With the ongoing pandemic, e-commerce has received an exponential boom. Online retailers experienced a huge shift in sales on their websites. Research has found that the top 500 companies generated approximately $849.5 billion in online sales in 2020. While there is now a slow return to in-person shopping, the boom in e-commerce retail and the emergence of more digital-based stores continues to rise and this shift is projected to be permanent. While e-commerce was expected to emerge naturally, the pandemic has skyrocketed the advancement forward. Business owners now need to stay on this trend and bring their business into the modern age we have been pushed into.
The Global Shift to E-Commerce
At the moment, countries with a strong e-commerce presence are expected to gain an advantage in the global marketplace. Currently, the Asia-Pacific region has a strong lead on the global stage as an e-commerce powerhouse with sales projected to be three times higher than the United States, which is arguably, a strong contender in the e-commerce race. China is currently at the top and may remain there for the foreseeable future. However, India is expected to increase its e-commerce capacity faster than any other competitor. To emphasize the thrust towards this form of business, Americans spent approximately $791.7 billion online in 2020 alone.
Now that we’ve looked at the exciting boom in the modernization of retail, the implications must be considered as well. The accessibility and ethical nature of this boom must be considered so that e-commerce can be moved into a sustainable future:
1. Digital Readiness
Countries would need to build an e-commerce ecosystem to accommodate this new boom. This will include changing policy and business practices to make room for digitization. If a country is not brought into the modern age of shipping and retail, ultimately they can be left behind.
E-commerce is for everyone. No nation or business should be excluded. The internet has opened up pathways of accessibility to smaller businesses and poorer nations. However, those pathways need to remain open and accessible. Larger economic powerhouses, such as Amazon are currently dwarfing smaller localized businesses. The ecosystem would need to evolve where large businesses and smaller local businesses can both co-exist and reap the benefits of an online platform. With a wider e-commerce ecosystem, there is always a greater chance of digital divides, according to Torbjörn Fredriksson, UNCTAD’s digital economy head. Therefore, methods need to be put in place to elevate the voices of smaller businesses in a nation, which will begin with policy changes locally and less power given to larger online stores to monopolize their businesses.
E-commerce now needs to be seen as a viable career path and course of business operations. Educational institutions have responded to the e-commerce boom by offering courses specializing in e-commerce business models. Many institutions have begun offering these courses and have therefore brought management studies into the modern age. In general, more focus needs to be tended toward digital entrepreneurship and skill development in that field.
One serious implication that must be discussed in the e-commerce boom is the current supply chain crisis. This phenomenon has led to increased shipping prices and months-long delays in the delivery of goods. When considering an e-commerce platform, this drawback must also be taken into account.
While this crisis can provide a setback in terms of setting up a stable and consistent e-commerce business, companies must learn to work around and even take advantage of whatever they have to work in favor of their clients. This is also an opportunity to learn the crisis management and flexibility needed by a business owner.
How to Adapt to this Crisis?
1. Shop Local. Focus Local
Shop local and focus local. While the shipping crisis and other implications can impact global shipping, it has no bearing on local shopping. As clients, you can find a local shop that you can remain loyal to. As a business, set up systems where you are able to deliver your goods locally without needing to depend on a larger third party.
2. Create a valuable brand
We currently live in a culture of conscious consumption. Consumers are aware of the threats and implications of their purchasing decisions and change course when they can. Your business must hold real value to the customer. In this regard, if your business is impacted by the current shipping crisis or other issues related to e-commerce, your customers will remain loyal to your business. Your business must set itself apart in the saturated e-commerce market. Attribute real meaning to your business.
3. Be transparent with customers
The best way to survive through the global shipping crisis is through accountability. Be transparent with your customers when items are out of stock when they will be back in stock and when forces out of your control mean you don’t have a certain product immediately available or give it limited availability. Accountability is the key to every good business.
In Trinidad and Tobago, there are no localized barriers to e-commerce. The local government has opened up e-commerce opportunities with TTBizLink to access government services. In terms of policy, the Ministry of Trade and Industry is implementing the National E-commerce Strategy, so that local e-commerce businesses can benefit from this business model. This strategy facilitates domestic and international sales.
Trinidad and Tobago has ranked in the top 10 developing and transition economies for Latin America and the Caribbean in UNCTAD1’s Business to Consumer index 2019. This shows a positive trajectory in adapting our systems to this fast-growing global market. In addition to this, in 2019 social media use and mobile social media users grew by 1.3% and 5.7% respectively. Therefore, if you want to start an e-commerce business, the market is open for you and there are systems in place for your business to grow and become successful.
In 2020, Trinidad and Tobago was approximated to have:
810,000 active social media users.
920,000 active mobile internet users.
740,000 mobile media social users.
Therefore, opening an online business is feasible and far-reaching.
Local entrepreneurs have been booming with the recent rise in e-commerce. They have been innovatively using social media apps to promote and operate their business to the 810,000 social media users in Trinidad and Tobago. They have taken the opportunity to capitalize on the increased social media use and the search for online businesses. However, local entrepreneurs can develop their own e-commerce websites using free platforms such as:
There is also the locally developed Buzz Pay that facilitates website creation and business operations.
Who is your favorite local online business? Leave a comment below.