As a Senior Analytics Strategist working at an agency with clients across industries, I’ve seen wildly contrasting performance throughout the pandemic. Certain online retailers and auto sites were far surpassing any historical performance, while others had to cut back budgets significantly. The variances in revenue performances also empirically correlated with time frames when the public received more support, in the form of stimulus checks.
My team at Portent conducted the study detailed below to verify our hypotheses that the pandemic caused revenue increases in online retailers and auto industries, and that those spikes correlated with stimulus distributions. We discovered a few specific factors that increased the probability of confirming our hypothesis along the way.
“Unprecedented” has undoubtedly been the word of the year, and it’s touched all aspects of life and business. There have been changes in consumer behavior across all industries — we’ve unfortunately seen swaths of shutdowns in particular markets while others have sustained or are even thriving. This post will provide some observations in online behavior along with some consumer data that should be used as predictive indicators through the rest of the pandemic.
The observations of changes in online behavior were pulled and anonymized from 16 of our clients across 8 different industries. We narrowed those 8 industries down to three categories defined by Google Analytics for the purposes of this analysis: Shopping (10), Travel (3), and Autos & Vehicles (3).
The sites included in this analysis were limited to the US where possible and ranged in monthly revenue from $16K to $103K and in monthly sessions from 4K to 44K.
Observation #1: Stimulus checks resulted in increases in online behavior
Stimulus checks initiated the first revival of spending since the start of the pandemic. Granted, it was only about a month between the first notice of a lockdown and the beginning of stimulus payments. However, that increase in spend remained at higher levels after the majority of stimulus checks were distributed for most sites in this analysis—of course, excluding the Travel sites.
There was a noticeable jump in both sessions and revenue during the (1) week of April 13th, when $80M worth of stimulus payments were deposited for taxpayers who had direct deposits set up. By the (2) week of April 20th, additional rounds of deposits were made to those who manually set up direct deposits through the IRS. And by the (3) week of June 3rd, the IRS had delivered $270B in stimulus checks to Americans. At this point, revenue and sessions began to normalize below that period of stimulus distributions until the undeniable Black Friday sales occurred.
Observation #2: The impact depends on the market
There were obvious industries that were impacted most by the changes in consumer behavior and are still barely recovering: travel, in-store retail, and restaurants, to name those that were hit the hardest. On the other hand, some industries are actually performing better than before, such as online retail sales and food and beverage stores.