Friday, 3 April 2020

How can E-Commerce players get up to speed during and after COVID-19

After the World War II that claimed nearly millions around the world and brought a huge economic slowdown, it is to be noted that certain more recent natural disasters like the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and Tsunami killed roughly over 230,000 people in fourteen countries. For most of us, a global pandemic such as COVID-19 is the first of it's kind we are facing in our lifetimes. COVID-19 seems to be extremely catastrophic not just for people but is also seen as one of the biggest known disasters in recent times to have slumped the world’s economy in matter of weeks. According to the Guardian, the number of Global COVID-19 cases has crossed 750,000 with a death toll of over 36,000 across the world. 

When COVID-19 was creating havoc in China and few other European nations during early Jan'2020, its impact was hugely under-estimated by the rest of the world. Slowly, with the norms of “social distancing” and “Stay at home” becoming the mantras among everyone, the expectation was that e-commerce will boom to unprecedented levels in a situation such as this. According to consulting and research firm Technomic, 52% of consumers are avoiding crowds and 32% are leaving their house less often because of corona virus. However, there were other hidden aspects like “uncertain demand”, “supply chain issues”, “product shortages”, “border-tightening” etc. which seem to have brought the functioning of large e-commerce companies to a startling halt.

When SARS crisis hit us in 2002 and 2003, noted companies like Alibaba were able to bounce back with their diligence and dedication turning most of their customers to place orders online. Alibaba in fact grew to a million-dollar business soon afterward. But, this was during the times when the shift was happening from brick and mortar to internet. Currently, we already have a huge pool of disappointed internet shoppers who are seemingly having a tough time not being able to procure their essentials online due to lock down in most countries. Now, how does one bounce back from this crisis situation? What is life after COVID for e-commerce companies? Some of the below ideas may be well worth pondering if you are a seller or running an eCommerce business.

Business Continuity: Allow your employees to provide “Business continuity” while working from home. Ensure that it is business as usual, maybe with higher levels of productivity than before by motivating and rewarding your employees who are working from home. Adopt the “employee first” approach, by keeping your employees safe and providing them with adequate support and protective equipment whenever needed.

Strengthen your supply chain: Engage with your sellers continuously. Keep in touch with your sellers to check the status quo of their supply chain . Keep your website updated and customers intimated about actual availability of stock, rather disappointing them with false information. During and after COVID-19, if e-commerce companies focus more on Supply chain management, they are bound to see a huge spike in their selling.

Adopt Omni channel for your sales: Trying diverse supply chain is a good idea. For example, Master Kong (Instant noodle and beverage producer) has boosted its business by moving to retail, eCommerce and smaller stores. Boost your online marketing efforts and e-commerce sales by a partnering with Multi-channel Selling Management software.

Promote Differently: Focus on promoting “Essential Products” rather items of luxury to your customers during times of need. Items that are used by consumer’s daily , and virtual methods of entertainment (e-books, virtual reality gaming etc.) are a sure sell in times of COVID – 19. Think of a low cost, long term performance and sales promotion. With budgets slashed down, every penny counts.

Re-calibrate Marketing Strategies: Engage more in “Digital and Email marketing” to stay in touch with your customers and regularly update them on deals, products, new inventory etc. Try to be as transparent as possible. In the words of Mark Ritson, a seasoned Marketing Columnist at Marketing Week, “The wheels of industry need to keep turning so workers are paid and families are fed. Those wheels are best greased by effective marketing.” None of the best offers or deals can attract customers now who are locked down, uncertain of their future. Make sure the tone of your message is empathetic but coherent. It’s a good idea to concentrate on content campaigns now and build brand equity.

Work on creative ideas to improvise your business: Identify other creative ways of doing business. For example, Alibaba has started a selling platform linking sellers to hospitals in need. JD Health has launched free online consultation services with doctors and also launched an online tool to help patients with chronic diseases maintain their drug supply. Think about expanding virtual business and related products and make it more accessible to consumers.

Safety First: Share the measures you are taking to ensure the safety of your customers and employees. Follow safe methods of delivery and market to your customers what is your Modus operandi. For example in India, Swiggy has introduced “No-Contact” delivery where the product is delivered to the consumer without contact. Sellers should necessarily assure and practice highest safety standards of items that they deliver especially concerning food and groceries to build the trust in consumers to continue shopping with them.

Assuming that the current situation may take days or several months to regain control and even if it did, the chance of consumers going back to their old buying patterns is questionable, it remains to be seen how the world will cope up if there is a global economic slowdown post COVID-19.