The rise of ecommerce is not a new story. Businesses of all sizes have been rapidly expanding their virtual footprint on the Internet to claim their slice of the digital economic pie. Nonetheless, the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic has led to the rise of a new ecommerce boom as much of the world went into lockdown, which forced many businesses to temporarily shut down operations.
Despite restrictions being relaxed, new procedures have been put in place that requires customers to wear masks, practice social distancing and limit the maximum number of people that can be in a store at any given time. Even with all of these rules and regulations in place, we still live in a world where a spike in the number of cases can lead to restrictions being imposed and in the case of total lockdowns, this can spell dire economic consequences for businesses. As such, local businesses may suffer immeasurable losses and traditional shopping may never be the same again.
While the general idea of ecommerce is to scale upwards, moving from local to regional to global, it also works the other way around: strengthening the local community’s resiliency.
For starters, small businesses are the economic backbone of their local communities and they are simply the best at catering to and fulfilling the needs of community’s consumer base. As such, there is no need for SMEs to reinvent the wheel when it comes to designing a local strategy around their ecommerce platform. By integrating their online presence with smaller scale business analytics, the insights gleaned are more precise. These insights can play a vital role in helping entrepreneurs plan their inventory, predict demand and tailor a data-backed plan to optimize sales while reaching out to as many neighborhoods as possible.
In addition, ecommerce activity does not need to take place on a website or an online marketplace. A simple messaging app like WhatsApp Business can open up even more avenues and opportunities as it requires lower digital literacy, ensuring inclusivity for wider group of customers, an especially important factor for senior business owners and operators. To take advantage of its simplicity, local SMEs can mobilize their resources to automate their customer journey via an AI-powered chatbot. This technology does not only provides round-the-clock accessibility but also an intelligent assistant within the app to guide customers from browsing to checking out.
Contrary to working alone, local SMEs can also band together to form an all-in-one ecommerce platform that offers close-to-home shopping experience. By digitalizing familiar neighborhood stores into an interoperable, supportive and secure environment, customers can patronize their favorite local businesses online even if non-essential business have to shutter their physical stores. Furthermore, as a community-based ecommerce marketplace, the platform may also offer the option for curbside pickup as distance is no longer an issue while abiding to the lockdown rules that restricts inter-district travel.
As it currently stands, the term “shop local” is no longer just a slogan. The restrictions caused by the coronavirus saw shoppers opt for closer alternatives, discovering local specialties they never considered or heard of before. Now, shop local represents the evolution of the buyer’s behavior. In order to cater to this new trend, ecommerce has to be decentralized and based on the community to not only highlight the critical importance of small businesses but supports the economy within the nation as well.