Online shopping picks up on coronavirus panic

As global companies scale down operations due to the effect of coronavirus, the e-commerce industry is busy keeping up with the increased orders growing day by day.

The disease has seen many people keep indoors reducing social contacts, and one of the places being avoided includes the supermarkets.

Filling in the gap, e-commerce companies are scaling up their operations to meet the growing demand for door-to-door deliveries.

“There is a growing demand for the day to day stuff such as sugar, milk, water, flour, and handwash among other items, whose uptake has now shot up in our platform,” says Sam Chappate, Chief Executive Officer, Jumia Kenya.

“We are watching closely the developments and engaging the support of our logistic partners,” he says.

The company says it currently works with 15 retail outlets but would scale up anytime if the demand calls for.

Online firm Sendy on Monday also announced that it would be collaborating with retail outlet Tuskys to offer door-to-door deliveries at the time when many are reducing social contact due to the coronavirus.

The move will see Tuskys customers make purchases of groceries from the comfort of their homes and have them delivered to their doorsteps, hence avoiding the crowded areas.

The program currently available to Nairobi’s T-Mall, Embakasi, Westlands, Athi River outlets will be rolled out to all outlets in line with the retailer’s growth strategy.

Naivas, which entered a partnership with on-demand courier service Glovo in July 2019, said it will continue delivering goods to customers at home.

In a statement, Glovo said they expect to remain active during this time offering support and services to deliver essentials such as food, groceries and pharmaceuticals to customers.

“It is a very difficult moment for our partners, many of whom have been hit the hardest by social distancing measures. Around 90 percent of our partners are independent restaurants and we have been working closely with restaurant and business associations, not only on supply chain issues but to try and help the industry navigate the uncertainty surrounding this pandemic,” said Glovo’s Priscilla Muhiu, Head of Marketing and Growth, Africa.

“Our external legal counsel has commenced engagement with the National Treasury to consider various proposals that will cushion businesses and individuals from the impact of Covid-19 and we are collecting inputs on their behalf from our partners. We are also working closely with riders to better understand their needs and keep improving the operations, in these moments their role is as relevant,”she added.

Glovo’s Priscilla Muhiu, Head of Marketing and Growth, Africa (PHOTO: Courtesy)

Globally big e-commerce companies are scaling up their operations with Amazon on Monday announcing it will hire 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers in the United States to deal with a surge in online orders, as many consumers have turned to the web to meet their needs during the coronavirus outbreak.

Like Amazon, U.S. supermarket chains Albertsons, Kroger and Raley’s have sought new hires to staff busy sections and fulfill online orders. They are turning to people in the restaurant, travel and entertainment businesses who are suddenly looking for work because of the coronavirus.

"We want those people to know we welcome them on our teams until things return to normal and their past employer can bring them back," Amazon said in a blog post.

The coronavirus, which has led to more than 7,100 deaths globally and prompted mass lockdowns of people, has also led to items being out of stock on Amazon and some deliveries taking longer than usual.

Amazon’s headcount fluctuates seasonally, recently peaking for the holiday quarter at 798,000 full and part-time workers. It was not immediately clear how many people Amazon would employ after it hires 100,000 more.

To draw new employees, Amazon said it would add Sh200 to its minimum Sh1500 per hour to U.S. workers’ wages through April.

In South Korea, mask-wearing workers at a logistics center run by e-commerce firm Coupang Corp race to disinfect trucks and load thousands of boxes of microwavable rice, disposable diapers, and kitchen towels.

“In the past, we used to go out with the truck half full, but these days, there’s so much to deliver there are leftover packages after filling the truck,” 27-year-old Jung Im-hong, a contract delivery driver, told Reuters.

Even before the epidemic, South Korea was expected to become the world’s No. 3 e-commerce market this year after China and the United States, according to Euromonitor, a remarkable statistic for a nation of just 51.7 million.

Now as the country emerges as a critical hotspot in the global epidemic with the most cases outside China, its shift to online shopping is only gathering speed.

Coupang has seen deliveries climb to 3 million daily since mid-February from around 2.2 million per day late last year.

But the surge in orders, mostly for low-margin goods such as household items and fresh produce, maybe a double-edged sword as delivery costs also balloon, potentially setting the 10-year old firm even further back in its quest for profitability, analysts said.

“It’s difficult, there’s so much to deliver,” said Yoo Min-hyuck, who oversees one of Coupang’s logistics centers in Incheon.

For each shift, the center can now call on about 100 part-time workers, who use their own cars to handle overflow, whereas previously about half that number would line up for work.

Additional reporting by Reuters

Premium State steps up plan for another Eurobond to pay Sh269b loan
Housing levy will address indignity of slum life: Ruto
Premium Court awards ex-bank manager Sh4.3m for unlawful sacking
Kenya has positioned itself as trade and investment hub