What people are buying: eCommerce trends during the COVID-19 outbreak

Owen Baker - Guest Writer
By Owen Baker - Guest Writer
May 14, 2020 · 5 min read

There’s no doubt that e-commerce is on the rise. Nowadays, it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t purchase products from online stores. And why wouldn’t they? With just a few clicks, they can get everything they need, without ever leaving the comfort of their bedroom. 

When it comes to the e-commerce growth phenomenon, the stats speak for themselves. According to Statista, e-commerce has been on the rise since 2014, with sales forecast to be worth a whopping $6.54 trillion by 2023.

covid-19 ecommerce trends

Source: Statista

This forecast was created from data gathered from 2014 to 2019. The statistics, therefore, don’t even take into account the impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen online sales in many industries soar due to widespread stay-at-home orders.

Yet, with the global economy experiencing the steepest recession since the Great Depression, the question business people are asking is what are people buying.

To help you out, let’s take a closer look at 4 notable eCommerce trends in the current market:

 Sports Equipment

People are willing to spend big money on sports equipment and fitness gear. According to Allied Market Research, the global sports equipment and exercise apparel markets are projected to be valued at $817.1 billion by 2027. 

Of the two, sports equipment had a higher compound annual growth rate in 2019, sitting at 7.2%. It is expected to continue to dominate through to 2027 and beyond.

covid-19 ecommerce trends

Source: Grand View Research

The COVID-19 crisis has seen an enormous increase in the purchase of these products from online retailers. According to Oberlo, the demand for fitness equipment purchased online increased by 55% in the first two weeks of March.

According to The Straits Times, online sports equipment store Homegym.sg estimated an 80% increase in sales, with many lines selling out. Traffic to Homegym’s online store rose from around 250 visitors a day before the outbreak to 2,000 by the middle of March. 

Directhomegym.sg founder, Wayne Poh, said many people were buying “small amounts of equipment from different shops at the very last minute” due to the situation. Many retailers’ inventory stocks were understandably not prepared for the surge. It’s a pattern that has been repeated across the globe.


Toys and hobbies retailers have long held an impressive share of the e-commerce market, growing their online sales by 21.5% in 2017. This was the fourth-fastest growth rate among the fifteen categories tracked by Digital Commerce 360.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has also had an impact on online sales in the toys and hobbies space. In Germany, for example, according to Sellics, the toys and games sector saw a 36% growth in online sales since the crisis began. This was closely followed by sports and outdoors, which saw a 35% growth. Video games achieved the fifth-highest growth rate, at 31%.  

In the US, the toys and games sector recorded a 10% growth in online sales since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, the fourth-highest growth rate amongst the top five main categories, as illustrated below.

covid-19 ecommerce trends

Source: Sellics

From these figures, we can conclude one thing: people are desperately seeking ways to stay entertained while staying at home. 


e-commerce covid-19 trends

Even before the COVID-19 crisis began, gardening tools and equipment sales were performing strongly online, particularly in Europe.

According to Mondo Macchina, a magazine published by the Italian Agricultural Machinery Manufacturers Federation, sales of plants, tools, and motorized gardening equipment performed well in 2015. Sales of these products grew 15% in the first half of that year, with an item sold every 67 seconds on average – impressive figures, considering that this was when Italian stores started to venture into eCommerce. 

During the COVID-19 crisis, gardening equipment has performed even better in the online retail space. In March, sales of patio, lawn, and garden materials registered the third-highest growth rate in both Italy and Germany, at 44% and 35%, respectively. 

These numbers make sense. Many people are using the additional time spent at home to tend to their gardens and enjoy what they can of the outdoors.

Household Goods

As you might expect, there are some products that have been in very high demand and short supply as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Stackline, is a 670% growth in online sales of disposable gloves from 2019, the fastest-growing in a list of 100 everyday items. Cough and cold medicines came in third, growing by 535%. 

Due to this enormously increased demand, many third-party online sellers have inflated prices on sites such as Amazon and eBay. In the UK, for instance, a Defendol hand gel (RRP £3.49 in stores) was listed for £109.99 on Amazon. One Italian Amazon seller also offered four 3-fluid ounce bottles of sanitizer for €60.

So what does all this mean for your business? 

The COVID-19 crisis has impacted millions of businesses. The global recession will undoubtedly affect many more. Yet despite the economic impact of the crisis, some sectors of the economy are thriving. We’ve seen this first hand at Voila Norbert. It’s not just some SaaS companies that are experiencing growth. Sports equipment, hobby-related items, gardening tools, and more are seeing strong growth as well.

As an online marketer, it’s important to recognize buying trends. While many businesses will be unable to take advantage of this shift, some people can. For example, agencies, content marketers, video marketers, CRO experts, and more can all help support and benefit from businesses experiencing a boom in these testing times.

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About the author

Owen Baker - Guest Writer

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