As we all know, the alarming spread of corona virus or Covid-19 has resulted in a global pandemic. Plagues and widespread diseases have changed the world before this, and it seems like it’s happening again. In addition to the many changes we’re seeing in our daily lives—working from home, shorter office hours–there’s no doubt that the map has also changed drastically for online businesses in Pakistan.
At a glance, we might think that online businesses–and e-commerce all over the world, for that matter—are raking in the profits due to increased sales. After all, many people are choosing to stay at home and order what they want using an online platform. Even if certain groups can’t or won’t stay at home, the brick-and-mortar stores are open for only limited hours (if they open at all). As a result, most people who can afford to order groceries and other items online are utilizing online services. This increases sales for those who already have their operations online.
It might also be easier for online businesses to deliver their parcels. There’s relatively less traffic on the road, fuel is cheaper, and buyers are usually at home to receive their orders. More people are also getting used to ordering online, which again translates into more sales.
However, it seems like the arrival of corona has also brought its share of problems for online traders. First of all, economic uncertainty isn’t good news for most kinds of businesses. Online businesses have definitely taken a hit due to the lowered income of their potential consumer base. Even those who can afford to shop online are holding back a bit as they don’t know what the future holds. Those who are living off their savings or have lost their main means of livelihood will obviously not think about ordering luxuries or even necessities if they can do without them for some time.
Some online businesses are based on services, such as GharPar. This is a service that sends beauticians, massage therapists, and similar professionals to one’s home so that they can get their beauty treatments done in their comfort zones. With the Covid-19 situation in place, profit margins for such businesses are expected to decline quite drastically.
Moreover, many potential buyers are also wary of ordering anything online due to the fear of this contagious virus. Even regular customers might not want to order from their favorite restaurant or cafe–at least not as frequently as they did before. Naturally, this will diminish the amount of orders that a food-based business gets. The losses have been tremendous, though most ventures are probably downsizing accordingly in order to remain in operation.
There’s also the fact that online businesses are probably facing more competition these days. The online store websites like https://shopexpress.com.pk, https://daraz.pk etc are increasing day by day in Pakistan who offers products on cheap shipping rates. For instance, consider a business model that focuses on delivering groceries to their customers’ doorstep in pre-covid times. These services were great for people who couldn’t venture out of the house due to having small babies at home, odd working hours, old age, illness, or some other reason. Now, however, the largest supermarkets have started offering online services for their products as well. If these larger organizations start offering regular deliveries at lower prices, online businesses who made this service their specialty are probably suffering losses.
Finally, one can also say that there are some changes in the way that online businesses have to conduct themselves. Take the payment method, for example; before the advent of the Corona virus, many people chose Cash on Delivery (COD) as the most convenient means of payment. However, more buyers are now asking for direct bank transfers in order to avoid the exchange of actual cash notes. This precaution might be convenient, but it also means that online businesses have to include this option when offering their goods or services. The lack of alternatives for bank transfers is glaringly apparent now; while other countries have Venmo-Share Payments or PayPal, such services still haven’t’ made much headway in Pakistan.
Another change is with respect to the customer service provided by these online businesses. Some vendors are attaching alcohol swabs to the outside of the packages they deliver. Others even include tiny complimentary bottles of hand sanitizer. Even little things like this go a long way with the customer, so online businesses now need to consider such steps in order to retain their buyers.
At the end of the day, the hard reality is no one knows how long the Covid-19 situation will last. Many brick-and-mortar stores have already closed down for good, while online businesses face their own challenges. Even if corona virus cases start declining very soon, the Pakistani market has probably changed for good. Online businesses should hence start learning from the patterns and scenarios that they have to face today; this will help them understand their customers better and assist in developing their strategies for the future.
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