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Adapting to COVID: challenges and opportunities for e-commerce

To what extent has the 2020 health crisis created opportunities for e-commerce players, and what challenges have been faced in this context?

The COVID context has offered a significant set of challenges for e-commerce companies. Whether it be sanitary obstacles (organisation of massive teleworking), logistical (management of supplies, deliveries, stock), architectural (traffic on the site much higher than normal), or commercial. It is mainly on this last aspect that my expertise was requested by the client this year. COVID's trajectory has taken shape along 3 main lines for the client's e-commerce department.

Enable the commercial animation of local sellers on the Marketplace

Following the closure of physical shops, the client has encouraged the promotion of these shops on its marketplace platform. To accentuate this emphasis, it was decided to provide sellers with commercial mechanisms to enable them to animate their e-shops.

My role was to prioritise the work of the IT team responsible for commercial operations, in order to design a system that would allow the marketplace's IS to create commercial campaigns. The different impacts to be taken into account were :

  • Setting up an API
  • Modification of the data model
  • Optimisation of IS performance to accommodate the new volume

Thanks to this project, the local businesses present on the MKP were able to increase their visibility and thus boost their sales through commercial events. The benefit for the customer is the impact on the brand image, as well as a consolidation of the catalogue of sellers available on the Marketplace.

Change the business philosophy on margin accounting

The health context and its impact on stock management has had direct consequences on the management of margins for e-tailers. Indeed, the commercial logic which, until then, was to favour volume and therefore turnover has changed, to give way to a margin logic. It is now preferable to sell less, but to take care of the margin of each sales unit.

The main commercial lever that made it possible to move in this direction was to have commercial operations (promotions, price reductions, etc.) financed directly by the supplier, and not by the e-merchant.

This time again, I prioritised the work of the IT team responsible for commercial operations on modifying the 2 most used commercial mechanisms, in order to make them take into account the notion of supplier financing. The impacts to be taken into account were the following:

  • Modification of the Back Office GUIs
  • Creation of the notion of budget and controls for not exceeding it
  • Transmission of this information to the IT departments Accounting and Finance

Thanks to these developments in the client's commercial IS, the margin, which was usually stagnant at around 3%, has been catapulted to between 10 and 13% since this period. In addition, the relationship between the client and its historical suppliers has been consolidated due to the greater proximity in the commercial strategy adopted.

Managing major business events in a COVID context

Despite the shifting dates of the summer sales and Black Friday, these major commercial events were maintained. The challenge for the e-retailer client was to maintain the exceptional arrangements usually deployed for this type of event, while at the same time maintaining sanitary conditions to ensure the safety of internal employees and service providers.

Remote devices were therefore applied for French Days and the summer sales. For Black Friday, a face-to-face system was put in place. The latter scrupulously included all the necessary sanitary measures. My role during these events was to ensure the proper coordination of the different teams, as well as the respect of the different communication channels, but also to ensure the proper handling of any incidents reported by the operational staff mobilised for the occasion.

Thanks to this system and the position of coordinator, the incidents detected during these events were dealt with and corrected within a very short time. In addition, the communication channels were largely fluid, thus favouring the circulation of information and the efficiency of exchanges.

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Jonathan Marin - With more than 10 years of experience in project management, I joined Maltem in 2018, and thus began an assignment - still ongoing to this day - with a major French e-commerce player, first as a project manager, then as head of the IT Commerce team in charge of business operations.