In our recent e-book, COVID-19: The Impact on Global Buyer Behavior, we reported on the 27% increase of first quarter purchases (January 2020 – March 2020), but also noted that we saw a downtrend in purchases as the pandemic unfolded and uncertainty was on the rise with stay-at-home orders. Since our last e-book, the rules towards social distancing have pivoted from complete lock-down to a slightly more relaxed, but still ‘socially distant normal’. Consequently, we felt it imperative to follow-up on how the apparel retail landscape has continued to evolve to safely support shoppers.
Before we share our latest insights, here is a recap of our last e-book (focusing on first quarter data) which showed:
- As brick-and-mortar stores closed due to the spread of the pandemic there was a downtrend in online purchases
- A 15% decline in multiple size orders of the same item in 2020, compared to the first quarter of 2019
- An increase in multisize purchases for omnichannel retailers, whereas multiple size purchases for e-commerce only retailers remained static
*Data is aggregated from our client database of 200+ retailers situated on 6 continents
As a follow-up, we analyzed the first half of Q2 2020 as an extension to our Q1 data, and observed a positive turn of events for e-commerce purchases. So far, Q2 has an impressive 71% increase over 2019 with weekly averages equivalent to those we saw within the six weeks of peak holiday shopping of 2019. With stores and most other activities closed, consumers are turning to online shopping more than they have all year.
Effects on Size Sampling
On a positive note, shoppers are purchasing multiple sizes of the same item less and less each week. We observed an inverse trend to last year as we witnessed size sampling decrease in April. The overall change in size sampling year-over-year increases week after week. We know the retailers best supported with size advisors will alleviate some of the looming returns to come from the extended return policies.
The total share of size sampling is down 24% when compared to last year. This is likely due to the economic impact caused by:
- Severe unemployment levels
- The inconvenience caused by store closures paired with its effects on a shopper’s ability to return items easily
* Average share of size sampling orders is 2.6% in Q2 vs 4.6% LY and 3.5% in Q1
While size sampling has been on the decline, we have seen Eastern Asia’s share of multisize purchases remain flat, whereas North America declined by 31% and Southern Europe declined by 21% year-over-year. These regional impacts could show that, as stores began to open in East Asia, consumers continued to order multiple sizes because they could now make in-store returns.
Omnichannel vs. E-commerce
As the pandemic due to COVID-19 progressed and stay-at-home orders were mandated, we saw declines in multiple size purchases across both types of retailers in March. As April went on, purchases increased consistently with omnichannel trends following a week behind e-commerce only trends. Despite the year-over-year increase, this was a similar pattern witnessed in 2019.
In our e-book, we shared that e-commerce only retailers had a fairly flat rate of size sampling in January and February 2020, with a small dip going into March. So far in Q2, e-commerce only retailers saw a 42% lower rate of multisize purchases than in March, compared to the 7% increase last year.
Comparing this to omnichannel retailers, we saw increased size sampling from January through March 2020. In Q2, multi-size purchases dropped 24%, reverting back to where we started in January. This was likely due to the typical in-store consumer moving online and using a size advisor, like Fit Finder, to provide accurate size recommendations. Size sampling was 18% lower on Fit Finder purchases than purchases made without a size recommendation – an indication that omnichannel shoppers are getting more confident in their size selection when provided recommendations. Size technology available in-stores as brick and mortar reopens will provide shoppers with safety and confidence if they do not wish to use the fitting rooms.
With COVID-19 still very much prevalent, we see consumers shopping online more than ever. While purchases surge for apparel online, retailers will need to be more creative to ensure consumers find their correct size to continue to reduce multisize orders and the resulting returns.
As brick-and-mortar retailers reopen, the option of size technology solutions in-store will provide shoppers with safety and confidence if they do not wish to use fitting rooms.
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