Armed with learnings of 2020, how e-comm players are geared during COVID 2nd wave

Globally, e-commerce has witnessed a growth surge in the pandemic times. With lockdowns and restrictions on movements due to COVID-19, e-commerce saw a dramatic rise in its share of all retail sales, from 16 per cent to 19 per cent in 2020, as per UNCTAD, the United Nations Trade and Development body. Overall, global e-commerce sales jumped to $26.7 trillion, UNCTAD said.

Also read: How companies are creating the ‘window shopping’ experience for online commerce?

Throughout most of 2020, e-commerce players continued to grow their operations as retail outlets remained shut. We saw hitherto purely retail players set up their e-commerce operations spanning across categories – from apparel to household goods to groceries to beauty brands.

With India in the grip of a second COVID-19 wave, retail outlets are once again faced with curtailed operations. Several states and cities are currently under lockdown or restricted movement, which has made consumers once again turning to e-commerce platforms. As per government regulations, during the pandemic times, e-commerce players can deliver on essential commodities in areas under lockdown/ curfew.

Not just the metros and Tier 1 cities, but Tier 2 and 3 cities are also beginning to contribute majorly to e-commerce sales. According to an ICICI securities report, Tier 2 and 3 cities clocked 46 per cent share of the overall e-commerce volumes in Q4 of 2020, compared to 32 per cent in the same period in 2019.

Groceries, Essentials & Food Delivery:

To meet the growing demand, pure play delivery companies and logistics firms are on a hiring spree and are expected to bring on board over 150,000 people every month.

According to a report by Ken Research, the Indian e-commerce logistics industry is expected to register a positive five-year CAGR of 23.6% in terms of revenue during the forecast period FY2020-FY2025, to reach Rs 492.4 billion by 2025.

With hotels and restaurants not allowed to have dine-in guests, takeaway services and home delivery are keeping the business alive. Food delivery players like Swiggy, Dunzo and Zomato have beefed up their ground level operations. For at least the next three months they are expected to see a spurt in new hirings to meet customer demand. Both Swiggy and Amazon were seen to run special promotional offers during IPL 2021 (which has been postponed due to the pandemic) to woo customers and to increase engagement with them during the tournament.

Commenting on the situation, Kabeer Biswas, CEO & Co-Founder, Dunzo, said. “We have a significant responsibility towards the cities and communities that we serve. In times like these, we can exercise our true potential to create local impact. In the last month of the ongoing pandemic, as cities went back into lockdown, we at Dunzo have been ensuring that our cities remain safe and accessible during the lockdown – whether it is delivering essentials, medicines, or any other consumables that people may need.” 

He further said, “At the same time, we know that our delivery partners have been absolute warriors in the last year and beyond. All partners have been equipped with masks, sanitizers, trained on social distancing, and other protective and preventive measures and are continuing to operate in a conscious capacity. We are also ensuring that there is social distancing at our partnered merchant stores and that orders are structured in a way as to prevent crowding at the location.”

Sharat Krishnan, Head of Marketing, Melorra, remarked, “Customer experience has been at the forefront of all initiatives at Melorra – this was true before the pandemic happened and even now when we are witnessing a lockdown during the second wave. We have been growing and innovating since the commencement to ensure that we bring the convenience of access to lightweight and trendy jewellery to our customers. E-retail is picking up in a big way once again and with Melorra, customers can expect a safe and hassle-free shopping experience. We ensure that customers receive our packages in a completely safe and sanitized manner. Even with upcoming festivals such as Akshay Tritiya, we are offering new collections keeping in mind the best interest of our customers and also providing them the comfort to shop from anywhere.” 

Tibin Anthony, VP, CEO & Founder’s Office, Housejoy, added here, “India has once again adopted to fight the second wave of the pandemic with stricter lockdown measures and curbs on activity. Although this means some initial inertia, what it has also done is to cause a surge in e-commerce activity. This is especially true for at-home services such as fumigation, cleaning, etc. This is tough time for everyone and at Housejoy, we stand by our customers during this phase. Their safety and ensuring that they get the best-in-class services are the top priority for us right now. We are prepared to meet the increase in demand and are operational across Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Pune, Bangalore and Mumbai. We have always maintained and followed all the COVID protocols while servicing our customers. Just like last year, we have ramped up our efforts now as well.”

Speaking about how the online grocery store has been carrying out its business operations during the pandemic, a Grofers spokesperson said, “Right from the onset of the pandemic, we have continued to leverage our web and mobile platforms to update consumers regarding city-wise developments, enabling us to remain transparent about logistical constraints in case of supply chain bottlenecks. Apart from this, we have been consistent in posting content across our social media channels to keep our consumers updated, informed and engaged. In terms of business, we are essentially witnessing a surge in demand in the markets that have been affected by the second wave. This is primarily due to the behavioural shift amongst consumers towards e-grocery, in the last 12 months. While the second wave has not triggered panic buying as yet, we remain cautious by ramping up our capacities – both in terms of the physical capacity of stocks and people across markets – to serve our consumers in a safe, secure and timely manner he concluded.”

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