WORLD has witnessed an unprecedented human destruction caused by Covid-19.As on 3rd July 2020, the virus has taken 516,210 lives and 10,694,288 have been tested positive worldwide. It started in December 2019 when Wuhan Municipal Health Commission China reported cluster of pneumonia cases which was eventually identified as novel coronavirus. On 5 January 2020, World Health Organization (WHO) made a flagship technical publication for global media as well as scientific and health communities on the first ever aperture on disease outbreak of new virus. Later on WHO declared health emergency worldwide and issued public health advisory when a large number of cases were reported outside China.
Subsequently, governments across the globe started taking precautionary measures to contain the infection rate which included lockdowns, border restrictions and even economic activities were strictly restricted. People themselves started opting for social distancing to avoid potential contagion and physical proximity. On the one hand this strategy has proved as the best measure to reduce the rate of infection but on the other, due to minimal economic activities, economies of many countries have been badly affected. Barring essential businesses like food and grocery etc., every other business got effected. Thousands of traditional style businesses and companies were severely affected and lot of them even went bankrupt. In these circumstances, E-Commerce appeared as a promising major pillar in the fight against COVID-19 as it helped reduce the rate of infection by offering online delivery of commodities and services. Supermarkets started online delivery of groceries by providing door-to-door services to their customers, preventing risks of in-store visits and subsequently online payments obviated in-person cash transactions.
Moreover, E-Commerce helped economies in preserving jobs during crisis. Online businesses strived to maintain the basic revenue stream which helped them get their businesses afloat through the crisis. Restaurants and famous food chains started offering online takeout services. Almost all famous brands of clothing, shoes and many others, transformed their business from traditional to online.
Many companies changed the nature of their businesses and were successful in creating new jobs as consumers shifted towards online offerings. Recently a Dubai based raw coffee supply company transformed its business from B2B to B2C due to emerging demand of consumer products. Interestingly many new small level ventures were set up during this period. People started delivering homemade food to meet the needs at both ends and the response from their customers is most encouraging. These continued availability of consumer goods helped the governments to increase the acceptance of persistent physical social distancing measures among masses.
Lockdown orders will definitely be lifted eventually but there are thousands and millions of customers whose patterns of purchase have changed drastically for a more comfortable way of getting what you need at your doorstep. They are comfortable with the online system not only for their convenience but also for getting into any risk of catching the virus. According to a recent survey on social media, young consumers are more motivated than ever to maintain social distancing and shop online while staying at home. This trend is creating ideal market conditions and great motivation for newly entrant digital entrepreneurs. The trend of changing customers’ buying habits and behavior is an opportunity for digital entrepreneurs. Now how they react,it is the future of e-commerce that will be the deciding factor. Once the situation improves, sales of E-Commerce industry may stabilize at low growth rate than today but the changing behaviour of customers is already in action to overall change the retail and commerce for years to come.
—The writer is a Research Scholar pursuing his PhD from Zhengzhou University, Henan, China.