The COVID-19 pandemic has caused hospitality and retail industry irreparable harm but on the other hand, it has put e-commerce growth on the fast-track mode. Popular e-commerce players like Lenskart and Noon.com were technically advanced enough to offer experiences similar to an in-store one.
For example, Lenskart’s augmented reality feature helped many mainstream retail shoppers use online platforms for ordering essentials like reading glasses online. Similarly, Noon.com’s grocery delivery rendered all worries of customers related to safe packaging and contactless delivery of groceries daily.
The COVID19 pandemic has put e-commerce marketplaces under great pressure, like catering to increased demand with less workforce, while ensuring safety measures. While most e-commerce has overcome these sudden challenges, but some continue to face hurdles at varied other fronts.
Top Challenges Faced by E-commerce Player During COVID19
1. Assortment Enhancement
Social-distancing and proper sanitization are the only two measures of keeping COVID-19 at bay, which kind of urged customers to stay at home and refrain from getting in crowded places like malls or shopping stores.
While the movement was restricted but the requirements were incessantly growing, to fulfill their daily needs, even the most ardent retail shoppers started looking for products online. It was only when searches increased that the e-commerce players realized how they have been ignoring some of the most basic products.
On the other hand, a lot of online players had to pivot just to survive. There are varied examples where fashion stores and food delivery app started delivering essential items like ration, fresh fruits, vegetables, and medicines.
A Business Wire study recently highlighted that people are spending a lot on home improvement items due to increased work from home tenure. India’s leading bank HDFC announced that people are seeking loans for home improvement items like TV, Refrigerator, ACs, and Invertors due to work from home culture.
E-commerce players are under great pressure to make all necessary and home improvement items available or lose loyal customers to their competitors. By leveraging services like competitor benchmarking and selection enhancement, e-commerce marketplaces can offer an array of essential items.
2. Fast and Safe Delivery
Online stores had a tough time managing a huge number of orders with limited staff and inventory. Multiple e-commerce stores failed to furnish prepaid orders and had to refund. During the initial days of lockdown, online stores in the US, Singapore, India, and the UK suffered huge losses.
Lack of proper business continuity plan and increased demand coaxed key stakeholders in re-hauling their service delivery system. Today, e-commerce players have overcome these little challenges and are catering to people in the remotest corners with great ease.
How E-commerce Players Overcame Delivery Challenges?
Working closely with the Authorities: Be it in Singapore or India, e-commerce players worked closely with governments to ensure the faster and safe delivery of essential items. E-commerce stores took loss initially by only delivering essential items but once they proved that safe and fast delivery was possible, governments allowed them to ship all kinds of items.
Ensuring Last-mile Delivery through Multiple Logistics Partners: In a diverse country like India where products ordered from Chennai are shipped from Delhi, e-commerce stores showed some nerve of steels and catered to the growing demand. Leading stores partnered with multiple delivery partners to ensure smooth and faster delivery.
Keeping the Communication Channels Open: E-commerce players were quite vocal about the challenges they were facing. These stores were continuously in touch with the government and customers to ensure the smooth functioning of supply-chain.
3. Shipment to Fulfilment Centers
Initially, there was news of leading marketplaces suspending facilities that allowed sellers to ship their products to fulfillment centers. Such a huge decision impacted everything including
- Sellers’ ability to sell online
- Marketplace’s ability to take huge orders
- Faster and easier delivery of products
- Customer confidence (since customers prefer fulfilled by Marketplace as a benchmark)
Marketplaces were left with no option other than suspending shipment delivery to fulfillment centers to comply with government orders. Some of the leading online stores took huge losses, they were out of important products and had to refund for prepaid orders and take a hit on customer loyalty too.
With every passing day, government and industry leaders worked closely to ensure the smooth movement of goods throughout the country. Government agencies were quick to realize the potential of e-commerce stores. Authorities discovered how e-commerce stores can prove to be a boon. In India, states officially collaborated with stores that have established supply-chain networks to deliver essentials like ration, masks, and medicines.
4. Controlling Product Returns
It is necessary to understand that Corona spreads only through contact. Since human touch is the only way of virus spread, online stores have to ensure that the least number of products are returned. Customers are likely to try fashion products and return it in case they don’t like it, which increases the chances of the spread of the virus, e-commerce stores need a mechanism to reduce return requests.
How Catalog Quality and Enrichment can help with Reduced Returns?
Varied studies have proven that a huge percentage of product returns occur due to mistakes made by sellers and online stores. 24% of all returns occur because wrong or a different looking product was delivered.
Product return requests can be easily reduced by putting checks related to catalog quality in place, some of the common checks include:
Product description: Ensure that everything mentioned in the product description is both accurate and updated. Often sellers update products and fail to update product descriptions. Also stuffing keywords in the product description can lead to irrelevant ranking leading to orders that are often returned.
High-Quality Images: Low-quality images with graphic content often mislead customers, which ultimately leads to an increase in return rates. High-quality images will make it easier for customers to identify the right product.
Catalog enrichment is the key to reduced product returns and improved product discovery. In catalog enrichment products are labeled with correct attribute values, which renders challenges like brand interference obsolete.
Catalog enrichment also allows online stores to create theme-based bucketing like “Essentials”, “Home Improvement”, “On Sale” to facilitate smooth customer experience and improved decision making.
The E-commerce industry has sailed through perhaps the biggest storm and now it is time for them to make waves in the ocean of success. Initial lockdown and restriction on freight movement had rendered e-commerce stores dysfunctional but now everyone has realized the potential of online stores.
Governments are also leveraging these networks to ensure essentials are delivered to the most remote of locations. The industry needs to fix the little challenges and they are in for a long bull run.