Smollan | Ecommerce, An Essential Element of Retail

A ‘COVID-19 and E-Commerce’ survey by Netcomm Suisse and UNCTAD that focused on nine emerging and developed economies, reported on how the pandemic changed the way consumers use ecommerce and digital solutions. More than half of the respondent’s now shop online more frequently with consumers in emerging economies having made the biggest shift to online shopping. Undoubtedly, in years to come we will look back at 2020 as the moment that changed everything in this space.

The expansion of ecommerce – and it hasn’t been without shortcomings as millions of new consumers signed up causing supply chain disruptions, stock shortages and even business losses – has provided shoppers with access to a significant variety of products at the click of a button and retailers the opportunity to continue to trade under confined measures. Finding the sweet spot in the knowledge that things can change in an instant, will determine how ecommerce fits into retail’s future and has “spurred a great reset of the way they (retailers) think about consumers’ needs and the future of digital commerce” [EY Future Consumer Index 2021].

A Harvard Business Review article [May 2021] authored by EY specialists, suggests that to offer consumers the journey they need, retailers must understand the future of experience-led capabilities, with ecommerce a key piece of the puzzle. It’s not just about being online – it’s about doing it right and continuing to consider how in-person shopping fits into the customer’s journey. The team posed some key questions for retailers to consider, to define investment and operating model decisions to create sustainability in this sector.

Do I have an agile, adaptive tech platform that understands that every consumer journey is different? Is my organisational structure free of silos that could interrupt the experience? Have I considered what’s online and what’s in-store and the logic behind channel exclusivity? How can I be price-competitive and still maintain margins? How do I orchestrate the consumer journey from digital to physical and back again and lastly, how do I maintain the experience all the way to consumers’ doorsteps?

Furthermore, Kenny Tsang MD of PingPong Payments highlighted key trends that he believes will define success for retailers. From considering expansion as an international seller where 85 percent of the industry purchasing power lies, to having diversified supply chains, robust inventories, and reliable fulfilment management; being on top of your game with the demand to deliver faster and faster and not forgetting the rise of social commerce that allows retailers to sell or promote via one integrated platform on social media

“As this sector continues to quick step the next ecommerce chapter will need to consider the closing of existing digital divides be it around governance or connectivity or income as the impact is not always equal around the world. Innovation will need to continually evolve at a snappy pace to keep up to speed with changing screen-facing shopping habits as more and more widely accessible ecommerce environments are enabled. Revisiting this point in time a year or two from now, in all likelihood will blow our minds,” said Mike Smollan, Chief Growth and Innovation Officer, Smollan.

The latest research from PwC [June 2021 Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey] reports a strong online shopping presence as initially people on-boarded due to lockdowns with many continuing this trend as they shifted to working from home with the one touch convenience of shopping in your PJ’s an extension of daily life. Furthermore, online consumers are keen to find the best price, have the option to choose more healthy products and enjoy being more eco-friendly. Another significant finding is that consumers do not think they will go back to their old ways of shopping once the pandemic is over.

A 2021 McKinsey & Company survey, as reported in a World Economic Forum article, found a 15-30 percent growth in US consumers who made purchases online across a broad range of product categories with a double-digit percentage growth in online shopping led by over-the-counter medicines, groceries, household supplies and personal care products.  With consumers shopping from their sofas another trend flagged by McKinsey is a marked decline in brand loyalty. 75 percent tried a new shopping behaviour and over a third tried a new product brand.

As the world moves its way out of the pandemic, consumer habits have changed fundamentally and the research points to this change becoming permanent – leaving retailers and manufacturers with the challenge of keeping ahead of the curve to attract and retain consumers in an omnichannel world.

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