How is online shopping changing during this pandemic? Puzzles, paint and pianos.

While lockdowns and restrictions on access to retail outlets around the world have severely impacted the shopping habits of many, online shopping is also changing.

How does stay-at-home consumption differ from pre-COVID-19 times in France, Germany and Japan? Read on for unique insights from the local Rakuten marketplace experts.

France: Work hard (at home), play hard (at home)

In France, one major change is not what users are buying, but when. According to Rakuten’s French marketplace, before the lockdown, French shoppers were most active during the mornings before work, during lunch breaks and in the early hours of the evening. The flexibility of working from home has turned that on its head, with orders now peaking during the late morning and afternoon.

Rakuten France published insights comparing pre- and post-lockdown online shopping behaviors.
Rakuten France compares pre- and post-lockdown online shopping behaviors.

That’s not to say working from home has made French shoppers unproductive; workers across the country have prioritized their purchases to equip themselves for current work conditions. Rakuten France saw a three-fold increase in demand for productivity software like Microsoft Office, a seven-fold increase for printers, as well as increased demand for headphones.

All that work hasn’t spoiled French consumers’ desire for enjoyment. Rakuten France also saw a sharp increase in demand for board games, video games, gardening goods and cooking implements, while avid readers are taking advantage of the extra time at home to power through their reading lists, spending an average of five times longer reading each day on Rakuten Kobo.

The ability to acquire books digitally has proven very useful for readers.
The ability to acquire books digitally has proven very useful for homebound readers.

The e-reading service has seen significant jumps in new users and downloads, with Lisa Gardner’s Touch & Go topping the paid download charts over the period. In the physical realm, French readers are picking up an unfortunately relevant classic: Albert Camus’ 1947 novel The Plague.

The cabin fever also seems to be driving people to get rid of their old stuff, listing 30% more items for sale in the second-hand section of Rakuten France’s C2C platform — mostly books, video games and other content products, as well as fashion items.

Germany: Working hard, keeping fit and fixing up the house

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the pandemic hasn’t managed to dampen the German working spirit: On Rakuten Germany, webcam sales have skyrocketed by more than 1000%, while demand for desks, office chairs and stationery has also multiplied.

Keeping the kids entertained is another priority for German shoppers, who are buying 45 times more trampolines and jumping castles, and 25 times more play towers. Rakuten TV is also playing its part — modern Disney classic Frozen II has risen to third place in the movie rankings on the cinema-at-home platform. (The grown-ups are watching Jumanji and 2019’s Academy Award-winning Joker.)

Outside of work hours, Germans are finding ways to stay productive around the house: Sales of work tools and garden decorations are up by around 900%, and the platform has been selling five times the amount of house paint.

Staying productive: German consumers are using the opportunity to tackle a few home projects.
Staying productive: German consumers are using the opportunity to tackle a few home projects.

With gyms closed and exercise opportunities limited, German shoppers are also looking to recreate an active, healthy environment in the home. Rakuten Germany has sold around 750% more weight benches, 15 times the number of fitness trackers and 65 times the number of table tennis rackets, while sales of vitamins are up 142%.

While orders on the platform overall are on the rise, sales of some categories have slowed. Holiday goods are down by around 70%, motor goods 17%, and fashion and accessories by a third.

Of course, this doesn’t mean people are giving up on looking good.

Japan: Do we even need to dress up anymore? Yes, apparently

According to data from the Japanese Rakuten Ichiba e-commerce platform, the concept of “one-mile wear” is taking off like never before in Japan.

Unlike the regular old tattered pajamas you might find yourself wearing long into the afternoon, one-mile wear is about clothes that are just respectable enough to pop down to the supermarket or out to walk the dog, while still being comfortable enough to laze around at home. The concept is clearly a winner: The category saw a nearly 800% increase in merchandise sales in April.

Isolating in style: Despite the pandemic, Japanese consumers aren’t completely throwing their fashion ideals out the window.
Isolating in style: Despite the pandemic, Japanese consumers aren’t completely throwing their fashion ideals out the window.

As the gorgeous spring weather taunts us from outside the window, many Japanese households are turning to Rakuten Ichiba to spice up their indoor lives, buying significantly more kitchen appliances, video games, puzzles and musical instruments. Some are using the time as an opportunity for personal growth, driving a spike in demand for fitness goods, study materials and non-Japanese books.

Sales of items for the home have skyrocketed in Japan.
Sales of items to enjoy at home have skyrocketed in Japan.

Rakuten Ichiba also saw significant growth in sales of goods for home camping, taking online classes and home hairdressing.

Some of Rakuten Ichiba’s more peculiar housebound hits were recently ranked on Japanese TV. Just as in Germany, keeping the kids distracted is high on the priority list with mini trampolines, baby playgrounds, “air soccer” sets (like soccer but with a puck-like ball), cotton candy makers and UFO-shaped mini drones all making the cut.

Stressed and exhausted parents are also looking for ways to unwind: The rankings included a foldaway free-standing hammock, an LED projector that screws directly into your ceiling light socket, a high-tech mat that turns your regular bathtub into a jacuzzi and a karaoke microphone that covers your entire mouth (so as not to annoy the neighbors).

For those diehard karaoke aficionados devastated by the recent closures.
Neighbor-friendly karaoke: For the homebound karaoke aficionado.

Cabin fever might have us all crazy for the outdoors, but it’s clear that for now, consumers across the globe are making the most of what online shopping has to offer.

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