This report provides an overview of how leading e-commerce companies responded to the COVID-19 crisis between January and March 2020. The companies included in this report are Alibaba, Amazon, eBay, Farfetch, Flipkart, JD.com, Jumia, MercadoLibre, Pinduoduo, Shopify and Zalando. Key strategies employed in this quarter included accelerating planned investments, finding creative ways to boost category coverage, and developing plans to support smaller partners.
Worldwide, consumers turned to digital channels in the first quarter of 2020, as governments mandated that non-essential businesses in many markets close, bricks-and-mortar stores faced shortages of certain product categories, and many consumers became concerned about the safety of visiting physical store locations due to the risk of being exposed to the virus. Pure e-commerce, omnichannel efforts such as click-and-collect, and last mile delivery services all saw sales grow rapidly.
Marketplaces around the world faced calls to prevent their sellers from engaging in exploitative pricing on key products amidst record demand for these products, such as masks and hand sanitiser. Most major marketplaces enacted measures to identify and remove sellers engaging in price gouging, but many struggled to do so quickly and accurately. Marketplaces also faced pressure to restrict the language sellers could use in listings to prevent items from being marketed as COVID cures.
While e-commerce sites did not face the widespread closures affecting many bricks-and-mortar locations in the first quarter of the year, some online players were forced to close certain warehouses due to being declared non-essential. Amazon, for example, was forced to close its warehouses in France, and luxury resale platform The RealReal was also forced to close its California-based warehouses.
Many consumers bought groceries and other household essentials online for the first time during early 2020, to avoid going to stores. Demand for grocery delivery in particular exceeded companies’ ability to fulfil orders; for example, Amazon temporarily closed its online grocery service in the US to new customers as a result. While demand is likely to stabilise, the long-term trend towards online grocery sales has likely been sharply accelerated.
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