Interview with SME retailer: JoiGifts on the current e-commerce landscape
How do you foresee the current situation impacting retail & e-commerce in the region? Are you making any adjustments to your business?
Offline retail has already been impacted adversely in the immediate term while malls have been shut down and restrictions to movement have been imposed on the general public. E-commerce will of course benefit from people needing to stay home, and the migration from offline to online has been prioritized and accelerated for most businesses now. Businesses like ours (joigifts.com) have facilitated this shift, and as the leading online gifts marketplace in the region we've already supported 500+ merchant partners continue to bring in revenue while footfall to their physical stores disappeared overnight. We continue to onboard additional merchant partners every day and have increased our delivery capacity to accommodate the increased demand.
Do you see a shift in the consumer's mindset towards shopping for essentials - and will we see a gradual movement towards discretionary and luxury goods spend as consumers spend more time online?
At the beginning of the crisis, sales of essential goods went up as people prepared for the worst. That demand has come down now, but is still probably a little higher than pre-crisis as people spend more time at home, reduce their interaction with the outside world, and in the process end up cooking at home more than they used to. During this time, discretionary and luxury goods have taken a backseat. Sales for these items will pick up again once things stabilize, but with people spending less time outdoors or socializing, sales of luxury goods will continue to stay depressed. Having said that, online sales of gifts has picked up as people still look to celebrate occasions and each other's milestones even though they can't meet or even go out to shop for gifts, and platforms like ours are helping them do that.
How are your customers reacting to online shopping - are they still willing to pre-order?
Since we're a purely online platform, all our customers had already been shopping with us online. We've seen a lot more new customers in the last few weeks as more and more people discover the convenience of online shopping for gifts. Since we offer premium same-day delivery in concierge style uniforms from the best brands across the widest catalog of products, our customers are quite happy to shop from our store. We were also one of the first online stores to ensure all our delivery agents practice the highest levels of hygiene, including wearing gloves and masks, sanitizing their hands before and after every delivery, and we also offer contactless delivery.
How can e-commerce businesses shift or tweak their business models to make the most of the current market scenario while still being sensitive to customers?
As long as e-commerce businesses focus on solving a pressing customer need, they will experience growth during this time. For example, grocery deliveries from hypermarkets in Saudi Arabia currently require customers to wait two weeks. We are rolling out a new service under joi where we'll use our existing fleet (which we are also adding more vans to) in order to deliver their groceries to them the same day. Our customers have shared how this is a critical issue and are extremely eager to start using this service on a regular basis.