Coronavirus Is Influencing Shopper Behavior on Amazon

Searches for medical masks and respirators are up 17,000%

coronavirus spilling out of shopping basket under Amazon logo
Amazon forecast $4 billion in costs related to Covid-19 during Q2. Sources: Getty Images, Amazon
Headshot of Lisa Lacy

According to the latest World Health Organization report, the vast majority of coronavirus cases worldwide to date are in China.

But that hasn’t stopped U.S. consumers from turning to Amazon to research and buy supplies to protect themselves, per Amazon seller platform Jungle Scout.

Using its product and market research data, Jungle Scout found Amazon sold out of its DuPont hazmat suit on Feb. 5. The last time this product went out of stock on Amazon was in the summer of 2018, during the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Jungle Scout said the sell-out is a good indicator of consumer fear surrounding coronavirus.

As a result, Amazon shoppers can now only buy the DuPont hazmat suit from third-party sellers who have responded with increased prices. The average price is up 13% from $9.68 to $11.08—but Jungle Scout found the product has been listed as high as $23.37.

Higher prices have not diminished shopper enthusiasm. In fact, Jungle Scout said the product has seen a 637% increase in sales—from an average of 810 to 5160 sales per month from November through January. Amazon sold over 20,000 hazmat suits in January alone.

As sales of hazmat suits have increased, so have related searches. Jungle Scout found the suits have seen a 310% increase in Amazon searches in the last 30 days. According to Jungle Scout’s keyword tool, searches for medical masks and respirators, on the other hand, are up 17,000%—and mask sales are close to 24 million and counting.

The search term “N95 mask,” which is a medical mask approved by the Centers for Disease Control to block 95% of airborne particles, is particularly popular. Jungle Scout found searches for “N95” are up 6543% and “N95 mask kids” searches are up 2,188% in the past month.

Other products with boosts in search activity on Amazon include: “emergency backpack survival kit” (up 694%), “cold medication” (up 544%), “doomsday preppers” (up 325%), “cold flu medicine” (up 271%), “prepper” (up 253%), “emergency C” (up 205%), “doomsday” (up 183%), “immune boosters” (up 136%) and “virus” (up 119%).

This, of course, also translates to increased sales. Jungle Scout data shows the top 48 sellers for the search term “surgical masks” are averaging 4,347 monthly sales. That means shoppers are buying more than 7800 surgical face mask box sets on Amazon every day.

And, as with the hazmat suit, when Amazon started to run out of an N95 mask from 3M on Jan. 22, third-party sellers began increasing prices. Jungle Scout found the product was listed for $63.95, a 582% increase from the original price of $13.28.

The price increase hasn’t diminished sales. The 3M mask is ranked #1 in Amazon’s industrial and scientific category, which Jungle Scout said translates to 25,530 purchases a month.

Jungle Scout said high demand has also resulted in listings with misleading information. In order to avoid buying a counterfeit product, Jungle Scout recommends consumers choose products with at least 30 reviews as these products have likely been on the market awhile. Jungle Scout said they should also buy from sellers with at least 100 ratings and an average of 97% or higher and inspect packaging upon delivery to ensure it matches the listing and the box hasn’t been tampered with.

@lisalacy Lisa Lacy is a senior writer at Adweek, where she focuses on retail and the growing reach of Amazon.