Consumers are trying to avoid crowds because of the pandemic and consequently they are flocking online to shop. But actually getting the products that they purchase at hand can become a challenge.
According to James Root, senior partner and chairman at Bain Futures, a global think tank of consulting firm Bain & Company, it is important for companies that are selling online to build on infrastructure that support their businesses if they want to benefit from the future opportunities of online business.
“E-commerce platforms need two pieces of infrastructure: They need great digital payment. The second thing is that they need great supply chain,” he said. “And that’s both to manage cross-border products coming into a market like Singapore, having swift customs clearance and easy paper processing for that.”
“In-market capabilities that are appropriate” are also needed, Root said.
“For example, parcel delivery spots that are near the big blocks of housing, and very good last mile transportation to get products into the hands of consumers at the sorts of speeds that we’re educating our consumers to start to expect now,” he elaborated.
The delivery and logistical challenges that are faced by e-commerce companies were laid bare after a “circuit breaker” or partial lockdown at the peak of the Covid-19 crisis was imposed in Singapore last year.
“Ultimately, convenience is king,” said Vaughan Ryan, managing director of e-commerce Asia Pacific at NielsenIQ. “It’s the convenience of shopping when I want, where I want. And it’s 24/7. So that enables consumers and especially in Singapore, given we’re so digitally minded, to shop more often.”
However “no one’s moved fast enough”, he said.
“The consumer has been ahead of the speed of what manufacturers and retailers can do — catching up fast. There’s still plenty of room for improvement in the logistics management of it all. Even in the immediate movement controller orders in the circuit breaker — the time slots to actually order online weren’t available. That’s improved significantly again… but there’s still a lot of work to be done in this area,” Ryan pointed out.
Last-mile logistics is the answer to the issues.
″We bridge the virtual world and the physical world — you shop for something online, and we make sure it gets delivered to your doorstep, into a locker, to a nearby convenience store,” said Lai Chang Wen, CEO and co-founder of Ninja Van, a courier service in Southeast Asia.
Social media is being used by Ninja Van to allow customers track their goods while also improving the delivery process to adapt to the changing trend.
“What we believe is more important today is … the ability for us to interact with you on your favorite chat messenger. Whether it’s Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram, you choose it, you subscribe — and we’ll give you real time updates as to where your driver is.”
“We think that’s a new form of tracking, which kind of fits into the way we use our phones, the way we interact these days, where it’s not overly intrusive, no one’s necessarily calling you,” he said.
(Adapted from CNBC.com)