6 Quick Questions: E-commerce and the New Normal
Aaron, When you consider what are you selling today compared with pre-Covid-19, how has E-commerce been impacted?
There has been a massive increase in e-commerce as stores have closed. LD has benefitted from the shutdown as more people are working from home and have to print with their home printer or have kids that need to print for school. We have been selling a lot more inkjets in the last few months and like many others, have added a full line of PPE supplies, which we are selling to home and business customers.
Have consumers adjusted to online buying quickly and will it be maintained?
Consumers have been buying online for two decades but looking at recent market data, the percentage of retail sales that has shifted over to e-commerce has been dramatic. Market share growth has leapfrogged, and growth that would have taken five years has taken six months. People have grown more accustomed to buying online. Many have discovered they enjoy buying their groceries and all of their essentials on their smartphones and if they can save time by not going into a retail store to buy something, they’ll do it.
In terms of printers and supplies, has e-commerce impacted brick-and-mortar commerce, and can both will survive?
Yes, e-commerce has greatly impacted brick-and-mortar retailing in terms of in-store purchasing. Their business model changed as soon as consumer shopping habits changed. The brick-and-mortar stores that sell online have seen their e-commerce business accelerate in the last few months. Post COVID-19, e-commerce will continue to thrive. We probably won’t see as many big indoor malls with department stores and clothing retailers as those sales will likely remain online, but open outdoor malls with a mix of restaurants, gyms and retail will likely still do well.
Is there evidence that post-COVID-19 there will be more laser or inkjet printing in small offices and homes?
Most home printers are inkjet printers so we have seen a big shift from toner to ink. LD Products has had a sales decline in the higher-page-yield toner cartridges that enterprise customers use because the workgroup printers that those customers would have been printing on are now dormant. Their users are printing from home. Post COVID-19, we expect many other businesses will continue working from home too and they’ll be printing with a cost-effective home office printer. We’ve always been highly focused on home and small businesses users, as only a small percentage of our customers are enterprise customers that use big workgroup printers. The products that will do well are the HP, Canon, Epson and Brother business inkjet printers and small format laser printers that are already popular with our customers and they will continue to be popular in the months ahead.
LD has had a lot of success working from home and I don’t see us spending the money on a big headquarters after COVID-19. Over the last few months, we’ve realized there are a lot of benefits to working from home. Employees have embraced the change, they can work and live wherever it makes sense for them and no longer have to be 30 minutes from the office. Working from home leads to higher employee satisfaction, longer tenure and at the end of the day, happy employees help make happy customers.
I don’t think the world will look anything like the pre-Covid world once this is over. Who makes a regular phone call without zoom or video anymore? A lot of things will change forever.
Will there be a rise of more e-commerce platforms?
It is hard to imagine someone coming in and usurping Amazon. They have built up 25 years of infrastructure and spent billions of dollars to get where they are today. That being said, people said the same thing about Walmart 25 years ago. Business cycles and consumer preferences are always shifting. We see one company growing, another declining and a new upstart coming in and shaking things up. Amazon is the 800-pound gorilla. I don’t think a new e-commerce platform will be beating them any time soon, but there is always a pattern of birth, growth, maturity and decline. As the world changes, the market changes.
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