E-commerce logistics suits up for the new ‘normal’

Businesses across the world are making adjustments in their business models in the face of COVID-19 social distancing norms and the e-commerce industry is no exception. Despite seeing a range of changes, the industry has had an eventful first half of 2020 with its share of hiccups. Now, as we move towards the second half of the year, the preparedness of the industry in meeting the customer’s expectations in the new normal is questioned upon. In the following feature, we look upon the industry’s readiness for the new normal and explore its operational changes, technological reforms, its innovations and much more.

The outbreak of the deadly virus and the subsequent lockdown has brought forward social distancing norms, which are strictly being followed throughout the nation; giving an ample number of opportunities to the e-commerce sector. The industry in the past few months has witnessed a change in the shopping behaviour along with a spike in its consumer base leading to higher demands.

According to Bazaarvoice Network (that tracks worldwide shopping and sales patterns), the e-commerce sector saw a 21% year-over-year increase in order count from March 2019 to March 2020.

Further, it says order count surged on March 11, the same day the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. However, the surge in demand coupled with the shortage of workforce along with other series of changes, which resulted in a huge bump in the operations of the e-commerce platforms to fulfil their promises of same day and slot deliveries. And it also questioned their readiness for the change.

Responding to the challenges, companies have brought in many operational changes and have started partnering with service providers and Kirana stores in different localities.

Arvind Shivkumar, Chief Business Officer, Vamaship, while talking about the operational changes that the companies had to adapt to stay in the game, says, “Founders are moving out of non-core activities and are focusing on product and marketing. At Vamaship, we have seen a major surge of new e-commerce businesses, manufacturers, and distributors signing up with us. They’ve migrated from managing their core logistics & shipping through direct carriers to more intuitive platforms like ours who as a 4PL are helping with flexibility on choice of carriers, services, and automation in processes giving deeper insights on demand profiling.”

Supporting the above, Akshay Ghulati, CBO and Co-founder, Shiprocket, also mentions about their partnerships with different service providers at the times of lockdown.

He says, “At the start of the lockdown, we on boarded Dunzo and Wefast to the platform along with our existing partner Shadowfax to provide timely and fast hyperlocal deliveries for essentials. We also worked strategically with Delhivery to expedite essential goods delivery across India and were one of the first logistics companies to be operational.”

To further cater to the challenge of the workforce scarcity, companies have also augmented its workforce. While Shiprocket has added 40 people to its customer service team to better answer customer queries and provide proactive updates in case of shipment delays, E-com Express opened its doors to over 7000 employees to ensure smooth flow.

Speaking on the same, K Satyanarayana, Co-founder & Director, Ecom Express says, “We have already onboarded 10,500 employees since March 2020 and are on track to add 7,000 in the next 2 months. The full-time openings in the next two months span across business functions such as last-mile delivery, warehousing management, operations, information technology, and data sciences.”

In similar lines, companies such as Amazon have also started skill development programs across its warehouses to cater to the issue of workforce scarcity.

He adds, “We are also in the pilot phase of our Delivery Partner Program, it is our unique way to contribute towards helping our communities wade through the crisis and provide them with the opportunities to earn through part-time association.”

Apart from this, another operational change that e-commerce is gradually bringing in is flexible and in city warehousing.

“With current workforce challenges leading to delays in deliveries vs. same day or next day delivery expectations of customers the only solution will be to store items closer to the demand areas. Flexible warehousing such as Shiprocket Fulfilment will allow this and enable eCommerce sellers to offer an Amazon-like experience even for their direct customers,” says Mr Ghulati.

The e-commerce companies are compelled by the on-going situation to bring in the changes and manage the demand and workforce to successfully step into the new normal.

Contribution of Technology in the adoption of the New Normal

As the e-commerce industry steps into the new normal and adjusts to the series of changes from changing customer behaviour to the spike in demand or workforce scarcity, the management of supply chain has garnered more importance than ever. And, the technology which has always been at the heart of the industry has proven to be of great help in navigating the new normal in e-commerce.

At such times when more customers are hooking up to online platforms, it has become more imperative to strengthen both back-end and front-end technology.

From banking to e-commerce, hyperlocal grocery shopping, and food delivery, every purchase we make online to every product that gets delivered is made possible by technology.

This is an abridged version of the original story that appeared in the August issue of the Logistics Insider magazine. Click here to read the complete and unedited story.

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