How e-commerce has adapted to the new normal

With the increase in online shopping, the e-commerce industry has reinvented the customer experience by focusing on providing a mall-like in-store experience.

By Raghav Sood

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly altered the retail industry as well as the e-commerce industry in India. Although the year was not a great one from a business standpoint, the e-commerce sector experienced a sales boom. The reason is that the pandemic has transformed the way consumers shop by accelerating mass digital adoption across the country. Research indicates that 86% of Indians have adopted online shopping during the pandemic, which has accelerated the adoption of e-commerce by consumers of all age groups.

At the start of the pandemic, the e-commerce industry was trying to adapt to changes in consumer behavior, facing unprecedented demand for items and messaging restrictions in containment zones. By now, they have adjusted to the new normal.

With the increase in online shopping, the e-commerce industry has reinvented the customer experience by focusing on providing a mall-like in-store experience. This involves leveraging big data to recommend similar products, sending personalized emails, analyzing customer behavior, and recommending personalized suggestions based on their browsing history. Moreover, they also focused on providing customers with product details in order to make the right choice and give them huge discounts.

Seizing the opportunity for sustainable growth, e-commerce players have also broadened their capacity to welcome more sellers and the structural change in consumer behavior.

The new standard has fueled an increase in health care supplies, electronics for working and learning at home, groceries and personal care. As a result, the last quarter of 2020 saw a 36% increase in order volume. With orders piling up, e-commerce has improved the game by improving logistics and hiring more staff to keep up with the surge.

Many retail stores had also joined with established companies like Amazon, Flipkart and others to take advantage of digital technologies and reach customers to keep their business going. Apart from that, there are many new businesses that have established independent online stores. Additionally, many online gamers have taken advantage of the technology to help first-time buyers by introducing features like voice assistants with a vernacular interface.

Another challenge facing the e-commerce industry over the past year was scheduling deliveries to ‘containment zones and red zones’. They had to configure their systems amid the loopholes. This allowed them to bond with other industry leaders, paving the way for further expansion. Here are some examples of such adaptations in recent times.

  • Our own local e-commerce giant, Flipkart, announced a business collaboration with the Adani Group in April 2021 to strengthen the company’s logistics and data center capabilities. This alliance is expected to create around 2,500+ direct jobs in India.
  • Zomato entered into a partnership with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) in February 2021 to embark 300 street vendors on its platform. This initiative is initially set to encompass six cities where the benefits of the street will be assisted with PAN and FSSAI registration and trained in the use of digital applications. This initiative allows them to harness the power of e-commerce and go digital.
  • The chain of stores of the future Big Bazaar group, which launched its instantaneous delivery service in two hours in April, has now received 50,000 orders per day, reaching half of its initial target of 100,000 orders per day in two months.

There have been many such cross-industry mergers that have played an important role in the revolution of the e-commerce industry. Apart from that, last year, e-commerce platforms encouraged their customers to pay digitally by offering rewards, discounts and refund options to reduce reliance on the cash on delivery system.

While ecommerce has undoubtedly adapted to the new normal, I would say the changes are here to stay even when the world returns to normal. The best is yet to come. Let’s wait for it.

The author is co-founder of Skin Elements. The opinions expressed are personal.

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