The unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten supply chains and how businesses operate, all of which add to the COVID-19 impact on ecommerce. Across industries, storefronts have been shuttered and sales have declined. Businesses have tried to weather the storm by pursuing models that could help them mitigate possible damages by the coronavirus pandemic.
COVID-19 Impact on Ecommerce
However, due to social distancing and stay home policies, the COVID-19 impact on ecommerce was an initial spike in sales. With foot traffic significantly declining sales spiked as consumers started going online to buy and have goods delivered to their homes.
According to Digital Commerce 360, between March 22 and April 4 online sales saw a 52% increase compared with the same time last year. Web-only retailers also saw growth. Businesses in the U.S. and Canada saw a 30% growth in revenues compared to the same time last year. This was in part due to shoppers stocking up on essentials, groceries and protective gear fearing the worst.
But that too did not last. Because ultimately online retailers rely on the same global supply chain. According to Digital Commerce 360, 47% of retailers expect some downside in revenue due to the COVID-19 impact on ecommerce as inventories get depleted. A further 58% of retailers fear the virus will impact consumer confidence prompting people to step back from making purchases.
Incentive to Buy
With offices closed, events canceled and consumers spending afternoons at home, the incentive to go and buy is proving elusive. This, in addition to the workforce, had shrunk in a wake of offices and businesses being forced to retrench.
The initial boost in online sales had also come with challenges. Particularly in regards to trying to resell returned merchandise and finding workers to help process those returned items. This has caused pressures on retailers to keep up with inventories along with managing staff in the wake of mandatory stay at home orders.
Disruptions Forcing Retailers to Adapt
Shutterstock the provider of stock photography, footage and music had to slow down its approval rates for submissions. This as more and more states and cities implement isolation and quarantine measures, including shelter-in-place orders.
The company recently slowed down the approval rate of those uploading images for sale on the site. And also the rate at which sellers can upload their images. It has also limited the volume of content contributors can submit weekly due to a reduction in review capacity. According to the new arrangement, contributors can submit up to 500 images and 100 videos in a 7-day period.
The disruption of the supply chain is also affecting orders and deliveries according to Digital Commerce 360. Some 44% of retailers expect product delays due to the coronavirus and an additional 40% expect inventory shortages. One in three retailers believes it’s too early to say how the coronavirus will affect them regarding financial expectations. Some have already started re-forecasting their revenues amid the uncertainty. Others too are taking a new look at their business model. They are focusing on prioritizing their efforts on badly needed products.
Changes in the Marketplace
Despite the challenges, Amazon and other retailers are stepping up their delivery services by prioritizing shipments of household essentials, medical supplies and other priority items. Amazon has announced that it has temporality stopped shipment for low priority products and have done that with their retail vendors. Thus, negatively impacting Amazon’s retail vendors who do not service household essentials, medical supplies and other priority items. Retail vendors do however have the option to sell their products on the platform and fulfilling the shipments themselves.
Amazon has also announced it is opening 100,000 new full- and part-time positions in its fulfillment centers across the US to mitigate any manpower shortages.
Ebay has rolled out a stimulus for online retailers using its platform. It has decided to allow eligible eBay sellers to defer fees for 30 days. Additionally, it has removed listing fees until June 30. New sellers opening an eBay store will not be subject to selling fees for three months. According to eBay, this will help them establish their online presence while brick-and-mortar locations stay closed due to movement restrictions.
In addition, it has temporarily extended its returns timelines and adjusted its Money-Back Guarantee policy to help return items during COVID-19. Now eBay gives up to 21 business days from when a return is accepted or a return shipping label is provided to you to send items back. Once tracking shows the return of the item, the seller has five business days to inspect the item and issue a refund.
The challenge in dealing with COVID-19 stems from uncertainty and a lack of clarity. How long will the pandemic last. And how long can businesses operate under the new norms. These questions continue to test the resolve of businesses.
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