It’s been around 20 weeks since India’s first confirmed case of COVID-19. Since then, the country has seen some unprecedented measures to reduce the spread of the virus. However, Unlock 1.0 is now underway, as parts of the country slowly start to open up. But this doesn’t mean that people will flock to shops and stores. Online sales are expected to remain strong for the foreseeable future.
Across the globe, the coronavirus economies and markets in many different countries have been impacted. And, while some industries have faltered, others have thrived.
The eCommerce sector is one area that has grown significantly. Online retailers the world over have seen an increase in demand in a trend that’s expected to continue. We look at what this could mean as India’s Unlock 1.0 unfolds.
India’s Unlock 1.0 – the story so far
India’s first confirmed coronavirus case was reported on January 30. The country was reasonably swift to react as cases started to escalate, introducing airport screening on March 6. By the middle of March, the government had suspended all non-essential travel visas and land border crossings, enforcing a 14-hour curfew on March 22.
On March 25, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the unprecedented step of announcing a total lockdown of the country. With just four hours’ notice, 1.3 billion people were to be confined to their homes for at least 21 days.
The potential for disaster in the country was significant, particularly in poorer and more densely populated areas. As such, Mr Modi announced that, ‘every state, every district, every lane, every village will be under lockdown.’ These drastic measures were some of the most extensive seen across the world.
Since that time, the lockdown has been extended several times. On April 14, the country hit 10,000 confirmed cases and extended its strict measures to May 3. Throughout May, as cases continued to grow, this deadline was pushed back again. First, the date was moved to May 17 and then again to May 31. By this time, there were over 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in India.
The date for India’s Unlock 1.0 (also known as Lockdown 5.0) was announced as June 1, with further easing on June 8. From the latter date, restaurants, malls, hotels, and places of worship were all given the go-ahead to open up again. However, strict social distancing and cleaning protocols must be in place. Hand sanitiser, thermal screening, and reduced capacity are just some of the measures in place across India.
However, since Unlock 1.0 came into effect, there has been another spike in the number of new coronavirus cases. As a result, some of the worst-hit regions have gone back into lockdown.
Lockdown’s economic impact
The coronavirus has shaken the world. At the time of writing, over 430,000 people have tragically lost their lives to the virus. These effects will be felt on a global scale for many years to come.
As we try to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, there are some effects that we can already start to measure. One such is the economic impact of the virus. Countries all over the world have shut down for extended periods, causing economies to grind to a halt. But what has this meant for their short- and long-term outlook?
The global economy
Many countries have been hit hard by the virus. According to the International Monetary Fund, the Great Lockdown could be the worst recession since the Great Depression, much worse than the 2009 Global Financial Crisis.
With people being unable to go out and about, tourism, travel, hospitality, and entertainment industries have been hit particularly hard. The story is similar in many countries that have implemented lockdown. The UK’s GDP fell by a record 20.4% in April, while Peru’s economy sank 40%.
In India, the story is very similar. The country had already been witnessing a pre-pandemic economic slowdown. Yet the coronavirus has exacerbated matters. Unemployment rose from 6.7% on March 15 to 26% on April 19. At the peak of the lockdown, it’s estimated that less than a quarter of the $2.8 trillion economy was functional.
For workers in India’s informal sector, experts described the situation as an economic tsunami. The closure of factories, shops, offices and worksites has impacted millions of workers.
With this in mind, the Prime Minister announced an economic stimulus package worth ₹20 lakh crore in May. However, the State Bank of India predicts a GDP contraction of over 40% for the first quarter of the year. Despite this, the eCommerce sector has seen huge demand over the last few months.
eCommerce in a pandemic
One of the saving graces of the pandemic is that technology means we’re all more connected. Whether it’s staying in touch with loved ones, checking the latest news, or ordering essentials, technology can facilitate many everyday tasks.
As shops across the world have closed their doors, consumers have flocked to online stores for their shopping needs. In many countries, there has been a surge in online sales. People quarantined at home are buying food and groceries, as well as products like sports and baking equipment.
However, as with every industry, there have been challenges during the pandemic. Here are some of the positives and negatives eCommerce businesses have experienced:
Certain areas of eCommerce have seen particular growth over the last few months. Grocery delivery and healthcare supply, in particular, have seen an increase in orders. Not only does this provide people with much-needed provisions, but it also keeps the economy moving. There has also been a rise in the number of first-time people using the web to order their shopping.
Perhaps the biggest challenge online retailers have faced is that of supply chains and distribution. Quarantines have meant disruption to many networks, making certain items hard to come by. Not only this, but there is also the struggle of making sure employees are safe and healthy. Contactless delivery brings its own challenges, as does the risk of people price gouging and artificially inflating prices.
Although India’s Unlock 1.0 has seen stores reopen, many people are reluctant to return to physical shopping. At the height of the country’s lockdown, eCommerce retailers were facing challenges because of the restrictions. Some estimates suggested the sector could have lost as much as $400 million worth of sales. However, since restrictions have eased, the industry has begun to thrive.
In terms of pure growth, India has seen a 112% increase year-on-year, with a 79% increase in the two weeks to June 8. This recent growth was in part thanks to the lifting of restrictions on what major online retailers can sell.
The future of eCommerce in India
The pandemic has no doubt changed the future of eCommerce. With social distancing measures and other safety protocols in place, it’s going to be a while before high street businesses are back to full capacity. As such, it’s highly likely that eCommerce will go from strength to strength.
We’ve already seen such a phenomenon in China. Since their lockdown was lifted, the trend of online shopping has continued. Despite an overall dip in retail sales, online sales saw an increase of 8.6%. Industry experts accredit this to the uncertainty around the virus, as well as the value for money and convenience of shopping online.
Experts predict a similar trend once India’s Unlock 1.0 is in full swing. Once the country recovers from the impact of COVID-19, they expect that brands will spend the majority of their advertising budgets on digital ventures.
The start of this move to online retail is already evident in India. Many companies are hiring for eCommerce and delivery roles, as the demand for certain products continues to rise.
The need for online retail skills after India’s Unlock 1.0
Despite the disruption caused by the pandemic in India, recruitment drives in the eCommerce sector continue. Companies such as Vedantu, Dream Sports, Licious and FarEye have all appointed new people at the top level of their organisations.
These practices are evident in other digital sectors too, especially those that haven’t been as affected by the virus. Data centres, gaming, and software-as-a-service companies are all on the lookout for new talent. As such, there is a need for those with digital skills in online retail and beyond.
Even before the COVID-19 crisis, experts had identified the growth potential for Indian eCommerce. With the popularity of online marketplaces, local small and medium-sized businesses are also able to get involved with selling their goods online.
With things like data and mobile phones becoming more affordable and readily available, this also represents an opportunity for online retail. More people outside of metropolitan areas will have access to the internet, connecting consumers and small retailers to the rest of the country.
This potential for growth means that digital skills will be a valuable asset for professionals. There will be a need for skilled people at all stages of the eCommerce process, from the design and planning to the distribution.
Although there is a clear opportunity for eCommerce in India, many companies aren’t quite ready for it. According to one study, while 87% of Indian companies recognised the importance of digital skills, 65% admitted they don’t have a clear roadmap to meet these needs.
What skills are needed to work in eCommerce?
So, the outlook for eCommerce after India’s Unlock 1.0 seems positive. But what skills do you need to get into the digital retail space? In reality, eCommerce is a sector that has many different job roles and opportunities. No matter where your interests lie, you’re sure to find a career full of excitement and potential for progression.
Below, we’ve outlined just some of the useful skills for those looking to enter the world of online sales and marketing. We’ve also included some relevant courses that can help you learn the foundations of each of these areas.
Digital marketing can help businesses of all sizes grow and reach new customers. It’s also a field with many different elements. As well as things like display and pay-per-click advertising, digital marketers focus on content optimisation, emails, and CRM.
For those looking to master some of the basics of this discipline, our Digital Marketing course explores the fundamentals. Over the span of two weeks, you’ll look at several different types of digital marketing, as well as some of the strategies and tools that marketers use.
If you’re looking for something a little more detailed, our course on market segmentation explores how businesses make use of the digital economy to target potential customers.
Product managers existed long before the digital revolution. They’re ultimately responsible for the success of a product, meaning they have to get involved with the planning, sourcing, and bringing products to the market. For digital product managers, these products could be almost anything, physical or otherwise.
On our Digital Product Management course, you’ll learn about various aspects of this role. Along with assessing market data and creating requirements, you’ll need to manage handing the product to sales and marketing teams. This course covers these elements, as well as some of the modern product management methods commonly used in eCommerce.
Analytics is big business at the moment. Companies of all sizes are using data insights to inform their decisions. In eCommerce, analytics are essential for assessing how products and sales are performing and what customers want from their online shopping experience.
There are all kinds of courses available related to data analysis. This one on web analytics explores some of the basics of the topics, such as how they’re used and why online companies need such information. You’ll also look at how to use Google Analytics to drive business insight.
For those who want to focus more on the marketing side of analytics, we also have a course for you. This five-week course on marketing analytics explores how to use data to improve marketing results.
Digital devices are becoming an essential part of our lives. The way we interact with them often seems intuitive and straightforward. However, this ease of use comes from user experience (UX) design and research. It’s a field that looks at how people interact with digital interfaces such as eCommerce websites.
With our digital skills course on user experience, you’ll examine the fundamentals of UX. This includes topics such as what good and bad UX looks like, and how the design process works. You’ll also explore some of the tools and testing methods commonly used in the field.
Computer programs are used in so many different parts of the eCommerce process. Programmers are required to build things like systems to manage online products, payment solutions and checkout tools. They’re also needed for things like reporting, security, and warehouse management.
Programming is one of the most useful digital skills around, in eCommerce and beyond. So, if you’re hoping to build your knowledge after India’s Unlock 1.0, our Start Programming with Python program is a great place to start. It covers all of the basics of computing concepts and will help you create your very own code in the Python programming language.
It seems like just about everyone is on one social media platform or another these days, even companies. It’s because of this wide adoption that it’s such a useful tool for eCommerce. As well as helping promote and sell products, it’s a tool for building your brand and connecting with new customers.
If you’re hoping to one day become a social media manager, you’ll need to know how to create a marketing campaign. Our course explores what a successful social media campaign looks like, and how you can measure that success. It also examines the strengths and weaknesses of various social platforms.
If you really want to get ahead of the curve when it comes to eCommerce, artificial intelligence could be the way to go. AI has the potential to replace roles in the sector, as well as create opportunities for those who can integrate them.
Our digital skills course on artificial intelligence serves as an introduction to the topic. You’ll look at how it’s used, as well as how it impacts businesses. Finally, the course looks at the future of AI.
As well as the hard skills we’ve mentioned above, there are many soft skills that are essential in eCommerce. Working on these areas while India’s Unlock 1.0 progresses, you can prepare for your next role.
Some of the skills that are especially useful are things like communication, leadership, and management. In addition, project management and emotional intelligence are highly sought-after in just about every industry.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted us all and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Although many industries across the world have suffered from the lockdowns, economies are starting to move again. With the relaxing of restrictions, as with India’s Unlock 1.0, many businesses can start trading again. However, many people are still using online retailers when they shop.
The eCommerce industry in India and beyond has largely weathered the storm for now. Amid continued growth, businesses are starting to hire people for the future. As such, digital eCommerce skills can be invaluable for those looking to enter the industry.