A new analysis from Profitero found the common cold and seasonal flu have returned to the U.S. and are propelling medicine sales on Amazon to new highs.
The 2020-2021 flu season was virtually non-existent due to restrictions and preventive measures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Masks, lockdowns, social distancing, and remote learning kept the virus at bay last year, however more relaxed restrictions and increased gatherings over the holidays have caused a spike in cold and flu symptoms over the past few weeks.
Profitero found searches for cold and flu medicine on Amazon reached new highs that haven’t been seen since the pandemic began in February 2020. Google search trends have also shown a dramatic increase in cold and flu-related searches.
Between the week ending December 24 to the week ending January 15, searches for key cold and flu terms on Amazon increased by an average of 253%. Profitero’s analysis found sales of cold and flu products on Amazon were already more than half the amount of total sales from both the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 seasons, despite only including data from November 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021.
Sales in November 2021 were 85% higher than the same time period in 2019 and 12% higher than 2020, while sales in December 2021 surged 109% and 34% compared to 2019 and 2020, respectively. Amazon searches are often a good predictor of future sales, and the recent surge suggests we will see even higher sales for the full month of January and into February.
Searches for cold and flu medicine exploded at the onset of the pandemic in early 2020 and peaked the week ending March 14, 2020, which was just prior to when major restrictions were put in place. Searches have not yet reached the historic levels of 2020, but they did rise significantly in the wake of the holiday season. The average percent improvement in Amazon Search Frequency Rank for the week ending December 25, 2021 to the week ending January 15, 2022 was 249%, nearly four-times higher than the same period in 2020-2021 and 2019-2020. Individual searches for key terms for the week ending January 15, 2022 are up between 109% and 1,013% compared to the same period in 2020:
Cough drops: 1,013%
Nasal Spray: 109%
Amazon isn’t the only place consumers are searching for these terms. Search trends on Google show similar increases for key cold and flu terms. Searches for "Theraflu", "DayQuil", "NyQuil", "cough drops", and "Mucinex" also reached three-year highs the last week of December and first few weeks of January.
What does this mean?
The increase in both Amazon and Google searches can likely be attributed to three factors: More people are catching the common cold and seasonal flu than last year, the spread of the Omicron variant, which presents similar symptoms to the cold and flu, has consumers stocking up on medicine, and more people are turning to the convenience of e-commerce to buy medicine than ever before.
Assuming new mask mandates and other restrictions aren’t put in place, the 2021-2022 season is currently on track to generate the highest amount of cold and flu medicine sales on Amazon over the past three years.