The monotony of lockdown has inevitably fuelled an unprecedented rise in online shopping.
With 40 per cent of us finding lockdown ‘boring’, the constraints on our everyday lives have left millions of people with no other option but to turn to e-commerce sites such as Amazon, eBay, and Wish.com. Demand for these sites has surged by more than 100 per cent since lockdown began.
While more popular than ever, these sites aren’t without their pitfalls. Increasing demand has given rise to increasing complacency on the part of many online retailers. The e-commerce giants are seeing consumers as a commodity rather than an appreciated customer. However, amidst the competitive maelstrom of the online retail market, there are a few retailers that buck the trend. Here are five ways to determine the winners from the losers.
With more time spent indoors, quick delivery of your latest lockdown distraction is essential to help you while away the hours. However, if consumer reports are anything to go by, Wish.com and eBay don’t seem to share this urgency. Once paid for, products purchased via Wish.com can take weeks or even months to deliver. Likewise, eBay seem to be largely untroubled by the issue of late deliveries, blaming couriers, PayPal and Royal Mail for the limbo customers are left in. E-commerce sites are increasingly acknowledging this frustration and are adapting their business models to meet customer satisfaction.
Wholee Prime is one of these online retailers that prides itself on quick, efficient delivery. Unlike eBay or Wish.com, this platform liaises directly with the factories the products are made in, cutting out laborious and time-consuming distribution chains that are proving to be a cause of frustration among its competitors. Deliveries that can take weeks or months with Wish.com and eBay can take as little as 10 and 15 days with Wholee Prime.
The more we shop online during lockdown, the more we associate ourselves with terms such as ‘Black Friday’ or ‘Prime Day’ from eBay and Amazon. Unfortunately, these bargains can be overshadowed by product ‘price gouging’ – a process in which high demand for certain items sees some unscrupulous retailers, such as eBay or Amazon, increase their prices to maximise profit. This happened during the lockdown driven worldwide surge in demand for toilet rolls and hand sanitiser. In Amazon’s case, ‘essential’ pandemic products saw prices surge by as much as 300 per cent in some cases, while sites like eBay were found to be re-selling Christmas toys for up to ten times their original price.
New entrants to the world of e-commerce, such as Wholee Prime, are pursuing a different approach. They promise their consumers a zero-mark-up costing strategy where consumers only pay for the cost to produce the good they’re buying with no mark-up. This means consumers can shop on their site without fear of falling victim to price gouging and safe in the knowledge that they won’t have to stump up for marketing and sales costs.
Consumer complaints surrounding sub-standard customer service when shopping online have sky-rocketed since the first lockdown. eBay landed itself in hot water after passing the buck to its couriers for the delivery of faulty or inappropriate products. Though eBay’s customers are offered online consumer protection statements, many customers claim these are not being honoured.
eBay and Amazon’s smaller competitors recognise that their continued existence depends on quality customer service. For example, Wholee Prime’s simple business model means payment isn’t lost in distribution, and they are committed to ensuring its customer service agreements are met. Unlike eBay and PayPal, Wholee Prime doesn’t have a separate payments system, so the hassle of signing two contracts isn’t an issue, meaning consumers can shop away and sleep easy.
‘You can log out, but you can never leave’
Subscriptions to Amazon Prime or Wish.com are easy and offer you a range of products to choose from. Leaving these subscriptions however has been found to be difficult with subscribers often finding obstacles in their way. Shopping should be enjoyable and if a service isn’t working for you, it should be easy to leave. Norway’s Consumer Council (NCC) recently published a report calling out what it describes as the e-commerce giant’s “manipulative” and “unreasonably cumbersome” unsubscribe process for Prime. The report has been amusingly titled ‘You can log out, but you can never leave’. Wholee Prime on the other hand prides itself on a simple ‘few clicks and you’re out’ policy.
The quality of a product is a reflection of who you bought it from, and whether to use that retailer again. With vast distribution lines at eBay, Amazon and Wish.com, quality can’t always be assured. In some cases, products sold can be highly dangerous to consumers. Wish.com continue to sell an antibacterial hand gel containing 37 per cent methanol – a poisonous chemical. They are also still promoting baby car seats which have failed safety inspections, and drug-related memorabilia advertised on family-friendly websites. Likewise, complaints to Amazon and eBay have related to consumers being sold fake headphones or phones, or products being damaged in distribution.
Having a simple distribution line from factory to consumer reduces the risk of products getting damaged, unlike larger e-commerce giants’ lines which involve numerous stop-offs for your parcel. Businesses like Wholee Prime, which pledge premium quality for your products and are honest about what you are buying deserve more attention. The factories will be able to list what is in their products and the condition of the product upon shipment. In contrast, the convoluted distribution system of larger retailers mean the answer to these issues are often lost in transit.
Coronavirus and the global pandemic have forced many consumers to shop online. While the internet offers great variety in the goods available it also offers variety on where we buy them from. As lockdown drags on it’s important consumers become more discerning regarding the goods the buy and the online retailer they buy them from.