Coronavirus: Ecommerce players see strong demand for non-essential goods from red zones

After more than 50 days, ecommerce companies like Flipkart, Amazon, and Snapdeal were allowed to ship all items across the country (except containment zones).

Ecommerce companies continue to witness strong demand for products like laptops, coolers, and ACs in red zones that have been allowed to receive orders of non-essential items under the lockdown 4.0.

After more than 50 days, ecommerce companies like Flipkart, Amazon, and Snapdeal were allowed to ship all items across the country (except containment zones).

In the first two phases of the lockdown, which started from March 25, ecommerce companies were allowed to sell only essential items like grocery, healthcare, and pharmaceutical products.

In the third phase (May 4-17), these platforms were allowed to sell all items in orange and green zones, but only essential items were allowed to be shipped in red zones, which included top ecommerce hubs like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune, and Hyderabad.

According to a senior industry executive, who did not wish to be named, said the trends are similar to those seen when restrictions were eased in phase three.

"When orange and green zones were opened, there was a pent up demand for work and study from home items like laptops and mobile phones. While people continued to buy grocery, they were also looking for summer essentials like ACs, coolers, and refrigerators," he said.

Another executive noted that the sales continue to be a fraction of the volumes seen in the pre-COVID-19 timeframe. The person added that demand will pick up in the coming days as the situation around COVID-19 improves, and more sellers resume operations.

Ecommerce platforms saw a significant impact on their business during the lockdown, given that grocery segment accounts for a small portion of online sales.

Sales of non-essential items on ecommerce platforms in the first week of May, after-sales of such items were allowed in green and orange zones, were lower than last year on account of the lockdown.

Industry executives said orders were scaling as people bought apparel, smartphones, and grooming products among other items, but the sector continues to face the challenge of availability of limited manpower for warehouses and delivery.

An Amazon India spokesperson said sellers on its platform have seen orders for consumer electronics, kitchen and home appliances, smart devices, laptops, phone accessories, apparel, and other categories.

"With the government allowing ecommerce companies to deliver a wider selection of products, we are humbled by the customer response and geared up to meet the pent up demand for priority products that customers need over a prolonged period of lockdown," the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson noted that customers are also looking for large appliances, especially summer essentials like coolers and ACs, clothing, grocery, health and personal care products, beauty, and sports.

Work from home and online schooling enablers such as laptops, books, headphones, and computer accessories also continue to interest customers, the spokesperson added.

Snapdeal said it had restored service to 100 percent of the pin codes that it was serving before the COVID-19-linked restrictions disrupted deliveries.

Effective Tuesday morning, the company has switched on all locations for delivery, excluding the containment zones, which continue to remain inaccessible for ecommerce deliveries as per guidelines issued by the central and state governments, it said.

To help in logistics planning, Snapdeal has engaged Legistify, a platform that provides live trackers of latest regulations in red, orange, green, and containment zones, including the trends and micro details from such areas.

"In addition to being the first platform to restore pan-India operations, it is also the only platform that is offering the customers a Cash on Delivery (CoD) option. This option is available in across all 26,000 pin codes - in green, orange, and red zones," the company said.

Major platforms have restricted orders only to pre-paid orders to ensure contactless delivery amid the pandemic.

Snapdeal said many shoppers either do not have access to digital payment options or are not comfortable using them.

"In order to make it simple for these users to buy online, Snapdeal has continued the availability of cash on delivery (CoD) and a large part of non-metro users are using this option extensively. As a measure of precaution, buyers are encouraged to pay for their orders using digital payments anytime before and even during the delivery process," it added.

Edited by Suman Singh