Wayfair and Salesforce Comments Drive Home E-Commerce's Current Momentum

With many consumers unable and/or unwilling to visit their favorite bricks-and-mortar stores, online sales are -- for now, at least -- surging for a variety of goods.
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It’s not just the likes of Amazon.com  (AMZN) - Get Report and Walmart  (WMT) - Get Report that are seeing their online sales spike amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just ask online furniture retailer Wayfair  (W) - Get Report, which (likely with the help of short-covering) rose more than 40% in Monday trading after forecasting its Q1 sales will “meet or exceed” prior guidance of $2.235 billion to $2.275 billion, which implied 15% to 17% annual growth.

Notably, Wayfair indicates that its revenue growth has accelerated sharply in recent weeks. After recording near-20% growth during January and February, as well as the beginning of March, Wayfair saw growth “more than double towards the end of March,” and has maintained that growth rate in early April.

While discretionary consumer spending is clearly getting hit right now, the simple fact that many consumers are currently unable and/or unwilling to visit the stores of Wayfair’s bricks-and-mortar rivals is giving the company a sales boost.

Cloud customer relationship management (CRM) software giant Salesforce.com  (CRM) - Get Report, which does a lot of business with online retailers, indicated last week it has seen “a surge” in usage for its Commerce Cloud software platform among e-commerce clients.

“You see usage, I mean, not only ours, just e-commerce, in general, you're seeing huge surges,” said Salesforce exec Adam Blitzer during a call with Cleveland Research. He added that Salesforce is “seeing many companies who are not traditional e-commerce companies,” such as consumer packaged goods (CPG) vendors, embrace online sales, as bricks-and-mortar sales get pressured or disrupted.

Also mentioned by Blitzer: Salesforce is seeing usage surge for its Marketing Cloud platform for running digital marketing campaigns, as more commerce moves online and “live events” such as industry conferences get cancelled.

Likewise, Shopify  (SHOP) - Get Report, whose software and services are used by legions of small and mid-sized businesses to sell online, has reported seeing “early signs” of bricks-and-mortar retailers dealing with plunging foot traffic “pivoting to online as consumer demand shifts.”

At the same time, Shopify admitted that sales trends “are aligning to specific industries based on the evolving environment, consumer concerns and needs,” and that some merchants “are heavily leveraging discounts to boost sales.” The company forecast its Q1 sales would meet or exceed the guidance it shared on Feb. 12, but also withdrew its full-year guidance.

There’s no guarantee that online retailers currently seeing higher sales for items such as furniture or electronics will continue doing so if economic pressures related to COVID-19 remain significant for more than a short amount of time. In an environment where lockdowns have eased but economic activity is still meaningfully below January levels, both online and bricks-and-mortar sales for such goods could be soft.

But for now, a broad shift in consumer spending activity from offline to online channels is giving a sales boost to a wide variety of online retailers.