An EY perspective on the resilience strategies adopted by the ecommerce sector during COVID-19 and what companies must do to reframe the future.
Considering the serious nature of the crisis at hand, there's comfort in the fact that companies are rising to the challenge in unprecedented ways to address the business and humanitarian aspects of these testing times. This is especially remarkable and commendable given there is no playbook for such an event, and everyone’s working on first principle basis to build and sustain. The biggest challenge lies in the world of start-ups — they have an opportunity to help provide solutions to survive and thrive. The first big boost to the digital ecosystem was to access to low cost mobile data at scale, this event is certainly the second.
A global response: a segue into an e-commerce way of life
There are a few interesting themes emerging across major ecommerce markets globally in response to the pandemic, which possibly represent what the new normal could look like. While the sudden surge in consumer demand for e-commerce services could be due to the implementation of social distancing norms and lockdown measures countries have taken to contain the pandemic, these new norms are finding increasing acceptance amongst consumers and adoption by traditional businesses. Segments such as on-demand delivery services related to fresh produce, online education, social engagement platforms from gaming to OTT platforms, online collaborative tools, e-pharmacies, online consultations are a few areas that may have found their turning point to a highway. Companies in these mentioned segments have witnessed triple digit growth, with millions of new customers onboarding their platform in the last couple of months to cope in dealing with this crisis.
Apart from the surge in online services, many businesses are also adopting different approaches to respond to the crisis both from a cash generation as well as engaging and maintaining customer interest. Businesses have doubled-down on digital initiatives, including increased online promotions, contextualized online/social/media/messenger campaigns, online-to-offline and omnichannel sales, social commerce and pure e-commerce approaches. This is also a time, where service businesses such as in retail are coming together and sharing employees and resources to meet the growing demand in on-demand/home delivery online shopping platforms are partnering with businesses that specialize in delivery fulfilment. Private equity firms and venture capitalists are also actively supporting their portfolios in overcoming the crisis by providing runway for specific and targeted action plans.
A test of resilience – an Indian response
Some underlying principles that are helping ecommerce companies overcome these testing times include the advantage of having a portfolio of essential goods and services, cloud based businesses that customers can continue to access regardless of the where they are, efficient ways to distribute products to consumers in limited-contact way and easily discoverable online presence that seamlessly help the need of the consumers. A quick look below at the various categories of ecommerce and how they are responding: