Stats roundup: coronavirus impact on marketing, ecommerce & advertising

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is impacting every part of our lives, from the places we can go to the way we spend our time, to the priorities we have and the way we spend our money.

Of course, this has wide-ranging ramifications for marketing, advertising and ecommerce – as well as a number of other sectors like travel, entertainment and FMCG.

To help marketers keep on top of what this means for them, their jobs and their industry, we’re collecting together the most valuable and impactful stats in this roundup, updated on a weekly basis since 20th March.

Read on for statistics on retail sales, adspend, streaming subscriptions, social media use, recruitment figures and much, much more.

Retail, ecommerce & FMCG

Global retail ecommerce will total $3.9 trillion by the end of 2020
Data from GroupM, released in December, predicts global retail ecommerce, including automotive but excluding food and delivery services, will total $3.9 trillion by the end of 2020 – equating to 17% of all retail sales. In China, these online sales will rise to 25% of the entire retail market in the region.

As a rule, analysis found that geographic areas with lower ecommerce penetration, such as Canada and Australia, saw much faster ecommerce growth this year than those where ecommerce was already a big player before the pandemic hit.

The accelerated adoption of retail ecommerce across the world has put some regions ahead of others in terms of expected growth by the end of 2021. China, ever the leader in this area, could see online retail amount to 27.3% of its total retail sales, followed by the UK (19.9%) and the US (16.2%).

Increased normalisation of online shopping, which became more of a habit for many consumers this year, is not the only factor helping the market stand in good stead for the year to come. Brands’ greater focus on omnichannel experiences, including services like click and collect, as well as better demand prediction, will ensure retailers make the most of the recovery from Covid-19. Improvements in product discovery and branding are also expected to be high up on brands’ lists of priorities next year.

By 2024, it is estimated that retail-focused ecommerce sales will amount to $7 trillion annually, or one-quarter of all global retail for that year. If this growth trajectory continues, on average, in low double digits, this could reach to $10 trillion in sales by 2027.

Experts predict doubling of website traffic (year-on-year) for supermarkets and pharmacies in the days leading up to Christmas
In the rush to Christmas between 21st-23rd December, supermarkets and pharmacies could see a doubling in website traffic (year-on-year) as consumers search for last minute products, according to Yext’s compilation of holiday search trends. Website traffic for jewellers is also set to double in the lead up to the holiday, although many will continue to buy such gifts in person if they can, causing an expected 108% increase in ‘get directions’ clicks over these few crucial days. Clicks on restaurant websites will also surge as consumers opt to takeaway their favourite meals rather than dine out.

While many businesses expect to see a reduction in footfall this year after Christmas, particularly with Covid-19 restrictions still in place, analysis predicts that brick-and-mortar retailers in the furniture and telecoms sectors will see a 111% rise in directions clicks on 28th December.

Moving closer to the New Year, sporting and fitness brands and services are predicted to experience a 15% growth in website traffic on December 30th, followed by double the number of phone calls on the 31st as consumers plan their new year resolutions. There will also be a post-Christmas rush for nail salons and hairdressers, which could benefit from an 85% increase in website traffic on the 27th December and more than double usual levels on the 30th.

25% of brands will see ‘statistically significant advances’ to their CX quality in 2021
As customer experience, particularly through online channels, was thrown into the spotlight for most of 2020, renewed focus on this core business aspect will enable vast developments throughout the course of 2021, according to predictions from Forrester.

Twenty-five percent of brands will see ‘statistically significant’ advances to their CX quality next year, despite budget cuts, thanks to increasingly improving customer experience competencies on the back of short-term fixes generated at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak. As a result, this move could save companies hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars, the data forecasts.

Forrester also expects spending on customer loyalty and retention will increase by 30% over the next year, after acquiring plenty of new online customers during the 2020 ecommerce boom. Brands can expect to see their CMOs taking more control over the full customer lifecycle in order to improve CLV amid the uncertain financial climate ahead. Many CMOs are likely to integrate marketing with CX to create a more joined up experiences that encourage customers to stick around.

Poor customer service could cost UK businesses £1.9 billion this festive season

Research conducted by Signavio this December reveals that poor customer service could cost UK businesses £1.9 billion over the festive season. It predicts that UK brands could expect to receive 189 million phone calls, 193 million emails and 160 million letters this Christmastime as customers ask for help with their purchases.

Seventy-eight percent of respondents claimed they had used customer service tools more this year, thanks to the pandemic, but 32% also say that the service they have received has become worse over this time period. With nearly four in every five UK shoppers willing to change their buying intentions when faced with poor customer service, this could spell trouble for brands this Christmas, which are already under strain from unprecedented online activity.

So far, 50% of consumers say they are deliberately avoiding brands with notoriously bad customer service over the festive season, with the average loss to a company per customer amounting to £58. One in five had already stopped purchasing from a brand during the coronavirus crisis this year for the same reason.

According to the data collected, the worst culprits for poor customer service are utilities, retail and public sector businesses. Meanwhile, the most complained about issues were speaking to multiple agents about the same situation, having to repeat information, slow response times and confusing online processes.

72% of British shoppers think that retailers should offer more promotions in a time of financial uncertainty

Seventy-two percent of British shoppers think that retailers should offer more promotions in a time of financial uncertainty, such as the pandemic, according to a December report from XCCommerce, ‘Promotion at the speed of customer demand’.

The survey of 2000 consumers also revealed that more than half of consumers (56%) in the region believe it is the most important factor when they shop, rising to 70% among those aged between 18 and 24. A further thirty-two percent of respondents said they have been researching offers in 2020 more than they were last year.

With 60% of consumers spending less this year due to Covid related financial troubles, brands have to provide shoppers with smarter and more aggressive discounts to encourage them to part with their cash. It seems that customers are more likely to prefer immediate-term discounts than those that offer long term perks for their loyalty. The most popular form of discount cited by those surveyed was money off specific products (78%), followed by free shipping (55%) and multi-buy discounts (46%). However, access to members only discounts (15%), a subscription service offering money off future buys (10%) and access to exclusive content (9%) were ranked the least popular.

Despite a large appetite for discounted products, brands must be careful not to overdo promotional communications. Forty-four percent of customers say they resist the temptation to buy additional products recommended to them (e.g. ‘customers who bought this also bought’), while another 46% say that over-communication of current offers puts them off from making a purchase.

Grocery supermarkets are seen as the most generous discounters by consumers, and even more so in the eyes of the 55-64 year old age bracket. Meanwhile, just 8% believe fashion retailers offer the best promotions, increasing to 19% for 18-24 year olds.

UK footfall down 29% year-on-year as non-essential shops reopen in England

The Retail Gazette reports ShopperTrak’s findings that UK footfall on the first Saturday after England’s national lockdown was lifted (5th December) was still down 29% year-on-year, even though week-on-week shopper traffic increased 193%.

Despite Christmas edging nearer, and reports showing packed high streets in central London and other key retail locations, it appears consumers are remaining cautious about venturing in store during the busiest shopping period of the year.

Further data, this time from Springboard, indicates that footfall across all retail destinations in the first week after the November lockdown ended was 41.3% down on the same week in 2019, rising to a 51% drop on high streets and a 45.6% drop in shopping centres. However, the number of shoppers visiting dedicated retail parks declined by just 1.3% on last year.

Online grocery sales at 14% share of overall market during second lockdown

Grocery market share statistics from Kantar reveal a record spike in UK grocery sales throughout the month of November.

In the four weeks to 29th November, take home sales increased 13.9% year-on-year as consumers in England were restricted to eating at home and others began shopping for festive food earlier than usual. According to analysis, the three days before lockdown began on 5th November were the particularly busy, with sales rising 17% during that week alone.

Overall, November saw shopping frequency at grocery stores at its highest level since the beginning of the pandemic, contributing to record sales of £10.9 billion over the four-week period. Kantar predicts sales in December will increase even further to £12 billion, £1.5 billion more than December last year, as more consumers buy their provisions for the festive period.

Of course, another lockdown meant renewed interest in online grocery shopping, which saw its share of the overall grocery market grow to a record 13.7% that month, thanks to more than six million customers purchasing produce online.

61% of fashion retailers say they are planning to reduce the number of SKUs in their inventories
The pandemic’s impact on the fashion industry, particularly in store, has lead to significant amount of left over stock and periods of heavy discounting by retailers as they try to shift it, greatly affecting overall revenue. A December report from Business of Fashion and McKinsey observes the ways fashion retailers are making fundamental changes to their strategies going into 2021 to resolve the issues that have been brought to light more plainly than ever before.

When asked what strategies they would employ to avoid future overstock, 61% of fashion retailers said they were planning to reduce the number of SKUs in their inventories. A further 60% hope to improve analytics for consumer insights so that they can better predict demand, while 55% said they would implement a more agile supply chain.

Combined with other methods such as moving to a seasonless assortment and reducing the number of collections they produce, these retailers hope to make their business operations more cost effective and environmentally friendly moving forward.

Farfetch CMO Gareth Jones on the state of luxury fashion in 2020 and beyond

Crowded stores and long checkout queues among top concerns for UK customers Christmas shopping in store

An Aptos survey of 2000 UK consumers has found the top concern for in store shoppers during the Golden Quarter (November to January) is that stores will be too crowded (74%). This is followed by concerns about long checkout queues (69%) and a lack of social distancing measures (68%). However, nearly half (49%) say that if satisfactory precautions are put in place to prevent these issues, they would be willing to visit brick-and-mortar shops during this period.

Besides safety measures, around three-quarters of respondents cited the availability of click and collect services as one element which would encourage them to return to the high street. A further 52% said they would be enticed by seasonal decorations and displays, while 48% said better in store discounts would convince them to make the switch from online.

Technology that could help alleviate queuing times seemed of particular interest to UK shoppers. When asked, 74% stated that they would be very or fairly likely to use a self-checkout service in store. Meanwhile, 53% would be receptive to using a mobile card reader and 51% ‘scan and go’ technology.

But it’s not just high street shopping consumers are sceptical about this year amid the coronavirus crisis. They also have concerns shopping online this year – more than half are worried about deliveries taking longer than usual due to high demand. Furthermore, an additional 46% are concerned about stock limitations or item availability and more than two in five are apprehensive that deliveries may never arrive.

Third party sellers on Amazon saw a 60% growth year-on-year in Black Friday weekend sales

In a blog post on 1st December, Amazon revealed that sales performance on Black Friday weekend, which includes Cyber Monday, has helped the 2020 holiday season become the ‘biggest yet’ for the company.

Black Friday promotions saw third-party sellers grow their sales by 60% year-on-year, surpassing $4.8 billion worldwide. Amazon also claimed that more than 71,000 small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) selling through the marketplace had made more than $100,000 during the holiday season at the time of publication.

Meanwhile, SMEs based in the US have seen an average of 9,500 products sold via Amazon every minute since October. Record sales levels have enabled independent businesses using the platform to create an estimated 2.2 million new jobs around the globe.

Best-sellers in the US so far since the 15th October (the beginning of the company’s Holiday Dash deals event) have included several Amazon branded items including the Echo Dot and Amazon Smart Plug. Ancestry and DNA services like 23andMe have also been popular with shoppers, as has Barack Obama’s latest book ‘A Promised Land’.

Self-care, toys and pets were among the biggest trending categories in the region as people began searching for gifts earlier than usual. Skincare, pyjamas and LEGO kits also shared the spotlight with consumers preparing for more time indoors in the lead up to Christmas. The company also reported more customers signing up for its Amazon Pharmacy service as a convenient way of receiving their prescriptions.

UK retailers see a 23% increase in online store sales this Black Friday, YoY

Analysis from Nosto has found UK sales in online stores soared 23% this Black Friday. This was accompanied by a 35% rise in online store visits and a 2% increase in conversion rates compared to numbers from the same event in 2019. However, there was a 4% decline in average order value, likely due to heavier discounting than usual to get consumers to part with their cash amid financial uncertainty.

Globally, pet supplies and home and garden came out on top compared to other verticals, seeing a 60% and 52% increase in online sales respectively. The majority of the remaining categories analysed saw growth compared to last year’s Black Friday results, except for fashion and accessories, which experienced a 4% decline despite a 7% uplift in traffic. This category also saw a 5% decrease in conversion rate and a 3% drop in average order value.

Overall, global online consumer behaviour changed quite significantly over the Black Friday Cyber Monday weekend. This year, there was a 24% increase in the number of pages viewed and a 20% increase in the time spent on any one page. Meanwhile, bounce rate dropped by 2%, suggesting that shoppers, more than ever, are making more purposeful and considered purchases during the event.

Interestingly, there was also a 30% uplift in the number of product recommendations shown, indicating that retailers have put in place additional measures to ensure a personalised experience for visitors and a greater chance of conversion and/or upselling.

US shopping app downloads slow to a 4% year-on-year growth in Q3 after a Q2 spike

US shopping app downloads slowed to a 4% year-on-year growth in Q3, following a spike in Q2, according to Sensor Tower’s Mobile Retail Trends Analysis, published in Q4.

Across the Apple App Store and Google Play, shopping app downloads in the region surpassed 150 million. The ranking of most downloaded apps remained mostly unchanged throughout Q1-Q3 this year, with Amazon, Wish and Walmart remaining in the top three, in that order, as they did last year. However, three new retail apps entered among the remaining seven spots, mirroring their successes in the US market this year – Shop (by Shopify) rocketed to fourth place overall, while fashion retailer SHEIN ranked number seven and Nike crept in at number 10.

Sensor Tower data also revealed that US app download growth for top brick-and-mortar retailers between Q1-Q3 this year was almost double that of top online-only retail apps (+27% vs. +14%). Downloads for stores that also have a brick-and-mortar presence also dropped off less sharply over the Q3 period compared to those of online-only retailers.

This suggests US consumers found a new way to shop with their favourite high street stores this year under unprecedented circumstances which meant they had to shop from home. Customers who favour flexible shipping policies and contact-free pickup particularly reaped the benefits of apps from these kinds of retailers.

47% of British consumers have had issues with parcel delivery since March lockdown

An October survey of more than 2000 British consumers, commissioned by Citizens Advice, has found that nearly half (47%) of British consumers have had issues with the delivery of parcels since the first lockdown began in March.

With the UK having been in full or partial lockdown for much of this year, 51% say they feel more reliant on having products delivered to their homes. The increased numbers of people now shopping online, whether for necessity or convenience, seems to have thrown retailers’ logistical issues into the spotlight.

Of all respondents, a whopping 96% claimed to have ordered products that require parcel delivery since March. Three in 10 of these have experienced shipping delays, making it the biggest issue cited by consumers. A further 18% said they had lost out financially due to a home delivery gone wrong or missing, with 40% of those losing out by more than £20.

As a result, nearly one in four have lost confidence when ordering goods from online stores – something that could have a larger impact as people begin their Christmas shopping.

Citizens Advice has said views of its webpage providing advice on parcel issues had more than doubled to 208,000 between March and October this year compared to just 94,000 over the same period last year.

US holiday spending boost could be as low as 15% this year

Data from Boston Consulting Group (BCG), published in November, has revealed that the typical US holiday spending boost that is experienced every autumn/winter could be much lower this year than it has been in the past.

Normally, spending is on average 40% higher during the festive season than it is throughout the rest of the year, as US consumers prepare for Thanksgiving, Christmas and other religious holidays that fall in the last quarter. However, thanks to factors like a weaker economy, as well as declining spending trends from earlier 2020 US holidays (Independence Day and Labor Day to name a few), experts predict the boost could end up as low as 15%.

It added that retail performance in Q4 will vary depending on sector, following patterns that emerged earlier in the year. For example, sales of electronics and home goods are expected to thrive even further this winter. Geography will also have an impact on the spending habits of consumers, with some states having implemented tighter measures than others as the holiday season approaches.

As a result, BCG advises that marketers adopt ‘every resource’ they can to help navigate potential demand and plan out promotional tactics, pricing and digital marketing efforts.

Two in five Brits plan to shop on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Despite the national lockdown in England, two out of five (40%) Brits are planning to shop on Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year, according to a YouGov survey from 25th November. This figure rises to 58% of those aged between 18 and 24 and 51% of 25-49 year olds. One in six are still unsure as to whether or not they will take part.

Across all age groups, 32% expect to shop online only over Cyber Weekend, a number which is likely enhanced by the closure of non-essential retail stores in England at a time which coincides with the event, and 7% hope to make purchases both in store and online. Just 1% said they would be shopping exclusively in brick-and-mortar stores.

18-24 year olds are most likely to shop in a physical retail store, with 11% of those who will be making purchases over Cyber Weekend hoping to do so either entirely or in addition to shopping online. Meanwhile, just 16% of over 65s will be shopping solely online, and even fewer (5%) will make some kind of in store trip across the event, classing them as the category most indifferent to grabbing a bargain this November 27th.

UK October retail sales up 5.8% year-on-year as second lockdown loomed

ONS data found a 5.8% growth in the volume of retail sales in October compared to the same month a year before. Retail sales volume also increased by 1.2% on September, continuing the industry’s trend of steady recovery seen over the last six months.

These figures suggest UK consumers began their festive shopping much earlier than usual, spurred on by heavy discounting by retail stores and perhaps by rumours of an impending second lockdown in November.

Non-store sales volume rose month-on-month for the first time since June, and were 44.9% higher than in February, pre-Covid. Meanwhile, sales in sectors such as household goods, non-food, food stores and department stores all continued to recover above their equivalent February numbers, but at a much lower rate. Clothing, however, notably stayed lower than pre-Covid levels, hampered by tightening local lockdown measures on non-essential stores.

78.9% of clothing and 66.7% of department stores saw a decreased level of footfall during the two weeks from 5th October to 18th October, resulting in the increase seen in online spending. Overall, online sales as a percentage of all retail reached 28.5% in October – an uplift of 4.7% month-on-month.

Asda gears up for a “record online Christmas” as it publishes Q3 results

Asda reported that it is gearing up for a “record online Christmas” as it published its Q3 results for 2020, which included a 72% year-on-year increase in combined net sales for Asda.com and George.com.

Overall, Q3 like-for-like sales (excluding fuel) increased by 2.7% year-on-year, the supermarket chain reported, with growth driven by strong performance in grocery, back to school clothing and online shopping. Asda is already seeing a surge in demand for Christmas products and essentials, including Christmas trees, sales of which are up by 83% year-on-year; festive lights, which are up 57%; and Christmas puddings, which are up 71%. Sales of frozen turkey crowns, which serve three to four people, have also increased 230% year on year, indicating that consumers are planning for smaller gatherings during the festive period.

Asda is responding to the continued demand for online shopping by increasing the capacity of its grocery delivery service to 765,000 weekly slots. It has also expanded its delivery trial with Uber Eats from 50 stores to 100.

Alibaba’s Singles Day sales event breaks records

November 11th saw Alibaba pull in record sales during one of the largest retail events in China – Singles Day. Purchases made in the 11-day campaign period covering the unofficial holiday topped $74 billion, a new high for the company and a 26% increase on 2019’s event.

In its press release, the ecommerce giant said that more than 470 brands using Alibaba made 100 million yuan in gross merchandise value (GMV) as a result of the shopping festival. The platform also claimed it had processed 583,000 purchases per second during the peak of activity across the campaign. Of the quarter of a million brands that participated, 31,000 originated from outside of the Chinese market. 2,600 of these were joining the event for the first time.

Digital tools came into their own during the Singles Day event this year. According to Alibaba’s data, its AI customer chatbot dealt with 2.1 billion questions, and more than 30 livestreaming channels on Taobao Live (Alibaba Group’s livestreaming tool) made over 100 million yuan in GMV.

Rival JD.com made 271 billion yuan (US $40.9 billion) in sales throughout the holiday, while major omnichannel retailer Suning.com exceeded 5 billion yuan (US $­756 million) in omnichannel GMV across its ecommerce platform, Tmall shop, and livestreaming outlets 19 minutes after midnight on November 11th, the South China Morning Post reported.

With Black Friday just around the corner, the significant growth in purchase activity during China’s biggest shopping event of the year could indicate what is to come for online retailers this festive season, particularly for those with outstanding digital capability.

How does the ecommerce experience in China differ from the west?

Burberry pre-tax profits fall 62% in H1

Interim results published by Burberry have revealed the luxury brand saw its pre-tax profits fall by 62% to £73 million in H1 FY2020 (six months ending 26th September), down from £193 million in H1 2019.

Total sales declined by 31% to 828 million thanks in part to spring lockdowns, which forced many businesses to close their brick-and-mortar stores for several months. However, sales had begun to recover in late summer, with double-digit increases across China, Korea and the US and had begun to return to growth in October. Comparable store sales, the brand said, were just 6% down year-on-year in Q2 (July-Sept) versus 45% down in Q1 (March-June) during the first wave of global and national infection.

Despite disappointing results, Burberry emphasised its high double-digit growth on its digital platforms as many consumers remain wary of visiting in store venues. It also saw growth in leather goods, and ‘good brand traction’ with the acquisition of new and younger customers.

Ten percent of its physical retail stores remained closed at the time of its financial release (12th November), most of which are in the EMEA region due to reinstated lockdowns. This could have a significant impact on its bottom line during the all-important holiday season.

Pinduoduo’s MAUs increase by 74.6 million quarter-on-quarter in Q3

Chinese ecommerce platform Pinduoduo increased its monthly active users (MAUs) by 74.6 million in Q3 compared to the previous quarter, to a total of 643.4 million. Its number of annual active buyers also rose by 36% to 731.3 million compared to the same period in 2019. At just five years old, this makes Pinduoduo the fastest ecommerce company to have surpassed 700 million active buyers.

Gross merchandise value (GMV) reached a whopping 1.5 trillion yuan (+73%), while its revenue climbed 89% year-on-year to 14.2 billion yuan ($2.1 billion US) as Chinese consumers continued to favour online shopping after its peak of the outbreak in the region. A twenty percentage point decrease in sales and marketing expenses helped to boost this figure further.

This success follows innovative action taken by the company to extend its offering to consumers. In August, Pinduoduo launched its grocery delivery service Duo Duo Maicai to meet growing demand amidst the fallout from the pandemic.

What’s behind the success of China’s social commerce app Pinduoduo?

Cross-border ecommerce sales expected to rise an average of 63% YoY across the festive season

Predictions from ecommerce brand eShopWorld state global cross-border ecommerce sales could rise an average of 63% year-on-year throughout November and December. It says it expects these sales to grow by 56% in November, followed by a 70% growth in December as shoppers prepare for the holiday season.

Christmas shopping is set to start earlier this year due to the impact from the coronavirus pandemic, however the strong performance anticipated throughout December implies that there will continue to be plenty of last-minute purchases in the lead up to the event.

EShopWorld CEO Tommy Kelly said the company had found a 113% increase in same-store global online sales during October.

As several countries, including parts of the UK, are placed back into lockdown, the importance of retailers’ targeting non-domestic markets for cross-border selling becomes more important than ever to stay competitive.

67% of UK consumers say they’ll spend the same or more this Christmas

A September study of over 1000 UK consumers, conducted by Quantcast, has found 67% plan to spend the same or more money than usual on Christmas this year. This is despite of some 37% of respondents experiencing increased personal financial instability as a result of Covid-19.

However, the uncertainty surrounding Christmas celebrations in 2020 has not caused many to change their plans – just 6% of those who usually celebrate the holiday have said they will skip it this year, while three-quarters believed it to be ‘important’. Those shoppers that are either unfazed, or hope to spend more this festive season, are more likely to be male, aged between 35-44, have children and live in rural or suburban areas, according to analysis.

The first lockdown in spring saw a huge shift in the types of consumers that relied on online shoppingstat across all categories, which could lead to a broader demographic purchasing Christmas gifts online in the new few months (particularly with a second lockdown in England). In the lead up to Christmas 2019, the typical online shopper was female and aged between 25-54, compared to a much older demographic which has dominated the sector since March (female, aged 45-65+).

Combined with data that indicates online shopping during the first lockdown reached nearly twice the peak of ecommerce orders over the festive season in 2019, the retail sector will see an unprecedented demand on online services over winter.

M&S posts a loss for the first time in 94 years

British retailer Marks and Spencer has posted a loss for the first time in 94 years, its latest financial statement reveals. In the six months to the end of September, the company made a loss of £87.6 million versus a £158.8 million profit during the same period of 2019.

Sales fell 15.8% between March and September, mostly impacted by the lack of sales in its clothing and homeware departments. Even food sales struggled, seeing a 20% decline on budget during the four months to July, which hit overall annual revenue by £348 million. However, total food sales rose by a modest 2.7% overall during the full six-month period, boosted by the performance of its standalone Simply Food stores.

There was a slight rise (1.8%) in the number of clothing and homeware sales conducted via its ecommerce arm, but this was not enough to offset the losses from the prolonged closure of 600 of its brick-and-mortar shops in the first lockdown.

However, there is some cause for optimism, at least for its grocery offering, going forward into Q4. Ocado, the online grocery store which recently began delivering M&S produce in September, reported a 47.9% sales growth in the six months to the end of August.

Amazon sales up 37% year-on-year in Q3 2020

A press release outlining Amazon’s Q3 financials has confirmed that the company’s net sales grew 37% year-on-year worldwide, totaling $96.1 billion for the period and surpassing estimates of $92.7 billion. North American net sales were up by 39%, while international net sales rose by 37%.

Sales of its subscription services grew 33% year-on-year, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) grew by 29%. Total profits were up by 200% to $6.3 billion compared to the same quarter the year before, beating Amazon’s previous record of $5.2 billion profit back in Q2.

While Prime Day, which took place from October 13-14, wasn’t included in these results, the company hailed it as the “two biggest days ever for small and medium businesses in Amazon’s stores”. $3.5 billion in sales were made during this event alone, equating to a 60% uplift compared to 2019’s event. Prime members also saved $1.4 billion on goods across the two days, according to the statement from Amazon.

Looking ahead to Q4, sales are expected to reach between $112-121 billion, or to grow between 28-38% year-on-year, as customers opt to do much of their holiday shopping online.

Digital Shift Q4 2020 Chapter 2 – Amazon revenues and innovation

Ebay’s Q3 revenue rises 25% year-on-year

Ebay’s Q3 2020 financial statement has revealed that its revenue rose 25% to $2.61 billion compared to the same period in 2019, beating expert estimates of $2.48 billion. In the quarter ending 30th September, the marketplace also reported that its number of annual active buyers increased by 5% to total 183 million globally.

With Amazon’s sales expected to rise further as the year draws to a close, these strong growth figures are in line with an accelerated trend in one-stop-shop online marketplace shopping amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Ebay expects its Q4 2020 earnings to reach up to $2.71 billion, boosted by holiday purchases and has raised its full-year sales outlook to the region of $10.04 to $10.11 billion. This equates to a 19-20% total revenue growth across 2020, where original forecasts predicted a 14-16% growth.

Footfall down 3.5% in shopping centres in week to October 17th as local lockdowns are enforced

The number of shoppers travelling to physical UK retail destinations has fallen for a fourth consecutive week, according to data from customer activity specialist Springboard, reported on by Reuters. Further local lockdown restrictions have been enforced to subdue a second wave of the coronavirus this coming winter, which in some cases includes closing pubs and restaurants in particularly badly-affected areas, providing consumers with even fewer reasons to visit town centres and shopping complexes.

In the week to the 17th October, footfall on UK high streets and retail parks fell by 2.8% and 3% respectively on figures from the week before. However, it was shopping centres that fared the worst, seeing a 3.5% decline during this period.

Unsurprisingly, it was regions of the north that felt the biggest hit as restrictions became especially strict in areas like Manchester and Yorkshire. Footfall in many of these areas dipped by around 5% week-on-week. In total, the decline in shopper numbers across all retail destinations around the UK worsened to 32.3% year-on-year.

This comes alongside news that a record 11,000 UK shops have been permanently closed as a result of the ongoing pandemic so far this year.

MiQ predicts a 17% year-on-year fall in UK retail sales in Q4 2020

In October, programmatic media company MiQ predicted a 17% year-on-year fall in UK retail sales in 2020’s Golden Quarter, amounting to a 2% increase in sales when compared with Q2 2020, if partial lockdowns and restricted mobility remain the same throughout Q4 as they were in Q3.

If this ‘status quo’ is maintained, the brand predicts a 29% quarter-on-quarter increase in online shopping, driven mostly by those aged between 18 and 35, and 24% and 15% declines in non-essential purchases and in-store shopping respectively. Sixty-two percent of 56-65 year olds plan to shop ‘as usual’ – in what’s likely to be a mix of online and offline stores – rising to 64% of those aged over 65. In contrast, despite having the second highest intent to shop online this festive season, 18-25 year olds are also most determined to shop more in physical stores.

The worst-case scenario sees the entire nation put back into lockdown over Q4, impacting consumer confidence (which could decline by between 15-20%) and overall retail sales for the quarter, which may decline by 20% year-on-year or 6% vs Q2 2020. In this situation, purchases of non-essential items could fall 29% lower than in Q4 2019.

Although very unlikely, if a commercially available vaccine is produced before Christmas, spurring on a return to normality, sales could decrease by just 10% on the same period last year and increase by 25% compared to Q2 2020.

Suburban and rural consumers drove the bulk of online grocery shopping growth during the spring peak of the pandemic
Research from GlobalWebIndex has confirmed that suburban and rural consumers helped drive the bulk of global online grocery shopping growth during the first peak of the pandemic in Q2 2020.

Pre-Covid, most consumers that took advantage of the convenience that online grocery shopping affords were millennials living in urban settings. From Q1 this year, those in the Gen Z and Boomer categories have developed more active shopping behaviours in this sector, particularly those that live outside of major population centres.

Globally, the number of internet users in suburban areas that had purchased a grocery item online in the last month rose from 30% in Q1 to 34% in Q2, and those in rural areas followed a similar trend (26% in Q1 to 30% in Q2). Meanwhile, consumers living in urban regions only drove growth of one percentage point over this period.

Latin America saw the largest shift in online grocery shopping adoption throughout this time. The percentage of those who are mainly responsible for grocery shopping in their households that had ordered groceries in the last month started at just 22% in Q1 and grew to 29% by the end of Q2 – a 31% uplift. This was followed by North America, which saw a 23% positive change.

Growth appeared slow in Europe by comparison, with only a 9% increase, however individual countries in the region varied massively. The UK saw the greatest change, and three in 10 internet users had shopped online for grocery products by the second quarter.

ASOS UK sales up 18% year-on-year to Sept

ASOS UK sales have risen by 18% year-on-year to £1.18bn, according to the brand’s full year financial statement ending August 31st 2020. International retail markets, which include the European, US and ROW regions, performed even higher at +20% during the same period.

The statement also revealed that the company has seen a 3.1 million rise in its active customer base, which now totals 23.4 million across the world, reflecting increased brand engagement spurred on by the pandemic.

This news comes despite issues with the retailer’s supply chain when Covid-19 first hit, as well as huge volatility in sales across the fashion sector throughout the spring when lockdowns were enforced on much of the Western world. The brand also said it continues to remain cautious about the financial impact the crisis is having on its core 20-something customer base, which could affect sales and basket sizes over the festive period and in the longer term.

Nick Beighton, ASOS CEO, added to the statement: “I am pleased by the improvements we have made this year but there is still more for us to do to continue our progress. Whilst life for our 20-something customers is unlikely to return to normal for quite some time, ASOS will continue to engage, respond and adapt as one of the few truly global leaders in online fashion retail.”

80% of brands do not have a loyalty programme in their marketing strategy
Despite droves of online shoppers switching between brands this year, as many as 80% of organisations still do not have loyalty programmes integrated into their marketing strategies, October research from Dotdigital confirms.

A further 43% of companies with an ecommerce arm fail to collect enough key customer data, such as date of birth, to offer them crucial personalised messaging, while 40% admitted they don’t publish post-purchase reviews – a key purchase driver. An additional two-thirds of those surveyed failed to send editorial marketing communications, which help to highlight the value of a brand and its products.

Consequently, numerous companies are missing out on the opportunity to acquire repeat online business from these new customers, whether from lack of loyalty to a brand, irrelevant content or not enough social proof on display from past shoppers.

According to the data, 38% of consumers are keen to acquire brand credit with actions outside of buying products, for example writing reviews or interacting with social accounts. Interestingly, thirty-nine percent only consider themselves ‘loyal’ to a company after completing a fifth purchase, but with the majority of brands not making the effort to incentivise engagement, they have little reason to stick around.

International online sales of luxury goods increased by 170% year-on-year in August and September

International online sales of luxury goods increased by 170% year-on-year in August and September, according to analysis from eShopWorld.

As retail begins its slow recovery on a global scale, the cross-border luxury market appears to be faring well following sales performance in July that was 40% above those seen in the lead up to Christmas last year (a period which is usually the strongest in the calendar alongside new year discounts).

Luxury has been one of the most hard-hit sectors of the industry as consumers rein in their spending and focus on essential items throughout the pandemic. The closure of physical stores, as well as shoppers’ reluctance to splash out and other unpredictable online behaviours has caused experts to predict drops of 40-60% in experiential luxury and 25%-45% in personal luxury sales year-on-year.

Despite this gloomy outlook, the late summer growth figures indicate that brands are altering their marketing strategies to prioritise digital, thereby bringing luxury online experiences to those outside of their usual domestic markets. CEO of eShopWorld, Tommy Kelly, explained, “In the current climate, there is incredible opportunity for luxury beyond the traditional channels and markets, particularly as older shoppers have become more comfortable with online, while digital natives are, of course, already there.”

Tesco’s pre-tax profit surges 28.7% year-on-year

Tesco’s 2020/21 interim results have indicated a 28.7% year-on-year surge in pre-tax profits for the company in what has been a landmark year for the grocery sector.

Food sales rose by 9.2% in the 26 weeks to the end of August, but interest in its clothing line F&F fell, resulting in a 17.2% drop in sales for this category. Average basket size in large stores grew by 56%. Unsurprisingly, fuel sales fell by 42% on 2019 as the general public were encouraged to stay at home throughout national lockdown in spring and early summer. The brand also said it had so far spent £533 million on Covid-19 safety measures for its staff and customers throughout the pandemic.

Online delivery capacity doubled to 1.5 million weekly slots as a result of heightened demand at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK. It also revealed that it had served 674,000 vulnerable or shielding customers so far.

Meanwhile, operating profits fell by 15.6%, largely due to Tesco Bank which made a loss of £155 million during this period.

Tesco’s new Chief Executive, Ken Murphy said in a statement, “The first half of this year has tested our business in ways we had never imagined, and our colleagues have risen brilliantly to every challenge, acting in the best interests of our customers and local communities throughout.”

Tesco on experience and purpose during a pandemic

Ocado named 2020’s fastest-growing UK brand

BrandZ has named grocery chain Ocado as the UK’s fastest growing brand in its annual Top 75 Most Valuable Brands report.

The company jumped 16 places in the Top 75 list this year, following a 63.3% growth in brand value change since 2019, settling at number 18. Its online-only formula, unlike other brands in the sector which also have brick-and-mortar stores, places it in an excellent position for growth through digital innovation. According to the report, demand for its services during the peak of the pandemic was at 10 times it usual level for the time of year.

Others that have seen particularly fast growth this year also fall within the food category – Deliveroo, growing by 40% in brand value change this year, made number 29 on the list, while Just Eat grew by 19%, placing it just below Ocado at number 20.

Vodafone came out on top in the top 75 most valuable brands list, followed by HSBC, Shell, BP and BT, despite all of these brands measuring double-digit declines in brand value since last year. In fact, just 10 brands out of all 75 experienced growth overall, highlighting the massive impact Covid-19 has had on the majority of verticals. The rest saw declines or flat growth or were new to the list in 2020.

Advertising

Global ad spend predicted to fall 10.2% year-on-year in 2020
In a November report, WARC predicts that global ad spend will fall 10.2% to $557.3 billion in 2020 compared to results from 2019. The ongoing fallout from the pandemic has meant that traditional media has had its worst year on record and this has had an enormous effect on the industry as a whole.

Drilling down by industry, ad spend in automotive is expected to decline the most severely overall in 2020, with a loss of $11 billion. Travel and tourism could see ad spend drop by a total of 33.8%, but looks set to rebound at the fastest rate next year at +19.5%. After a very volatile year, total retail ad spend could fall 16.2% to $54.3 billion and is only projected to rebound with a 5.9% growth next year – a much slower rate than some other verticals like automotive (predicted +14.1%) and media and publishing (+8.4%). Business and industrial could also struggle, as its forecast growth of 5.3% means investment in this sector could only increase by 2.5% on 2019.

Consequently, WARC says it could take up to two years for ad spend to fully recover to levels seen before the onset of the coronavirus. According to analysis, a 6.7% growth in ad spend throughout 2021 will only be able to make up for 59% of losses that occurred this year. In 2022, ad spend would need to rise a further 4.4% to finally meet 2019’s $620.6 billion.

Video game industry ad spend rose 80% year-on-year in the first two weeks of November
The video game industry spent more than $45 million in ad spend over the first two weeks of November this year; a rise of 80% year-on-year, according to ad sales intelligence company MediaRadar.

This news follows a bumper year for the gaming industry as engagement amongst its core audience reached record highs and both Sony and Microsoft brought brand new consoles to market. In fact, it was the latter that drove much of the increase in ad spend. According to the data, Sony spent more than $15 million advertising the new PlayStation 5 in the month before its release – more than three times what Microsoft spent promoting its equivalent Xbox Series X. Nintendo also contributed to the rise, with ad spend increasing 138% in the first two weeks of November compared to the two weeks prior – all the better to compete with its rivals.

New games have also been released to coincide with these major new console launches, such as Call of Duty: Cold War and Assassins Creed: Valhalla, causing a 76% year-on-year increase in ad spend from video game titles overall. Additionally, popular gaming retailers increased promotions during these two weeks in an attempt to entice fans to spend throughout the much-anticipated launches.

ITV reports 7% year-on-year drop in ad spend for Q3

ITV has reported that its ad spend improved in Q3 after the first wave of the coronavirus caused a significant 43% decline in the broadcaster’s ad revenue throughout Q2.

In the third quarter, total ad spend was down by 7% year-on-year. Of the three months to September, July was the worst performing (down 23%) but August was up 3%. Meanwhile, September’s ad spend was down 2% and October, which falls in Q4, was down 1% – however, both of these months were up against coverage of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, suggesting ITV’s advertising outlook is improving rapidly, all things considered.

Categories that spent more money advertising with ITV in Q3 2020 than in Q3 2019 included FMCG, Supermarkets, Publishing and Broadcasting, Telecommunications, Food and Government, among others.

Despite this promising analysis, total ad revenue for the nine months to 30th September was down 16% on the same time last year, however online revenues picked up slightly at +2% growth.

ITV remains optimistic and predicts its advertising revenue will return to growth in Q4, providing the national lockdown restrictions end as planned on 2nd December, with an expected 6% uplift in November alone.

2021 projected UK ad spend growth revised down

Data from the latest Advertising Association/WARC Expenditure Report has predicted that ad spend recovery in the UK next year could be slower than originally expected. The previous estimate of a 16.6% return-to-growth in the sector throughout 2021, presented back in July, has therefore been revised down to 14.4%.

According to the report, cinema ad spend is set to make a strong rebound at a rate of 138.3% next year as long-awaited delayed blockbusters like James Bond: No Time To Die are finally released. Meanwhile, healthy growth in OOH ad spend is expected (+57.1%), after being heavily impacted by national and local lockdowns in 2020. Verticals that are underpinned by digital and online formats such as magazine brands and regional news brands are also predicted to fare better than most next year.

Overall ad spend for the whole of 2020 is now due to fall 14.5% on last year to £21.5 billion – a loss of £3.6 billion compared to 2019, with the Q4 period offsetting some of the damage thanks to festive advertising. However, the final quarter is still expected to see a 10.5% fall in ad spend compared to the same period in 2019.

UK ad spend is not expected to recover fully until well into 2022, the report claimed.

UK digital ad spend fell 5% year-on-year in H1 2020

Research from IAB UK, as reported by WARC, has found that UK digital ad spend fell by 5% in H1 2020 compared with figures from the first half of 2019.

Across the sub-categories within the digital marketing sphere, some areas performed better than others. Display advertising grew by 0.3% year-on-year to £2.84 billion, within which video advertising rose 5.7% mirroring increased engagement consumers had with video streaming services over lockdown. Without video’s strong growth, overall digital ad spend results would have been much worse.

Search ad spend, meanwhile, dropped by 3.7% during this period, representing a £143 million fall in revenue on H1 2019. Mobile ad spend also saw a decline, but a much more modest 1%. However, one of the worst affected areas of digital ad spend was classifieds, which saw a massive 33% fall in revenue, decreasing by £235 million to £485 million.

44% of online publishers expect traffic to exceed pre-Covid levels this festive period

Further data from Rakuten Advertising’s ‘The Road to Recovery’ report (using responses from June/July) has found 44% of online publishers expect traffic this festive period to exceed that of pre-Covid levels.

So far, 49% of affiliate publishers questioned said that they had seen traffic increase since the coronavirus pandemic began and 72% have not made any changes to the cost of placements or inventory on their platforms. However, several have adapted their operations amid the coronavirus crisis. More than one-third (34%) claim to have offered more opportunities to their advertisers for the same, or discounted, cost, while another 27% say they have created new inventory and campaigns.

It seems advertisers are mostly thinking on a short-term basis when it comes to this year’s Golden Quarter and this was cited as the biggest notable change in behaviour since this time last year. Seventy percent of publishers have noticed that most advertisers are planning campaigns to run between a one and three month period. Meanwhile, forty-three percent of those surveyed said that advertisers appeared to be spending less money overall.

The majority (58%) believe ads for discounts, deals and offers have been driving the most traffic through publisher sites, followed by highly personalised content (38%) and trending categories such as gaming, home furnishing and beauty (27%). When it comes to the types of platforms that are driving the most traffic, respondents cited organic search (48%), social media (34%) and mobile (29%).

US political ad spend will help US ad market to only a 2% decline

Media research company MAGNA Global predicts that US political TV ad spending during the second half of 2020 will help to stabilise the volatile ad market in the region. According to its findings, US ad spend is expected to decline by 2% year-on-year in H2 2020; improving by more than five percentage points on the drop recorded in the first half of this year (-7.2%).

With the election just around the corner, political advertising in the US could see its highest rate of spending ever at an estimated $5.1bn (after a stronger-than-expected uptake in H1), curbing overall damage to ad spend growth and marking a predicted 4.6% decline for the entire year. Had the election not occurred this year, this negative growth would have been much worse.

The research also found that around two-thirds of all political ad spend will be assigned to local TV, while the second largest area of spend is set to be digital ad platforms which could see $1bn in total earnings. Such digital ad platforms, including Google, and Facebook, appeared resistant to severe ad spend impact in the second quarter, growing by 5.7% as a result during H1 2020.

Meanwhile, MAGNA Global said that it predicts a 4% overall ad spend growth in the US for 2021.

64% of marketers believe language is more important than ever in marketing communications

Survey results from hundreds of senior marketers, conducted by Phrasee and published in September, have thrown the importance of the language used in marketing communications into the spotlight amid Covid-19.

Sixty-four percent agreed that ‘language has never been more important in helping a brand connect with its customers than it is today’, making it a top priority in the marketing leadership agenda. Consequently, 71% expect to spend more time scrutinising the language in their content in future marketing plans and budgets.

However, data also revealed that 82% of marketers struggle to create high quality branded content that uses effective language. Thirty-seven percent cited lack of investment in content creation and a further 37% claimed a lack of time spent on content as reasons for this, while another 36% stated they do not have enough writers on staff. Therefore, a little over half (51%) believe they are unable to create scalable and consistent messaging across different marketing channels.

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