As new consumer buying patterns emerge out of this crisis, and with a shift from offline to online, e-commerce companies are increasingly trying to retain and create more buyers.
“You earn trust when you do the right thing even when no one is watching you. I think in the post-covid world, customers are going to look for that trust, the trust of safety, the trust of having the items that they need delivered to them, making sure that we hold ourselves to the promises that we make. And if we miss a promise, we make it a very important exercise within the company to try with root cause, find what went wrong, fix that, so that it never happens again. These will be very, very important,” said Amit Agarwal, country head, Amazon India in an interview with Mint, as part of the Pivot or Perish series.
Agarwal said Amazon’s core strategy of selection, price and convenience is more relevant than ever in a post-covid world.
To offer this to customers and deliver fast and reliably, he said,” is by providing tools to empower hundreds and thousands of selling partners, so that they can offer anything that the customer wants. They can reduce cost of operations by using a technology and offer great value, and use our logistics infrastructure to deliver it fast. That’s kind of the core part of our business model.”
The company has more than six lakh sellers on the Amazon Marketplace platform.
In April, Amazon India launched ‘Local Shops on Amazon’ to enable offline retailers to come on the Amazon Marketplace and use the platform to sell their products and expand their reach and sell both in their stores and online. It was piloted around six months back and had 5000 sellers under this.
“With this crisis, sellers would want to use us to reach their customers even locally. Because of social distancing, footfalls will have to be supplemented with an online presence. The Local Shops program would help the local stores redefine themselves from being either an offline store or a corner store to just be a place that serves customers, no matter where the customers are. And I feel that that kind of embracing the technology might just completely leapfrog the idea of whether something is online and offline to being a customer-obsessed business. We are optimistic that manufacturers might just embrace things like local selling, and just redefine themselves as global brands,” he said.
In India, e-commerce firms such as Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart were allowed to only deliver essential goods during the nearly two-month long lockdown, impacting business in a big way. They have started delivering non-essentials to large cities only this week.
Agarwal said in the first two days (after full-scale delivery of essential and non-essential products resumed) it has seen 50-100% greater demand, compared to pre-covid days.
“…So clearly, there is significant pent-up demand. Customers are looking to buy products that they haven’t been able to shop. So I’m hopeful that some of this sustains and our sellers are able to recover some of the lost demand they had in the last few days,” he added.
On Thursday, Amazon also launched its food delivery segment in India, rivalling food tech unicorns, Swiggy and Zomato, in order to diversify its business from delivering non-essentials and essential goods. It has started a pilot in Bengaluru across four 4 pin codes across the southern city, in response to customers wanting to order prepared meals on Amazon.
Earlier this month, Amazon.com Inc. said its India operations were the worst affected by the covid-19 pandemic as the government ordered the company to halt sales of almost all items but groceries during a 40-day lockdown.
The challenges during the lockdown apart, experts said online shopping and e-commerce companies will benefit from this ongoing crisis, with social distancing and other restrictions being the new normal.
“I do feel e-commerce and Amazon have an important role to play to both keep life safe by meeting needs of customers at home, and to jumpstart livelihoods,” Agarwal said.
“…At Amazon, we have a product called Global Selling that precisely targets manufacturers in India, who intend to take their products global. We’re very excited about that opportunity. And there would be a lot of innovation that could happen in the progress in terms of how people think about brands and products.”