The pandemic forced the traditional brick-and-mortar retail industry to go digital. It was a take it or lose it situation for the retailers, and they were not left with any other option than adopting online commerce.
According to a retail tech company, SnapBizz, over 1 million retail shops went digital and delivered orders at the customers' doorstep.
During the first wave of Covid, we could see many retailers shutting down as the revenues hit ground zero with a complete lockdown. And at the same time, many others were agile enough to understand the nuances of online shopping and started working on click-and-collect services, setting up their own web and mobile applications, and partnering with the last-mile delivery companies to keep their business moving forward.
And now again with the second wave, more than 50 percent of the consumers who usually used to buy from the retail stores have started ordering from the digital stores. Though there is no complete lockdown in most of the states, people are afraid to step outside due to the fear of getting infected. We have witnessed a shift in consumer behavior as they opt for digital stores and door deliveries rather than visit-and-buy models.
As the demand for last-mile/ door deliveries has gone up, retailers are facilitating the order deliveries with the help of last-mile delivery service companies. Logistics service companies are flexible in offering slot-based deliveries, same-day deliveries, and on-demand deliveries giving that extra mile comfort to consumers and retailers. There has been a 40 percent growth in retail deliveries at WhistleDrive compared to the same time last year.
But on the other hand, as the demand for groceries and essential items has increased, the order deliveries are getting delayed. In major cities like Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, orders are taking more than a week to be delivered. Many working in the last-mile delivery have either got affected due to COVID-19 or are not working due to the fear of getting infected.
The retailers of non-essential items are facing a huge setback due to the second wave of Covid, especially fashion retailers.
According to ICRA, the industry was recovering well with sales touching over 70 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels by the December quarter of 2020, but with the Covid cases rising again and major cities going on lockdown, the sales slowed down.
The grocery and essential items retailers have reached their pre-Covid numbers in Q3 of 2021, but non-essential goods retailers are expected to touch pre-Covid revenues by the end of 2023.
The demand for online commerce is only going to rise, be it for the flexibility of door-step delivery or customized delivery time slots, the retail industry will undergo a paradigm shift from brick-and-mortar stores to online stores. At the same, we will also witness many breakthroughs in last-mile delivery models and technology integrations, offering greater comfort for the end customers.