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How COVID-19 is Impacting Online Shopping Behaviour

Updated: Apr 19, 2020

Consumers turn to e-commerce in light of COVID-19 anxiety.

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Mounting concern over the COVID-19 outbreak in Canada is having an impact on online shopping behaviour, according to data from the Adobe Digital Economy Index, which monitors the e-commerce transactions of the top 50 Canadian retailers.

While COVID-19 is hurting in-store traffic for many retailers, others have seen surges in online shopping, as anxiety over the virus increases.

"We've seen all the memes and photos of what some store shelves look like as people prepare for the worst," said Gavin Walton, Editor of "Stores are running out of basic necessity items like toilet paper and hand sanitizer and we think that is a significant driver of online shopping at the moment. Add to the fact that many people are also trying to avoid large gatherings and public places, and it's easy to see why online shopping for COVID-19 related items is up."

What are people buying online given the current state of the COVID-19 outbreak? Below KJB Digital takes a look at some of the most common purchases, and provides insight into what is driving the uptick for these products online.

Online Shopping Surges for COVID-19 Virus Protection

Medical experts are encouraging Canadians to take action and keep their hands clean and away from their faces. And Canadians are listening. E-commerce purchases of the virus protection category of products such as hand sanitizers, gloves, masks, and antibacterial sprays have surged by 817%, according to the Adobe analysis.

Retailers have seen surges in online shopping, as anxiety over the virus increases.

People are Stocking Up on Meds Online

With countries now putting in place COVID-19 travel restrictions to minimize the spread of the virus, Canadian consumers are stocking up on over-the-counter meds, most likely to be prepared in case they do catch the virus and need to self-quarantine. A Globe and Mail analysis of e-commerce transactions found that purchases for cold, cough & flu products have increased 198%, while online purchases for pain relievers increased 152%.

Even Toilet Paper is Being Purchased Online

Brick and mortar retailers in Canada are now limiting the amount of toilet paper patrons can buy. No wonder online purchases for toilet paper have spiked by 186%, according to the Adobe data.

Online Shopping to Fill the Pantry

Similar to toilet paper, non-perishable foods such as canned goods and shelf-stable items (e.g., oatmeal, rice, pasta) are common staples in emergency preparation. It's no surprise that online purchases of these items are up— 69% and 58%, respectively.

"Right now, as consumers increasingly use digital methods to prepare for a possible emergency, retailers need to ensure smooth, frictionless, and fast experiences on their commerce websites and mobile applications," Walton said. "Meeting your customers' needs and expectations at a time like this is imperative: it can either make or break your brand."

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