The ongoing global pandemic has changed consumer spending priorities and habits overnight. Planning summer holidays with friends over a meal out feels like a distant memory. Now we’re living in lockdown, with our most anticipated activities limited to ordering in tasty meals and binge-watching box sets from the comfort of our sofas.
To understand what this means for businesses across different sectors, Mention Me, the referral marketing and customer retention platform, has analysed order volumes and referrals to 400+ clients. By comparing these numbers with the same time last year, we've gained powerful insights into the impact of Covid-19 on business.
Here are five industries driving new customer acquisition, sales and referrals in the current climate.
Gifts & occasions
This year, Mother’s Day coincided with newly introduced instructions on social distancing and self-isolation. As a result, consumers were forced to rethink how they treated mum to something special.
Instead of Sunday lunches at the pub or personally chosen flower bouquets, most mothers this year received a gift delivered straight to their door. The vast majority of consumers shopped online for the occasion, using relevant e-commerce sites to spoil their mums from afar.
Ranging from chocolates and wine to flowers and personalised cards, order volume in the gift sector on Mother's Day increased by 122% year-on-year. Though sales are declining now the event has passed, they continue to remain up 45% on the same time last year.
This sharp rise is also reflected by the number of referrals. On Mother's Day, we delivered 229% more new customers to gifting clients via referral than last year. For some gifting clients, referrals rocketed by more than 1,000%.
Home & garden
Faced with the prospect of staying in for the foreseeable, homeowners and renters alike are turning their attention to the home. And, without the option to browse their local DIY store or furniture dealer, they’re seeking their friends' recommendations and going online. On average, order volumes for brands in this sector have increased by 55% year-on-year. Over the same period, referrals have increased by 83%.
Over the past few weeks, home office furniture sales have soared as people realise the impracticality of balancing a laptop on their knees while perched on the sofa. Though shoppers are unlikely to regularly buy products like desks and office chairs, we predict steady ongoing demand for other items in the sector. Plants, for example.
Working from home has increased the desire to bring the outdoors in, driving more referrals for plant delivery brands as people spruce up their homes with a leafy Kentia Palm or soothing Peace Lily. Meanwhile, those with the luxury of outdoor space are investing in outside plants and tools to transform their garden into a true sanctuary – a trend set to strengthen as the weather warms.
Home appliances are also booming, with empty weekends presenting the perfect opportunity to finally fix that dodgy lighting, do up the spare room, or master a signature dish in the kitchen.
Health & fitness
Now that gyms are no-go zones and outdoor exercise is restricted to a once-daily outing, adopting a healthy lifestyle at home is more important than ever.
While some people are satisfied with a gym mat and YouTube workout, others are going all out and investing in indoor equipment like Atom bikes or rowing machines. For purchases as considered as these, referrals are particularly powerful – a friend’s recommendation can be the final factor in converting a website visitor into a customer.
Meanwhile, those working jobs still requiring a commute are eyeing up alternative modes of transport. Client and folding bike company Brompton is one such brand seeing increased demand. Its Chief Executive Will Butler-Adams estimates sales in the UK across the industry are up ‘around 15%’.
Straddling this and the next section are health food brands, which are seeing referrals rise as consumers order in readily available and nutritious food. Vitamin and mineral supplements suppliers are also generating significantly more sales.
Food & drink
We predict food and drink brands facing the biggest demand over the coming months.
Food remains one of the few pleasures we can still enjoy, albeit in the comfort of our homes. And with supermarkets selling more groceries now than at Christmas, consumers are turning to alternative food delivery services. Many client brands in this sector are acquiring markedly more new customers via referral now than this time last year.
Then there’s drink. With nights at the pub replaced by virtual get-togethers via apps like Houseparty, people are turning to ecommerce sites to keep their booze supply fully stocked. Though the government has (to the relief of many) included shops selling alcohol in its list of essential retailers, ordering online is an easy alternative to going outside, socially distancing from every passerby, then queueing at a shop with limited stock.
The social nature of eating and drinking, even from the confines of your home, presents a valuable opportunity for referrals. Socialising remotely means everyone’s enjoying something different – creating the perfect environment for recommendations.
Our appearance may not be our biggest concern right now, but for some consumers, the sudden abundance of free time coupled with niggling anxiety presents the perfect time to practice self-care.
On average, sales for beauty skincare brands have increased by 37% year-on-year. Referrals have increased by 64%.
This is likely heightened by the abundance of make-up and skincare tutorials available on social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, many of which call out specific brands and products. If you don’t nail that traditional ten-step Japanese skincare routine while in isolation, you probably never will.
Building long-term business with referral
There’s no denying that times are tough. But with more people shopping online, talking to loved ones, and looking for alternative brands to meet their needs, brand recommendations are soaring. There’s powerful opportunity for businesses to convert one-time website visitors into loyal customers and repeat sales.
But to make the most of this opportunity, you need to track and optimise these conversations, then engage new customers so they keep coming back. This is where Mention Me’s acquisition and retention platform presents valuable potential. Now and in the future, when we’ve made it through to a post-coronavirus world.
Courtney Wylie, VP product & marketing at Mention Me