From brick-and-mortar to e-commerce

by | May 7, 2020

The government had monitored the Covid-19 pandemic since long before the first confirmed case in Malta. Our entities, companies, and citizens needed to be prepared for eventual restrictions which have indeed affected our routine and operations.

Digital platforms were now all the more crucial, and the Government’s Agency for Information Technology, MITA, was the centerpiece holding all this together.

Thanks to MITA’s early simulation of employees, Governmental databases are operating normally, however, there are strategic areas that must be prioritized for all clients to still receive the best possible service. These include hospitals and healthcare centers around Malta and Gozo.

IMG_5655.jpgA close collaboration with the Ministry for Health also established online systems for swabbing centers and wards in our state hospital and other health centers to ensure instant and efficient connectivity with the Government’s online system, the Magnet. The Agency also provided an online system for General Practitioners and family doctors to communicate with patients, the TeleMedicine system.

The pandemic has not only changed our operations but has also been a driving force for a shift in consumer behaviour. It seems to have changed how consumers shop and consume information. Companies that have shifted their operations online have also been innovative in ways of keeping close contact with their clients. Contact which goes further than simply ordering online and delivering goods.

Studies worldwide have shown how international companies have also experimented with an automated system of delivering goods and using drones to ease their operations.

If executed well, the need to minimize physical contact can create a contactless resolution and prevent significant loss in any area. This is how the ‘shockwave’ which the Covid-19 pandemic has brought upon the global economy might be less harmful to jurisdictions.

There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has changed how businesses work and has pushed e-commerce firms to capitalize on these changes. Consumers are now more aware of the comforts and benefits of e-commerce, driving any business who has yet to take this leap to do so.

This is also in-line with the concept of a digital state, or a digital government; Malta’s next ambition. I’ve emphasized many a time that the success of any digital government is how safely and efficiently the end-product lands in the client’s hands.

Studies show how e-commerce websites have only experienced a drop in sales during the first few weeks of a confirmed case in a new country, yet have bounced back with an increase in sales and the luxury of new customers. Clients even emphasize how they might not go back to physical stores even as the pandemic ends.

And as global consumers are spending around 45% more time on social media, so rises the need for fact-checked information on current affairs, available products and services, and online news coverage.

However, many retailers in fashion, travel and other sectors have been negatively affected during the pandemic, and are now righteously searching for ways to adapt their sales to this ‘new normal’.

Though brick-and-mortar foot traffic decreased, consumers have the same needs; to be fed, clothed, entertained, and delighted. The question is to provide these safely and efficiently. Retailers are now being encouraged to drive a plateau in sales by ensuring different manufacturers for products and diversifying their available products. The pandemic has also opened new doors for COVID-related online stores, especially since Governments are relaxing social distancing measures but imposing the use of protective wear outdoors.

True, we cannot fully predict the impact of Covid-19 on e-commerce and overall growth rates, except that results, will not be consistent across the globe. This will highly depend on the niche, consumer behaviour, and of course how much longer countries impose social distancing measures.

This is undoubtedly a great time for brick-and-mortars to launch their online store if they have not already done so. If they have already established a loyal ‘at-home-audience’, then now is their time to double down on their online presence and digital marketing.

 Digital platforms were now all the more crucial, and the Government’s Agency for Information Technology, MITA, was the centerpiece holding all this together.

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