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Post-Pandemic Ecommerce Data Emerges

Post-Pandemic Ecommerce Data Emerges

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:

Statistic: Retail e-commerce sales in the United States from 1st quarter 2009 to 1st quarter 2021 (in million U.S. dollars) | Statista
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.

Fortune

cgk.ink researches, investigates and experiments with ecommerce-specific technology. Let’s talk about how can help you maneuver a post-pandemic marketplace.

Summer 2021: Redux & Tan Lines

Summer 2021: Redux & Tan Lines

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.

RELATED: Amazon to Raise Pay (NYT)

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.

COVID-19’s Impact on Global Networks

COVID-19’s Impact on Global Networks

An update on the internet congestion’s details during COVID-19

Allconnect recently compiled data to provide key information on the best and worst times to be online. Of interest, specifically:

  • Days of the week with the fastest upload & download speeds
  • How to best avoid high latency periods
  • Average speed by according to the time of day

You can view the full report here:

An awesome, comprehensive, and detailed look at how COVID-19 has impacted global networks.

Lots to think about and how we might prepare for future catastrophes.

TL;DR

To understand how the internet is performing with the changes in internet use brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, we investigated two key metrics during February and March in some of the countries and states that were hit hardest by the virus: changes in the traffic volume served to those regions as a reflection of changes in internet use, and changes in download speed measured at our servers as a reflection of internet quality. In almost all regions, the largest increases in traffic volume occurred immediately after public policy announcements, such as school closures or stay-at-home orders. Similarly, the most dramatic decreases in download speed followed the official starts of those policies — presumably when populations made the shift to staying home.

(source)

For a much more detailed analysis of how Corona-19 has effected global internet usage, look here. It’s fascinating.

IMPORTANT: UPDATE ON SHIPPING DELAYS

IMPORTANT: UPDATE ON SHIPPING DELAYS

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.

COVID Pushes Ecomm Over the Top

COVID Pushes Ecomm Over the Top

Societies do not change gracefully. Behind major shifts in how humans go about their days often stand unspeakably horrid events: war, plague, famine, flood.

When the shit hits the fan, we deploy all of our technologies to mitigate the disaster. Medically, that translates into vaccines and healthcare systems. In times of natural disaster, we call up the engineers and first-responders.

The current crisis has forced us to shift as a planet in multiple ways. One of the most prominent economic shifts is in consumer behavior. The changes are significant, real and much more substantial than we think.

Are These Numbers For Real?

It’s a black ribbon medal, for sure. But ecommerce has arrived. No longer an oddity or an alternate, it is now required to be online, either as a consumer or a retailer. This one graph pretty well sums it up:

cgk.ink | ecommerce growth

That’s impressive growth on any level. But the percentage increases become ridiculously large when you start looking at a few industries. Obviously, we know the losers (aviation, hospitality, etc.) but there are some surprising winners. Chiefly among them is an industry I focus on a lot: Print on Demand (PoD).

“It was almost a straight line up when people were scrambling to shift from traditional production to on-demand,” says Brian Rainey, CEO of Gooten, a print-on-demand logistics and fulfillment company. “We saw an enormous spike in Q2, and it continued in Q3 and Q4. On-demand manufacturing and mass customization is growing faster than anyone can keep up with.”

Printful, another on-demand fulfillment company that prints, packs and ships custom products from e-commerce sites, reported an 80% year-over-year increase in order count over the last three quarters of 2020 and a 44% year-over-year growth in the number of new stores joining the platform. During the holiday shopping bonanza between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the online printing and drop-shipping company fulfilled 25 million products. In fact, that weekend, Printful saw a 70% order increase, with as many as 204 orders per minute – twice as high as in 2019.

(Sources)

The Future: More of the Same

“I don’t think anything will revert back to the way it was before,” says Rob Watson, chief experience officer at Top 40 supplier Vantage Apparel (asi/93390), which offers its own home-grown on-demand customization service to distributors. “More distributors are getting into the space and offering a solution that end-users wanted before but never knew that distributors could offer. I don’t think this is going to go away.”

Don’t expect 2021 to rewrite the narrative for on-demand companies and promotional products firms that follow the same model – 2020 wasn’t a blip. It was merely an acceleration of what’s already been happening. Consider that Printful’s impressive numbers during the holiday shopping weekend came after an already staggering growth rate for the company, which ballooned by 441% over the three previous years – from $21 million in 2016 to $116 million in 2019.

Related article: U.S. Ecommerce Up 92.7%

Robots Deliver, No Mask Needed

Robots Deliver, No Mask Needed

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.”

SOURCE:ZDNet.com

Quarantine & Ecommerce

Quarantine & Ecommerce

Quarantine does have its advantages.

Dressing up means wearing pants. You now have a rock-solid excuse to not speak to your shitty neighbor. Groceries are delivered and you never even have to face the delivery person (who is definitely shaming you in their head for the case of Pop-Tarts). The Vodka & Valium Flavor. Your dog is asking “don’t you work?”

If you live in my grand city of Los Angeles, we’re at the beginning of a torturous plague that is infecting thousands per day. You can’t get a drink anywhere and “fine dining” means not-the-paper plates. Economically, we’re facing the prospect of not having one.

I’m watching closely how this is impacting us, and particularly how we behave as consumers. If I were to fully comply with California’s guidelines, I would have no toilet paper, food, water and my dog would have definitely left me for greener pastures. It seems, that the entire country is “just making it through.” And I totes get it.

 

RELATED: U.S. Ecommerce Up 92.7%

The Change is Permanent

This isn’t happening automatically. There has been a fundamental shift in e-commerce and the signs are just beginning to show. McKinsey & Company has a fairly good read with “The great consumer shift: Ten charts that show how US shopping behavior is changing

Not to put too fine a point on it, but there is this:

Black Friday shopping in stores craters 52% during the pandemic as e-commerce sales surge.

  • Traffic at stores on Black Friday fell by 52.1% compared with last year, according to preliminary data from Sensormatic Solutions.
  • “Shoppers are spreading out their shopping throughout the holiday season because of concerns about social distancing and the pandemic,” said Brian Field.
  • Online spending on Black Friday surged 21.6% to hit a new record, according to data from Adobe Analytics.

CNBC, again

It is a perfect confluence. Isolation + Fear = Online Shopping. And boy, did it take off. With roughly nine months of experiencing the cataclysm that is COVID-19, The data is astounding:

  • Holiday shoppers spent $10.8 billion on Cyber Monday, up 15.1% from a year ago, setting a record for the largest U.S. online shopping day ever, according to Adobe.
  • That came in short of Adobe’s original forecast of $12.7 billion in spending.
  • Adobe cut its online sales forecast for the entire holiday season to $184 billion, which is a 30% increase from last year.
  • Shoppers started their gift-buying earlier than ever, as retailers promoted deals in October.

CNBC

Porn + Food = Ecommerce

Porn + Food = Ecommerce

I ran across an interesting article on the BBC “Worklife” page titled: “The curious origins of online shopping.”

If you were an early adapter, you might remember the thrill of upgrading from a 14.4K modem to 28.8K. Was that speed even possible back then? Soon, a mind-blowing 56K would be available and that was pure, straight-up science fiction at that point.

 

Right then, the first group of large-scale online services began to take shape. These were almost entirely social-based experiments. Prodigy, AOL, Compuserve, these were attempting to figure out not only the “how” but the “why.” What did they provide besides a way to chat and email and lookup phone numbers? One company, Amazon, had the foresight to begin the very first models of e-commerce. The market matured and slowly, this weird concept of buying products via computer started to put down some roots.

Online bookstore and IPO

After reading a report about the future of the Internet that projected annual web commerce growth at 2,300%, Bezos created a list of 20 products that could be marketed online. He narrowed the list to what he felt were the five most promising products, which included: compact discs, computer hardware, computer software, videos, and books. Bezos finally decided that his new business would sell books online, because of the large worldwide demand for literature, the low unit price for books, and the huge number of titles available in print.[9] Amazon was founded in the garage of Bezos’ rented home in Bellevue, Washington.[7][10][11] Bezos’ parents invested almost $250,000 in the start-up.[12]

SOURCE: Wikipedia

The Porn Paradigm

I firmly believe that the impetus for users to go online was porn. It was the perfect match between content and delivery. It was prurient but discrete; enticing and easy. Likewise, Amazon chose a similarly (if not less carnal) product to marry to this new form distribution: books. They were easy to ship, they were easily identified and sorted digitally since they were already assigned an ISBN # and, perhaps most importantly, they did not need to be personally inspected like, say, a pair of pants.

It often takes a tectonic social shift to see if a trend becomes a more permanent feature of any large, diverse community. And we are at that moment right now. One could not create a more telling stress test for e-commerce than COVID-19. And the preliminary statistics show it:

Between March 2020 and April 2020 in the US, ecommerce sales jumped 49%, led by online grocery with a 110% boost in daily sales. Kahn says that ecommerce has finally reached the kind of high penetration (the kind that makes more sense relative to its age) because people have turned to the internet to buy food.

— Source: BBC

These numbers are astonishing in any environment. The rate of acceptance of previously brink-and-mortar-only retail drives an entirely new type of ecommerce. We are now shopping for survival, not for fun.

“A real inflection point for online shopping as we know it today could be traced to around 2017. By the end of the prior year, many Americans were “starting to shop online as often as [they] take out the trash”; according to the Pew Research Center, eight in 10 Americans used a computer or phone to buy something online that year – as opposed to the just 22% who did so in 2000.”

— Source: BBC

EARLY, BUT DEAD, PIONEERS in ECOMMERCE

(my hat’s off to them)

COVID-19: Further Impacts Ecommerce

COVID-19: Further Impacts Ecommerce

306 million Americans are affected by stay-at-home orders. This is 95% of the U.S. population.

(Source: Forbes)

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. Ecommerce Up 92.7%

U.S. Ecommerce Up 92.7%

  • 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.
 

Insight:

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.”

— Source

DON’T BE A DICK: ADA Compliance

DON’T BE A DICK: ADA Compliance

Ecommerce ignores those with disabilities.

We tend to think that all of our visitors have perfect eyesight and perfectly capable limbs and ears that work as expected.

Obviously, it’s not true. According to the World Bank:

  • One billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability, and disability prevalence is higher for developing countries.
  • One-fifth of the estimated global total, or between 110 million and 190 million people, experience significant disabilities.

(MORE STATISTICS)

Disability Statistics in the United States

Here’s a more specific look at the number of people in the United States who could find their way to your website and who also live with various disabilities:

  • As of 2016, an estimated 3.8 million people aged 21 to 64 years were blind or had serious difficulty seeing, even when wearing glasses
  • Approximately 15% of American adults (37.5 million) aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing
  • The number of people living with cognitive disabilities in the United States is equal to twice the population of New York City.

Why Care? Are You an Asshole?

Technologies that assists the disabled have evolved considerably. And now it’s time that ecommerce becomes inclusive. Yes, you gain a very largely ignored market, but it’s also just the right thing to do. I have known a few disabled people (including my own sister) who struggle with equipment and technology that is designed for the able-bodied majority. Think about it: would you be able to go about your business blindfolded? With both hands tied behind your back? No. No, you would not. So stop thinking about yourself and show some fucking empathy.

And You Can Be Sued

The ADA is actually the law. No joke. And you can enter litigation hell if you do not comply. As an example: some of the 3.8 million people mentioned above with visual impairments may use a screen reader to consume text in the HTML code of web pages, to translate it into audible speech. If text is not embedded in image properties (using alt tags), this could render the content inaccessible to visually impaired users, violating the Equality Act of 2010. — (source).

Lack of Compliance is Considered Discrimination

Given these numbers, if your website is not accessible to those with disabilities, you are leaving out a significant portion of the population. And when these users can’t easily access your website, they will go somewhere else, even if it means paying more for a service or product.

You know that discrimination against people with disabilities is against the law, so don’t do it.

My initial results seem promising but also troubling.

Solutions

I set about to understand what this means and was immersed in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). There are similar global, national and industry-specific standards. I’m focusing on the ADA in this case because it’s the broadest and most applicable to my audience. So, since I’m locked down here in Los Angeles, I had a ton of time to spend learning. Here’s what I found:

Multiple Options

There are, as far as I can understand (not being a pro in this field), there a few ways you can make your site easily accessible to the disabled.

  1. You can pay a firm to audit, fix and certify your site with authority ($)
  2. Run a self-compliance test and then have it certified ($)
  3. Diagnose, fix and self-certify (NO $)
    • The paid audit & fix option is great if you’ve got a few thousand + to spend on crafting your own response through a legal team and having your site certified globally.
    • The self-compliance route is cheaper, but you will have to get pretty sophisticated with your coding.
    • Being lazy and slowly going crazy self-quarantining, I went the easiest route: self-certification. I chose EqualWeb. The self-diagnostic tool was easy, comprehensive and accurate. Better yet, they fix your mistakes with a code insertion. A Chrome extension is helpful and they have a FREE plan which allows you to enter this confusing subject, understand it and offer options. Well done, EqualWeb!

I’m purposefully not endorsing any company here simply because I have not done exhaustive research on each that would let me do so with confidence.

 

Accessible Design is Good Design”
-Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft

COVID-19 Shows Ecommerce’s Strengths and Weaknesses

COVID-19 Shows Ecommerce’s Strengths and Weaknesses

An article in today’s South China Morning Post demonstrates how ecommerce has become a solid foundation of modern economics:

Chinese e-commerce platforms are scrambling to hire thousands of temporary workers, as the coronavirus outbreak and government-imposed travel restrictions have increased consumer demand for online grocery delivery services.

Their recruitment initiatives include hiring part-time staff from small firms and restaurants, whose operations are currently struggling amid the health crisis and general business slowdown.

A child waves as she sits in a vehicle carrying residents evacuated from a public housing building, following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, outside Hong Mei House, at Cheung Hong Estate in Hong Kong, China February 11, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Ecommerce is trying to absorb the impact of a virus that has quarantined entire cities. Ecommerce also has the lack of skill or willpower to patrol itself:

(This article originally appeared on ABACUS)

As the death toll of the coronavirus outbreak climbs, face masks have become a valuable commodity. Now unscrupulous sellers are starting to rise. Two of the biggest Chinese ecommerce companies, Alibaba and JD.com, said they’re clearing their platforms of shops selling “problematic” masks. 

Alibaba announced on Weibo that it removed 15 merchants for selling fake or inferior masks and reported five of them to the authorities. JD removed seven merchants, according to state media reports.
Alibaba also said it removed 570,000 mask listings suspected to be problematic and is cooperating with the police to home in on shoddy mask manufacturers.