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E-commerce in the time of COVID; shifting trends that might be here to stay

We’re all aware that COVID has radically changed the way the world works over the past few months – both in terms of consumption and media habits. TV viewership was up internationally, and up 20% year-on-year (YoY) in the Netherlands from March to June. But as the conversation moves towards ‘the new normal’, we should be preparing for a potential shift in the longer-term, and future-proofing for a period of time in which driving online sales and getting the most out of TV activity as viewership remains high, is particularly important.

Whilst European markets vary slightly in their response to COVID and their economic conditions, the Netherlands provides a clear example of the online opportunity. Statistics Netherlands reported that in Q2 2020, there were significant differences in development between sectors. For example, the food sector grew due to at-home consumption increasing, whilst the dining sector saw significant losses. Another clear beneficiary of decreased in-person sales was the ‘internet retail’ category, which saw an impressive 55% higher Q2 sales vs. 2019.

Turnover for ‘pure’ internet sellers, with no retail presence, was up 45%, but businesses with mixed models saw online sales increase by an incredible 68%. The big players benefited significantly, Albert Heijn & Bol.com saw profits double YoY in Q2.

However, the increased move online also leaves more opportunities for newer, growing, nimble businesses that can quickly garner online sales without the heavy cost footprint of retail locations to accelerate growth. Amsterdam based online supermarket Picnic.NL, for example, saw record visits and downloads in March 2020.

Whilst e-commerce is one of the growing sectors of the current crisis, short-term increase bursts are likely to tail off and it’s important to continue to:

1. Acquire new customers effectively and cost-efficiently.
2. Broaden reach beyond online early adopters to broader target audiences.
3. Capitalise on media which offers particularly strong acquisition potential in the coming year.
4. Use the data that comes from an online response, which is more difficult to collect in traditional retail environments.

To accomplish these goals post-lockdown TV, when done right, offers significant opportunities. Focusing on the Netherlands as an example European market where life is beginning to return to the new normal.

Prices on TV are lower than usual: The Netherlands operates on a fixed indices CPGRP model with most major sales-houses. The base price is either fixed or negotiated based on spend and share. Audience, level of targeting, monthly and market indices are also applied. With lower advertising demand over the past few months, market indices have remained at 0.9-1, versus 1.1-1.3 for the same period last year.

Viewership and reach opportunities are higher than usual: With lower international travel (flights to and from Amsterdam are down 93% YoY) and more people at home, TV viewership remains up YoY. Viewership on the public broadcaster increased by 15% YoY in June (after re-opening). TV, therefore, offers even stronger reach opportunities vs. usual conditions to grow reach.

Measuring success is essential: With significant increases in online sales, monitoring web response becomes even more important. Advertisers switching to a higher percentage of online sales, or growing in this period, should utilise tracking technology to attribute online sales uplift to specific TV spots. Thus, allowing them to better understand the kind of TV stations, programmes, dayparts and days of the week that can deliver them cost-efficient growth as they continue to grow.

All Response Media viewpoint

The impact of COVID long-term is uncertain and varies internationally, but ultimately by using media and measurement expertise to launch on TV to capitalise on sales growth, or better understand changing trends in TV activity, advertisers can better future-proof their businesses for the accelerated move towards online sales.

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