E commerce vendors in Sri Lanka were having a hard time making sales. And these were companies that were dealing with items that do not go bad. The demand that spiked in the past weeks was mostly for goods such as dairy, fruit and vegetables that require care in storage and transportation. Obviously, any system that is designed for a low level of use will experience difficulties when there is a sudden spike in demand. And with perishables for which the greatest demand arose, the systems had to be developed from scratch.
Some supermarkets which had not made any arrangements for e commerce announced telephone numbers to receive orders which were flooded with calls. Lacking the software and agents needed to handle multiple simultaneous calls, those numbers generated frustration instead of orders. Others had low-volume internet-based platforms which also crashed because of high volumes of orders. Both did not have the requisite backends set up. The success of e commerce giants such as Amazon and Alibaba rests also entirely on standardised packaging, computerised (and robotic) retrieval, and the efficiency of their warehouses and logistics.
Simplifying order taking by use of standard bundles or forms is one way that retailers can manage demand in the short term. If they have the prior orders of customers in loyalty databases, it may also possible to simplify order taking and alleviate the frustration of potential customers.
Excerpt from http://www.ft.lk/columns/Let-s-not-take-supply-chains-for-granted/4-698662