpret’s experiments

In our experiments, we identified recommended attributes that were most often missing in each category of each site. We then collected all the potential original attributes that might correspond to the missing ones in destination markets and updated our automatic systems.

#4. Results

After our experiments, the average number of views per product roughly doubled.

The following chart displays the average number of views per product. The big spike on week 0 was caused by re-listing the products with their new translated attributes.

ebay listing optimization increase views chart 1

#5. Conclusions

Attributes have a big impact on product visibility (and sales) on marketplaces. Identifying missing attributes in translated listings can significantly improve product visibility (number of views) and sales conversions as a result.

Based on our experiments:

Increasing the number of recommended attributes in our listings increases product visibility (up to +60%) and sales (+20%).

Impact of Brexit on international ecommerce sales

After Brexit became reality, it immediately impacted UK businesses, especially in ecommerce. According to the Road Haulage Association, exports to the EU plunged by 68% in the month after Brexit.

At Webinterpret, we observed the following impact of Brexit on ecommerce sales in the UK:

  • Starting from late December 2020 and January 2021: even though there were no major changes in the visibility of international products in search results, CTR and product page views, the sales rate (transactions / product page views), and ultimately the sales, dropped significantly by 30-40%.
  • The lower number of transactions was caused by the buyers’ fear of additional charges (VAT or duties).

All the same, the initial disruption around the begininng of 2021 doesn’t show the whole picture of what the post-Brexit ecommerce reality may look like.

In fact, it’s still too early to assess the full impact of Brexit on ecommerce since we need concrete data for a longer period of time.

VAT and customs procedures impact many ecommerce businesses

The necessity to pay VAT and complete customs declarations have made UK-EU trade less straightforward and less cost-efficient.

According to a recent survey of 57 UK luxury brands, there’s been widespread disappointment with shipping delays and extra costs.

As a result, some UK ecommerce brands have stopped selling to the EU as it’s no longer financially viable and causes paperwork headaches.

Things may of course change in the future when the new post-Brexit reality becomes more predictable or better regulated.

It’s worth noting that there are also UK companies who decided to prepare in advance for the worst version of Brexit. For instance, some opened warehouses and fulfilment hubs on Continental Europe to avoid the tax and logistical implications.

Things are no different for EU businesses selling to UK customers. Many small ecommerce businesses located in the EU have stopped selling to their UK-based customers. Some are planning to open UK warehouses or start selling via large ecommerce platforms, such as eBay or Amazon.

Ecommerce in the UK and the EU will carry on after Brexit

Currently many ecommerce sellers continue to express disappointment with the disruptive character of Brexit and the lack of clear guidance. However, while Brexit has caused temporary disruptions, in the long term it may not turn out to be a massive blow to the ecommerce sector.

Worth over £220 billion, the UK is considered to be the third biggest ecommerce market globally. Similarly, the EU has some of the largest ecommerce markets in the world, e.g. in Germany and France.

The fact is that online shopping both in the UK and the EU is massive and this is unlikely to change any time soon. However, it’s important to take a proactive approach and be ready for any potential disruption.

Selling online after Covid-19 & Brexit: conclusion

During challenging times, such as Brexit or Covid-19, offering products on a number of marketplaces and international markets often allows sellers to plan and balance the sales between markets, spread their risk and make the most of diversification.

At the same time it’s crucial to pinpoint what to sell and where to sell it. Additionally, to beat competitors, sellers must maximize their product visibility.

Finally, staying proactive is essential, especially if the future feels uncertain.

Ecommerce vs. Coronavrius & Brexit: free download

Download our FREE Guide to grow your sales after Covid-19 & Brexit!


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