How has COVID-19 changed the global eCommerce world?
Posted on June 11, 2020 by Alistair Hardaker
Israeli eCommerce companies
Alon Gehlber, CMO, Revuze
Revuze has built a machine-learning system to analyse customer opinion and extract insight.
“There have been many changes in consumer tastes. COVID-19 has changed the way we shop. Brands are trying to understand how consumer tastes are changing and create new products and evolve existing products to adapt to these changes. What we’re seeing is brands who listen to their consumers come up as the winners.
“During the panic phase of COVID-19 it was only a matter of item availability. Whoever had product sold them. Availability became a huge subject of chatter. Three to four months ago it wasn’t even in the top 50 list of priorities, now it’s in the top five or 10.”
Gehlber said stock availability has impacted on consumer loyalty and gave the example of AirPods. “All the branded ones, which cost hundreds of dollars, were the best sellers,” he explained. “All of a sudden they had supply chain issues and people needed wireless headphones with good noise cancellation.
“Some of the Chinese ones and non-branded ones were a lot cheaper and people loved them. Brands are going to be forced to work much harder to justify higher costs.”
Barak Yaari, CTO, Scrapezone
Scrapezone is a data as a service and analytics start-up from Israel. Its platform can scrap data on virtually any subject.
“We realised there’s a lot of need for data, specifically in the eCommerce world,” he said. “We’ve designed and made a platform for SaaS for data-scraping. We can basically bring you any type of data that you want.
“With COVID-19 we saw a big increase in different types of data and people are digging deeper into the data. We scan millions of products a day and one example is office supplies. People started buying less laser printers, paper shredders and stuff like that.
“You can see that people have moved to work from home and (sales of) label printers grew by 300 per cent a week. Eventually people wanted more paper and ink.”
Yaron Saghiv, CMO, UvEye
UVeye provides high-end AI solutions for automatic external inspection of vehicles. Within seconds of scanning a vehicle it can identify any problem. Toyota and Volvo have both invested in UvEye.
“UvEye is essentially like a science fiction scanner that scans your car and within seconds it can tell you if there are any problems,” he said.
“In the automotive sector we’ve seen some interesting things as a result of COVID-19. For example selling second hand vehicles has moved very quickly to online. They’ve had no choice but to take very traditional things and pull them online. Whole inventories have gone online.”
Saghiv said they’ve added sensors to their technology that can indicate if a driver has a high temperature, which is one of the symptoms of COVID-19.
Avi Assa, CEO, 3DSellers
3DSellers helps eBay sellers increase sales. Its applications help other eBay sellers stand out from the competition.
“Our business has been about helping eBay sellers for the last 10 years,” he said. “Our mission is to help eBay sellers to spread beyond eBay to other channels.
“With COVID-19 we saw an increase of between 20-30 per cent to our platform. Our connections with our customers also got stronger and the conversations with our customers have changed. Before COVID-19 they wanted new features all the time. Now they want to make sure what they do is right.”
Ofir Yahav, CEO, Prandz
Prandz is start-up that helps brands achieve higher engagement rates with consumers by becoming publishers delivering high quality content.
“Brands stopped advertising before the crisis began,” he said. “That creates an opportunity for them to invest more into their assets, like their website.
“They have the opportunity of delivering things for free to users, like content. That will lead to better engagement. Now is the time to come back and think of new initiatives.”
Dean Pogroske, director of sales, Riskified
Unicorn tech firm Riskified helps merchants convert as same sales as possible and prevent fraud. Its machine-learning algorithms recognise legitimate customers and keep them moving towards conversion.
“People don’t normally put ‘fraud prevention’ and ‘customer acquisition’ or ‘customer experience’ in the same sentence,” he said. “During COVID we’ve seen the importance of having a good fraud system in place.
“It’s been interesting to see how different industries have been affected at different times by COVID. At the beginning there was a lot of panic-buying. People couldn’t get enough toilet roll and hand sanitisers.
“Then we moved into the transition phase. This is where people said ‘I need to set up a home office’ and we saw spikes in these associated industries.
“The third phase we’re currently in is the stabalisation phase. People are taking up new hobbies. One of the industries that we do work with that has been negatively affected is travel.
“We saw a huge spoke in first-time online shoppers and it will be interesting to see if this continues over the next three to six months.”
UK eCommerce companies
Jeremy Dodds, business development manager, GoInStore
Described as the ‘FaceTime for retailers’ GoInStore offers the store experience for online customers. Powered by live video it connects website customers with store experts. It’s used by the likes of Currys PC World, Sofology, Brompton and Mamas & Papas.
“We’re like a live chat on a website,” he said. “The customer taps a button and we find the most qualified or relevant sales expert for them.
“There was a moment (with COVID-19) when we were potentially going into a bit of crisis management but within a week everyone said ‘this is a solution right now’ and the phone started ringing. Call volumes increased from the beginning to the end of March by 1,000 per cent.
“Very quickly we saw companies were using us to either pull staff out of furlough or prevent them going into furlough.
“When someone uses the GoInStore service on a website between 15-30 per cent of those customers will go on to make a purchase.
“Previously someone who would have gone into a store to make a more considered purchase simply doesn’t have the option to do that so they were forced online and that’s when they needed some help.”
David Duke, COO, Visualsoft
Visualsoft helps retailers grow their businesses online. It employs more than 200 people and has a turnover of £18m.
“We’ve gone through a bit of a rollercoaster,” he said. “The first three or four weeks felt more like crisis management. There was a lot of pressure on our client-facing teams to engage with our retailers on how they’d been affected. We got to the stage where we actively helped about 90 of our clients.
“The worst case scenario for us would have been if we’d got to the stage of there being no despatch delivery at all but it never got that far. We started to see some really good numbers come through the platform.”
Elizabeth Clark, co-founder at Dream AI (T/A Dream Agility)
Dream AI is an award-winning advertising technology company based in Ramsbottom. Last year its clients saw an average increase in sales of 38 per cent and a 49 per cent return in ad spend.
“Everyone panicked at the start of the pandemic and then it settled down,” she said. “We had one little company that turned over £900,000 last year and this year they were able to turnover £1.4m in the top five weeks of lockdown.
“If you think about the normal conversion rate of an eCommerce website it’s 3 per cent. 97 per cent of traffic doesn’t convert. You don’t just want browsers and that’s been the focus of how we’ve done things.”
Stewart Reynolds, sales and marketing director, Shopblocks
Manchester-based Shopblocks is a hosted eCommerce platform. If you want to run an online shop it aims to equip you with everything you need.
“Since the start of the lockdown we’ve had an increase of 50 per cent in our staff levels,” he said. “We’ve recruited around a dozen new hires.
“Q2 is already just about a record quarter for us. From a business point of view we’ve never been busier. We’ve had more organic inquiries than ever before. As people are waking up to the new normal we’ve seen people try to pivot their business online.
“We quickly flipped our road map development to support the service industry more than ever before. We turned on eCommerce mode for menu sites, your restaurants, cafes and bars etc. We’ve had about 150 sites sign up to start selling food and drink online.
“In terms of our actual customer base that’s grown through this period. In terms of transactional revenue on our platform I think we’ve seen 160 per cent increase in revenue.”
Sean Brown, founder and CEO, Mercarto
Mercarto allows budding entrepreneurs to set up and find stock for their online shop. It provides a full suite of eCommerce tools including a store builder, product management, hosting, order management and payment.
“COVID-19 has been positive and negative for the business,” he said. “We stopped all marketing but we still saw steady growth. On the other side we needed suppliers to the platform.
“With the enterprise side of the business our pipeline was massive with retailers looking to go to a more marketplace model and then the lockdown happened and it completely dried up. Now we’re starting to see more demand for a marketplace model because a lot of retailers were caught with stock left in their warehouses. The retailers want to be retailers and allow the fulfilment partners to take care of that on their behalf.”
Hilary Large, brand and marketing director, Forever Unique
Flagship eCommerce retailer Forever Unique specialises in providing accessible and affordable designer fashion for ladies and its clothes are often worn by celebrities on the red carpet. The cancellation of events like proms and weddings because of COVID-19 saw its revenue drop significantly but customers have started to return.
“Forever Unique is an occasion wear retailer for women,” she said. “We felt COVID coming and I knew that would be very difficult for us. We immediately wanted to pivot into softer lounge wear.
“The good thing is we listened and our customers spoke. One of my colleagues created a Facebook group which now has 4,000 members. That group has been invaluable in finding out what sort of content they want us to post, what type of products they want us to show them. That group will be involved going forward.
“We wouldn’t have done that but for COVID. Our customers are starting to come back. They’re thinking about holidays and weddings that have been postponed.”