Customer referrals drive activity across retail sectors, with Gifts and Occasions retailers seeing biggest overall increases for the quarter.
New Q1 data from referral platform Mention Me reveals that, despite the national lockdown, online retail sectors including home and garden, food and drink, and gifts remained hot topics of conversation among consumers in the first quarter of this year. The analysis, which covers online orders and referrals for more than 450 brands across retail sectors, also shows that shopping activity is mirroring the UK’s roadmap out of lockdown.
Without the option to spend money on eating out or holidays abroad, consumers have treated themselves to online shopping – and recommended their favourite brands to friends and family. According to the data in Q1 2021, 245% more customers bought from brands for the first time following a friend’s recommendation compared to Q1 last year.
Home and Garden retailers thrive as lockdown eases
Following Boris Johnson’s announcement outlining the roadmap for exiting lockdown, the Home & Garden sector saw a significant increase in referral activity. By early March, brands in this sector were acquiring 277% more new customers year on year via referrals, and processing 111% more online orders.
Despite most consumers now able to get to a supermarket or book a delivery slot, many are continuing to recommend online food and drink brands. Online orders peaked at +79% YoY in mid-January. By early February, referrals for the food and drink sector were up 307% YoY.
Over the past year the beauty sector has remained resilient, with consumers changing purchase types rather than decreasing their spending while stuck at home. Online orders and referrals for Q1 were up 83% and 111% YoY respectively. For fashion brands, online orders and referrals have been steadily rising since early February as consumers refresh their wardrobes ahead of leaving lockdown. By the end of Q1, they were up 58% and 66% respectively.
Seasonal boosts for gifts, homes and gardens
Easter Weekend brought both good weather and an increase in consumer activity. Consumers recommended gifts and occasion retailers 20% more than usual, while home and garden brands saw an 8% uplift.
Both Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day provided significant boosts for the Gifts and Occasions sector. With sales from referrals +444% YoY on 13th March – the biggest uplift of all the sectors. Online orders on the same day reached +303% YoY.
“While the overall outlook for 2021 remains uncertain, online performance in the first quarter gives retailers good reason to be optimistic,” says Andy Cockburn, CEO and Co-founder at Mention Me. "The trends we’re seeing mirror the roadmap out of lockdown. They also suggest the pandemic has permanently changed consumer behaviour. If we think back to when shops temporarily reopened in summer 2020, online orders remained up 54% year-on-year across our five biggest sectors and referrals remained up 128%. It’s impossible to know exactly how consumers will continue to shop this year, but for online brands that get people talking, there remains a valuable opportunity to acquire new customers.”
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