Who knew something as small as a virus could bring the whole world to a standstill? People from all backgrounds, strata, and jobs are reeling under the effects of the lockdown that accompanied this deadly flu-like disease. While businesses have been struggling to stay afloat, we see that it is e-commerce that is helping most of them, especially non-essential retail.
When the lockdown started worldwide, most businesses assumed that this would not go on for long. Shutters were downed and workers in India were asked to stay on despite their migrant status in hope that business would resume soon. However, with each day hurling thousands and lakhs and crores in losses, companies and shops decided that digital would be the only way to keep themselves from drowning. The effect was felt mostly in the non-essential retail sector.
“If we look at China, where the pandemic first struck, sales of alcohol and fresh foods on e-commerce sites surged during the pandemic according to Euromonitor, with market analysts predicting that the changes in consumer purchasing habits are here to stay”, says Ian Withington, MD, F&B at Hill and Knowlton Strategies.
The same report also reveals that while focus was on products in the health and hygiene section, commodities like alcohol, fresh poultry and dairy, and so on were widely looked for online; these are things people usually bought from stores before the pandemic struck. The prediction from all reports is simple- online business/ e-commerce will continue to grow with fervour. Brands and companies whose online presence is already strong stand to benefit well; for the ones realizing the power of online retail right now, there is much scope to grow and flourish.
What we also see is that e-commerce with its plethora of options is changing consumer patterns in ways unforeseen. Brand loyalty and value is being replaced by locally sourced products which provide safer and pocket-friendly options. This opens up the whole market to be restructured and now would be a right time to explore and indulge completely in marketing and selling digitally, whether through aggregator apps, or websites, or social media.
What comes as a challenge to this seemingly easy alternative to adopt for businesses is the supply chain. Products not available locally need to be shipped from places at considerable distances, but with the lockdowns phasing out in most countries, that dilemma is also phasing itself out from the minds of businessmen.
In India, trends have been surveyed and analysed by many. According to an Economic Times Retail article, 54% of the Indian consumers will now prefer online shopping compared to a 41% who did so prior to this lockdown. Not only has the ease and experience enthralled consumers, but also the pressure to try online shopping has opened up a whole new world to sceptics. A large chunk of Indians did not believe or trust in product values online, but are slowly starting to understand the workings of the online world of retail- essential or otherwise.
Anirudh Laskar wrote on LiveMint that the industry is booming and thriving so well that it may account for 7 trillion by 2023, at the current CAGR of 19.6%. Even local kiranas are being sucked into the system gradually. The whole Facebook and Jio tie-up was a hint at localizing your online marketplace with rumours of Jio Mart functioning in the spirit of the same.
In such times, technology consultants and system solutions companies are becoming indispensable to businesses. They can help a business digitize and grow efficiently, reducing manual processes. And in this day and age of social distancing, decreasing human intervention has become the key to grow. Not that it will affect jobs overall, but just expedite the process and reduce human error margins.
Sustainable and efficient, e-commerce is the new face of retail for sure. What do you think?