ONE positive take away from the pandemic (other than the unwelcome ART results), is the big push into the digital domain that resulted from it.
Overnight, meetings went virtual, schooling took to computer screens, meals were ordered on apps and the daily necessities were purchased online.
Even before COVID-19, retail was suffering the consequences of limited shelf space in stores while competing with online platforms providing a near limitless range of goods and services at a lower price point and with the convenience of home delivery for a small fee, or sometimes free of charge.
The pandemic just sprung the floodgates wide open, a massive push factor that introduced more customers to this way of making their purchases.
Slow Start In The Smart Nation
A new report on 2021 e-commerce behaviour patterns shows a 77% jump in Singaporeans starting their online shopping experience in the last two years, as a result of the pandemic.
The E-commerce Southeast Asia Barometer Report 2021, by regional logistics company Ninja Van Group and global parcel delivery company DPDgroup, also predicts that things are not going to revert to the way they were. As more countries opt to live with the coronavirus, allowing society to crawl back to normalcy, some new behaviours will remain in place.
The benefits of convenient shopping, home delivery, attractive pricing and a large range of products have caught on, and look like they are here to stay.
With more than 24 million e-commerce websites, online retail sales amounted to US$4.9 trillion globally and is expected to grow by 50% over the next four years, according to Statista.
The fastest growing markets are expected to be Indonesia and India.
The SEA Barometer Report estimates there will be in excess of 380 million e-shoppers in Southeast Asia by 2026. The regional average age of e-shoppers is 36, and they are now willing to make purchases across borders, showing their growing comfort and confidence in the process.
Currently, on average, each online shopper makes 66 purchases across all categories, and this amounts to 14% of their total purchases.
The Report attributes the rise of e-commerce to the feedback mechanism of online reviews, the wide variety of products and the speedy delivery of goods.
Online shopping sites are also notoriously famous for hanging on to customers’ loyalty by dangling incentives, discounts and free shipping (a key desire of e-shoppers), while all the time applying their strong algorithms to direct customers to new product discoveries.
Even big brands that would normally not be associated with these tactics have been drawn into the mix.
Old prejudices and mindsets have to give way to the new methods of satisfying customers.
The role of logistics firms will also be key in this ecosystem. Companies involved in the last mile will have to stay on top of their game, continuously offering enhanced services to ensure minimal disruptions.
With about a quarter of the parcel deliveries being returned, the challenge is to ensure even this is a smoother process, which isn’t the case in nearly two-thirds of the return transactions.
But expect things to improve all the time as consumers become more demanding and service providers raise their game to stay competitive.