Nearly half of online sales for UK businesses in March were driven by “new customers” thanks to Covid-19, data from tech firm Emarsys shows today, presenting a new opportunity and challenge for marketers.

A huge 43% of sales were made by first-time buyers, while the remainder of sales were made up of second-time buyers (5%), active repeat customers (23%), defecting customers (14%) and inactive customers (8%).

Proportion of online sales in March from different customers (numbers do not add up to 100% because mapping certain purchases to customers is impossible, for example those checking out as a “guest”)

The figures present an opportunity for marketers to target a larger addressable market than they had perhaps initially planned pre-Covid-19. However, the figures also present a challenge to marketers with limited resources in how to target and communicate with such a large influx of new customers.

Alex Timlin, senior vice president of verticals at Emarsys, explained: “Our own customers — especially supermarkets — have told us over the past month that they’re dealing with not just more customers but more types of customers than they know how to deal with.

“It’s now more important than ever to be able to quickly distinguish new customers from loyal ones, so you can target them with campaigns in the right way and do so quickly. Artificial intelligence is a huge asset to marketers here because it can analyse your entire customer base quickly to determine who’s new and who’s loyal. Then you can set up separate automated digital campaigns for each type of customer.”

These most recent online customer trends were identified by Covid-19 Commerce Insight, a joint project between leading customer engagement platform provider Emarsys and data analytics provider GoodData showing the impact the impact of Covid-19 on consumer confidence.

Covid-19 Commerce insight draws on more than a billion engagements and 400 million transactions in 120 countries, providing a global and regional picture of ecommerce activity and trends — a key indicator of overall economic conditions in these unprecedented times.

Key insights from Covid-19 Commerce Insight include how the pandemic is affecting the number of online consumer transactions, order numbers, the average order value, types of items purchased and more — in any industry and region in the world — in context of the extraordinary measures taken by governments globally.

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