Despite the serious consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, there is an opportunity for retailers to adapt their online offerings and respond to increased customer demand. Ciaran Bollard, CEO and founder at Kooomo explains that the massive increases in eCommerce sales across Italy as a result of the lockdown could be replicated in the UK and Ireland. He suggests retailers should try to ensure their online stores are prepared for potential surges in customer traffic and that their business processes can cope.
Global financial markets continue to suffer from the impact of coronavirus, with economists predicting the slowest rate of global growth since 2009. However, the current lockdown taking place in Italy has actually instigated a significant boom in eCommerce sales.
With people quarantined at home, and schools, universities, theatres, cinemas, museums, bars, restaurants, churches and most shops except grocery stores and pharmacies closed, purchasing behaviour has been affected and online sales are now skyrocketing.
Data from 24 February to 1 March saw online sales of consumer products increase by an incredible 81%, an acceleration of about 30% compared to the previous week. Over the last few days there has been an increase of 164% in orders placed on Supermercato.24, a site that employs independent shoppers to physically shop at a store on behalf of the customer who places an online order on the platform.
This trend could continue as consumers make more online purchases while avoiding public places, with Amazon and other online retailers becoming the biggest beneficiaries. UK supermarkets have even been requested to increase home delivery services and expand capacity by up to 20%.
Ciaran Bollard, CEO at Kooomo stated: “The impact of coronavirus on the global economy is accelerating the need to start delivering products to customers who cannot leave their homes. Retailers that have invested in omnichannel solutions and have in-store stock available online will help to ease the negative effect of no footfall on the high street. I know some retailers considering resupplying the main delivery warehouse with shop stock to help fulfil this demand.
“Although this will put pressure on retailers, there are great opportunities for those that rise to the challenge and hopefully the UK and Irish markets can learn from the situation unfolding across Italy. Where the supply chain is affected for home deliveries, customers are willing to have a longer delivery window to avoid going to stores. Therefore, we would advise retailers to make sure communications with customers are accurate and transparent, as it is crucial to ensure delivery timings on an online store are updated to avoid disappointment.
“This is an ever-evolving situation as the world is grappling to contain the virus and there will be few regions that won’t be affected by coronavirus, but some regions are more affected than others. Stockpiling and substitute stock supplies could be a helpful move to alleviate possible supply chain problems. Smart merchandising can also be used to help retailers focus on selling with lots of stock and no issues in the supply chain.
“It is clearly critical that governments have taken preventative action to stop the spread of the virus and if retailers based in the UK and Ireland look to countries like Italy and adjust their business accordingly, they could potentially negate and even increase their sales and achieve growth during this crisis.
He concluded: “Although it may take some planning and changing of existing processes, online retailers may be able to mitigate the serious financial losses that are affecting their businesses and negatively impacting national economies by using the latest eCommerce technology and responding proactively to this sharp rise in customer demand.”