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Q&A: The rise of collaborative commerce (Includes interview)

To gain a new insight into the collaborative commerce paradigm, Digital Journal spoke with Amit Shah, Chief Strategy Officer at VTEX about the rise of collaborative commerce in online marketplaces. Collaborative commerce concerns the use of digital technologies by different business parties for sourcing products, making transactions or completing similar interactive business processes.

Digital Journal: How is the coronavirus pandemic affecting the world of business?

Amit Shah: The purpose of business is to deliver new products, services and opportunities while balancing the needs of the employees, stakeholders, shareholders and community. So the question ultimately is ‘How is coronavirus affecting society?’

Hopefully, businesses have been reminded of their purpose in times of crisis. Better businesses have responded with thought and empathy regarding how they can best serve their consumers. They’re going beyond generic ‘We’re here for you,’ emails and looking to meet customers where they are. More creative businesses have found ways to repurpose their supply chain to be of service, allowing businesses to be overall more thoughtful.

DJ: How are businesses seeking to manage the situation?

Shah: Well-managed companies have put their employees first. We’ve come to truly understand the nature of the essential worker and it turns out, most of us are not. With less travel, in-person communication and events, our work is now conducted at home. Businesses should prioritize helping teams manage the ‘new normal.’ And although it hasn’t been easy and straightforward, hopefully businesses are showing employees how to manage their time and balance the needs of their families.

Businesses should also apply this same mindfulness to understanding the needs of customers and adjusting to their circumstances. VTEX, for example, has become, in a way, the only way for our customers to make money, as physical stores are closed. With this, we understand that we are more responsible for our customers, employees and their livelihoods than ever. And this should stay top of mind for us and all businesses during this time. Today VTEX has become essential to our customers.

DJ: What must online sellers consider during the pandemic?

Shah:There is a fine-line between making money and understanding what the end customer may be going through. Sellers are beginning to critically think about how to cater products to what customers are enduring, and understanding how to change their behavior to meet new priorities.

Because of the circumstances, retailers of goods like sports gear are seeing sales comparable to the holiday season. They’ve adjusted their selling strategy to meet their customers where they are: looking for recreational pastimes and ways to take their minds off the current situation. With features like BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store) and home delivery, sellers can reach their customers more directly at the right time.

DJ: How can sellers best overcome the obstacles online selling presents?

Shah:We’re seeing sellers in different cultures adapting successfully to what the state of online commerce is now. In Germany, for instance, we’re seeing the rise of WhatsApp and Facetime shopping – where a customer books a personal shopper online, who will be in-store to help guide the shopping experience from a safe distance.

DJ: How important is the development of a digital strategy?

Shah:We’ve gone through five years of digital transformation in 15 days, and businesses can’t put it off any longer. It’s gotten to a point of digital transformation not even being a digital strategy but instead a customer strategy. As customer needs evolve, so do the needs of strategy and businesses must adapt.

For a while, customers will be hesitant to go into stores or wait in line. Giving them the choice to conduct their business over the phone or computer for contactless pickup or delivery is where business needs to be. The needs of customers will evolve and your business must be able to accommodate if they want to minimize disruption. This is why we talk about collaborative commerce as a way to describe how businesses must be the needs of customers and third parties.

DJ: What will many businesses look like post-coronavirus?

Shah:The companies that are doing well are those that are most flexible and can change on a dime. It’s no longer about how well you can serve the customer, but customer preferences. It’s why over the past 20 years, we’ve seen legacy retailers get surpassed by fast-fashion suppliers, who offer a continuous stream of new and assorted products.

We’ll also see more flexible supply chains, as end methods to reach the customer are more important than ever. It won’t be enough to host just a website or an app, but as mentioned previously, the WhatsApp shopping experience will show creative new methods to appeal to shopper preference. Being flexible in the supply chain allows you to host shoppers’ ever-changing demands with agility and maintain customer loyalty.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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