Coronavirus and Its Effects on E-Commerce


With the Coronavirus (COVID-19) spreading across the globe, the U.S. is preparing for a possible outbreak. Even though the largest number of cases of this disease still are from China, the numbers are growing in many other parts of the world.

Across the U.S., only a handful of Coronavirus cases have been reported so far, but already, consumers here are changing behaviors and using e-commerce outlets more, all in an effort to avoid contact with the virus and those who may potentially be infected. Despite the CDC and other medical organization’s attempts to allay fears, the virus continues to impact e-commerce.


Consumer Fear Keeps People Away From Crowds

Unfortunately, fear has been a driving force since the virus found its way to the US. Consumers, motivated by their fear of catching the virus, change their shopping behaviors. The fear of going out in public and contracting the virus has led many to turn to online shopping.

Just about anything can be purchased online these days, and it’s easy to order all sorts of household staples, groceries and more at e-commerce shopping sites. Fear of the virus is prompting many consumers to stock up on goods in large quantities. Even giants like Amazon report struggles trying to keep up with consumer demand of essential products.

Beyond the basics, consumers are also ordering specific items that normally would not see such high volumes of sales. Products like surgical face masks and even hazmat suits are seeing huge increases in popularity and sales. In fact, Amazon currently sells more than 7,800 boxed sets of face masks every day. Unfortunately, some online sellers are taking advantage of consumer fears and demand for these products with surge pricing, driving the cost of these products sky high. But even with the higher prices, consumers keep spending anyways.


The Impact of Stay at Home Culture

A “stay-at-home” culture is currently gripping the country. More people are avoiding public areas out of fear of contracting the virus, but this isn’t just about crowds or public spaces. Those who are immune-compromised have been told to avoid leaving their homes, and many others, even healthy people, are following suit. While that may mean more online shopping and a boost to e-commerce, the financial loss for many families will likely negatively impact certain types of e-commerce, like retail.

One example of the impact the virus has had on all commerce is in the entertainment industry. At-home entertainment providers like Netflix report increased sales, while movie theater chains report plunging numbers.

Fear-driven consumers are also spending more on grocery delivery services as well as meal services and restaurant deliveries. Telemedical and other types of digital conferencing options are also seeing an uptick. While not a direct impact to e-commerce, the effects of this change will reverberate throughout the US economy.

Unsurprisingly, one industry noting stagnant and plunging numbers is travel. Amid fears and travel bans, airlines, cruise ships, and hotels are feeling the pinch. Online travel booking sites are also reporting serious decreases in sales. And it’s not just from Americans staying home. Tourism from China is big business in the U.S., and the current outbreak will severely limit travel from China, as well as other parts of the world.


Consumer Preparedness Is Boosting Online Sales

As images of empty shelves and long lines at brick and mortar stores are all over the news, many consumers are turning to online retailers to stock up on basics. Fearing the worst, Americans are rushing to buy household staples like toilet paper, paper towels, bottled water, pantry items, antibacterial wipes, and hand sanitizer.

This surge in retail sales is typical of any pending natural disaster, but the Coronavirus threat has consumers rushing more toward e-commerce sites even more so because of the fear of contracting the virus in public. And the news of retailers running out of certain products only drives the demand higher, as consumers scramble to get their own shelves stocked at home in preparation.


The Overall Effects of Coronavirus on E-Commerce

For the short term, coronavirus fears have surged e-commerce sales, but that uptick is likely temporary. Many retailers are already noting consumers’ unease about purchases that could be from other countries. Even the Washington Post has made space to explain that you can’t catch coronavirus from a package that arrives from China, but such concerns will likely continue, causing many people to simply stop shopping. That, along with the financial impact and trickle-down aspects of the virus, may put a halt to the boom e-commerce is experiencing.

With confusion in exactly how this virus will spread, fears surrounding public spaces aren’t going away any time soon. Amid this, e-commerce will likely continue to be an important way for people to get what they need in a troubled time, but luxury items that traditionally have been the soul of e-commerce may see negative impacts overall.


Keep Your Website Prepared for Coronavirus Related Traffic

  • It’s important to prepare your website for an influx in traffic during this time of consumer behavioral shifts.
  • Ensure that your servers are implementing proper load-balancing.
  • Keep your databases optimized properly.
  • Employ caching via CDN (Content Delivery Network)
  • Implement local server-side caching of HTML/CSS/JS Files.
  • Make sure that your customer service departments are prepared for an influx in requests.


Managing your organization’s peak traffic demand will help your website deliver a consistent user experience to your customers, as well as manage the strain that heightened traffic may cause on your infrastructure.


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