What impact is coronavirus having on the ecommerce industry?

  • High volumes of searches for high-demand products, such as toilet paper and pasta
  • Re-prioritisation of distribution by Amazon
  • Increased sales of ‘home entertainment products’ such as radios and DVD players
  • New charitable initiatives launched by companies across the retail sector

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic is huge and changing all the time, and it’s unlikely we will fully understand the effects of it for a while to come. What we can see so far is that the eCommerce industry has evolved into a unique position; as non-essential retail stores are forced to close in the UK, both brands and customers are simultaneously jumping onto eCommerce as a lifeline to see them through this tough time.

Almost immediately, consumer shopping habits shifted significantly. While UK supermarkets have been running out of the usual items, and with many people in isolation unable to leave the house, a large volume of shoppers are turning to Amazon for their essentials – the top searches on Amazon recently have included toilet paper, pasta and rice.

This drive to shop for essentials on the marketplace has led to a shift in Amazon’s distribution approach. In case you were wondering why your new puzzle or resistance bands are going to take three weeks to be delivered, instead of the usual one-day turnaround, Amazon has now introduced its ‘Essential Items’ policy, meaning its fulfilment centres are temporarily prioritizing household staples, medical supplies, and other high-demand products to ensure these items can be delivered efficiently.

Though frustrating for many online retailers who rely on Fulfilled By Amazon warehouses to distribute products, Amazon’s new distribution policy is just one of the ways the industry is responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Despite times of uncertainty there’s a whole wave of brands and retailers – both online and offline – which have come together to do some good, playing their part where they can, to ease the burden of coronavirus.

eBay’s 30-day payment ‘holiday’

Last week, eBay announced that it will be giving retailers the opportunity to have a 30-day payment holiday from their seller fees, in a bid to help SME’s keep their business running throughout the crisis. This means that businesses can defer their fees for up to 250 product listings each month, and they won’t be required to pay the fees until a later date, with the repayments being split across two months.

With eBay fees being the single biggest outgoing for many eBay sellers (after stock and shipping), deferring fees instantly frees up cash flow into the business.

Earlier opening hours for the elderly and NHS

Shopping for daily essentials has never been more difficult, but it’s good to see the big supermarkets making a move to protect the most vulnerable and the NHS. Supermarkets across the UK are now dedicating set hours at the start and end of the day for elderly, disabled and vulnerable customers, and NHS and Social Care workers, so they can access the supermarkets without the crowds and before the shelves are emptied.

Turning perfume into sanitiser

LVMH, one of the world’s leading luxury goods conglomerates, is playing its part by using its production lines, which usually produce fragrances and cosmetics, to instead make hand sanitiser – 12 tonnes of sanitiser per week, no less. Every bottle is being delivered free of charge to French health agencies and to Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris (APHP), the largest teaching hospital system in Europe.

Innovation has never been so important

Another growing concern for hospitals across the world is shortages of ventilators for coronavirus patients. Dyson has also stepped up to mark – in just 10 days, the company has designed and built an entirely new ventilator, called the “CoVent”, which can be manufactured quickly, efficiently and at volume, and addresses the specific needs of a coronavirus patient. Dyson has now received an order of 10,000 ventilators from the UK government on an open book basis, and is looking to donate an additional 5,000 ventilators internationally.

Helping where we can

And it’s not just the seismic shifts in global business which are making a difference either, every day there are news stories of smaller acts of generosity, community and kindness which are helping people through. To do our part we are donating radios to local care homes in Cambridge, trying to help elderly residents stay connected to the world through this period of necessary isolation. We’re currently looking for more way we can help charities and communities in need at this time – and welcome requests via our #BackedByVelocity page.

While the coronavirus pandemic has turned the world upside down, it’s refreshing that all kinds of industry are stepping up to support the world community. For our business, it’s certainly all change. In terms of product sales, in the past week or so we’ve seen a surge in demand for home entertainment products – sales of DVD players have doubled, and we’ve also seen a spike in mobile phone sales, likely due to more people working from home and in need of a separate work phone.

Our brilliant team is adapting to the new normal and we couldn’t be more grateful for all of their hard work. Everyone is working well from home, we’re having the usual meetings, just virtually, and, as a result of not travelling to meetings or to the office, we’re all appreciating the extra time, as well the reduced carbon footprint our business has. When we come out of this, it’s no doubt the whole world will be different, but we hope that we can all take some positive learnings for the way run our businesses, and the way we treat the world and the environment.

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