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Coping with COVID: Descartes Offers a Global Viewpoint

Coping with COVID: Descartes Offers a Global Viewpoint

Descartes offers logistics technology to customers in 160 countries including ground carriers, airlines, ocean carriers, and manufacturers – basically any business involved with moving goods around the globe. And with the current coronavirus pandemic, that means the company is in the thick of things.

Because it runs a global business, it was early to see the impact the coronavirus outbreak, according to Chris Jones, Executive Vice President, Marketing and Services for Descartes Systems Group. “We took a number of actions in advance of most governments,” he said.

Jones said the company focused on creating a safe work environment where employees could work remotely from home. Social distancing policies and World Health Organization (WHO) compliant-sanitation practices have also been implemented across its global operations.

Retailers use Descartes’s services to manage home delivery offerings, omni-channel retailing, global/local inbound logistics, and store distribution.

“One thing that became apparent right away was the increased demand for a wide range of ecommerce products and the fulfillment challenges created by this demand,” Jones said. “Our ecommerce automation capabilities have helped our customers scale their fulfillment, shipping and home delivery operations to meet these challenging times.”

But COVID-19 has impacted Descartes customers differently, creating a situation of extremes. “Some customers have indicated a real spike in their ecommerce sales, while others have seen significant declines. So, we see some customers focused on scaling their operations while others are winding down to preserve cash and pivot to the growth opportunities.”

All ecommerce companies are focused on making their environments safer and have implemented a number of processes to enforce social distancing, according to Jones. For example, to reduce the density of people in the warehouse, they have moved to multiple shifts and implemented contactless proof-of-delivery to keep drivers and customers at a safe distance from each other.

Jones said that disruption caused by large online marketplaces (likely a reference to Amazon putting the brakes on FBA inbound shipments of nonessential items), some ecommerce companies scrambled for alternate fulfillment operations or ways to bring fulfillment in-house.

We asked Jones what advice he had for sellers dealing with current challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Being nimble has always been key, he said, and now it’s more important than ever.

Also, use the “80/20” rule: Focus on implementing those processes that deliver the most value or address the biggest problems and come back for the rest later.

And leverage technology to enable social distancing to keep the workforce safe to allow fulfilment and delivery resources to continue to perform their jobs at a high level. Examples include eliminating paper-based processes via automation and using contactless proof-of-delivery to minimize any physical interaction, he said.

We also asked Jones, “As you look ahead to September 2020, what do you expect to see when it comes to online shopping, and online selling?”

“More ecommerce. COVID-19 is acting as a catalyst to change buying behavior across so many market segments. Consumers who may have never considered buying some items online now have no choice and this will stick for many in the future.

“B2B companies will move online and become B2C companies as their traditional markets contract. For example, we will see food service companies go direct because they cannot sell to their traditional restaurant customers and grocers are challenged to meet the huge growth in home delivery.”

You can find more information about the services Descartes offers to retail customers on its website, and it also offers shipping solution Descartes ShipRush, part of its ecommerce suite of tools for merchants and retailers.

Stay tuned for more segments in our Coping with COVID series.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.

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