Analysis: How COVID-19 Impacted Musical Instrument Sales Online

The past year has seen Americans picking up all sorts of new hobbies and interests. Months spent sheltering in place made sourdough starters all the rage, houseplants and DIY projects dominated social media feeds, and pandemic puppies became a new buzzword (read our analysis: the Purchasing Patterns of Pet Owners).

But were Americans also interested in picking up a more demanding skill like learning to play a musical instrument?

To celebrate National Buy a Musical Instrument Day, and because we love digging into the data to uncover new ecommerce trends, we did a deep dive into online sales for musical instruments and accessories: Which musical instruments experience the most online demand? Which ones saw the biggest bump right after lockdowns last year? What were the long-term effects of COVID-19 on musical instrument sales?

Our data science team analyzed market demand for musical instruments and accessories in 2019 and 2020 to find out the answer to these questions and more.

Which musical instruments were the most popular on Amazon in 2020?

Before diving deep into the data, we started by comparing the major types of musical instruments on Amazon. Here’s a list of the instruments in our analysis and the total demand each received in 2020:

The piano may be the most commonly played instrument in America, but it’s no surprise that on Amazon it’s the guitar that reigns supreme. The guitar is so popular that it received 87% more demand than the rest of the instruments in our analysis combined.

The piano (which for our analysis includes keyboards) received the next most demand, while drums received the third most.

Ukuleles were a strong fourth place, as you might expect people are far more willing to purchase a ukulele online than a more specialized or advanced instrument.

How did COVID-19 impact market demand for guitars?

As the chart above suggests, demand is likely to be extremely different depending on which musical instrument you examine. But since guitars represented such a massive slice of the pie, we decided to start first by examining demand for guitars throughout 2020.

Here’s what we found:

Initially, COVID-19 appears to have had a negative impact on demand for guitars. Demand plummeted in early March during the uncertain early days of the pandemic. By the week of March 22, as Americans began to understand the implications of a future sheltering in place, demand rebounded sharply.

Demand for guitars then settled to consistent levels before reaching their highest levels during the holiday shopping season.

The chart above shows that there was a clear impact in the early weeks of the pandemic, but to even better understand the overall impact of COVID-19 we’ll need to compare 2020 to the previous year:

Monthly demand for guitars started the year high, with demand in January 2020 37% higher than January of 2019. And it’s here where you can see even clearer evidence that many Americans decided early quarantine was a perfect time to learn to play the guitar.

Demand stayed higher than in 2019 throughout the entire year, though the boost clearly waned as the year went on, with December’s demand only outpacing December 2019 by 2%.

How did COVID-19 impact market demand for musical instruments?

After seeing how COVID-19 impacted the instrument with the highest demand, we next wanted to see if other instruments experienced similar trends.

First, we took demand for the months of March and April 2020 and compared them to the same months in 2019 to see which instruments got the biggest “quarantine bumps.”

According to our analysis, the ukulele was by far the most popular early quarantine musical instrument. Demand in March and April last year was 66% higher than in 2019. A cheap, fun, and comparatively simple instrument, it’s pandemic popularity is no surprise.

The guitar got the next largest boost, followed by the piano, and then far more surprisingly, the harp got the fourth largest early-pandemic boost.

Not all instruments in our analysis had a better March and April in 2020 than in 2019, though. Trombones and violas both saw demand drop by 27% in those months. Trumpets and saxophones also saw demand dip in that timeframe.

But, as we saw in the monthly year-over-year chart for guitars, the early-pandemic bump only tells part of the story. So we next compared total demand for all of 2020 to total demand for all of 2019 to determine the longer-term impact of COVID-19 on each instrument.

Most of the instruments in our analysis experienced an early-pandemic bump, but here we can see COVID-19 had a negative long-term effect on most of the instruments in our analysis.

Guitars, pianos (and keyboards), ukuleles, harps, and drums all experienced more demand in 2020 than in 2019, but the rest of the instruments in our analysis saw demand fall last year.

A possible explanation is that instruments well-suited for self-teaching at home did well in 2020, but those more associated with traditional in-school learning environments (like High School band class, etc.) suffered long-term.

For an even clearer picture, let’s take a look at the monthly year-over-year comparison for some of the most impacted instruments. First, here are the instruments who saw the biggest increase in demand:

Each instrument started the year strong before seeing demand surge in April. Demand for pianos and guitars remained slightly above 2019’s through the end of the year, while drum and ukulele demand settled to just under 2019.

Here’s how 2020 looked for the instruments that experienced the biggest decreases in demand:

2020 started strong for these instruments as well, but their demand plummeted in April and never really recovered.

The lack of an early pandemic bump makes sense as someone’s far more likely to decide to teach themself how to play the guitar while on lockdown than they would the trombone.

The lack of any recovery and the dip in August during the back-to-school shopping season, meanwhile, lends further evidence to our theory that distance learning has had a severe impact on demand for specialized musical instruments.

How did COVID-19 impact market demand for musical accessories?

We’ve learned that last year saw people more likely to want to buy a new guitar or ukulele, and far less likely to buy a new trombone or viola, but what about musical supplies? To close out our analysis, we examined data for musical accessories. Here’s what we found:

Strings and tuning supplies both experienced a modest increase in demand in the early days of the pandemic shutdown, but both pale in comparison to the run on rosin. Demand for rosin shot up by 79% in April 2020 compared to April 2019, and increased even higher to a 91% increase in May.

It appears that string musicians felt adequately stocked up by the summer, though, as demand fell to normal levels for the rest of the year.

Drumsticks, meanwhile, saw demand fall from above 2019 levels early in the pandemic and never recovered.

A lesson for brands

Musical instruments are popular year-round, but our data shows that COVID-19 has impacted some types of instruments far differently than others.

Understanding the factors that influence consumer behavior can help brands better understand how to forecast demand for their products on online marketplaces, and even inform product design and marketing strategy.

For example, we may see demand for certain types of instruments quickly rebound as schools begin to resume in-person learning, while other types of instruments may see demand decline after 2020’s surges.

To stay up to date on consumer behavior and ecommerce news, info, and trend analyses, be sure to subscribe to Pattern Insights on the right.

And, if you’d like to learn more about how you can best leverage our data to help your brand win online, holiday or not, schedule a demo today.

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MAP Pricing vs MSRP: What's the Difference? (blog header)
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MAP Pricing vs. MSRP: What's the Difference?

“MAP” and “MSRP” are two of hundreds of acronyms floating around in the world of ecommerce, and they’re two of the easiest to confuse and misunderstand. While MAP and MSRP do play similar roles, they also have key differences that can work in tandem to support and protect your brand on marketplaces.

So what are MAP and MSRP and why do they matter? Here’s what you should know: 

What is MAP?

MAP (or minimum advertised price) is the minimum amount that a manufacturer or wholesaler recommends resellers advertise their products for. MAP pricing policy is essentially a one-way boundary you set to protect your brand, protect the margins of your resellers, and maintain fair competition across all of your distribution channels.

When setting a MAP policy strategy, remember the important things you’ll want your MAP policy to do are:

  1. Protect the interests of your brick-and-mortar resellers, giving them the margins they need to display and carry your product as well as sell it.

  2. Stay small enough that it discourages resellers from heavily discounting your products and keeps competition fair.

  3. Accurately reflects on the brand image and value you want to reflect.

“Advertising” and “recommends” are the key terms here. MAP policies should only recommend the price that is advertised online or in-store for a product, not attempt to fix the actual selling price of the product—that’s illegal—or recommend the actual selling price. That’s MSRP’s job.

Benefits of MAP

MAP not only keeps competition fair, but allows you to control your brand identity and promote consumer trust of your product and brand. Here are some of the benefits of having MAP policies:

  • Better brand protection and control

  • Creates a level playing field for retailers

  • Reduces bad customer experiences

  • Provides an accurate performance analysis

How Can Brands Effectively Enforce MAP?

It’s critical that MAP policies are structured in such a way that a brand avoids violating anti-trust laws. One way brands can effectively enforce MAP is by simply monitoring online product prices across digital channels to identify fluctuations in the market. 

At Pattern, we help brands not only develop a MAP policy, but also enforce it. Enforcing MAP policies and gaining marketplace control includes finding unauthorized sellers, which Pattern’s data finds. Once Pattern finds the unauthorized sellers, Vorys eControls (Pattern’s legal partner) steps in and handles the takedowns of unauthorized sellers, continuous enforcement of brand management, and reseller policy enforcements.

What is MSRP?

MSRP (or manufacturer’s suggested retail price) is how manufacturers standardize pricing across their resale channel and determine what price is fair for their product. The key difference between MSRP and MAP is that MSRP is the actual price manufacturers set and recommend retailers charge for their goods while MAP is the advertised price. 

MSRP doesn’t necessarily have to be the final price of a product—it’s most often a starting price—but it is determined by taking into account all of the costs associated with the distribution and manufacturing process for a product and the margin amount resellers need in order to make a profit. MSRP also establishes value. For example, if a brand wants to build a premium brand, the MSRP can reflect the actual or perceived value of their product.

Benefits of MSRP

Setting up an MSRP for your product includes the following benefits:

  • Maintains brand equity

  • Establishes brand and product value

  • Standardizes costs across marketplaces

How Can Brands Effectively Enforce MSRP?

Like MAP pricing, MSRP has to be set up as a one-way policy and not an agreement between a manufacturer and a reseller to avoid landing a manufacturer on the wrong side of the law. It’s a recommendation, not a contractual bind. As mentioned for MAP policy, Pattern helps brands effectively enforce MSRP with our proprietary data and expertise to protect their brand. 

How Do MAP and MSRP Work Together?

MAP and MSRP have different applications that may prove useful in different scenarios. For example, MAP policies are typically more useful in marketplaces where competition is fierce and price erosion happens easily if sellers are left unchecked. Ideally, however, MAP and MSRP are a dynamic duo that work together to serve the interests of your brand, support your resale channels, and protect your resellers.

Setting an MSRP establishes value for your product and lets your resellers know you’re serious about controlling channel conflict, maintaining pricing equity, and protecting their margins so they’re more confident setting pricing at the MSRP level.

MAP is the second half of setting a pricing policy. Setting a MAP price for your product, in addition to an MSRP, further standardizes pricing across your resale channel and gives legitimate resellers a fair environment to compete in while setting boundaries against unauthorized sellers harming your brand.

MAP combined with MSRP creates a stronger level of brand protection, giving your brand more sustainable, profitable growth.

Maintain Brand Control With Pattern

MAP policies can be tricky to draft, because there are so many legal lines to tiptoe around and so much nuance that goes into pricing. They can also be tricky to enforce without the right tools. At Pattern, partnered with Vorys, we have the tools and resources to help you maintain brand control on all marketplaces. 

As an ecommerce accelerator, Pattern can help you identify MAP violators and regain control of your brand online so that your image and your resellers are protected. To learn more, contact us today.

Athlon Optics Walmart.com Launch Has Record Setting Sales within 3 Days
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Athlon Optics Walmart.com Launch Has Record Setting Sales within 3 Days

Athlon Optics sells scopes and other optical accessories like binoculars for anyone who may be hunting, shooting recreationally, or competing.  After achieving significant success on Amazon, the brand wanted to launch on Walmart. As a growing marketplace with huge growth forecasts, Athlon saw their competitors already staking claim on walmart.com and saw opportunities for increasing their sales.

As a prestigious brand in its category, with loyal consumers, Athlon does so much with very few resources. With less than twenty employees in the entire company, managing everything from customer service to product development, their ecommerce team needed support to scale to a new marketplace.  And, they needed a partner who had a relationship with and deep understanding of walmart.com to accelerate their growth. Pattern is a one-stop shop for Athlon, providing the resources and expertise, so Athlon could also save budget and stop outsourcing so many different aspects of their marketplace business.

Athlon Optics Prepares for a Seamless Launch

Sometimes brands who transition from 1P to 3P with Pattern have no proprietary sales, marketplace data or content such as product images, video, or optimized copy. These circumstances create a more hands on transition for Pattern and may interfere with launch expectations. 

But Athlon was the consummate partner and overly prepared to transition to 3P– buttoned up, organized, and ready to take on walmart.com’s list of launch needs. Athlon provided all the required assets on time and was very organized.  The images were shot, formatted, and categorized as A+ content that Pattern ported over.  This process dramatically reduced wait times and lag times within the platform.  Plus, since the content was optimized for marketplaces, all images, copy, and listing information uploaded in the first pass. 

Pattern’s Walmart Expertise Leads to Success

But the content worked because of Pattern’s resources and marketplace expertise.  Pattern provided Athlon with a very clear outline of needs and expectations for seamless launch and this process has become a playbook for other brands on walmart.com.  The team’s mutual partnership and Pattern’s diligent follow up with and detailed attention to Walmart processes and logistics prevented Athlon from getting lost in the weeds. 

Three Days is All it Takes

The successful, thorough, and quick transition to 3P with Pattern secured Athlon most likely the fastest ramp-up periods for any brand on Walmart.com.  

Together we achieved success such as:

  • 'Best in class' turnaround–98% faster onboarding than average brand on Walmart.

  • First sale within the first week of landing at Walmart. 

    • Unprecedented turnaround considering the ramp up usually needed to gain momentum and traction with reviews on Walmart. 

  • Exceeded initial first month growth projection by 34%.

Athlon was so impressed by the ease and simplicity of its launch and execution on Walmart that the brand wants to grow our 3P relationship with other marketplaces such as Amazon Canada and Target+.

And, in the meantime, look out for Athlon Optics in Walmart Deal Days in 2022.  A huge win for any brand tied to organic advertising and new traffic opportunities across all media.

Pattern Helps Brands Expand Marketplaces 

Pattern has the 3P partner experience and deep expertise on Walmart and other global marketplaces to help a brand expand their footprint to maintain sales momentum and a competitive edge. Pattern, an ecommerce accelerator, takes on the responsibility of your stock and provides the expert resources needed to successfully launch and continue to grow your revenue on global marketplaces. 

Learn more about Pattern’s expertise and partnership on Walmart.  Contact us today.

Amazon A+ Content
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Amazon A+ and Premium A+ Content: Pros and Cons Brands Need to Know

Long gone are the days when Amazon listings were limited to a simple product description, five bullet points, and eight pictures. As the platform, and number of sellers, has grown, sellers have had to be more and more strategic and eye-catching to increase traffic and conversions on their listings.

Brands on Amazon have plenty of attractive options available to design their Amazon storefront, which reside in two of Amazon’s content tools: A+ Content and Premium A+ Content (or  A++ Content).

Here’s the pros and cons of brands using A+ Content vs. Premium A+ Content:

What is Amazon A+ Content?

Amazon A+ Content is a standard feature available to all Amazon Sellers and free as one of the many benefits of Amazon Brand Registry. 

With A+ Content, a product listing can have more than a plain text description and standard photo reel–it can include high quality multimedia photos and videos alongside eye-catching information to share the product story, and not just the product appearance.

Some noteworthy features that Amazon A+ offers are:

  • Multiple, varied images of a product

  • Strategically concise introduction

  • Video

  • Bullet points

  • 360° product views

  • Matrix comparison charts

  • “What’s in the box” section

What is Amazon Premium A+ Content?

Amazon Premium A+ Content, or Amazon A++ Content, is a tool that goes a level beyond basic A+ Content, giving brands the ability to showcase their product’s most important features and benefits with a modern, visually appealing structure. 

In August 2022, Amazon announced Premium A+ would be available on Seller Central for free usage during a promotional period. Previously, Premium A+ content was available only by invite for brands using Vendor Central and could cost anywhere from $250K and $500K per product. 

With Premium A+ content, a brand visually communicates using imagery and video, and relies much less on text due to strict character limits for product descriptions. According to Amazon, implementing Premium A+ content can increase your sales by 20%.

For the first time ever, Premium A+ expands the usable real estate of the page, using the entire width of the screen for a sophisticated and modern feel.

Some noteworthy features that Premium A+ offers are:

  • Video

  • Full-width imagery

  • More space

  • Clickable Q&A

  • Interactive comparison charts

  • Carousel modules

  • Mobile-friendly and voice-friendly product pages

  • Testimonials

Pros and Cons of Amazon A+ vs. Premium A+ Content

Although their purposes are similar, there are some key differences between A+ Content and Premium A+ Content. Here are the pros and cons for each tool:

Basic Amazon A+ Content

Pros:

  • Free and unlimited use for all Vendors.

  • An effective tool to enhance customer experience and product listings.

Cons:

  • Less features than Premium A+.

  • It's not as visually appealing as Premium A+.

Premium A+ Content

Pros:

  • There are 16 extra modules to choose from that are media-rich and make an impact.

  • You have two more available module slots than Basic Amazon A+.

  • Overall, there are more possibilities for hyper-engaging content.

  • You can expect a sales rate increase of up to 20% with Premium A+, according to Amazon.

Cons:

  • Amazon has positioned Premium A+ content as more of an exclusive tool, requiring eligibility based on past content to qualify for Premium A+ content. 

  • Character limit restrictions are more strict than Basic Amazon A+.

Elevate Your Amazon Content with Pattern

Ultimately, both of these tools exist to help you and your brand provide customers the best online shopping experience possible. Although Premium A+ offers plenty of exciting new options for enhancing customers’ buying experience, it may not be for everyone. Optimizing your Amazon listing with A+ or Premium A+ Content can provide the best opportunity to build a strong reputation for better brand-recognition and customer affinity. 

Our creative and digital marketing experts at Pattern can help brands use A+ Content and Premium A+ Content to increase conversions and give buyers an amazing experience.

Learn how Pattern can help you increase conversions on Amazon. Contact us