Assessing the Ecommerce Marketing Landscape, or What Changed in 2020?


30-second summary:

  • Consumer demand and interests have changed as people increasingly buy products that they have never bought online before.
  • Due to the coronavirus pandemic, consumer interest in online shopping increased 50% year-over-year.
  • Ecommerce sites are seeing traffic figures exceeding peak holiday purchases, hitting the 25 billion mark per month.
  • While digital ad spend has declined by 20% on average, ecommerce businesses may see an opportunity amid the crisis as CPC costs are falling as well.

The global pandemic has turned the tide on the way e-commerce brands do business. While the full impact of COVID-19 has yet to be assessed, some market trends may already be spotted and taken advantage of by e-commerce businesses who wish to stay afloat in the downturn in the economy.

After analyzing over 2000 of the world’s largest ecommerce sites across various industries, SEMrush has identified key changes in consumer demand and the overall digital marketing landscape.

Define the main changes in consumer demand

Recent changes in e-commerce market trends are largely driven by deep changes in customer demand. With much attention paid to the impact of the pandemic on consumer behavior, consumer preferences are also a crucial area to look at when trying to define the ‘new customer’.

With e-commerce businesses, to understand consumer demand, we need to look at the most popular products that people are looking for online.

Comparing the average monthly search volume data for the first half of 2019 to that of 2020, some product categories show impressive spikes in consumer interest:

  • Hand washing is now one of the top 5 most sought after products in the Health Looking at the YoY Spring data, the demand for hand sanitizers has increased impressively by + 19,038%, while other similar products have also seen a significant increase in research.
  • Since many people work from home, monitors, webcams, and office chairs are on the list of Top 5 products. Consumer electronics and House and garden categories, respectively.
  • With people spending more time indoors, consumers have stocked refrigerators throughout the pandemic, affecting online searches for frozen food: demand for frozen bread has increased fivefold, while meat has increased. frozen vegetables, snacks and pizzas are among the top 10 most wanted items. within the Food Category.
  • Home orders also helped increase searches for outdoor activity items like lawn chairs (+ 168%) and children’s outdoor toys (+ 253%). Interest in sports products like running clothes and yoga mats almost doubled and quadrupled respectively.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and other holidays, but it has also affected the types of gifts consumers seek: searches for cheese and beer gift boxes have increased by over 300%, making them the most popular products within the Gifts sector.


Global e-commerce site traffic is on the rise

While physical purchases are down year over year (2019 vs. 2020), June searches for “buy online” have increased by 50% globally. As consumers turned to online shopping, e-commerce sites saw spikes in traffic comparable to the rush to shop during the holidays.

In May 2020, the traffic figures were already above the typical peaks of November-December, and they have continued to grow, exceeding the mark of 25 billion monthly visits.

With home orders and blockages worldwide, Home and garden, Food and groceries, and Sport and outdoors business categories experience the largest increases during pandemic months, growing 40 to 50 percent year-over-year.


Business opportunities to get a share of the growing traffic

Exploring the latest traffic trends and researching where visitors are coming from reveals how ecommerce businesses can take advantage of the growing traffic trend:

  • As mobile traffic accounts for 70% of all ecommerce site visits, optimizing a mobile website with ecommerce specific SEO tips is the way to go.
  • Since 60% of all ecommerce traffic is direct, investing in brand awareness and customer loyalty can help businesses stay afloat in a declining economy.

Global digital advertising spending for e-commerce is declining

Ecommerce businesses are one of the largest online advertisers, with many large online retailers in the top 10 digital advertising spenders globally.

Yet SEMrush found that about 50% of all e-commerce businesses analyzed spent no more than $ 1,000 per month on Search Network advertising campaigns.


Advertising budgets tend to increase when competition intensifies, which General retailers and Fashion e-merchants the biggest spenders on digital advertising in e-commerce. 50% of the companies analyzed within these industries spend more than $ 150,000 each month.

But SEMrush data indicates that the coronavirus crisis has already had an impact on digital ad spend. And it shows a downward trend.


Advertisers of all sizes have cut their digital advertising budgets by an average of 20%.

(Missed) Digital Advertising Opportunities For Ecommerce Businesses

As there are fewer players in the digital advertising arena, the costs of online advertising are also falling, meaning that businesses can now potentially attract more customers per dollar.

Allocating an advertising budget is not enough, however, as consumers react to different messages and triggers across categories. After analyzing the most popular CTAs by type of ecommerce industry, SEMrush found that:

  • “Free shipping”, “free returns” and similar triggers are present in 32% of all listings. With more and more consumers choosing to shop online due to the pandemic, this message dominates the CTA landscape across categories.
  • Exclusivity and design elements seem to be an important success factor for House and garden category ads as well as Health and beauty (“limited edition”).
  • Urgency and the novelty factor are obviously important for Sport and outdoors and Fashion industries, where the terms “newcomers”, “latest buys” and “new buys” appear in most announcements.
  • Quality triggers can help seal the deal for some of the categories like Pets (“Recommended by the veterinarian”), Groceries and food (“Approved company”), and Consumer electronics (“Trusted since…”, “factory authorized”, “authorized dealer”).

Adopt the new market landscape and the “new consumer”

Adapting to the “new normal” is a challenge that many e-commerce businesses are already facing. Without greater attention and a better understanding of rapidly changing market realities, some will fail while others will strive. And sometimes the thin line between success and failure is having the right data and the right tools that can help navigate the changes.

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to making smart digital marketing decisions, these are the top three areas ecommerce businesses need to strengthen to stay in the game:

  • Use data and insights to quickly spot market changes and upcoming trends.
  • Continuously monitor competition and consumer demand patterns to amplify marketing strategies that account for any changes in behavior, from changes in traffic acquisition tactics to increased interest in online shopping and maximum consumption of content.
  • Adapt marketing messages and use targeted approaches to meet evolving consumer needs.

Olga Andrienko is Global Marketing Manager at SEMrush. With her team, she has built one of the strongest international communities in the online marketing industry. Olga has extended the visibility of the SEMrush brand around the world by penetrating the markets of more than 50 countries.


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