How e-commerce platforms are lending a new lease of life to offline retailers in the face of Covid-19

By Jasmeet Thind

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the business world to a standstill. The virulent disease has spread across the globe at a rapid pace, disrupting and debilitating entire industries in its wake. India too is witnessing its share of the viral onslaught and has since effectively imposed a nation-wide lockdown to arrest the further dissemination of the lethal disease.

The extended lockdown has unsurprisingly resulted in the dwindling of businesses big and small. A plethora of firms and companies are pulling down the shutter on operations due to exorbitant revenue cuts and the absence of labor-activity.

The offline retail sector has been the most affected segment owing to its non-essential nature. Small and medium enterprises purveying commodities like clothes, jewelry, utensils, etc have witnessed widespread losses and job slashes. In addition to that, the closure of all state borders and highways too, have contributed to the ongoing disruption in the industry.

To put this into a clearer perspective, the long-term effect of the pandemic on the offline retail sector’s supply chain and logistics is projected to culminate in an overall sales loss of about $7 billion in 2020 as compared to the previous financial year.

The coronavirus pandemic has seemingly forced a surfeit of plush wholesale retailers and large-scale offline purveyors to upscale their existing mode of operations and services. They are steadily revamping their efforts in an attempt to engage procurers online and creating an Omni-channel module to cater to the surging demand for essential and indispensable items such as medicines, groceries etcetera.

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Having said this, it is equally pertinent for small scale offline retailers and business owners to embrace the digitization of the existing means of marketing and vending. Optimal leveraging of technology will be the decisive factor in exploring alternate business channels and streamlining operations.

Offline to online – the inevitable shift
The global pandemic has offered a veritable opportunity to both buyers and customers to fully optimize and tap the hitherto unrealized potential of the online retail paradigm to the fullest. This offline to online shift has largely been catalyzed due to the commendable efforts of the new-age e-commerce companies. But that does not imply that online marketing and vending have been untouched by the ravages of the corona storm. Numerous segments such as clothing and apparel, skincare and cosmetics, etc are witnessing a substantial drop in consumer traction and sales due to the restrictions imposed on public jamborees and outdoor travel.

Surrounded by a slew of such aforementioned obstacles, it would be somewhat impudent to presuppose that the retail sector will recover from the thundering blows dealt by the COVID-19 pandemic in no time at all. However, there are visible signs of hope and sanguinity. The consumer outlook and attitude are seemingly undergoing a vast sea change amid the ongoing lockdown.

The retail industry is anticipating a major transition as ordering goods online through e-commerce channels becomes the new normal over the previous model of buying from brick and mortar retail stores. This signifies that if the offline retailers can step up their game and augment their digital abilities in the immediate future, they will be liable to optimize every prospective opportunity to their benefit. Such a way forward will also prove to be invaluable in resurfacing alive and thriving in a post-corona landscape.

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Social e-commerce makes survival easy
Offline-to-online or social-commerce platforms like are emerging as facilitators in streamlining the transitional procedure from the analog to the digital. These platforms are responsible for empowering the country’s up-and-coming offline retail businesses carve a distinct and effortless online presence free of cost by optimizing the enormous potential of AI to digitize cataloging and their offline inventory listing.

Social commerce platforms are integrating certain buyer-seller behaviors of offline retailers rather than discomfortingly enforcing traditional businesses to adopt complete modern practices. By aiding those to obtain access to supplies directly from the manufacturers, instant credit services, and the necessary working capital these cutting – edge platforms are calibrating the offline sellers towards new business possibilities by cataloging products on their platforms and vending them only after striking a deal with potential customers. This not only ensures faster stock sourcing and liquidation cycle but also warrants a steady surge of income.

Cometh the moment
While such platforms have been developing at a relaxed pace and are largely restricted to lifestyle vendors and budding businesses that have little or no access to the required resources and expertise for e-commerce. It is only in response to the corona pandemic that the nation is assimilating more grassroots firms to the social trade portals.

Offline retailers now have the power to forge their own customized and tailored web stores where they can take orders and assignments. They can even market their product offerings through trending social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and TikTok, etc and can even correspond and hobnob with potential buyers before finalizing a purchase.

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Social media platforms are even focusing on hyper-local deliveries that are feasible and exempted from special permits to fulfill the challenge of directing supply chains and logistics for conventional retailers and wholesale vendors.

Whereas the authorities are exercising every possible measure to curtail the spread of COVID-19, we can verily predict the virulent cataclysm to transform and revolutionize the way SMEs and family-owned independent businesses operate in the distant future.

The writer is Co-founder, CoutLoot.


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