Covid19 happened and significantly turned 2021 to 2041ish. Expectation for the year that followed 2020 vanished into thin air, replaced with activities and ideology of latter years. Jobs were lost, businesses still face high probability of closure and global economies are faced with fear of the unknown – unlike anything the world has ever known. “Where do we go from here?” is the question on everyone’s mind.
Governments of different countries continuously reassure people of a bounce back but the people to whom the assurances are given still cannot phantom that possibility in the real sense of it. “This is the new normal,” they simply conclude.
The world has been a dual-headed planet since the emergence of the Internet. The Internet brought about social media and exponentially opened a boombox of opportunities that some did not assume possible. For the first time in human history, physical human existence was ready to share its reality with the virtual version. The desire for some persons to replicate their persona with an internet version has increased while some others simply take on dual personality – one in the physical, another in the virtual world.
Facebook boast of 2 billion+ active users which is one-third of the world’s population. Though most businesses already had an online presence, post COVID businesses are left with no choice than to intensify the effort to stay relevant. In fact, businesses are now pushing to go 100% virtual, should they get the slightest idea of its possibility. It is a race to replicate the existence of the physical world.
The physical world is a commercial place no doubt, hence the virtual replication is e-commerce. Some business activities – products and services can be replicated with little or no innovative implication, while others consider it next to impossible because of the nature of their products. However, it is important to note that commercial activity is a combination of products and services. A sales action for instance, offer ‘product’ sale, supplemented with customer or logistics ‘service’. It has become imperative for business owners to evaluate their business models and identify the percentage of their operations which require products’ onsite availability and service rendering, respectively.
The goal is to keep raking in revenue during operations, knowing that the modern business environment has less tolerance for operations’ downtime. Hence, virtual automation helps to provide the customer with the sense of assurance that even though it is an off period, the business stakeholders are working to ensure value delivery.
Replicating physical business operations should not be rocket science. Virtual business operation is no more a choice but a necessity, post COVID. A common mistake is that business owners want to make the switch on a sudden 100% basis, but as with every business strategy, the key is starting small while learning on the go. A good start could be with customer engagement on Facebook for instance, instead of allowing office visitations, feedback/reviews channelling, and distribution could follow, then fulfilment of orders can be tapped-up. The easiest approach is to focus on transferring the services aspect of your business operation to a virtual platform. Asides creating accessibility options for loyal customers, it is absolutely of no cost to potential customers who could easily be converted to returning customers. It gives the customer the mentality that they can easily access your support, post purchase.
E-commerce for all has sustainability implication. This is a business’s ability to save the planet at a time where climate change is a greater threat than ever. When business is conducted over the internet, one would imagine the tons of paper requirement that have been converted to clicks of a mouse and payment receipts substituted by email confirmation. Though minor, it accounts for cost cutting edge, yet contributes immensely to world’s battle against climate change.
The GCC’s switch to virtual commercial space, if backed with national/regional policy instead of function of entrepreneurial choices could spiral e-commerce development and by extension economic progress. The United Arab Emirates owned Etisalat recently awarded the fastest internet infrastructure in the world and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 – a strategic framework to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil and diversify its economy, the region holds unimaginable opportunities.
Hence, the growth of businesses in the region signifies the growth of e-business because the region has infrastructures to make the step-by-step switch to e-commerce regardless of industry type.
We have yet to see best of the GCC. The next few years will definitely see the rise of e-commerce in the region.