Sales of non-essential items on e-commerce platforms in the first week of May were lower than last year on account of lockdown, but orders are scaling fast with people buying apparel, smartphones and grooming products among other items, according to industry executives.
E-commerce companies have been permitted to sell all items in orange and green zones starting from May 4, 40 days after the nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 25.
In the first two phases of the lockdown, e-commerce companies like Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal were allowed to sell only essential items like grocery, medicines and healthcare products.
Depending on the number of cases of coronavirus infections, areas have been divided into red, orange and green zones.
However, in the red zones that include top e-commerce hubs like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune and Hyderabad, e-commerce companies can still ship only essential items.
While people are going online to buy items like chargers, extension cords, notebooks and pens to facilitate work and study from home, they are also picking up grooming products like trimmers, games like chess, monopoly and carom, and books across genres, a senior industry executive said.
The person added that since delivery of non-essentials is still not allowed across the country, the volume is less compared to previous year. However, against March numbers (pre-lockdown), the growth is certainly healthy.
Another challenge facing the industry is the availability of limited manpower for warehouses and delivery.
"Our order volumes grew rapidly and swiftly reached 50 per cent of pre-lockdown volumes within five days of expanded operations. Compared year-on-year, the order volumes for the first nine days of May 2020 was 52 per cent of volumes in the same period last year," a Snapdeal spokesperson said.
The spokesperson added that another clear indicator of demand was conversions (from visitors to buyers), which was more than double of pre-lockdown average and even though demand estimation is a complex process right now due to multiple variables, the intensity and speed of demand restoration exceeded expectations.
Home use category like utensils, mixers and grinders, mops and brooms, and mosquito nets featured high in both search and sales. Snapdeal gets more than 75 per cent of its business from non-metro cities.
The spokesperson said locations like Panipat, Ambala, Panchkula, Amritsar in north; Udaipur, Valsad, Jamnagar and Goa in west; Coimbatore, Visakhapatnam, Pondicherry, Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode and Tuticorin in south, Cuttack in India and Guwahati in North-East have emerged as current high demand zones.
An Amazon India spokesperson said sellers on its platform have received orders for smart devices, electronics, kitchen appliances, clothes, toys and games and other work and study from home items.
Paytm Mall Senior vice president Srinivas Mothey said the company has seen demand for non-essentials steadily picking up in all the orange as well as green zones.
"There has been a surge in searches and the sale of mobiles, masks, trimmers, laptops as well as other consumer electronics. There has been a 1.5X increase in sales as compared to March," he said.
Northern region of the country, few cities of south and eastern region are doing extremely well for Paytm Mall and the company is increasing the number of sellers and suppliers to meet the demands, he added.