Online shopping behavior: What COVID-19 changed and how to test it • eCommerce Forum | Forum Events Ltd
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  • Online shopping behavior: What COVID-19 changed and how to test it

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    When it comes to e-commerce, the current pandemic fortified the already booming position of online shopping in the daily life of an average consumer. The past few weeks have seen a change in behavior, with 45% of consumers opting for online shopping. But how lasting will these new habits be? What is different now, in comparison to how adopters of online shopping used to behave and experience it before the crisis?

    Check out the full webinar here to learn more about the entire study and get all the insights!

    The replicated study included 500 respondents split into 2 cells, with each cell exposed to one retailer (Amazon or Walmart) and 4 categories, both food ones (coffee, chocolate, and cereals) and one non-food category (cleaning products). They completed 2 eye-tracking & click tasks (which served to determine which products participants considered and what elements of product pages they found useful).

    The first wave of the study was conducted in June 2019, and the second in April 2020.

    Here’s what we found that could help brands gain competitive advantage:

    Shoppers saw 36% more products compared to purchases before COVID-19!

    Both prior and during the COVID-19 crisis, positioning is crucial for product noticeability, as our study showed that items placed in one of the top 10 positions on a PLP have a 34% higher chance to be noticed. Also, as a rule of thumb, the middle columns of the PLP perform better in terms of visibility than the lateral ones in a grid layout. Overall, a simpler PLP layout that is showcasing fewer products per page, with clear organization, ensures that a greater portion of content will be seen and explored.

    The most significant change in the way respondents behaved was in the time shoppers spend on the retailer’s product list. It is substantially longer – from half a minute on average to almost 50 seconds! Not only is the exploration of product lists prolonged, but the average time spent per product is also higher – 0.17s more, or 11% longer. With an extended browsing time, comes higher visibility of PLPs – there’s a significant increase in the number of noticed products.

    Purchase interest stays on a more or less same level – with a slight decrease in some categories (chocolate, cereals), but with leading brands remaining the same among the tested categories.

    Consumers are scrolling further and noticing more on a PDP

    The difference in product detail pages exploration is notable – they were explored for almost 20 seconds longer during the COVID-19 crisis. Respondents also scroll through the page much deeper, ensuring that a more significant portion of the page is seen – nearly 60% of shoppers reach the page end compared to usual ~5% who did in our other tests. This results in twice as many areas seen on a PDP, compared to the usual, pre-COVID browsing.

    The areas above the fold – product image, product name, price, short description & add to cart – remain most visible and among most useful in reaching a purchase decision. However, some other areas are gaining in importance for shoppers, primarily – suggested products and customer reviews.

    Basket size is the same, but its contents have changed

    Pages for the four categories included in the study were all browsed longer, with coffee and cleaning products keeping the same purchase intent, and chocolates and cereals having a somewhat decreased number of considered products. Lesser-known brands that provide value at a lower price were taken into consideration for both cereal and coffee categories, while the interest for healthy cereal products and ‘greener’ packaging options for coffee increased.

    In contrast, sanitizing properties and convenience of use rule our choices when it comes to cleaning products, while value packs, family, and variety packs that offer a bigger assortment of products at a competitive price in the chocolate category are two tendencies clearly influenced by the ongoing crisis.

    Previous research has shown that, when unaffected by a crisis, consumers notice only a fraction of the products during normal browsing. So what are the ways you can optimize your website to gain a competitive advantage? From an online shopping strategy, or testing shopper behavior on specific websites, to tactical impact studies, know how to choose the right type of study to up your e-commerce game!

    Here are the key takeaways – make sure to listen to the full webinar for more insights:

    • Shoppers spend more time browsing during COVID-19, on the lookout for new info and best value
    • This might be the right time to optimize your e-commerce strategy and assets
    • Consumer behavior is changing, so change with it!

    Interested in learning more about e-commerce testing? Reach out to us at

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