covid-19 effects on retailers and ecommerce

COVID-19 has had an immediate impact on the ability of retailers and eCommerce stores to generate revenue and engagement, causing many to make radical shifts in digital ad spending. For everyone alive, there will be a before and after COVID-19. If you are a retailer or brand that doesn’t spend those remaining ad dollars wisely, it could mean the end of your business.

To help you make strategic advertising investments over the coming months, the following release includes a look at how COVID-19 has impacted engagement, as well as year over year trends in eCommerce revenue, ad spend, and conversion rate pre-COVID-19.

Engagement is Down & Networks Are Congested

It’s tougher than ever to cut through the clutter to reach your target customer. While more people are online and social media traffic is up, what they are doing is different and how they are thinking is different. Recirculated articles, memes, and quotes of the day are no longer enough to earn a few likes. Retailers and eCommerce companies will need to develop content on the fly. Nothing can/should be scheduled during this event as there is too much uncertainty.

All of the networks have reported they are congested. Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are reducing bit rates for videos in certain regions.  This reduces engagement, especially for consumers that don’t know how to change their video to HD. Ads are taking longer to approve as each of these companies are forced to work from home. One ad change could cause a chain of issues that may take days or weeks to remedy.

Year Over Year eCommerce & Retail Trends

The following graphs illustrate various sectors’ performance now compared to pre-COVID-19. If the sector was up 10% year over year prior to COVID-19, and the sector is now down 15% year over year, the graph will show the sector as down 25% versus pre-COVID-19.

Click the graph keys if you want to turn on & off different data points. E.g., if you want to see just revenue and Facebook spend, you can click the color icons to turn off Conversion Rate and Google spend.


Omnichannel includes companies that integrate sales across all of their channels including online, in a physical store, or by phone. You can see the revenue start to dip on 2/24 with most omnichannel companies down 24%. Many of these companies use Google to drive local foot traffic, therefore their Google ad spend dropped, while Facebook ad spend went up. Conversion rates show a large increase as these companies get more direct (trackable) sales.


These are companies that only sell through the internet (e-tailers). For these companies, the revenues really start to decline on 3/7 with most down 57%. Facebook and Google ad spend budgets were slashed by 55-66% as these companies scramble to radically change their ad messaging, offerings, and pricing to adapt to today’s consumer.


The revenue decline starts on 2/24 with most down 41%. Google ad spending is down as these consumers attempt to win more customers with Facebook and Instagram brand awareness. With the networks congested and consumers focused on staying in touch with family and COVID-19 updates, if these companies want to see higher conversion rates, their money is best spent where customers are ready to buy at the bottom of the funnel (Google).


This includes the toilet paper and other essentials everyone is talking about. The revenues start to spike on 3/7 as COVID-19 begins to spread throughout the world. By 3/16, they increased by as much as 224%. Google ad spend is up for this category by almost 300%. Facebook has increased by 100%. Conversions and revenue could be improved with even more focus at the bottom of the funnel (Google).


The luxury market starts to decline on 2/27 and decreases 32% as the luxury consumers tighten their purse strings. Facebook and Google ad spend have dropped by 33% and 26% respectively. Conversion rates have gone up naturally because if someone is searching for it in the middle of COVID-19, they aren’t researching. They are ready to buy!

Need to Pivot or Completely Rethink Your Strategy?

If you need help with rethinking your whole strategy or your next advertising pivot, we will work side-by-side with your company to produce the best outcomes for your business, customers, and online store during this event.

Call (904) 595-7072 or email

Source: The charts in this article use data from WITHIN.


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