The nudge factor: Parts of ecommerce industry will be likely winners of Covid-19 pandemic

By Ankur Pahwa

The world is a very different place than it was a few weeks ago, with the humanity facing an unprecedented event and grappling with its ramifications. However, in light of these troubled times it is best to look for things that are working well and helping us wade through the current crisis.

Segments across e-commerce are helping ease peoples’ anxieties by helping bring solutions both virtually as well as to your doorstep. These testing times are bringing to fore the accelerated adoption of online services and possibly creating a long term behavioural change in the way people shop, consume media, health, get educated, or generally get things done. A quick look at how the segments have responded –

· Edtech – With hundreds of universities and educational institutions shut in order to contain the pandemic, many education technology companies have started offering free teaching resources to educators to help with the transition from in-person to online learning to help bridge the gap. They are also helping students get on their platform by providing free resources, that can be used by students to ensure they are up-to-date on their curriculum. A crucial solution to an education obsessed nation

· Healthtech – Another crucial segment witnessing increased adoption – from medicines delivery, consultations, health/wellness/fitness, the solutions available online to help ease the minds of the people giving them availability to keep themselves healthy both in mind and body. Awareness amongst consumers was already on an upswing, and now the environment around us is enabling more people to get on board.

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· Fintech – While there may be a short term impact to the industry given the reduced number of transactions taking place, along with slow business in general, it is helping us transact without contact. Online transactions are certainly more beneficial with more users are starting to prefer this contactless mode.

· Mobility – The segment has hit a road bump, considering the drastic decline is transport requirements as most individuals are stuck in their couches rather than in the backseat of a car. However, there is little doubt that once the situation normalises, the segment is going to bounce back to pre-COVID times.

· Gaming and OTT – The segment is witnessing a surge in usage considering most individuals are restricted to their homes. OTT platforms are helping users pass their time with engaging content and allowing users to binge shows on their long drawn watchlist. Streaming platforms are allowing users to stream simultaneously with friends in order to keep social engagement alive while some studios are mulling a direct to streaming option for their latest blockbusters helping getting more users onboard. On the other side of entertainment, online gaming was already picking up steam and with the pause in all live sports this seems to be the go to entertainment platform and social engagement through video/voice chat for millennials.

· Hyperlocal – One of the most important segment that is making a difference in today’s times, the segment has turned to be a lifeline for many. The players in the segment included everyone from supplying groceries and other household essentials, food delivery from your favourite restaurant to delivering documents, these players are effectively front line workers in helping individuals cope and combat this virus and keeping the wheels moving. It is crucial that companies in segment take all necessary precautions along with maintaining the highest hygienic factors with regard to their delivery partners.

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While the government is taking commendable efforts to contain the threat, they (at state and centre level) need to work in tandem with eCommerce companies in their efforts to provide much needed goods and services to millions of customers. Their support and boost to the sector will also allow the “food-chain” to survive – everyone from MSMEs, small business owners and entrepreneurs will be able to wade this high tide. The government has already issued an exempt status to eCommerce companies classifying it as an essential service, and it is imperative that the segment is enabled to accelerate helping on the frontlines.

There is little doubt that the eCommerce industry as a whole will be net positive and helping customers change their consumption patterns. Also, many traditional players can also leverage the change in consumer behaviour to drive their digital transformation to help maintain connect with their valued customers. Tough times don’t define, they refine – Stay safe!

The writer is Partner and National Leader – E-Commerce and Consumer Internet, EY India.


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