The Impact of COVID-19 on the E-commerce Market
The COVID-19’s onslaught has an unsettling impact on various industries. Its unprecedented scale gave industries no scope to plan for provisions and maintain supply chains. The e-commerce industry is no exception. But, there are some positive signs. The change in people’s behavior and adaptability of various companies is visible, which can bring back the e-commerce sector on track.
Major Impacts of COVID-19
As there are no medicines yet available to treat people with COVID-19, doctors have suggested social distancing. This is to contain the virus and slow down the pandemic. The results set the premise for the e-commerce industry.
- Governments have imposed lockdown in cities across the world
- Regulations are in place to reduce the number of people in public spaces
- Time slots are assigned for buying essentials
- Limited supply of groceries and other products is practiced
- Panic buying- People bought products for months
- People have more time at home
- 52% of consumers plan to avoid the crowd
- 32% of people have reduced their outdoor time
A proper plan to deal with the crisis in the coming months is essential to survive for long. The blueprint for this includes:
- Chalking of details to maintain a demand-supply curve
- Proper handling of resources
- Plan for human resources
- Innovative ways to deal with the crisis
E-commerce industries that depend on a door-to-door service will deal with the crisis differently from various entertainment service providers.
In entertainment service providers’ sector,
- New subscriptions of entertainment channels are stagnant
- Watch time increased with people staying indoors most of the time
- Mobile traffic has dropped. Laptop or desktop users have outnumbered mobile users
- A surge in gaming channel subscription like Twitch.tv is observed
- There’s a drop-in sports viewership. Channels like ESPN took a hit for lack of new content availability
- Chat-based apps like Zoom that connect multiple viewers have gained usage
Ecommerce services that have their premise set on door-to-door deliveries have a different experience. eCommerce marketplaces for sellers like Amazon is a big example of that. With people staying indoors, the need to supply essentials to doorsteps has become a priority.
Various Measures of the Impact
The first phase of this COVID-19 attack inspired a total lockdown. Online platforms suffered due to the total collapse of the supply chain. But, later, governments lifted the bans and allowed such platforms to operate and optimally use their logistics.
- To counter the crisis, Amazon hired around 100,000 employees to maintain the supply chain.
- People have flocked to these platforms for groceries and other essentials. China’s JD.com registered a quadruple rise in its sales during the Coronavirus attack.
- In the United States, people used to buy groceries directly from the store. This was just to check the quality of the product. Now, that number has plummeted.
So, what made people change their stance?
The first one deals with the idea of having control over the situation. That is why people are trying to hoard things to have control over their lives.
The second one depends on the reaction of other people. People mimic others and then try to stock things for themselves.
These psychological factors and the following social factors have triggered huge changes in consumer behavior.
Due to panic buying and other supply-related problems, stocks in stores are not enough. When it comes to online shopping, people can check availability before placing the order.
Coronavirus is both airborne and contagious. Due to this, governments asked people to maintain a safe distance of 6 feet all the time. This increases shopping hassles.
Curbing Outdoor Activities
Online shopping has the option of checking product availability in the nearest store. This curbs the number of unnecessary visits.
To counter the government-posed limitations, brands have found a way out to maintain credibility. For instance, to improve the experience, brands have simplified the payment module.
How Various Categories Are Responding
The e-commerce sector spans across myriad industries. Each is reacting in its own way during the pandemic depending on the regional definition of essentials.
1. Health and Safety Products
COVID-19 does not have any definite medicine. Certain preventive measures can stop it from spreading. The primary preventive measures include sanitizers, soaps, masks, and gloves.
As an immediate supplier, the brick and mortar stores and retail stores have faced a surge in demand for these things. When their supply dwindled, people started buying online.
- The sale of hygiene-related products and masks surged by 300%.
- The demand is higher than supply. Sites do not have time to stock products. The production rate is also lower than the demand curve
- A loophole in sites like Amazon is now visible. Various sellers promoted their masks on the site claiming that their product is capable of fighting against Coronavirus. But in reality, they were not. This made Amazon rethink about these dubious claims.
- Also, for sellers, the unavailability of stocks on Amazon has become a challenge. Due to the lack of production, they find it difficult to promote their business on such platforms
2. Food and Beverage
The long-term quarantine has spurred a demand for products with longer shelf time. This is true for shelf-stable milk and milk substitutes. They registered a 300% surge in revenues.
Innovation becomes handy in such times of crisis. BOPIS (buy-online-pick-up-in-store) is now a trend. To avoid long queues in the store, people chose this where they buy online and then collect from the store. Apps like InstaCart and Shipt provide such advantages.
3. Apparels & Luxury Products
A cap on certain items triggered a loss in sales for luxury products and apparel. Brands like Gucci, Armani, Crocs, started helping the frontline warriors and maintained their credibility in the process. But the loss is expected to be around $10 billion in 2020.
It is the flux that creates more problems than the Coronavirus. The change was sudden, which made the future unsure. As a blend, these two propelled a shift, which ensured a boost for a certain section of the e-commerce sector. This will trigger industry-specific responses, both in terms of innovation and adaptability.