The Most In-Demand Product Category Probably Isn’t What You Think

This pandemic doesn’t just have Americans swarming the toilet paper aisle. Demand for health and beauty products are certainly still outpacing supply chains—empty shelves and out-of-stock tags can attest to that. But since mid-March, one product category has seen more increase in online demand than any other, and then last week, it passed the baton to a new leader and neither one of these categories show any signs of slowing down.

It’s not food and beverage. The pandemic has dramatically changed consumers’ willingness to buy food online—maybe even permanently—but while food and beverage and health and beauty have seen increased demand during this time, neither are the top category.

Nearly every product category has seen a steady increase in year over year transactions and views, on our platform, but consumer electronics have seen a greater increase in demand than any other industry over the collective past six weeks, clocking in at a 318% average increase in traffic over that time period compared to last year.

It’s no surprise that consumer electronics brands are doing well right now. But during a pandemic, when medical supplies and household staples are so scarce that Amazon stopped receiving shipments of everything else, it’s pretty strange to see consumer electronics consistently outpacing those essential goods.

But there are several reasons why this has probably happened.

People are spending more time indoors

As fear of public gatherings increased, so did the demand for products that made being indoors more enjoyable. Before states started issuing stay-at-home orders, public outings were being discouraged, and consumer electronics brands were already seeing a bump in online traffic and sales. 

The moment consumer electronics started seeing greater demand than health, food, and beverage products was when the stay-at-home orders started rolling out and people had fewer reasons (and opportunities) to leave the house. For example, the week of March 16–23, consumer electronics saw a year-over-year view increase of 140.5%, whereas food and beverage traffic increased 260.5%, and health and beauty products increased 278%. And now we’ve really seen some changes happen. While many of these categories continue to be up over triple digits in YoY online growth it’s starting to change each week. The week of April 13-17, food and beverage traffic increased 143.6%, health and beauty products views were up 230.4%, and consumer electronics soared to a 433% increase in views.

Schools are closed

Closing schools presented families with a couple of big issues that the consumer electronics industry helped them address:

  1. Parents suddenly needed ways to keep their kids busy during the day
  2. Kids needed devices to access online schooling

Some schools already provided students with devices. Others found themselves suddenly buying them in bulk. But many families were also on their own, investing in tech solutions that would work for their kids (and keep kids from constantly having to borrow their parents’ phones, tablets, and computers).

Far more people are working remotely

Obviously the percentage of Americans working remotely has significantly increased. According to a Gallup poll, the percentage of employees who said they had worked remote doubled from mid-March to April 2. Additionally, the percentage of Americans who said they were given “flex time” or remote work options increased from 39% in mid-March to 57% by April 2.

Whether companies supplied employees with their laptops, desktops, headphones, monitors, webcams, and other devices or employees purchased those products themselves, this likely contributed to the increased demand.

Stimulus checks have started coming in

Year-over-year, consumer electronics brands saw a 430% increase in traffic from March 30-April 6. Demand had been steadily increasing for a couple of weeks already, but the stimulus bill—which included $1,200 for many Americans—was signed on March 27.

A lot of people needed that stimulus money to pay for food, bills, and other urgent expenses. But for people who were still working or had more financial security, this was unexpected income they could use to make a big tech purchase.

Not everyone is reacting to COVID-19 the same way

Health products saw the biggest spike in online demand at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. But by March 23, it was about even with the demand for food and beverage products, and the demand for consumer electronics was greater than either of them.

If every American was equally concerned about the crisis or the need for better hygiene, we would probably expect to see sustained greater demand for health products. The current demand for health products is clearly significant, but the prevalence of misinformation and distrust of media is likely at least part of the reason why it’s been surpassed by consumer electronics and food and beverage.

Shopping for consumer electronics involves more research

When you’re ready to buy new tech, you need to make sure it has the features and specs you want. As the price point increases, so does the research you’ll likely do to ensure you make the right selection. 

In many product categories right now, consumers are showing that they’re willing to buy just about any product that meets their needs. They’ll take whatever is available. Purell may be the gold standard of hand sanitizers, but when the best brands and product configurations are out of stock, you’re going to take whatever you can find.

Since consumer electronics shopping requires more research and tends to have higher price points, people are going to look at more product pages before they buy.

Right now, a lot of people are shopping for food and health products online. But everyone has become more dependent on tech to work, learn, and kill time. The pandemic has crippled a lot of industries, but demand for consumer electronics shows no signs of slowing down.

The latest trend…If you build it…

While consumer electronics does take the lead collectively during the Coronavirus pandemic, the past two weeks of data from our platform saw a new leader emerge from previously very low activity during this time. What’s that category?…None other than hardware. That’s right, we’re talking power tools, drills, saws, tape measures, anything and everything you need to put that second wing on your house or more likely, tackle those built-ins you’ve always promised. The hardware category had been pretty sleepy until a few weeks ago when it emerged as our leader last week up 485.2% and again this week at a 525.4% increase in traffic year over year. Stimulus checks, coupled with stay at home orders and many of the other reasons people have flocked to consumer electronics early on have impacted the hardware category positively in recent weeks. 

Here’s a look at the top four categories from our platform over the past 6-weeks:


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