By Lubna Hamdan
Retailers are realising the benefits of e-commerce, says CEO Mona Ataya
Companies around the world may be experiencing their worst ever financial year as Covid-19 hits global economies, but the business of e-commerce is booming in the Middle East.
The region's biggest online baby shop Mumzworld has witnessed a whopping 800 percent growth in demand from January to March, according to founder and CEO Mona Ataya, as new-mums switch to shopping online.
Speaking to Arabian Business, Ataya says the focus to online shifted “almost overnight” due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"We’ve grown 800% on consolidated categories, predominantly the must-haves, compared to just 2 months ago from January to March… We're seeing this natural shift online for the core market for new moms that need essentials delivered to them, so everything from breast feeding to diapers to thermometers - that’s gone up to 300-400% for essential products.
"In other categories across the board for [babies aged] 0-12 months, we have a 100-200% growth and that’s compared to just two months ago. We’re not talking 100% growth a year ago, we’re talking just 2 months ago,” she says, adding that some items sell out within an hour.
“Stock is flying, that’s how fast the orders are coming in, that’s how high the demand is,” she says.
Mumzworld focuses on providing mothers with must-have products starting from the time of pregnancy and all the way to after-birth.
However it has now restructured its website to cater to the changing needs of its consumers, having added safety items like face masks, e-learning products like stationaries and outdoor entertainment items like inflatable pools. It has even introduced meal plans, prenatal vitamins and fitness equipment like treadmills.
“We had run out of face masks already, with two shipments having sold out, while another came in yesterday. In fact, we were the first baby vertical to have face masks. We secured the shipment for them early on and sold very quickly,” Ataya says, adding that she was surprised by large spike in demand.
"We had anticipated high demand, but didn’t anticipate that high of a demand. What’s coming now isn’t only face masks but nice iterations for children with colours and shapes to make it less of an issue for young children to wear face masks when they need to,” she says.
While some experts believe the rise in e-commerce is temporary, and that overall consumer budgets will continue to shrink as a result of coronavirus’ economic impact, Ataya says many retailers who have resorted to selling online will realise the benefits of e-commerce.
“E-commerce in this part of the world is a small percentage of retail. Now you have a sudden acceleration of online, so those who liked it, didn’t like it, or never even tried it, are now all coming online. Certainly when normality resumes, some will go back to older habits, but many will not.
"They will have felt the savings, the reliability and the choice that online offers. Many that have started online will realise [e-commerce] is important to fulfil their needs in an effective manner, and those who have established supply chains, moving back to offline will become irrelevant to them. There will certainly be higher penetration remaining online, especially with people’s budgets shrinking,” she says.
While delivery is challenging given strict safety measures amid the coronavirus pandemic, Mumzworld, which is one of the oldest e-commerce websites in the region, stocked up on products early on, according to Ataya, having filled up warehouses in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. But because it focuses on essential products, it has managed to continue delivery “in a timely fashion”.
Its growth in business has also meant that it hasn’t had to lay off staff. Instead, Mumzworld has shifted or created new roles around the company to adapt to circumstances.
"There are a couple of functions like line extension and innovation functions that are no longer needed, so with these functions, we’d look at, can this person be moved to another department? We’ve done that to a couple of our staff and that’s great for both parties because the organisation can train and develop in another function and it's great for human resources so they can learn,” Ataya says.
It’s also supporting brick and mortar retail brands that wouldn’t have achieved any sales had they not been selling on Mumzworld.
“Even our coffee machines are selling out,” she says, adding that Mumzworld is “running at a thousand miles per hour to keep up with increased demand,” not that she minds.