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Online Market Amidst Lockdown

The ever-changing scenario in the online industry has suffered a setback due to the unexpected outbreak of Coronavirus. The pandemic has inflicted a global crisis that has now influenced the way we pursue our everyday lives and needs. With the physical threat of spread and social distancing, the rate and modes of transmission have raised a public alarm. The pandemic and the ensuing lockdown have initiated the need for a change in the way consumers buy their goods. According to a recent survey, only 33% of consumers quarantined in red zones are expecting to order home appliances through online delivery services. E-commerce orders volume has increased by 50% for groceries over the last months.

The lockdown has necessitated a new category of goods called ‘new essentials,’ which include home orders, office supplies, fitness equipment, cosmetics, housewares, toys, and hobby-related tools. However, the need for new essentials and non-essentials like home appliances and gadgets is still under the mark. E-commerce sites in India, like Amazon and Flipkart, anticipate a slow recovery in the sales of non-essential items.

Amazon has pulled down thousands of products, which hiked the price of its products drastically. With an inventory so volatile and high order surges, online sites are looking to hire people for a temporary period to meet the delivery needs, and this requirement may differ post lockdown. Dealers should also make sure that their products do not become carriers of the virus, and hence they must be subjected to proper disinfection.

Keeping in mind the proportion of people who lost their jobs and those affected by salary cuts, a decline in demand even in major cities is not surprising. On the other hand, the sale of groceries continues to remain high. The consumer priorities are shifting. For instance, Google has launched the Rising Retail Categories tool on Think Google. It will surface fast-growing product categories in Google Search, the geographical locations where they are increasing, and the queries associated with them. It is an aid for the startups and businesses to understand the popular product searches so that the retail hunters can make data-driven decisions. Following the current trends, this new initiative can help companies expand their customer base.

New customer interests

Online grocery delivery startups like BigBasket, CoutLoot, Instamojo, etc. have come up with novel solutions to ensure safe and timely distribution. They have categorized their essential goods and have also introduced new features that enable the local merchants to adopt the digital way of business and payment. Food delivery brands like Swiggy and Zomato have also stepped in to assure minimal disruptions in the grocery supply chain. Eventually, online payment platforms like Paytm, PhonePe, Google Pay, etc. have also benefited from this. The increasing surge and dependence on online delivery sites have come up with new challenges as well. Due to the pandemic lockdown, there are restrictions on the movement of other goods to different locations. The currently disrupted supply chains involving a lot of manual workforces have resulted in increased shipping delays. Counterfeit goods of sanitizers, face masks, and cleaning products with misleading claims to prevent the virus have emerged on these online platforms.

Consumer behavior in the current crisis can be an indicator of a transition in the e-commerce market. The merchants need to prioritize the supply of daily needs, medical supplies, and personal care products. Increased transparency in the aspects of health precautions and the safety of employees and customers is the need of the hour. A majority of the customers would prefer ordering essentials online to avoid crowding in public areas. Multiple buying and payment options also boost the preference for online shopping versus offline purchasing. Startups and trade firms must adapt to future requirements. The Internet can help companies expand their business and maintain better communication with their customers.

Let us hope that responsible business practices are followed in the future to get over the existing hurdles so that the e-commerce industry can flourish beyond current limits.

The official Mozilla Campus Club promoting the power of Open Source in and around the campus of SRMIST, Chennai.

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Krishna Priya

Krishna Priya

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