One week out of lockdown; the impact on ecommerce

By Joelle Hillman, Retail Client Partner, Awin

The UK waited in anticipation for 12th April as shops, bars, gyms, and hair salons re-opened, but how has the opening of the high-street affected retail shopping online? Awin analysed the first week the UK ventured back out, 12th – 18th April, and compared shopping behaviours online with the previous week.

Ecommerce holds its own as the Highstreet re-opens its doors, with more people browsing online

Despite shops being back open many consumers continued to shop online, in fact sales across the whole of retail were down just -6% week on week (WoW), and traffic performance was up +22% WoW with many customers still researching their purchases online. Top online browsing categories included FMCG, womenswear, and health and beauty – perhaps as people looked for online inspiration for their upcoming trim before hitting the physical hairdressers.

As a result conversion rates dropped one percentage point last week, sitting at 6% for the retail sector. However average baskets increased by £10, reaching £119. Return on investment (ROI) was also up achieving £32 for every £1 invested by brands on their affiliate programmes, £4 up on the previous week. It’s clear it’s still worth investing in online especially to drive upper funnel inspiration and brand awareness, and to take advantage of the strong order values and ROI.

Demand for workout passes is on the up as gyms re-open, whilst erotic and lingerie sales online take a plunge

Despite nail bars and hair salons re-opening their doors, the online health and beauty sector saw a 6% increase in sales. Perhaps people treated themselves to a new aftershave or lipstick for that first pub garden trip with friends of the year. It’s also possible that the previous year has built new shopping and beauty routines at home that have become established habits.

When looking at the impact on other core sectors, home, garden, DIY and electrical were the most affected, down, with performance dropping24% WoW. It is worth noting however some stores, DIY in particular remained open throughout lockdown, so other factors could be playing a part here, such as the weather.

Chart 1

The top five performing sectors across retail seeing the biggest increases WoW in terms of online orders were lead generation campaigns (including cashback sites, gym passes, and online doctors) up a huge +104%, clothing accessories +28%, entertainment superstores +20%, menswear + 19% and photos & print services +16% despite stores re-opening. The five sectors seeing the largest decrease in sales orders online include furniture and soft furnishings –19%, childrenswear –29%, and baby and toddler -31%. This category in particular rings true for me personally, as despite being an avid online shopper with my first baby due in May I was eager to get into stores to purchase my first pram. Sometimes a purchase really does needs that in-store experience including the ability to touch the product, alongside advice from a specialist.

Also sectors also seeing a drop in performance included lingerie –32% and erotic –70%, two categories that Awin saw perform extremely well online during the lockdown periods as we kept ourselves busy at home.


Booze, babies and electronics steal the show across top KPIs.

Across the whole of retail shopping the strongest conversion rate was posted by FMCG brands, hitting 28% click to sale. Although bars and restaurants were ready to welcome customers from Monday 12th it seems many preferred to eat and drink at home, explaining the smell of BBQs in gardens across the country this weekend.

Despite sales being down from baby and toddler WoW, this sector saw the highest AOV at £675 and up an outstanding +637%, you really cannot put a price on your little ones.

Given the typically low margins associated with many electrical products, the sector remains one of the most compelling at driving strong ROIs, electrical superstores achieving an ROI of £121 and up 67% WoW.

Biggest online shopping day shifts to Thursday and smartphones continue to dominate orders.

In the first week the shops opened Awin saw Thursday move to the biggest online shopping day with the most orders across the week. This is a shift from the previous week when most orders were tracked on the Monday.

Chart 2

When looking at purchase behaviour across devices Awin saw little change, with smartphone driving 62% of sales last week, up 1% versus 61% the week previous. Desktop still drove an impressive 38% sales the week shopping and hospitality re-opened, down just 1% on the previous week despite there being so many more options for us to get out and about with friends and family.

Content and technology partners unaffected by the high-street  

The affiliate channel provides brands with many options to tap into consumers across a variety of publishers and partners. Loyalty and incentive partners (such as TopCashback) continue to drive a higher proportion of sales for retail brands, though notice a slight dip of -2%. They remain a dominant player in the affiliate space and account for two-thirds  of retail sales at Awin; with stores open customers were still hunting for those online deals. The small 2% decrease WoW was mopped up by display and email partners. Content partners remain a desirable element of any retail programme, proving strong and consistent WoW, posting 14% of sales last week, followed by technology partners, also seeing performance unaffected as stores re-opened, driving 10% of retail orders.

Online retail, what’s next?

It’s early days, and whilst we can learn a lot from the first seven days we cannot ignore other factors. Many people are still isolating or waiting for vaccinations and it’s likely we will see more consumers venture out over time, with 17th May the next significant marker. Bars and restaurants are currently only allowed to open their outdoor spaces, and whilst we saw the public brave the British weather to taste their first pint, many are still comfortable at home. Lastly we cannot ignore the significant number of individuals still on furlough or looking for work.

However, it’s becoming apparent that a new type of online shopper has emerged from the pandemic that are here to stay; it will be vital for brands not to neglect their online partners who can help engage with these audiences as businesses re-open their physical doors.

Many customers are still browsing online and to ensure market share isn’t lost, it’s crucial that we continue to market to them, especially through the new breed of content and technology partners whose online performance is currently unaffected by the physical world. Average order values and return on investment are both up online, and brands will be analysing the value of customers across all mediums and focusing on driving those most valuable orders. 

As well as continuing to inspire and interact customers online, it’s also important we continue to join the dots between the physical and virtual shopping world for customers. A customer’s experience with a brand should be consistent across different partners, online, or on the high street. Retail needs to continue to innovate to replicate the benefits of store-shopping to the online world as ecommerce continues to reign.

If you want to read more about how Awin is driving performance online, through a variety of partners, check out our Awin Report 2021 or get in touch at

By Joelle Hillman, Retail Client Partner, Awin

Published 22/04/21

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