Amazon customers buying fewer electronics during COVID-19, study suggests


Amazon packages delivered
Could this hint at lower online sales for Apple during Q2?
Photo: Morning Brew/Unsplash

Amazon has been busier than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic, as shuttered high streets drive people online to do shopping that, well, they were increasingly doing online anyway.

But user spending habits have changed, says a new report from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP). Provided its data is accurate, some of those changes could well have an impact on Apple’s business.

Amazon sales during COVID-19

The CIRP makes a few observations around the second quarter of 2020, ending June 30. It notes that people shopped at Amazon more often and included more items in their order. Customers in the United States made an average of 2.5 “trips” to Amazon in the quarter, up from 2.1 in the same quarter a year ago. They also bought an average of 2.2 items per order versus 1.9 in the June 2019 quarter.

How Amazon products sold in Q2
Maybe Apple should get in on the groceries game.
Photo: CIRP

The part that potentially affects Apple and others is the shift in what people bought. Customers were more likely to buy groceries and apparel, and less likely to buy electronics. An accompanying graph shows the likelihood of someone buying electronics goods falling from just over 25% to just under 20%. That’s not a major change, but it’s nowhere near the boom in demand that accompanied, say, groceries.

“COVID-19 clearly helped Amazon increase shopping volume, seemingly for smaller, more urgent needs,” said Josh Lowitz, partner and co-founder of CIRP in a statement. “Customers ordered there more frequently compared to the year-ago quarter, as they relied more on online shopping. And, in addition to ordering more often in the quarter, customers also included more items in each transaction.”

What does this mean for Apple?

CIRP’s figures are only an estimate. They’re based on surveys of 500 customers who bought things from Amazon in the U.S. between April and June 2020. Those figures are then extrapolated to pull out larger trends. However, if it’s correct (and all electronics companies on Amazon are similarly affected), it suggests that Apple could have seen a minor drop in online demand over the quarter. Whether that is the case or not could be partially revealed at Apple’s upcoming Q3 earnings at the end of this month. (Apple’s fiscal Q3 is actually calendar Q2.)

Some of the COVID-19 changes in user spending and online behavior have impacted Apple positively, others likely less so. On the plus side, app spending has defied the overall economic downturn, with people stuck at home spending more time on their mobile devices than ever. Working and learning from home has also likely boosted sales of devices like the iPad. On the downside, economic uncertainty could affect overall demand for Apple products. With so many people out of work, lots of folks won’t feel this is the right time to shell out for a new Mac or other device.