New E-Commerce Trends Are Driving Demand for Skilled Workers

According to a Statista survey (2021), e-retail business accounted for $4.2 trillion in 2020 alone, with healthy projections for the future.
New E-Commerce Trends Are Driving Demand for Skilled Workers

Change is the only constant. The same goes true for consumer behavior. The ways of doing business and reaching customers are constantly evolving. E-commerce has been both the driver and the savior of many businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a Statista survey (2021), e-retail business accounted for $4.2 trillion in 2020 alone, with healthy projections for the future. 

The new ‘kid on the block’ is Social Commerce which enables businesses and consumers to leverage social media for marketing and sales -- both offline and online. According to industry experts, the business generated from Social Commerce was around $2 billion in 2020, which is set to touch the $100 billion mark by 2030. In this landscape, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for businesses today. E-commerce comes in various shapes and sizes, making it fluid like water:

•         The B2B (Business to Business) model enables one business to trade with another -- be it products or services. For example, Human Resource companies hire (or contract) talent for various companies, and raw-material providers source material for companies that process them to make finished goods.

•         The D2C (Direct to Consumer) model, as the name suggests enables businesses to sell their products or services to consumers directly negating the need for intermediaries. Businesses are now selling everything from coffee to cosmetics, and health products and services, to consumers directly. To take an example, the Indian food delivery market is expected to grow from $4.66 billion in 2020 to $21.41 billion by 2026.

•         The C2C (Consumer to Consumer) model is where private consumers connect with other consumers to sell products or services. It is facilitated by third-party companies. Some of the biggest e-commerce sites in the world offer such platforms. An example of this would be the e-commerce sites where you can sell your old furniture.

•         The O2O (Online to Offline) model is where customers check out products first on online channels, and they are then enticed to buy them in brick and mortar stores. Everything from furniture to spectacles is being sold using this model.

All these e-commerce models come are now leaning onto Social Commerce for their marketing needs. Think of how user reviews have become all-important for brand reputations and enticing new customers or how social media influencers play a big role in developing a brand’s image. Social Commerce essentially draws on social media-enabled conversations to develop brands, drive sales and build loyalty with customers. 

READ MORE: The E-commerce Catch 22

Change Begets Change

Change is not just constant; it also leads to innovation. Changes in e-commerce are leading to changes on the logistics front, specifically in supply chains. 

The volatility of demand is a major factor for e-commerce firms. The increased flow of information doesn’t necessarily lead to increased certainty, but in fact quite the opposite. Trends and preferences change very fast, leading to a surge or fall in demand for products or services. 

This poses a challenge for supply chains. How to control costs? Where to source the supply from? What to stock, how to move the product, or deliver services fast, are questions that e-commerce businesses grapple with. 

What if a new brand of noodles starts trending leading to a surge in its demand? Is there enough stock available at warehouses to service customers? Or how to retain and maintain a workforce of plumbers, electricians, beauticians, or other skilled workers to meet demand? How to ensure that raw materials reach manufacturing hubs on time?

There are various components of supply chain management, and each component requires a skilled workforce – consisting of white-collar and blue-collar workers. For example, let’s consider inventory management.

E-commerce firms don’t typically hold their own inventory, but outsource it to big wholesalers, as it reduces risks. Managers or data specialists who are adept at deciphering big data, or understand variations in demand and supply cycles will increasingly be in demand. People who are skilled in dealing with vendors from different geographies and cultures will also be required. The products and services being offered by an e-commerce firm must match their availability. Being ‘out of stock’ doesn’t win customers. 

Meeting these complex requirements is simply not possible without a skilled workforce.  

Let’s take, delivery management. It’s not just about sending a product from point A to B but also accounting for servicing returns for instance. The need for delivery agents is as high as the need for skilled managers. One botched delivery can damage the trust and reputation of any e-commerce business. 

Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Blockchains, etc. are often touted as examples where humans will become redundant. However, it’s impossible to not just deploy but also manage these technologies without highly skilled coders and managers. 

According to a report, there will be 1.3 million blue-collar jobs available in 2022 alone -- a major portion of them coming from logistics. October 2021 witnessed a record high requirement of 3 lakh white-collar jobs in 20 months, owing to the festive hiring surge for contract workers. 

To manage the needs of a skilled workforce – whether white collar or blue, Human Resource solutions are the need of the hour. Just like the other components of e-commerce, HR solutions are also evolving:

•         Workforce Models: An ecosystem that accounts for seasonal employment as per business growth cycles is the need of the hour. A ‘smart’ company has the right mix of core employees as well as semi-contractual and contractual workers. They all receive social security benefits (PF, ESIC, Insurance) and collectively work towards the organization’s goal. 

•         Hiring Process: Hiring people who display the right mix of talent and drive is essential. From the employee’s perspective, not just remuneration but also a company’s reputation matters. Transparency from both sides in terms of the job description, roles, and responsibilities, key result areas (KRAs) are considerations that a good HR firm would keep in mind.

•         Training and Growth Opportunities: Training should be a structured and regular feature so that employees stay upskilled and motivated.

•         Technology: LMS and L&D should have technology-based features as a permanent and frequent offering for employees.

•         Innovation: We now know of jobs that were virtually non-existent five years ago. Supply chains must be ready to fill emerging gaps.

•         Mindset: Employers must consciously acknowledge changing dynamics to bring about effective changes in processes.

A skilled workforce is essential to meet the ever-expanding and changing needs that drive e-commerce and the logistics behind it. Only that can ensure sustained and healthy growth of any organization. 

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