Online shopping

“The Future of E-commerce has Arrived”

April 13, 2021
Bernard Biolchini of Dematic discusses post-COVID commerce trends at Hannover Messe 2021.

One of the many topics surrounding this year’s Hannover Messe (fittingly a virtual conference for the second year in a row) is post-COVID adaptation. This applies to everything from connectivity gaps in your own home office to circumventing industrial bottlenecks due to supply chain gaps and the physical gaps between workers required by governmental agencies.

On Tuesday, Bernard Biolchini, EVP, EMEA of Dematic, gave a presentation on how e-commerce is changing the commerce market and how we can take advantage those changes in a post-COVID economy.

“Sustainability, customer service and economic efficiency are continuing to be the focus,” he said.

He explained the four phases of a crisis (in this case, COVID-19) posed by Mattias Horx:

  • Initial phase: We recognized the pandemic and prepared to fight it.
  • Habituation: We became accustomed to living through the pandemic.
  • Exhaustion (we are here): Our patience is wearing down from lockdown restrictions.
  • Homecoming and hope: There will be an emergence of a “new normal.”

During the pandemic, the global trade industry has experienced production bottlenecks, delivery failure, standstills and delays in transporting materials. Despite all of that, Biolchini noted, COVID has accelerated growth in e-commerce, e-food and diversification of sales channels.

“The shift to online ordering—click and collect—and home delivery is favored by the rising expectation of speed,” he said. “That’s what we call ‘the tyranny of now.’”

Biolchini noted that consumers are more willing to pay for convenience and to give up brand loyalty for the sake of speed. According to data from Statista, in 2020, retail e-commerce sales worldwide amounted to $4.28 trillion.

According to data presented by Biolchini, physical stores are not expected to disappear despite the rise in e-commerce because of the desired consumer experience. He also noted that the future of e-commerce will be defined by three factors: shoppers, stores and supply chains.

“Post-pandemic retailers will have to consider how to make the in-store shopping experience feel innovative and completely fresh,” he advised.

After COVID, Biolchini predicted a “pendulum swing” in which we’ll see an uptick in in-person shopping and a decrease in e-commerce. He advised retailers and B2B traders to integrate online and in-person businesses to advance the customer experience while keeping costs low.

He also explained that supply chains are still too rigid to support this new boom in commerce. He suggested implementing a more localized supply chain could help mitigate future disruptions. The use of AI, robotics and digitalization is also expected to increase to keep up with the demand required by logistics to fulfill orders.

“One thing is clear: The future of e-commerce has arrived,” Biolchini said.

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