Leveraging E-commerce in the Fight Against COVID-19

CIO Review Europe | Thursday, June 30, 2022

Although the COVID-19 situation is rapidly changing, one of the responses has been a shift in shopping habits. Consumers are changing how and when they buy goods, from online shopping to bulk buying.

FREMONT, CA: To use an understatement, the last two and a half years have been highly disruptive – the effects of the pandemic are still being felt, with many people still adjusting to new ways of living and working.

With the implementation of the first lockdown,  the impact on retailers was quivering, with those without a significant online presence suffering greatly; in such situations, when no one could visit stores, many retailers did not survive. According to Office of National Statistics(ONS) data, clothing, and fuel volume sales fell by 21.5 per cent and 22.2 per cent respectively and remained below lockdown pre-pandemic levels.

However, if there is a silver lining to this very dark cloud, it is the opportunity presented to those retailers who did have a strong online presence, particularly in sectors that reverberated under, such as DIY or wines and spirits, amongst others; overall, online sales rose to 33.9 per cent in accordance with ONS.

Responding quickly to changing circumstances is essential to growth, and very often survival, in many industries; for packaging designers and manufacturers, adapting quickly to the conditions that emerged immediately after the lockdown was business-critical.

For instance, ceramics purchased pre-lockdown at a brick-and-mortar store would come in retail packaging designed to highlight their benefits and attract shoppers; however, this is woefully inadequate for shipping via a courier network, so a new category of a packaging solution that prioritized protection over selling had to be developed and it had to be done briskly.

Needless to say, speed is useless if quality suffers; in such a rapidly changing environment, reforming the first time is equally important. This is where having strong core technology and highly adaptable manufacturing can be extremely beneficial. Furthermore, in-depth knowledge of the requirements in specific sectors confers similar benefits, so a manufacturer specializing in packaging for niche product categories may thrive as well.

Assuming the product is correct, the next step is to ensure that the entire process from sale to return works for the consumer; consumer expectations for delivered product quality and the returns process are higher than ever; acquiring wrong results may result in excruciating and/or expensive to return a product, costs reputational damage, and ultimately lost sales.

Nevertheless, smaller businesses are typically better positioned to introduce new products to the market quicker than larger ones. This is due in part to structural differences — larger businesses typically have more processes and layers of management, which causes delays— and in part to the nature of larger businesses in general, which tend to be slower to innovate. Risk-taking is frequently viewed as excessively hazardous because businesses have established market positions to defend.

The rules are reversed for smaller businesses; innovation through the creation of specialized products or the expansion into new markets, both of which are inherently risky, is routine business. Smaller businesses benefit more from doing these things immediately since lessons are learnt more quickly and plans may be modified more quickly, improving the likelihood of success. Therefore, those smaller businesses were ideally located to take advantage of the opportunity when the pandemic spread.

In certain ways, nothing changed amid the crisis; consumers still demanded products that were delivered on time and with good quality. But what they desired has changed, and they wanted it on a mighty scale.

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