E-commerce is not new, and most distributors have some form of online presence. Emerging evidence points to a significant shift, as customers scale back their shopping in stores and instead go online. In China, online shopping has increased 15 to 20 percentage points, and e-commerce in Italy has increased 81 percent compared with the last week of February. US consumers have largely followed the same pattern.
The impact of COVID-19 on the domestic, regional and your local economy are still not clear, but we do know that e-commerce is one of the beneficiaries of a shift in purchasing behavior caused by sheltering in place. Our customers have reported everything from complete shutdown when a warehouse person tested positive, to shift working to keep up with demand and social spacing. We have also heard numerous reports of major customers shutting down and smaller e-commerce vendors increasing order size.
Will all this result in a new normal? A better question may be can you afford not to react? The statistics quoted above and other pertinent information can be found in a McKinsey Digital white paper provided for us through SAP. 'Building an e-commerce business: Lessons on moving fast' is a great source of common sense and insight from a 1000 brick and mortar European retail chain that was able to react quickly.
Many of these same lessons can be applied to small and medium sized companies which have the right leadership and tools:
- Assign ownership, not tasks - Empowered by senior management or owners
- Be pragmatic - Don't try and offer the entire catalog on day 1
- Learn and Adapt -
- Watch the traffic and how it is impacted by your promotion of the site.
- See how the orders flow through the system to ensure accurate pick and pack and customer responsiveness
E-Commerce is not a one size fits all endeavor, in fact it is one of the most custom tailored technologies, even when using an "out-of-the-box" package with templates for quick deployment. As stated in our blog post 7 Tips to Prepare for Recession, focus on areas of opportunity and begin by creating a focused plan. In our market we have seen e-commerce sights go up in weeks rather than months when the company had a clear vision and a dedicated team.