What are the challenges facing the e-commerce sector?

18 Sep 2020

Kevin Traynor. Image: eComm Live

While e-commerce saw massive growth throughout the pandemic, entrepreneur Kevin Traynor says there are challenges ahead that the sector must overcome.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on most businesses. While some have been forced to shut up shop altogether, others were forced to pivot, especially in the early weeks and months when restrictions were imposed and most physical outlets were shut.

For many, this meant adapting their strategies to become more digital and focusing on e-commerce to reap some of the benefits of the online shopping surge. But as months of living with Covid-19 stretch on, what challenges face the e-commerce sector and how will these dramatic shifts change the future of the industry?

Serial entrepreneur Kevin Traynor is the founder of e-commerce conference, eComm Live, which is set to take place virtually on 23 and 24 September. He is also the founder of Grow Consultancy, which works with e-commerce businesses to help them understand their data analytics. He told Siliconrepublic.com that Covid-19 brought a unique set of challenges to the industry.

‘The sector is booming and the opportunities and challenges are greater than ever’

“Depending on which products you sell and which sectors you serve, your business has either flatlined or gone to a level that no one could ever have expected in such a short period of time,” he said.

“In the UK, 85,000 businesses went online for the first time during lockdown. Some of these businesses will not make it past being ‘lockdown’ projects, but some of them will be the leading retailers of the future.”

Traynor, who has been working in the digital space since 2005, said that the mind-blowing speed of change in recent months has put e-commerce businesses under huge pressure, both positive and negative. “The sector is booming and the opportunities and challenges are greater than ever,” he said.

“There is a skills shortage prevalent in the sector. There will be a huge battle for talent in the coming years as start-up e-commerce businesses start to scale and others mature. Every e-commerce business owner I know is looking to recruit staff across a range of roles, from warehousing and distribution to e-commerce managers and marketers.”

In May, Irish digital hiring agency Prosperity Recruitment predicted there would be a “new sense of urgency” in terms of hiring for e-commerce roles, while recruitment consultant Patrick Tame recently told Siliconrepublic.com that greater digital demand has led to plenty of opportunities for professionals with e-commerce skills.

Traynor believes that governments should assist companies to retrain workers who have been laid off in other sectors to develop career paths in digital roles, including e-commerce.

In terms of Government support, the Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme is already being rolled out in Ireland, which aims to help indigenous retailers with a pre-existing online presence enhance their digital capability, drive online sales and grow their customer bases. In the first call of the scheme, 183 retailers around the country were approved for a total of €6.5m in funding.

Traynor said that in order to be successful, e-commerce companies and start-ups also need to look at analytics and understand which data points to track and measure.

He added that, while it’s possible to be successful without understanding the data behind their online sales channels, being able to unlock that information can “quickly add to the bottom line”.

eComm Live is a virtual e-commerce event that will take place on the 23 and 24 September.

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic