Transformation of the E-commerce and Industry Landscape Due to COVID-19
The travel, aviation, lodging, food service, and performance industries, which seemed to never decline, have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The highly contagious COVID-19 that is deadly enough to have caused more than two million deaths has already left many people stuck at home.
As such, COVID-19 has prevented many activities that previously took place outside the home. However, there is an activity that has shown tremendous growth utilizing the space of the home; and that is consumption. The compensation mentality caused by restrained activities and the desire to relieve stress exploded the desire to spend money, resulting in the creation of the new term “Home economy (Home + Economy)”. Home economy, which means “all economic activities take place at home,” resulted in the transaction of many goods mainly consumed offline being moved to the E-commerce market.
Paradoxically, the tragedy of humanity resulting from COVID-19 has become a catalyst for the further explosive development of the E-commerce market, which has grown exponentially. Accordingly, the emergence of digital transformation with various cutting-edge technologies in the consumer markets is rapidly changing the landscape of the e-commerce industry.
E-Commerce Transferring from Information Transmission to Consumer Experience
Existing e-commerce was conducted mainly in the form that consumers spend their money at home through websites, mobile phones, and home shopping channels. It was a consumption method where consumers judge products and make purchase decisions based only on information that suppliers unilaterally deliver. Since consumers cannot actually wear or touch the product, they have no choice but to rely on the image or description provided by the suppliers. Consumer reviews were also welcomed as an indirect means of experiencing a product at the beginning of its introduction, but it revealed its limitations as suppliers intervened in reviews in various forms.
However, recently, E-commerce has been rapidly changing into a form of two-way information exchange by incorporating virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies into real-time streaming services. The most prominent E-commerce trend is ‘streaming commerce,’ whereby suppliers use streaming platforms to introduce products through real-time videos, show consumers the images where they actually use the products, and even exchanges Q&A directly through chat service.
Suppliers introduce the product by recruiting celebrities or influencers that the potential customers of the product prefer in order to increase the purchasing appeal of the product. Consumers participate in ‘streaming commerce’ not only for purchasing products, but also to communicate with the celebrities or influencers that they like.
‘Social commerce,’ which directly connects shopping activities with SNS platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, is also showing remarkable growth as the use of social media platforms has exploded due to COVID-19 pandemic. Products that value a sense of space, such as furniture, home appliances, and interior products are eliminating E-commerce’s limitation of lack of consumer experience by combining VR and AR technologies with two-way communication service.
In line with this, various ordering and payment methods are also being introduced. Subscription-based regular payments for foodstuffs and cosmetics are increasing, and the process is extremely simplified so that payments can be made immediately with a single tap during real-time broadcasting. Installment payments, which are a general form of purchase in Korea, but not overseas, are rapidly expanding overseas in the forms of ‘pay over time’ or ‘pay later.’
Fulfillment, a Logistics Innovation for Suppliers
The innovative trend of E-commerce not only benefits consumers. Suppliers can also conveniently and quickly supply products to consumers through fulfillment, which has become the hottest topic in the logistics industry since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fulfilment goes beyond a simple delivery concept like a courier system. It refers to the entire process of storing products at the distribution center, by picking, packing, and delivering products when orders are received; and it handles exchanges of products and refunds at the request of consumers. The terminology and concept itself were created by Amazon in 1999, and it was an innovation that completely shifted the old paradigms, so that the suppliers store products and then deliver the products after aggregating the orders periodically.
The innovation achieved by fulfilment is proved at the distribution center. It was transformed from the existing function that stores the products in bulk into a logistics hub that categorizes multi-kind and small-quantity products using various systems, and delivers them from time to time. Thanks to such transformation, suppliers can deliver the products to the door of a consumer’s house the next day, transforming Amazon, which began simply as an online bookstore, into the world’s largest retail dinosaur today. Rocket delivery service of ‘Coupang,’ which is now familiar to Korean people, is also a service that transforms Amazon’s fulfilment service befitting to the domestic situation.
Further Stronger Co-existence of E-commerce and Fulfillment
Today, consumers are enjoying more convenient, simpler, and faster services simultaneously. Accordingly, E-commerce is expected to apply two-way information exchange technologies in various forms based on 5G communication technology in order to resolve the lack of consumer experience providing more opportunities for consumer experiences, such as “live commerce.” Fulfilment will evolve into a form of customized service that can meet the diverse needs of customers, overcoming the existing quantitative growth.
As the E-commerce industry grows, fulfilment should maintain the pace of change to meet the expectations of consumers. Sudden growth has made everyone feel embarrassed, but as consumers look forward to the next step, adapting quickly and taking the lead will now be key to the logistics industry.