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Survey Shows How COVID-19 Is Impacting Online Sellers

Survey Shows How COVID-19 Is Impacting Online Sellers

Online sellers described how the coronavirus pandemic is already impacting their sales and how they are adapting in an EcommerceBytes survey that ran from March 29 – April 2.

In an industry where so many are insulated from each other, it helps sellers to know they’re not alone and to learn how other people are adjusting, though keep in mind that the results are a snapshot in time as things are changing rapidly.

Not surprisingly, many people are concerned about their revenue streams and the short- and long-term economic impact of the shutdowns and stay-at-home advisories.

But there were some shining lights. For example, it was heartening to read in the comments how grateful people were to postal carriers, delivery drivers, and postal clerks who continue to show up day after day. In fact, the majority of sellers said they were satisfied overall with how shipping services and carriers were handling seller issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sellers had a different take on marketplaces, however.

1) How COVID-19 Pandemic Impacted Sales

Over half of sellers experienced a negative impact on sales due to the pandemic. When asked, “Overall, how has the COVID-19 outbreak impacted your online sales?” sellers responded as follows:

Decreased: 60%
Increased: 21%
No change: 16%
Don’t know: 4%

The increase or decrease in sales sellers reported experiencing wasn’t always consistent – some sellers described an initial increase or decrease in early March followed by the opposite pattern later in the month. One seller described their sales pattern as a roller coaster.

Sellers were then asked: “Are you seeing a difference in the types of items customers are purchasing from you? (Only answer yes if you’ve seen a change up or down in certain types of products.) Please use the comment field to elaborate.” Sellers responded as follows:

Yes: 24%
No: 64%
Don’t know: 12%

“I sell a lot of arts and crafts items (sewing patterns, yarn, craft kits, etc) and these are showing an increase,” wrote one seller. “Replenishables. Like pregnancy kits, body wash and hair color,” said another.

Some of the items selling well according to sellers who took the survey included puzzles & games; DVDs and Blu-Ray Discs; plumbing, electrical, home fix-up, repair type; bidets; expensive fine jewelry and sterling jewelry; model trains; and Easter items.

Some of the items seeing a decrease in sales included antiques; costume jewelry; party supplies; and handbags.

Results by Category
We asked sellers in what categories they sold and compared sellers in various categories to the overall average. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Sellers in the Books, Toys & Games, and Home & Garden categories did better in sales than the overall results.
  • Clothing sellers lowered their prices almost twice as much as the overall results.
  • Sellers in the Clothing and Jewelry & Watches categories reported the biggest decreases in sales.

People forced to stay at home are looking for ways to entertain themselves and their children and are shopping for toys and games and “self-sustenance” goods, while holding off on “luxuries” and higher-priced goods.

You can read more about the responses to those two questions in this April 5th EcommerceBytes Blog post.

2) Satisfaction with Marketplaces and Shipping Carriers

We asked sellers, “Overall, are you satisfied with how ecommerce marketplaces and service providers are handling seller issues during the COVID-19 pandemic?” Sellers responded as follows:

Yes: 40%
No: 31%
Don’t know: 29%

Many respondents elaborated in the comments, revealing some key areas of dissatisfaction: fees, customer service, and marketing to attract buyers to their sites.

You can read more about sellers’ satisfaction with marketplaces and service providers in this April 7th EcommerceBytes Blog post.

We also asked sellers, “Overall, are you satisfied with how shipping services and carriers are handling seller issues during the COVID-19 pandemic?” They responded as follows:

Yes: 93%
No: 3%
Don’t Know: 4%

Not only were sellers satisfied with USPS and shipping carriers, they sang their praises. Many empathized with postal carriers and drivers who show up every day. “I feel bad for our local post office workers and others who have no way to not be exposed to the public,” wrote one seller

“They are doing their absolute best and are not being treated well; no masks, no gloves, and much more work,” said another.

3) How Sellers Adjusted Practices as a Result of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Some sellers are adapting their practices as a result of the pandemic. We asked sellers if they made changes to how many stores they operate; the number of listings they have running; the types of products they list; and if they’ve changed their pricing.

When asked, “Have you made changes to the number of online stores you operate as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact,” sellers responded as follows:

Opened additional online store(s): 2%
Cancelled (or suspended) store(s): 15%
No change: 83%

When asked, “Have you changed the number of your listings as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact,” sellers responded as follows:

Increased the number of listings: 28%
Reduced the number of listings: 20%
No change: 52%

When asked, “Have you made changes to the type of products you are listing as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact,” sellers responded:

Added new types of product: 8%
Removed certain types of product: 6%
Added some new types of products AND removed certain types of products: 4%
No change: 82%

When asked, “On average, how have you changed your pricing,” sellers responded as follows:

Raised 5%
Lowered: 24%
No Change: 71%

A very small number of sellers raised prices, and some said it was due to suppliers raising prices, or having to turn to alternative distributors that were more expensive. Some sellers noted they were cautious about raising prices so as not to be accused of price-gouging.

Numerous sellers said they were running sales and promotions, and also adding features that allowed buyers to make offers.

But the majority – 71% – made no changes to their prices. You can read more about the responses on pricing in this April 8th EcommerceBytes Blog post.

4) What Sellers See When They Look ahead 6 Months

We asked online sellers, “Looking forward 6 months, in what shape do you anticipate your online business will be in September 2020?” Sellers responded as follows:

Same as before the coronavirus: 36%
Better than before the coronavirus: 20%
Worse than before the coronavirus: 44%

Some believe more people will choose to do more shopping online going forward, and some were hopeful that shoppers who discovered them during the crisis would become repeat customers.

Others were fearful that shoppers would find themselves unable or unwilling to spend on the kinds of items the sellers offered, especially for items like collectibles.

We delved more into this issue in this companion article along with a selection of sellers’ comments.

Online sellers are facing challenges in these unprecedented times, and we’ll continue to follow the trends so you can compare notes with your fellow sellers. Our thanks to readers who took the time to participate in the survey.

Ina Steiner on EmailIna Steiner on LinkedinIna Steiner on Twitter
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.

2 thoughts on “Survey Shows How COVID-19 Is Impacting Online Sellers”

    1. Believe it or not, I am back to buying on Ebay after years of no Ebay activity. If you order something on Amazon right now, you won’t get it for a month. There are some things I need sooner so I’m getting them off the Bay. You guys could be seeing sales for this reason. Good luck to you!

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