COVID-19 and a shift to the online
Updated: Sep 14, 2020
By Parv Chawla
Pandemics have plagued human civilizations for generations having many critical impacts on lives, business, and local economies. But the current COVID-19 outbreak seems to spread at breakneck speed, creating severe public health crisis and near collapse of the health care infrastructure in some countries (Dombrovskis, 2020). This has led to a negative impact on business as countries close-down and consumers begin to reduce costs.
The virus has created a dramatic shift in the way consumers carry out their daily activities, with over 90% having to change their traditional purchasing habits to platform choice either online or offline. More than 50% of customers are purchasing goods online now. This has had considerable impact on the e-commerce industry, which is having to witness considerable growth. To explore the shift of consumer behavior, we look at some sectors of the economy embracing eCommerce.
Banking: With fewer means of physical access to banks, consumers have shifted to online modes of financial services. Apart from this as due to the restriction of movement during the lockdown companies like Swiggy, Zomato, Groffers and Big Basket have grown in popularity, with them looking into more contactless methods of transaction in line with customer demands.
Paytm and like has now been even more welcomed into kirana stores and retails chains in order to better suit contactless demands of customers. The current momentum is expected to continue even after the pandemic.
Telemedicine: Due to stress and fear of coronavirus spreading around and hospitals becoming potential hot zones, patients who earlier preferred physical visitations to their physicians have started looking for different alternatives to isolate themselves from the spread. Indians are relying more on online consultation rather than visiting doctors physically. Startups like Portea, Practo, BeatO facilitate online medical checkups via video calling. This has led the Indian Government to release new guidelines for telemedicine pertaining to safety and various other measures. The technology advancement has also helped rural areas to get connected with the doctors for better treatments where the doctor-patient ratio is as low as one for 25000 citizens. (Forbes India, 2020).
Education: Many education startups have started giving out free resources to educators across the nation to help make a shift towards e-learning. Startups like Byju, Unacademy, and various other ed-tech startups are either offering deep-discounts or giving their services for free in these unprecedented times. In March alone, BYJU’s saw six million new users, while Unacademy recorded a new high of 1.4 billion minutes watched, meaning users in total consumed 2663 years’ worth of content. Furthermore, Toppr witnessed a 100% growth in user engagement. Zoom, a California based video conferencing startup has emerged as a prominent choice for many universities and schools to deliver e-learning in India and across the world. (Yourstory, 2020)
Digital Media: Situation has demanded people to stay at their homes away from theatres, concerts, movie halls, gathering, etc. which has resulted in rise of digital mediums of interaction between people. Customers are actively adapting to these new changes to keep connected with family, friends, and colleagues. Various E-commerce startups are seeing a great growth in the number of unique users. Online streaming service giant Netflix has reported a growth of 15.8 million customers in the first three months of 2020. Zee5 saw an 80% increase in subscriptions with further expectations of additional growth of 20% to 50%. Due to Covid-19, newspapers have not been delivered in most areas across the nation and it has led to a rise in E-newspaper customers. Digital media are rising with more and more people finding time to spare on online platforms.
Companies embracing the change: Startups like Zomato and Swiggy have been able to take advantage of the situation by adding new essentials delivery services. Cure.Fit, a fitness startup, had to shut its operations across the nation due to the pandemic, but now offers virtual yoga classes on its platform. Apart from this site like Bookmyshow, have started promoting Instagram live performances to keep their customers engaged.
In conclusion, with the onset of COVID-19, people have had to shift towards more digital sources of help, service, and entertainment. It has become impractical today to step out unnecessarily to risk your lives. The internet and its companies in third world countries like India have been able to reap huge benefits. But this is in the short term, no one can easily predict what will happen once the pandemic finally ends, will we go back or push forward in our new trends. I believe the latter is true.
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