Amazon’s traffic is way up, but others are doing even better during the pandemic

Photo: @aleeenot via Twenty20
Jul 02, 2020
Al McClain

As consumers have navigated their way through stay-at-home and social distancing restrictions during the pandemic, a new study says Amazon’s web traffic has soared, but other retailers are up even more.

Traffic to the sites of some of the biggest retailers was up a lot in April versus the previous year, according to research by Activate Consulting. For, page views were up 50 percent, with unique site visitors up just one percent. Walmart page views were up 91 percent with unique site visitors up nine percent; Target was up 68 percent and 25 percent; Best Buy up 114 percent and 34 percent; and Costco up 221 percent and 50 percent.

The study of 1900+ adults aged 18 to 64 showed the apparel/shoes/accessories category, along with grocery, household products and beauty/personal care, were the largest categories where consumers made at least one ecommerce purchase. Thirty-six percent of those surveyed said they are likely to continue shopping online for groceries after shelter in place orders end. Grocery shoppers say they value free delivery the most, with website experience, same-day delivery and access to hard to find in-store items also important.

Activate says that over half of online shoppers have purchased from a new retailer during the pandemic and 81 percent plan to continue shopping from these new retailers after it ends. Customers who shop the most frequently and spend the most are more likely to have purchased from a new online retailer.

The study also found that, beyond health and safety concerns, pricing, experience and promotions will be the most important ways to win back core shoppers and reactivate lapsed customers to out-of-home activities. Younger consumers are forecast to return to normal routines within a month while older shoppers will take longer.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Why do you think Amazon’s major competitors have gained more traffic than it did during the stay at home period? What can retailers do to retain the greatest amount of their new e-commerce traffic and business?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Amazon used to be the only game in town but now others have propositions that are approaching parity – and customers are realizing this."
"Amazon’s competitors are having more success at gaining traffic because they have physical stores to support their online sales."
"This is a classic case of consumers educating themselves as they delve into new shopping behaviors."

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22 Comments on "Amazon’s traffic is way up, but others are doing even better during the pandemic"

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Richard Hernandez

It has always been easy, by default, to go to Amazon first when I have needed something – whether it’s a piece of clothing, a book, etc.

With a lot of people working remotely, there is more time to look at other sites for things people need. Additionally, there were a lot of email blasts and text messages from retailers and businesses saying “we are here for you,” opening up a lot of new eyes to businesses that most would have ignored. Now that a retailer has attracted those new eyes, what does it do to keep those new eyes interested in its business?

A solid plan of engagement needs to be in place so those newfound eyes don’t get bored or disinterested and go back to the default – Amazon.

Neil Saunders

Amazon is starting from a much, much higher base so of course its growth will be slower. A lower percentage of an already massive number is numerically higher than a higher percentage of a much lower number. Using this logic, Amazon’s increases actually look impressive.

Of course, this does nothing to diminish the success of other retailers. Both Walmart and Target have invested heavily in digital solutions and are reaping the rewards. The online space is more competitive than ever and there is no doubt Amazon will need to work harder to defend its ground. That’s good news for the consumer.

Michael Decker
This is a classic case of consumers educating themselves as they delve into new shopping behaviors. Amazon is actually getting a (slight) reputation for being “overpriced” by the new marketplace as customers who are less dazzled by the convenience of online shopping begin to price-shop. Established Amazon customers are shopping more as the data shows but new customers are exploring their options and looking directly at manufacturers’ e-commerce sites (DTC) to grab better pricing for the same goods. Customers locked down at home have oodles of time to shop online so they will naturally use it to their best advantage. Especially in the midst of hard economic times. The New Normal is presenting all kinds of opportunities and perils. One new challenge I see is the staggering increase in packing material that DTCs and online marketplaces like Amazon need to utilize in fulfilling this unprecedented increase in demand. This will soon be the next major challenge for a green economy — making sure consumers and recyclers are able to process what must be a phenomenal… Read more »
Doug Garnett

First, there’s falseness in the research. Amazon is so large and dominant, a 1 percent increase in unique site visitors is a far harder challenge than, say, Best Buy’s at 34 percent. Notice that Walmart’s was only up 5 percent — because they’re already huge.

That said, I also think there’s important truth here: Amazon is boring. When I envision shopping in replacement of going to the store, I do not think of Amazon. A store means Target or Walmart or Best Buy, etc. It most certainly does NOT mean Amazon.

As people hunkered down, they missed the physical places which provide added value in their lives. So they think far more about the fundamental experience of shopping in stores rather than the pure utility of Amazon.

Dave Bruno

I think Amazon got out-performed because, for the first time in my memory, Amazon got out-executed during this pandemic. Widespread stockouts, long wait times and pricing practices bordering on gouging were all commonplace on during the early days of the pandemic – and even continue today. By comparison, many other retailers were able to consistently fulfill same-day orders, provide curbside pickup, and manage inventory and pricing challenges far more effectively than Amazon. They reacted quickly and took full advantage of their store networks to deliver experiences that I believe have a chance to lure customers away from Amazon far beyond the crisis.

Brandon Rael
It all comes down to execution and delivering against your brand promise. Amazon may have evolved to become the default search engine, aside from Google, for finding products to purchase. However customers are wise to now virtually “showroom” multiple e-commerce platforms, and ultimately find the products they are looking for at the right price and the highest quality. And almost as importantly, they are wise to find the retailers that can deliver the fastest and most reliably. Maintaining customer loyalty is such an important imperative for companies and brands. Simply put, every interaction helps to improve a company’s ability to exceed their customers’ expectations. By increasing customer retention rates by 5 percent, it may increase profits from 25-95 percent. The success rate of selling to a loyal customer is 60-70 percent while, the success rate of gaining a new customer is only 5-20 percent. Customers have a choice now, beyond the brick-and-mortar stores, and also outside of Amazon. Making prioritized investments in outstanding digital commerce platforms should be at the top of the list for… Read more »
Oliver Guy

To me this illustrates that investment in a solid omnichannel proposition pays dividends. Amazon used to be the only game in town but now others have propositions that are approaching parity – and customers are realizing this. The huge increase in traffic is being shared because of this and the fact that many products consumers want are not always available from Amazon – and they are choosing other retailers they trust.

Raj B. Shroff
As Richard mentioned, the reason Amazon’s major competitors have gained traffic is because fewer people are venturing out and have migrated to shopping from their physical retailer to its online presence. It is also easier to cross shop for items online via a click as opposed to needing to drive to another physical store location. In order to retain, retailers have to incentivize people to stay. As a Prime member, if I buy something from a non-Amazon site, my switching costs could include something as simple as my time to enter my credit card and shipping address or pay for shipping – these small things matter. Amazon keeps me through Prime membership and through subscribe and save. Many items shoppers’ purchase are recurring items yet shoppers spend each trip making lists for the same items. Retailers can invest in technologies which allow for smarter, more timely and individualized reminders, suggestive sell online and perhaps bundling services, BOPIS incentives, bundles with fuel perks, brand partnerships, and strong private label offers. They’ll have to get creative or… Read more »
Suresh Chaganti

Amazon may have hit its ceiling. It is ubiquitous and needs no introduction which is why new visitors increased only by 1 percent. The increase in page views show people searching for stuff, not finding it and then going to other stores. For other stores both views and visitors increased as a percentage, because their current customer base is much smaller compared to Amazon.

Gene Detroyer

I tried to get at the absolute numbers, but ran out of patience. I suspect that Amazon’s base going in is so much greater than the others that the Amazon actually increased versus others in the absolute. If anyone has more patience than I and has the absolute numbers, I’d be interested.

Stephen Rector

The metric that isn’t spoken about here is conversion rate. I would like to see that metric across platforms to truly understand the numbers. Site traffic and unique visitors are vanity metrics that make people feel good. Regardless, Amazon is a behemoth in e-commerce, but the experience is extremely transactional and the shopping experience is challenging if you don’t know what you are looking for. In order to take share, the other platforms need to create an experience that makes it easy to find new product while still letting the customer buy batteries with one swipe. It’s a balance of replenishment and finding newness that is missing from the Amazon experience.

Rachelle King

Amazon has just about everything but most consumers don’t think of them for grocery shopping (even though, yes, they have this too). While so many are still staying home, a top priority has been food and provisions. If you normally shopped Walmart or Kroger in-store for groceries then you are more likely to try to figure out their online solutions first, before Amazon’s. There is something to be said for keeping what little continuity you can in times of uncertainty.

It’s not as much that Amazon is losing traffic to competitors but that consumers who normally shopped Amazon’s competitors are just trying to figure out out how to shop those same retailers differently now and likely finding a surprisingly satisfying experience.

Cynthia Holcomb

Prior to COVID-19 normal life was very busy for most of us; we were going to the office, school, business travel, sporting events, the list is long. Over the years Amazon became the easy, go-to retailer.

Fast forward to shutdowns, work from home, etc. Consumers have had the time and interest to explore other retail options. The e-commerce retailers who have gained new customers and sales should keep in mind once life gets busy again, keeping newfound customers will require frictionless customer experiences. Or their new customers may drift back to the tried-and-true Amazon experience.

Harley Feldman

Amazon’s competitors are having more success at gaining traffic because they have physical stores to support their online sales. This allows them to offer pickup in-store or in pickup zones. Many consumers like the idea of ordering online and picking up their items without having to go into the store and worry about coronavirus contacts.

To retain the new e-commerce traffic, retailers need to perform flawlessly. Great service and competitive pricing will keep shoppers coming back. Having the items the consumer wants to buy near the pickup location for quick pickup or shipping them at a low cost to arrive in a timely matter will retain the new business.

Paula Rosenblum

Personally, I found Amazon out of stock on entirely too many things — products unrelated to hoarding. After a while, I just started going to And once I knew Amazon was persistently out of stock on an item, I didn’t even check there.

From my perspective, the company seriously fell down across the board. I have been told they were better in Washington State but in most other places, including where I live, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that they fell down on the job.

Ryan Mathews

In these cases I always want to look at the baselines. The more customers you start with the harder it is to record astronomical percentage increases. So, I’m not starting from the assumption that Amazon is in any danger. As to what retailers can do to retain traffic, that’s easy to answer, if hard to do — just have seamless, flawless execution.

Brian Numainville

Our latest study, the “2020 Online & In-Store Grocery Shopping Study” out this week, found that supermarkets were the main beneficiaries of a surge in online grocery shopping during the pandemic, growing from 22% in our previous study to 34% of shoppers indicating they most recently used a supermarket for online grocery shopping. Walmart held the top position at 40% (up from 37% in our last update).

However, Amazon fell down from 29% in our last study to 14% during the pandemic (keep in mind, only for food & grocery shopping).

The Amazon decline during the pandemic may have been, in part, due to Amazon’s focus on providing essential items and lowering the priority of other items provided through their platform. This may have resulted in a change in how shoppers used Amazon to shop for food or grocery items. Of course, future studies will illustrate whether this represents a shift with longer-term ramifications or a temporary drop, reflective of the pandemic timeframe.

Craig Sundstrom

I question — at least with the data presented here — that Amazon’s competitor’s “gained more.” If (since we don’t have the actual numbers, we’ll hypothesize based on perceptions) Amazon went from 1500 to 2250 and some other retailer went from 10 to 37 , who really gained “more”?

Relative gains don’t mean much when the actual numbers are vastly different … and they are.

9 months 12 days ago

Amazon is not very good for online grocery. Prices are very high and mix is not very good. Items come in multiple shipments from multiple suppliers. I tried to order grocery items on there multiple times during the pandemic and ended up leaving due to the confusion or not being able to find what I needed. Amazon also seems to not be interested in selling you things like cases of water other than at absolutely awful prices, which Walmart (and Boxed) have no problem fulfilling. No clue how they do it profitably, but they do fulfill them. Amazon also has not been in stock on basic cleaning products, rubbing alcohol, etc. which Walmart has had in and out of stock the whole time.

Gene Detroyer

Here is interesting post putting Amazon in perspective of value.

Xavier Lederer

The aftermath of the pandemic will be extremely interesting, for a few reasons:

  • If online sales remain strong for traditional retailers, will they be able to handle the same prices as in the stores? Several retailers offered free in-store pick-up (will they start charging customers to cover their added costs, or accept a lower margin?) and, in some cases, free shipping — which obviously has a very real cost for the retailer. When online sales are marginal these added costs can “disappear” in the P&L; as the share of e-commerce rises, they could become more apparent and painful.
  • Will consumers attach more value to online shopping, and therefore be more willing to pay for shipping? Online shopping used to be about convenience and broader choice (and sometimes lower prices), but in the future some customers may also enjoy the fact that it offers a safer shopping experience. What will be consumers’ willingness to pay for added safety?
Rodger Buyvoets

It’s not a fair comparison — Amazon already has a strong position in the market, with more visitors than Best Buy, for example. So if Amazon’s page views are up, percentage wise this doesn’t consider that their total amount of visitors is calculated in an absolute manner. That being said, people who before hadn’t purchased online are now entering the eCommerce space.

In order to keep this up, retailers should invest in loyalty. They should aim to build strong relationships with their shoppers, meaning that even after someone has bought a product they should foster engagement. To put it simply — a) convert customers based on long-lasting relationships, b) maintain a strong brand presence omnichannel, and c) invest in building great customer experiences post-purchase.

"Amazon used to be the only game in town but now others have propositions that are approaching parity – and customers are realizing this."
"Amazon’s competitors are having more success at gaining traffic because they have physical stores to support their online sales."
"This is a classic case of consumers educating themselves as they delve into new shopping behaviors."

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