Plague. Pandemic. Disaster. However you name it, we have changed profoundly.
I’ve written earlier that porn drove us online. Now, viruses are making ecommerce an economic staple. It’s easy to see why. Just how far has ecommerce carried us through this public health catastrophe? It turns out, pretty damn far. Ecommerce’s growth stats kinda resemble a rocket launch:
Find more statistics at Statista
Ecommerce has grown at a reliably predictable rate over the previous decade. And then, it went insane. Consumer acceptance of online retail — perhaps the key indicator of future trends — undeniably tracks closely to the virus’ infection rates.
However, this growth wave is tightly coupled with a profound and comprehensive move to “online everything.” Companies need to be ready for amazing digital growth, and its potential problems, from scaling issues to cybersecurity challenges presented by rushed deployments, architectural mistakes, and online instability. In other words, we need not only disaster preparedness but opportunity preparedness.
cgk.ink researches, investigates and experiments with ecommerce-specific technology. Let’s talk about how can help you maneuver a post-pandemic marketplace.
To be frank, I’m having anxiety about the relaxation of COVID mandates.
I also really, really want to get to the beach. And this confuses me because, do we all want to be walking around with COVID tans? I mean, it’s gonna be kinda weird with a huge swath of your face untanned. Right around the mouth. Not good, as our friends at FOX have clearly thought of this and present this horrific image (with multiple sociological implications):
I’ve endured the months-long COVID illness; my daily fever reading was an FM radio station number. My dog hates me. My Amazon delivery guy is getting to know way too much about me and I am vacuuming, gardening and doing laundry at unprecedented levels (and still losing socks – what is that?) I have not started baking, though, so there is hope that my laziness is not in peril.
So Now What?
Well, I’ve (like you) have had a lot of time staring at my ceiling fan and/or abusing Netflix/Amazon Prime/Hulu/Disney+. Here is what I’ve come up with so far:
Delivery has become an essential service.
I live in Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA). So I have no shortage of amazing food and stores on my own block. Delivery has always been a 3-second conversation in my head that went along the lines of: “I want a cheeseburger. There is a cheeseburger place on my own block and they’re excellent. Stop being a lazy fuck.” Would that I could live on cheeseburgers.
But I can’t. Ordering online has become a lifeline and the technology is as good as the people who make it happen. This is not about convenience. It’s about basic needs being met during a time of great difficulty.
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Everyone else needs to catch up.
The disparities between offline and online have never been starker. If Amazon can deliver toothpaste, a USB cord and pretzels in 2 hours, why can’t FEMA? Certainly, that’s an unfair comparison… kinda. Delivery of online goods is not a luxury anymore, it is downright mandatory. Whether it’s sushi or a bandage, the bar just got raised on how you communicate.
We have no idea what the fuck we’re doing.
Ecommerce just got very, very real, people. I am very keen on watching how businesses adapt. And I’m seeing some very good signs that small businesses (my focus at cgk.ink) are moving at light speed. Mistakes are happening everywhere and that’s a great sign that individuals and groups are experimenting and pushing limits.
I know, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands. And I’m very tired of using the words “the new normal” since that’s a very conditionally subjective term. I grew up with ready access to some of the best beaches in the world. As a kid, my world revolved around that briny smell and tide ponds and squishy wet things. I live in DTLA now which is not too far from the beach. If I find out how to order all that online, I will!
cgk.ink is watching closely as ecommerce evolves while getting partially tan in California. Sometimes.
We are experiencing significant delays in processing orders.
On average, we are seeing delays of 7-10 days on new orders. This is primarily due to reduced staffing, slower delivery and additional time needed to process payments.
Delays are not uniform and the amount of time needed to process items depends on the supplier. We’re monitoring this daily and will contact you if the delays are extraordinary.
Questions? We welcome your questions. Contact us.
Fulfillment warehouse robots are having a moment as online shopping continues to increase during the pandemic. The hot market for autonomous fulfillment solutions has helped Locus Robotics, which makes autonomous mobile robots for use in fulfillment warehouses, raise an additional $40 million during a successful Series D this week.
“Automation has proven to be a critical solution for retail and third-party logistics businesses during this challenging time,” says Tony Palcheck, Senior Director, Zebra Ventures, which led Locus’ Series D. “As the retail industry continues to shift to e-commerce, Locus Robotics’ warehouse automation will help businesses meet the demands of this ‘new normal,’ ensuring that customers can increase operational efficiency to meet requirements for fast, accurate delivery.”
Locus Robotics makes autonomous mobile robots that operate collaboratively with human workers to improve piece-handling productivity as much as 2X-3X, with less labor compared to traditional picking systems. The robots are aimed at helping 3PLs and specialty warehouses efficiently meet the increasingly complex and demanding requirements of fulfillment environments, which now include social distancing restrictions — something robots don’t have to worry about.
“We have recently seen a dramatic disruption of retail with e-commerce growth as high as 400% year-over-year in some categories. And others were severely limited as the bulk of their inventory was in stores that they could not get into due to lockdowns. It’s critical that retailers are prepared for direct fulfillment from the warehouse,” said Greg Buzek, President of IHL Group. “This announcement underscores the need for companies to prepare for today’s new labor challenges that will be impacted by the significant volume increases that are already occurring. Companies investing now in warehouse automation, particularly AMRs, will be better positioned for success in the post-pandemic economy as they can support sales from any channel.”
306 million Americans are affected by stay-at-home orders. This is 95% of the U.S. population.
I don’t believe in this hype that ecommerce can expand infinitely We are talking about human-to-human transactions; the method of delivery is not very important here. The method of shopping is. This presents a huge problem for UI/UX designers who now have to deal with everything. Have you tried to shop your supermarket online? How’d that go for you? Yeah, challenging.
What I’m experiencing is massive volatility in inventory. Put something in your cart, say, Romaine lettuce. Within seconds it is automatically removed from your cart since it “NOT AVAILABLE.” This makes me unsure of what I am buying vs. what shows up at my door. I quote heavily here from this Forbes article, although I disagree with the author’s intent. There is no “good” point to this.
Time and You: Getting Along?
We (all of us) have this burning question in uncertain times of “what’s next?” I do it all day long. Ultimately, the answer is nothing. I know, very existential, but what if there is nothing to do about this situation? What if we are too fucking dumb, as a species (not a population, not a sect) to wear a fucking mask?
Ecommerce attempts to solve this disconnect. Contactless Delivery? Click this box. Self-isolating? We have a promo code for that.
What We Are Not Addressing
With all it’s commercial power, ecommerce businesses — of any size — have failed us miserably. If I can have a can of tuna, a computer and handi-wipes delivered within two hours, um, why is my COVID-19 test taking 10-13 days to process?
Why is Amazon not simply shipping out test kits? Is that sweater more important than my health? Seemingly so, because I can get that sweater, try it on, hate it and then return it within an hour.
Time To Step Up
We are fragile beings. Wish to be otherwise, but we are. An invisible thing can bring us to our knees, destroy our civilization and remake it in its own image. Ecommerce has evolved into the most efficient distribution of goods ever created by humans.
Can we distribute health?
- U.S. e-commerce sales jumped by 92.7% in May, according to a new SpendingPulse report from Mastercard. In April and May, consumers spent more than $53 billion via e-commerce in the U.S.
- Mastercard’s research also found that hardware sales and furniture sales increased in May. Year over year, online and in-store hardware sales rose by 36.2% in May, and furniture sales went up by 7.5%, per the report.
- U.S. grocery sales increased by 9.2% year over year in May online and in-store, which Mastercard noted as the strongest grocery sales volume for the month of May in SpendingPulse history.
E-commerce, which has come to the forefront for retailers during the COVID-19 pandemic, is a bright spot in otherwise trying times for brands. While some nonessential retailers like GameStop have seen an e-commerce boost during the pandemic, others, like Zara, are rethinking their store footprint and closing locations in order to focus on digital sales.
Mastercard’s research found that e-commerce sales in April and May comprised 22% of all retail sales, double last year’s 11%. A recent eMarketer projection anticipates that U.S. retail sales will drop by 10.5% in 2020 overall, but e-commerce sales could see an 18% bump.
Echoing forecasts from analysts at Wedbush and Morgan Stanley, eMarketer’s latest report doesn’t point to digital sales making up for the losses of brick-and-mortar store closures. As online sales rise, the constraints of e-commerce are coming to the forefront, especially returns and supply chain snags. It’s not clear how much consumer shopping behaviors will change, maybe permanently, because of the pandemic.
“The shift to digital ways of shopping has been undeniable, while everything else has been incredibly unpredictable,” Steve Sadove, Mastercard senior advisor, said in a statement. “The question is what changes will stick around for the long-term. Investing in your home and shopping local are two recent trends. Heightened demand for touchless services is another, which could have tremendous impact on what stores actually look like and how they blend their online and brick and mortar footprints.”