Co-founder & CEO, Clearco
What do you believe are the biggest challenges e-commerce businesses faced due to unpreceded disruptions from the pandemic?
Maintaining customer loyalty and retention were two of the biggest challenges coming out of the pandemic. There was a huge influx of brands popping up during that time and incredible saturation across many different markets. This meant e-commerce businesses had to prioritize customer retention — investing in marketing and enhancing the user experience like never before. For some, this meant simultaneously expanding product offerings to meet more of customers’ needs. One of Clearco’s goals is to help e-commerce founders with these fixed marketing and inventory costs, providing more wealth-building opportunities for entrepreneurs of all backgrounds. From a supply chain perspective, fluctuations in demand in the United States drove congestion in ports. The pandemic led to port lockdowns, further reducing shipping capacity. As a result, we found ourselves in a global shipping crisis in combination with disruption of trade between the United States and other countries. E-commerce businesses, especially ones without scale, were met with extreme adversity and had to pivot to complete the consumer journey, while larger retailers weren’t spared either.
What can e-commerce businesses do to prevent disruptions and ensure success within their organization?
Diversification in every aspect of your business can help prevent disruption and ensure success. For example, having a diverse supply chain management system is probably one of the most important parts of a successful e-commerce business. On top of that, diversifying distribution channels and marketing will help you reach a broader customer base more efficiently, both with your products and your messaging. The most successful e-commerce businesses, particularly those that have found success since the pandemic, are constantly looking at new ways to diversify their business functions.
What tips do you have for Canadian entrepreneurs to ensure stability and resiliency in their business practices?
To ensure stability and resiliency in business practices, the key components are diversification, preparation (agility), transparency, and sustainability. Speaking of diversification, knowing your supply chain network and partners is the first step. Diversifying your network, so you don’t have to rely on one partner will make your business stable and able to withstand any unexpected disruptions that come along the way. In addition, multisourcing is a great way to keep your business running, even when one source partner fails. Expanding your network, making new relationships, and maintaining old ones is key to ensuring stability and resiliency within your business practice. Once your business practices are diversified, you must ensure they’re agile. The ability to pivot quickly is paramount to ensure resiliency and provide a world-class consumer experience. Viewing your business and supply chain operations as flexible to the ever-evolving industry landscape is key to assessing where improvements can be implemented and ensuring overall success.
Why do you think having a stable and resilient supply chain is important?
It’s incredibly important to have a stable and resilient supply chain, as that’s the bulk of your business. Companies can have all the best products and services at the lowest prices, but if your supply chain is ineffective, your business will not meet your customers’ demands, and your business’s bottom line will suffer. In addition, having a stable and resilient supply chain will translate into how your customers view your business. Companies need an accurate sense of inventory and demand, coupled with on-time delivery and a deep understanding of customer behaviour.
How do you think the digital transformation and increased presence of technology have revolutionized business practices?
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated technology, changed consumer buying habits, and forced businesses to pivot like never before. The digital transformation and increased presence of technology have truly revolutionized business practices for the better. It has impacted delivery, decision-making, and communication across all industries. Even my mom, who up to that point had never even considered shopping for groceries online, had to adapt in 2020, and is now obsessed with the convenience of grocery delivery. With advancements in these areas, every single business process has become more efficient, enabling high levels of connectivity, which leads to heightened mobility, unparalleled transparency, and collaboration. Every company has some technology component these days, but the best ones are those you wouldn’t even think to label as a tech company because of their seamless user experiences and ease of use.