New insights released by eBay reveal how shopping habits shifted as the UK entered lockdown on 23 March 2020 and, as all but essential physical stores closed doors, online became the default way the nation shopped.
From a DIY renaissance to home haircuts, working from home and working out, consumer behaviour transformed over the first four weeks of lockdown. And with huge online audiences to play for, these insights demonstrate the need for marketers to tap into the most up-to-date data insights to ensure they’re running the most relevant campaigns.
Mike Klinkhammer, director of ad sales EU at eBay, said: “New interests and shopping behaviours have been prompted by the outbreak and online shopping has proved to be a critical lifeline for consumers across the UK. And, despite the initial relaxation of the lockdown, it’s certainly not business as usual. The past weeks of the crisis and ongoing social distancing measures are set to shape consumer behaviour for a long time to come, and the current situation requires brands to pivot their approach to remain relevant to consumers.
“While we don’t know yet how shopping behaviours will shift after lockdown truly lifts, it’s evident that brands can no longer make assumptions about consumers – whether about what they’ll buy, when, or who they are. And as we navigate this unchartered territory, human behaviour is more unpredictable than ever before – meaning real-time consumer insights are not only important; they’re essential to marketers who want to engage with customers.”
Lockdown week 1: Adjusting to change
- Panic buying in the supermarkets and social distancing triggered a switch to buying foodstuffs online. Searches for ‘Food & drink’ on ebay.co.uk increased 473% year on year (YoY)*, while searches for ‘Cat food’ and ‘Dog food’ jumped 633% and 467% respectively.
- And with gym memberships put on hold, eBay witnessed a huge surge in fitness fanatics creating their own gyms at home. Searches for ‘Dumbbells’ soared 1,906%, while searches for ‘Strength training & weights’ rose 1,003%.
Lockdown week 2: Finding that work/ life balance
- After a week of adapting to considerable change, the reality that the ‘new normal’ would last for a prolonged period started to sink in. Wholesale changes in shopping behaviours illustrated the need for new remote workers to settle in to working from home and keep home-schooled kids entertained. During week 2, searches for ‘Office chairs’ and ‘Printers’ on ebay.co.uk grew 121% and 143% YoY respectively, while searches for ‘Jigsaws & puzzles’ rose 841% YoY.
- Jogging bottoms became de rigueur as the Joe Wicks effect got the nation off the sofa and taking home workouts to a whole new level. Searches for ‘Fitness equipment & accessories’ jumped 552% YoY.
- Finally, Brits shopped for DIY basics to ensure they had the tools they needed for their lockdown projects – searches for ‘Painting supplies’ increased 490% YoY.
Lockdown week 3: Warm weather prompts outdoor living boom
- While the Easter holidays typically prompt people to invest in their home and garden, in 2020 a perfect storm of good weather, more free time and a lack of distractions prompted more shoppers than ever to investigate outdoor living and DIY purchases. Searches for ‘Barbecues’ and ‘Garden lighting’ rose 256% and 246% YoY respectively, while searches for ‘Fence panels’ grew 169%.
- From landscaping to manscaping, it sadly became clear that there would be no trips to the barbers for the foreseeable future – and ebay.co.uk saw interest for home hair care rocket, with searches for ‘Hair clippers & trimmers’ shooting up 1,566%.
Lockdown week 4: DIY and cycling reach peak
- At the end of the first month of lockdown, Brits finally ramped up their DIY efforts with searches spiking for DIY categories. Searches for ‘Interior & exterior paint’ rose 825% YoY, and those for ‘Cordless drills’ jumped 135%.
- Shopping in the cycling category also peaked in this fourth week as Brits looked to get a bit of ‘me-time’ – or family time – and exercise in equal measure. Searches for ‘Bikes’ and ‘Bike accessories’ grew 112% and 142% respectively, meanwhile searches for indoor exercise ‘Cycling turbo trainers’ saw a 873% boost.
Klinkhammer continued: “Last year’s trends or even recent behaviours may be useful for background, but the ‘freshness’ of data is becoming an important gauge of quality. Now more than ever, brands can’t afford to waste spend by serving ads to audiences that won’t be interested in them. Brands need real-time insights to help them understand the changes in consumer behaviour in the here and now and ensure that they’re able to engage with the right shoppers with a relevant message and in a brand-safe environment. The technology already exists to provide these insights – and marketers’ enhanced need to demonstrate efficiency and ROI will accelerate its uptake.”
*The percentages shown represent year-on-year increases in searches across product categories on ebay.co.uk for 2020 vs the corresponding week in 2019. The eBay retail week runs from Sunday to Saturday.