Non-essentials and COVID-19


To have stats and information on how people are spending online for non-essential items in the US and on how they view social media advertising for non-essentials..

Early Findings

Consumer Spending

  • Overall e-commerce sales have surged with the pandemic, and while groceries have seen the largest increase, the surge is across the board.
  • From January to March there was a lot of stock-piling spending going on, and consumers also stocked up on goods that can be used at home, such as exercise machines and laptops.
  • In the first quarter, apparel led all categories in its share of U.S. online sales, at 23%, followed by electronics (16%), home and garden (12%), computers (8%), groceries (8%), home improvement tools (5%), home appliances (4%), personal care products (4%), flowers and related gifts (3%) and office supplies (3%).
  • However, following the initial shock at the start of the year, ecommerce trends then shifted in March and the start of this month. Travel goods and clothing have slumped, as have party and event supplies and items like coolers. Sales of weights and fitness products have trippled though, when compared to March 2019.
  • As people's lifestyles have shifted to home, categories like tech, education, and cooking are doing well for online sales, while apparel and beauty aren't.
  • Beer sales, including in-store, actually increased by 16% over March in the US, while off-premise alcohol sales also increased significantly in the UK during the same period.
  • The average order value for certain segments for March this year, compared to March 2019, are a useful guage of spend. Consumers are spending a little less on luxury goods, around double on retail, and slightly more on fashion.


  • A march report found that a lot of companies are pausing their advertising spend or adjusting it for Q2.
  • Digital ad spend was expected to be down by 33% of Q2 while social media advertising was going to be down by 33% over March and April, and 23% over May and June. They survey didn't separate paid social media from general social media channel spending.
  • Messaging is shifting to cause and missiion-based marketing.

Information Availability

  • We found that there have been no recent (ie in the past month, when the COVID-19 impact has been strongest) surveys on people's views of social media advertising. However, there have been broader reports and studies into how people are viewing social media in this changed climate.

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