Originally published June 15, 2020, updated May 11, 2021
Welcome to the post-lockdown era, where whole industries are trying to figure out the new landscape. Have you noticed that many businesses have been creating new products or quietly adapting existing ones to the new reality? Maybe you are one of those. Others are cautiously feeling the waters and still there are those who are patiently waiting for any signs of recovery in their industries. One question we all want answers to is what will the effect of reopening on B2B eCommerce be?
In this post, we share news and updates about businesses reopening, what B2B eCommerce businesses should expect, and how to prepare for the future going forward. Make sure to sign up for updates to get new, fresh, and relevant info every week.
|This post is a part of our COVID-19 series that includes:
Reopening News and COVID-19 Updates
Just as 9/11 changed the airline industry and pushed nations to strengthen borders and beef up airport security, the COVID-19 pandemic will make a lasting impact on our lives. This old world will keep on turning and business will never be the same. Here’s where we are:
Month Ending May 11:
- Most B2B buyers make purchases online on a weekly or monthly basis, according to research by Digital Commerce 360.
- Supply chains and eCommrece will not be the same in the post-COVID world, according to Entrepreneur.
- As countries prepare for the summer holiday season, many remain open for travel, albeit with restrictions.
- According to official sources, adults in all US states are now eligible for vaccination.
- Hospitalizations plunge among Florida seniors as COVID immunity takes hold in Southern states.
- Connecticut becomes the first state to hit 70% of all adults vaccinated.
- Last year’s data shows that even with further reopening, UK’s online retail activity will not subside.
- As the use of account reps dwindle, B2B eCommerce sites and B2B marketplaces may be the answer for many buyers.
- Germany’s domestic intelligence agency to create a new department to battle COVID-19 misinformation.
- Germany requires a negative coronavirus test for in-person shopping, posing problems for retailers.
- April had seen India reach the world’s highest case count as daily deaths crossed the 2,000 mark.
- According to recent statistics, the Chinese eCommerce market is expected to reach $3tn by 2024.
Week of February 15:
- The US administered 50 million vaccine doses in two months.
- The 7 day average for cases in the US drops below 50,000.
- Fauci announces vaccines for kids as young as first-graders by September.
- New York attorney general sues Amazon over workplace COVID violations.
- Is data-driven personalization the missing link in B2B eCommerce?
- USPS expects heightened package volumes to decrease when the economy reopens.
- What is the future of logistics for B2B eCommerce? Learn in Picavi’s upcoming webinar.
Week of January 25:
- The US is leading the world in vaccination rate at over 1 million a day.
- Biden signs an order requiring masks on planes, buses, trains, and airports.
- Moderna vaccine seems to work against new strains discovered in the UK and South Africa.
- According to BofA, Amazon stock could soar 23% in 2021 due to the pandemic.
- McKinsey admits eCommerce saw 10 years’ growth in 3 months’ time.
- AliBaba releases tips for B2C and B2B online sellers targeting India.
- Digital commerce will result in permanent changes to physical retail.
Week of January 11:
- The daily vaccination rate in the US has risen to 1.25 million.
- The US has recorded 4,000 COVID-19 deaths in one day for the first time.
- Amazon starts selling at-home FDA-approved COVID testing kits.
- Police will fine Brits for not wearing a mask the first time they’re caught.
- France imposes nationwide 6 pm curfew to fight the new UK virus strain.
- US will soon require negative COVID tests for inbound air travelers.
- eMarketer reveals worldwide eCommerce will approach $5 trillion in 2021.
- Retailers build closer customer bonds with CRM software and online sales platforms.
Week of December 14:
- More vaccines coming: FDA clears the way for the Moderna vaccine.
- Fauci predicts “herd immunity” in the US by late spring or early summer.
- US starts rolling out vaccines as the death toll crosses the 300,000 mark.
- Airlines and logistics firms are preoccupied with shipping vaccines.
- Service professionals report significant digital transformation due to COVID.
- How to make B2B eCommerce part of your 2021 post-pandemic plan.
- Retailer eCommerce revenues increased 33%, but out-of-stocks still continue.
- Lowe’s has announced ambitious B2B eCommerce plans for next year.
Week of December 7:
- More than half of Americans know someone who was hospitalized or died.
- Report says that COVID-19 was the leading cause of death in the US this week.
- Moody’s estimates nearly 12 million Americans owe $5,000+ in back rent.
- UK has announced that the first person has successfully received a vaccine.
- US-Canada border remains closed until at least December 21.
- American Airlines offers $129 COVID kits for travelers to avoid quarantines.
- US shippers expect to handle 800 million more eCommerce packages these holidays.
- 3rd party Amazon sellers worry Amazon’s stocking restrictions will impact them.
Week of November 30:
- North Dakota records the world’s highest COVID-19 mortality rate.
- UK is the first country to approve Pfizer vaccine, which is good news for the US.
- Germany extends December lockdown for hotels, restaurant and gyms.
- Victoria in Australia nears almost a month without a single infection.
- Across much of the US, air travel has hits highest levels since March.
- Many small businesses benefited from eCommerce pivot during Black Friday.
- Amazon’s eCommerce sellers cash in with $4.8 billion in holiday sales.
Week of November 23:
- US cases rise to over 200,000 a day before the Thanksgiving Weekend.
- Pfizer and Moderna vaccines with mRNA technology expected to be 95% effective.
- G20 countries believe vaccine distribution can start in December.
- LA county shuts down all dining due to a recent COVID surge.
- Shanghai’s airport workers stranded as thousands tested for COVID.
- Ebay announces program to help small businesses during the lockdown.
- Following Amazon, Walmart’s Q3 earnings exceed expectations due to eCommerce.
Week of November 9:
- The US surpassed 1 million new cases during the first 10 days of November.
- The midwest continues to lead the nation with the highest cases per 100k.
- Pfizer data shows vaccine trial is more than 90% effective.
- Dow rises and tech-heavy Nasdaq remains stable amid vaccine news.
- Airline stocks also went up, igniting hopes for resumed demand in air travel.
- China proposes new regulations to rein in retailers like Alibaba.
- England, France, and Germany remain on lockdown.
Week of November 2:
- Dow drops 900 points since June amid rising virus cases globally.
- US eCommerce holiday sales expected to surge, offsetting physical stores.
- Pent-up demand drives up holiday flights despite COVID-19 worries.
- China sees a full V-shaped recovery close to pre-pandemic levels.
- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces nationwide England lockdown.
- France announces a month-long lockdown to slow down infections.
- Taiwan holds world record at 200 days with no local case.
Week of October 28:
- The WHO doesn’t expect the coronavirus pandemic to fully subdue until 2022.
- US sees record 88,973 cases for the second day straight, biggest increase so far.
- The worst virus outbreaks in the US are now confined to rural areas.
- France reports 41,000 cases in a day, the biggest increase on record.
- Poland also in a new COVID wave as infections surpass 18,000 in a day.
- As COVID cases surge, airlines brace for a slow holiday season.
- China, Taiwan, and Vietnam see the fastest recovery as virus bought under control.
Week of October 21:
- US reports 68,000 new coronavirus cases, the biggest one-day increase since July.
- Virtually all of the rural midwest is grappling with increased infection rates.
- Federal and state unemployment aid is running out across numerous industries.
- The Canada-US border is expected to remain closed indefinitely.
- Ireland enters full lockdown as most EU countries see a second COVID wave.
- United Airlines, American, and Delta plan for a prolonged downturn for years.
- Australia, with some of the toughest restrictions, eased lockdown for Victoria.
Week of October 12:
- The world passes another milestone of 1 million new cases in three days.
- So far this year, US mortality is 280,000 higher compared to the previous five years.
- Italy reports 5,724 new coronavirus cases, biggest one-day increase since March.
- France reports 20,339 new coronavirus cases, the biggest one-day increase.
- Japan expected to lift travel bans to 12 countries including China, but not the US.
- India hits a plateau of cases and is pushing to reopen public transit and public places.
- Australia continues without any COVID deaths for the second time this month.
Week of September 28:
- Global deaths due to COVID has surpassed the 1,000,000 mark.
- 31 states have an R-value of 1 or greater, meaning the virus is quickly spreading.
- Data shows that a third wave of infections can hit the US soon.
- Jobless claims unexpectedly rise in the US as new data comes in.
- Reopening in-person classes may have caused thousands of new cases a day.
- India doubles its cases in a month, with an estimated 63 million people with the virus.
- Airlines in desperate need for another bailout to avoid cutting 100,000 jobs.
Week of September 21:
- Coronavirus is growing less deadly as doctors gain practice and drugs improve.
- California’s COVID positivity rate drops below 3% for the first time ever.
- Gates Foundation reveals world health progress set back 20 years due to COVID.
- Wisconsin breaks record for coronavirus hospitalizations as cases rise.
- Reopening in-person classes may have caused thousands of new cases a day.
- UK fears COVID will cause up to 35,000 excess cancer deaths next year.
- While India tops 5.5 million cases, new infections remain lowest in a month.
Week of September 14:
- The world has passed another milestone: 30 million coronavirus cases.
- CDC claims if all Americans wore masks, virus could be controlled in few months.
- Airlines and labor unions push for $25 billion in federal aid to preserve jobs.
- Share of positive cases in Texas higher than previously reported.
- India reports 97,856 new cases in a day, keeping the world record.
- Spain sees deadliest COVID day with 239 deaths in the past 24 hours.
- After two cases found, China plans to test 200,000 and lock down city.
Week of September 7:
- Signs of depression have tripled due to stay-at-home orders and heightened tech use.
- Canadians are less willing to fly during COVID-19 than their American counterparts.
- It’s not uncommon that AstraZeneca’s trial is put on hold, says Dr. Fauci.
- US is expected to end airport screenings for international travelers.
- Several Mexican states are running out of death certificates and are preparing more.
- Social gatherings over six are expected to be banned in England.
- India continues to be the COVID epicenter with 96,000 new cases over the past day.
Week of August 31:
- UN predicts global tourism to lose 100 million jobs, over $1 trillion, and the damage to last decades.
- Americans seeking jobless aid remains high, raising questions about long-term government benefits.
- Fauci predicts a “safe and effective” coronavirus vaccine will hit the shelves by end of year.
- Spain experiences a new outbreak with 9,700 new cases at the beginning of the week.
- China’s Wuhan province has opened all schools for the first time in seven months.
- Japan considers giving free vaccines to control infections and minimize the number of deaths.
- India remains a COVID hotspot as the number of deaths has exceeded 1,000 three days in a row.
Week of August 24:
- Coronavirus reinfections have been recorded in three countries.
- WHO predicts it might take 2 years to bring COVID under control.
- The wealthy are moving out of cities in unprecedented numbers in America
- Nearly 9,000 children in Florida diagnosed with coronavirus after schools reopen.
- UNICEF estimates that 1 in 3 schoolchildren are affected due to school closures.
- India sees the largest daily jump in infections of 75,995, second only to what the US saw in July.
- American Airlines cuts 19,000 more jobs after suspending some operations last week.
Week of August 17:
- The state with the highest positive test rate, Florida, has surpassed 10,000 deaths.
- The Netherlands rules that the face masks do not cap citizens’ basic rights.
- The WHO reports that people in the 20s, 30s, and 40s are driving the bulk of infections.
- American Airlines suspends flights to 15 US cities due to the pandemic.
- CDC warns that the flu season in the fall could provoke even more COVID deaths.
- TUI, world’s largest tour operator, claims bookings collapsed 81% from July to August.
- New Zealand’s 13 cases turned to more than 100 in a span of a week.
Week of August 10:
- This week, the United States has surpassed 5,000,000 active cases.
- The restaurant industry remains in tatters, with many finding it difficult to pivot.
- China and Russia edge ahead in the vaccine race, beating out other nations.
- The extra $300 in unemployment benefits is coming, but it’s unclear who will get it.
- As testing grows, free travel between EU member states remains uncertain.
- There’s still no federal mandate on how airlines or passengers should behave on planes.
- New Zealand reported 13 new COVID cases in over 102 days.
Week of August 3:
- Reuters reports that a person dies from coronavirus every 15 seconds.
- Mask wearing could remain for 2-3 years after a successful vaccine is developed.
- End of $600 unemployment benefits rocks fears of a further economic slowdown.
- EU council agrees to lift restrictions for some third country travelers.
- Brazil’s cases surged over 2.7 million in a population of 211 million.
- Southwest Airlines cuts down on cleaning planes in order to get them flying quicker.
- Australia recorded the deadliest day ever with 15 COVID-related deaths.
Week of July 27:
- Google announced it will keep employees working remotely until the summer of 2021.
- HHS predicts that the US death rate should drop in the next couple of weeks.
- Many Eurozone countries are still having trouble coordinating border reopening.
- US and EU airlines call for a joint testing scheme to revive travel between continents.
- OOCL’s reports claim carriers have weathered the COVID storm well.
- China reports 68 new coronavirus cases, two of them originating in Beijing.
- Moderna and Pfizer join the list of manufacturers to start vaccine trials.
Week of July 20:
- The WHO reports a record daily COVID increase for the second day in a row.
- California is the first state after New York to see more than 400,000 cases.
- The EU updated its list of third countries eligible to enter its borders.
- Britain signs up for vaccines developed by Germany, France and the US.
- China is not out of the woods yet as 17 new cases were reported in Xinjiang.
- Data from New Delhi suggests one in four people might have contracted the virus.
- Countries with ingenious populations, childcare, and healthcare issues face hardships.
Week of July 13:
- Travel to Southern states discouraged as they continue seeing infection spikes.
- The Schengen area has mostly loosed travel restrictions within its borders.
- UK warns of another COVID peak in winter as the flu season approaches.
- Brazil nears two million cases, remaining second only to the United States.
- The Operation Warp Speed Program aims to start making vaccines by summer’s end.
- India can reach 1 million coronavirus infections this month.
- Kuwait, Morocco and Sudan cases increase in the middle east.
Week of July 6:
- In 32 states, rates of infections are going up, while 14 states are still holding steady.
- As the EU reopens borders, they may bar American travelers due to the virus.
- UK opens a “quarantine-free” travel corridor with 59 countries, many EU ones.
- Nearly half of Brazil’s working population is unable to work.
- Novavax Inc awarded $1.6 billion in U.S. funding to support vaccine manufacturing.
- India surpasses Russia in coronavirus infections.
- Australia places Melbourne under a 6-week coronavirus lockdown.
Week of June 29:
- Dr. Anthony Fauci predicts that over 100,000 new daily coronavirus cases are likely.
- At least 16 states paused or reversed their reopening plans, including Florida, Arizona, and Texas.
- Airlines are in turmoil as Airbus plans to cut 15,000 jobs and Qantas stops international flights.
- Brazil’s death tolls near 60,000 as it continues to be the worst-hit country after the US.
- China’s manufacturing activity is beating June expectations and continues expanding.
- India’s economy remains stable however many sectors have seen drastic losses.
- Germany remains a beacon of hope for EU’s reopening efforts and post-COVID future.
Week of June 22:
- Georgia, Florida, and Texas open with no coronavirus catastrophes for the time being.
- New York threatens to roll back reopening if coronavirus restrictions are being violated.
- 18 states see upward trends and 22 see downward trends in newly reported cases over prior week.
- Germany is preparing a contact tracing app that tracks how much time users spend with strangers.
- Northern Ireland is preparing to reopen hotels and bars the 3rd of July, barring no new cases.
- All “non-essential” retailers in England were allowed to open June 15, although with some distancing restrictions for shoppers.
- Beijing went on lockdown as 27 new cases emerged after two months without new infections.
- Most of India reopened on June 8 except for high-risk provinces, where major restrictions remain.
What Are the Reopening Challenges for B2B eCommerce?
The pandemic is far from over and continues to shatter confidence in the economy. In a study of 200 employers with nearly 2.5 million employees, over two-thirds of respondents (64%) are facing anxiety over job security. This anxiety is translated across multiple domains. For example, manufacturers and distributors are finding it difficult to accurately plan for inventory and labor needs. Without revenue, some brands are finding it difficult to plan for reopening, particularly if they are severely impacted and cannot return to old ways of doing business.
The challenges of reopening are greater for some industries
At the same time, the pandemic taught business owners some valuable lessons. While physical stores may open soon, retailers are not planning pre-crisis levels of foot traffic. B2B sales opportunities and activities changed too. Over the last three months, digital technology has had a tremendous impact on sales. This trend will continue even when physical offices and stores are open.
Digital interactions have doubled in importance for B2B sales
Thus, another effect of reopening on B2B eCommerce will mean more opportunity to capture markets formerly held by brick-and-mortars.
4 Ways Reopening Affects B2B eCommerce
Investment into physical health assurances will be required
Manufacturers, distributors, warehouses and other B2B eCommerce businesses maintaining a physical presence will need to adopt cleanliness protocols as part of their KPIs. Businesses will need to establish these metrics and share performance with employees. This includes responsibilities and duties around cleanliness, disinfection, and inspection.
Physical businesses will need to invest in new disinfection processes that maintain hygiene. This could mean hand-washing, temperature checks, or introducing PPE (personal protective equipment). For equipment, it could mean new cleaning procedures for machinery For leaders, it could mean reinforcing behaviors, conducting regular health and safety meetings and reviews.
Facility managers are evaluating workplaces, including upgrades to the ventilation system, air filtration systems, and modifications to the workplace like minimizing touchpoints and accommodating social distancing mandates. All this may impact the cost of finished goods for B2B eCommerce businesses.
Technology will play a larger role in B2B eCommerce
Individualization of work
Social distancing measures will force on-location B2B eCommerce employees to utilize their own equipment and maintain spatial awareness. There will be fewer shared computers, more shift rotations, and minimized in-person interactions, including less travel. These accommodations will be localized and complying with guidelines, recommendations or policies for each location will be a challenge for businesses that operate in multiple locations.
The crisis introduced new ways of thinking and operating for businesses that hadn’t previously embraced the concept of working remotely. Remote working was made easier as tools like Microsoft Teams, Gsuite, Zoom, and Slack enabled employees to maintain communication channels and collaborate effectively. As working remotely becomes the norm, HR will optimize talent pools well suited for the remote-only office.
The COVID-19 pandemic boosted interest in job automation, particularly in B2B eCommerce. Manufacturers, distributors, and retailers are beginning or restarting their digital transformation initiatives. Whether it’s robotics, contactless technology, or AI to minimize human-to-human contact, the move to automation will continue into the future.
Effect of reopening: B2B eCommerce supply chain flexibility
Resilient supply chains
The pandemic clearly demonstrated weakness in global supply chains. Many brands have already seized the opportunity to manufacture, distribute, and deliver essential products by repurposing supply chains. In order to remain relevant and to build a better relationship between partners, businesses will need to demonstrate reassurances within their supply chains. Look for companies to develop parallel and duplicate chains to improve resilience.
On-demand and insourcing
Flexibility will become a priority. To adapt to volatile demand and supply numbers, companies will further explore on-demand warehouse providers as an alternative to 3PL services. Similarly, businesses that have outsourced their fulfillment through large, international packers may explore bringing some capacity in-house, even if it means additional investments.
Greater last-mile control
Those who saw increased demand during the crisis recognized the importance of streamlining the last mile. Brands will seek to add more fulfillment options to their networks or utilize underused warehouses or locations as mini-fulfillment centers. Physical B2Bs will be more open to using their stores as warehouses: for both holding inventory and as an additional fulfillment channel.
Business Customers Have New Expectations
Prepare for the long-term
Economists predict that customer demands will rebound slowly, and customer habits set today are likely to outlast the immediate crisis. For example, Chinese shoppers have continued to rely on eCommerce long after the crisis subsided. Similarly, B2B eCommerce companies in the manufacturing, distribution and warehousing sectors that reacted quickly experienced growth, not contraction.
Role of physical stores
As brick-and-mortar B2Bs reopen, their relationship with B2B eCommerce will change. Physical stores will change to adapt to the digital experience. BOPUS (buy online pick up in store) is already offered at many locations and will increase in popularity. More brands will leverage geolocation and AI technology to offer omnichannel experiences.
New customer values
During the pandemic, we learned that consumers, including B2B customers value products and services that reduce their anxiety and risks while providing safety. For B2B sellers, this means adjusting their market and distribution model, holding direct conversations with industry leaders, and focusing on their most valuable customers and their changing needs.
Effect of Reopening on B2B eCommerce & Beyond
Start embracing uncertainty
During uncertain economic times (think 2000 and 2008) survivors think like start-ups. Embrace quick decision making and execution and emulate the lean companies around you. Innovate quickly and act on opportunities as they arise. As nations reopen, the most innovative and agile-thinking businesses are best positioned to react to changing customer needs.
Recognize and meet new demands
It’s hard to make many educated guesses about what customers will demand right now. One news cycle can change everything. Luxury goods have not started their recovery and demand is still high for PPE supplies. Steady demand for sanitizer benefited major personal care players, alcohol producers, and chemical companies. Anheuser-Busch InBev utilized its breweries to create disinfectants from surplus alcohol and continues to donate them to the most impacted hospitals and frontline workers.
Accelerate digital initiatives
For some B2B eCommerce retailers, the rapid increase in sales caught them ill-prepared, others were able to weather the storm smoothly. One French manufacturer and distributor of garden products, for example, has set up their eCommerce business for both B2B and B2C. As a result, they were able to maintain sales on-line with their B2B customers, even as in-person B2C sales fell while their physical locations were closed and consumers were forced to stay-at-home.
Is Your B2B Commerce Business Ready for Reopening?
A reopening won’t mean reverting to old ways. The economy is different, employees have adapted to new ways of working, and your customers have new concerns and expectations. These changes may be here to stay. B2B eCommerce businesses that continue to innovate through the crisis, who anticipate customer changes, habits, and requirements will build stronger relationships. For some it will be a reinvention and a revisioning and for others will be a brand new beginning.
This post will be updated with more information as soon as it becomes available.