COVID-19 Also Impacts Online Sellers on Shutterstock, Amazon

The unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten supply chains and how businesses operate, all of which add to the COVID-19 impact on ecommerce. Across industries, storefronts have been shuttered and sales have declined. Businesses have tried to weather the storm by pursuing models that could help them mitigate possible damages by the coronavirus pandemic.



COVID-19 Impact on Ecommerce

However, due to social distancing and stay home policies, the COVID-19 impact on ecommerce was an initial spike in sales. With foot traffic significantly declining sales spiked as consumers started going online to buy and have goods delivered to their homes.

According to Digital Commerce 360, between March 22 and April 4 online sales saw a 52% increase compared with the same time last year. Web-only retailers also saw growth. Businesses in the U.S. and Canada saw a 30% growth in revenues compared to the same time last year. This was in part due to shoppers stocking up on essentials, groceries and protective gear fearing the worst.

But that too did not last. Because ultimately online retailers rely on the same global supply chain.  According to Digital Commerce 360, 47% of retailers expect some downside in revenue due to the COVID-19 impact on ecommerce as inventories get depleted. A further 58% of retailers fear the virus will impact consumer confidence prompting people to step back from making purchases.

Incentive to Buy

With offices closed, events canceled and consumers spending afternoons at home, the incentive to go and buy is proving elusive. This, in addition to the workforce, had shrunk in a wake of offices and businesses being forced to retrench.

The initial boost in online sales had also come with challenges. Particularly in regards to trying to resell returned merchandise and finding workers to help process those returned items. This has caused pressures on retailers to keep up with inventories along with managing staff in the wake of mandatory stay at home orders.

Disruptions Forcing Retailers to Adapt

Shutterstock the provider of stock photography, footage and music had to slow down its approval rates for submissions. This as more and more states and cities implement isolation and quarantine measures, including shelter-in-place orders.

The company recently slowed down the approval rate of those uploading images for sale on the site. And also the rate at which sellers can upload their images. It has also limited the volume of content contributors can submit weekly due to a reduction in review capacity. According to the new arrangement, contributors can submit up to 500 images and 100 videos in a 7-day period.

The disruption of the supply chain is also affecting orders and deliveries according to Digital Commerce 360. Some 44% of retailers expect product delays due to the coronavirus and an additional 40% expect inventory shortages. One in three retailers believes it’s too early to say how the coronavirus will affect them regarding financial expectations. Some have already started re-forecasting their revenues amid the uncertainty. Others too are taking a new look at their business model. They are focusing on prioritizing their efforts on badly needed products.

Changes in the Marketplace

Despite the challenges, Amazon and other retailers are stepping up their delivery services by prioritizing shipments of household essentials, medical supplies and other priority items. Amazon has announced that it has temporality stopped shipment for low priority products and have done that with their retail vendors. Thus, negatively impacting Amazon’s retail vendors who do not service household essentials, medical supplies and other priority items. Retail vendors do however have the option to sell their products on the platform and fulfilling the shipments themselves.

Amazon has also announced it is opening 100,000 new full- and part-time positions in its fulfillment centers across the US to mitigate any manpower shortages.

Ebay has rolled out a stimulus for online retailers using its platform. It has decided to allow eligible eBay sellers to defer fees for 30 days. Additionally, it has removed listing fees until June 30. New sellers opening an eBay store will not be subject to selling fees for three months. According to eBay, this will help them establish their online presence while brick-and-mortar locations stay closed due to movement restrictions.

In addition, it has temporarily extended its returns timelines and adjusted its Money-Back Guarantee policy to help return items during COVID-19. Now eBay gives up to 21 business days from when a return is accepted or a return shipping label is provided to you to send items back. Once tracking shows the return of the item, the seller has five business days to inspect the item and issue a refund.

The challenge in dealing with COVID-19 stems from uncertainty and a lack of clarity. How long will the pandemic last. And how long can businesses operate under the new norms. These questions continue to test the resolve of businesses.

Image: Depositphotos.com

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Nearly 16% of Those Newly Working from Home Have Connectivity Issues

A new survey and report from Waveform reveals 15.5% of its respondents are facing daily internet connectivity issues working from home. This is in addition to those facing weekly (22.2%) and monthly (15.2%) connectivity issues.

Considering more than half (57%) of the U.S. workforce is now working from home because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the 15.5% who face daily connectivity issues represent a large number of people. The Waveform report says more than 10 million U.S. employees working from home are suffering from poor cell signal coverage and daily internet connectivity issues.



Connectivity Issues

Internet and cellular connectivity are critically important for any type of remote work. And Waveform was asking the issue of connectivity in another survey in 2018.

In this year’s survey, 12.5% of the respondent say they have bad or very bad cell signals at home. But the good news is the vast majority, 70.2% say they have a good or very good signal. The downside compared to 2018 is 11% fewer respondents say they have a very good signal.

Cell signal

The signal or network they want is also changing. The respondents say they are looking to use LTE as an alternative replacement to their broadband service.

The Number of People Working from Home in the U.S.

The U.S. now has more cases of COVID-19 than any other country in the world. And until further notice, over half of the workforce in the country are having to adopt some sort of remote work capability. According to Waveform, this comes out to 85 million people. And this has inadvertently created the largest experiment with remote work in the history of the country.

The data companies gather from this forced experiment will greatly dictate how remote work gets applied moving forward. In the case of Waveform, the company saw a 200% increase in demand for cell signal booster. And this is in part what led the company to find out what other issues these new home workers are facing.

How is it Like Working from Home?

Working from home is nothing new, there are millions of people who regularly work remotely. The difference, in this case, is tens of millions of people were forced to adopt this way of working simultaneously.

Taking into account they are new to this; the survey asks how they like working from home. A high number of respondents (60.4%) say they prefer it to their workplace. And almost half (48.8%) wish it was permanent.

However, not everyone is on board with this way of working, 25.4% say they don’t like working from home and 36.4% don’t want it to be permanent. An almost equal number, just under 15%, say it doesn’t make a difference either way.

Beyond their likes and dislike of working from home, how productive are they? A little over a third (33.9%) say they are getting less done from home, with 25.2% saying they are getting more done. but the overall majority (40.8%) say they are getting about the same work done from home.

Getting more done

In terms of demographics, 18-44-year old’s represent the largest group with 64%. Those 45-60 years of age also have more than half (51.6%) of their age group working remotely. And for those over 60 years old, 45.6% of their group is working from home.

Phones and COVID-19

Since most of the data in the survey is being driven by COVID-19 it was only natural to ask about phone sanitization. Waveform says the question comes from one of its team members.

How often are you disinfecting your cell phone to prevent the spread of coronavirus? Considering a cell phone is on your hand, car, stores and other places it is very timely.

Here is how Americans answered:

  • Never – 15.8%
  • I’ve disinfected once or twice – 21.9%
  • Weekly – 12.5%
  • Daily – 35.4%
  • Every time I return to my home – 14.4%

The Survey

The Waveform survey was designed to understand the experience people are having with their internet connectivity while working from home. On March 30th, the company commissioned the online survey by SurveyMonkey to ask 1,065 American adults.

SurveyMonkey used a nationally representative sample of gender and age-normalized panel to represent the wider American population.

Image: Depositphotos.com

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It’s Not Too Early to Prepare for the Next Pandemic

Executive Summary

One thing is for certain: There will be another pandemic after this one. To do a better job of minimizing its impact on the people and the economy, Congress should start taking steps now to ensure the country is better prepared the next time around. They include: creating an independent, nonpartisan Pandemic Review Commission that will deliver an objective, apolitical assessment of what went right and what went wrong in the response to the Covid-19 outbreak;  supporting the development of a global early-warning system; establishing fair, rigorous screening protocols informed by science to delay the entry of a contagion into the U.S.; building a massive testing capability and a much stronger public health infrastructure at the state and local levels; creating a surge capacity to care for victims and protect health care workers; building an information system that will enable the country to deploy these surge resources to where they’re needed; and making affordable, quality health insurance available to all.

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SARS in 2003, H1N1 in 2009, MERS in 2012, and now Covid-19. We don’t know when or where, but we know with 100% certainty that another deadly infection will strike. While the clear priority right now must be coping with the surging number of cases and the economic havoc that the current pandemic is wreaking, it is also time for the country to begin takings steps to minimize the pain of the next pandemic.

For starters, the United States needs an independent, nonpartisan Pandemic Review Commission that will deliver an objective, apolitical assessment of what went right and what went wrong in the response to the Covid-19 outbreak. Its members should be predominantly public health experts, scientists, and medical professionals, but they should also include experienced public- and private-sector leaders such as ex-governors and industry leaders.

Further Reading

But because the need for some actions are obvious, Congress should simultaneously begin to work on legislation aimed at improving the country’s ability to respond to a new pandemic in the following key areas.

Spotting emerging pandemics

This requires a global early-warning system, which means having trusted, scientifically savvy eyes and ears on the ground around the world. The key is robust international health care cooperation and strong, science-based, cross-national health care organizations. Currently, the World Health Organization (WHO) is the backbone of our global, cooperative pandemic information system. If WHO fell short with Covid-19, we should strengthen and reform it — not destroy it. President Trump’s precipitous decision to defund it could increase the chance that we will be caught flat-footed when the next pandemic erupts in some distant corner of the world.

Delaying entry into the United States

Congress should ensure that, once a new infectious threat emerges elsewhere in the world, the contagion will be kept out of the United States as long as possible. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security needs to focus intently on this challenge through the development of deep expertise in science and technology. This does not mean digging moats and pulling up the drawbridge; it means having fair, rigorous screening protocols informed by science, not prejudice or ethnic stereotype.

Containing the infection

At some point, another infection will get into the country. Once it does, we may have a brief time to contain it, when new cases and their contacts can be identified and quarantined. This is what Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong successfully accomplished with Covid-19.

To do this, the United States needs a massive testing capability and a much stronger public health infrastructure at the state and local levels. Congress should launch a national infectious-disease-testing research and development program with the central purpose of improving the science behind infectious-disease detection and deploying the best available tests (from anywhere in the world) as rapidly as possible. This is too big a job for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention alone. The federal government also needs to help state and local public health agencies build the capacity to do the laborious, detailed field work to identify and isolate contacts of any individuals who test positive.

Minimizing the physical and economic pain

If detection, exclusion, and containment don’t keep a new pandemic at bay, then Congress needs to minimize the resulting damage. This means first having the required surge capacity to care for victims and protect health care workers. With a tiny fraction of the 18% of GDP that the United States spends on health care, it could maintain a surge capacity that would see the country comfortably through any conceivable new pandemic. Building into this national health care reserve a governance structure that will keep the contents tested and up to date will be essential. To prevent short-sighted future raids on funding for the surge capacity, Congress should require a two-thirds vote of both its houses to divert surge resources to other purposes.

Congress also needs to build an information system that will enable the country to deploy these surge resources to where they’re needed. Among other things, this means modernizing the U.S. public-health-information infrastructure so it’s capable of tracking in real time the availability of critical resources like hospital and intensive care unit (ICU) beds, devices, drugs, and personnel.

Finally, the United States needs to protect victims of the next pandemic from the devastating financial consequences of illness through affordable, quality health insurance. If that coverage were available in good times, not just pandemics, it would reduce the burden of chronic illness that drives up suffering from infectious illnesses when they tear through the population.

The challenge, of course, is that as soon as this crisis starts to fade so too may the will to anticipate and prepare for the next one. Humans cope with trauma by repressing its memory. The temptation to forget Covid-19 and move on will be overwhelming. But the country must let not that happen.

As surely as bacteria and viruses will persist on earth, there will be a next pandemic. The United States can and should be better prepared for it.

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Nazis and the Occult | The Nazi Temple of Doom | Reel Truth History Documentary

Nazis and the Occult | The Nazi Temple of Doom | Reel Truth History Documentary

Find out how a group of experts pieced together the complex history of a priceless gold Celtic cauldron found at the bottom of a lake in Bavaria, now known as the Chiemsee Cauldron, and its connections with a number of notorious historical figures. They examine why it may be linked to Adolf Hitler’s search for the Holy Grail and Heinrich Himmler’s shrine to the SS as well as the Mafia and an international fraud trial where millions of dollars are at stake

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Should a Crisis Change Your CEO Succession Plan?

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In any given year, several hundred U.S. companies change CEOs, perhaps as part of an orderly retirement, because the incumbent CEO unexpectedly leaves, or because the board opts for new leadership due to performance concerns.

Such transitions continue during times of crises—and indeed, challenging times can increase the rate of turnover. During the 18 months from January of 2008 to June of 2009, at the height of the last global financial crisis, more than 2,000 CEOs of publicly-traded companies were replaced—a record, according to statistics compiled by the firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Although some of these transitions were long-planned, others resulted from boards deciding that new leadership was necessary to deal with the recession and to rebuild their organizations after it was over. Some boards may have believed existing leadership hadn’t reacted well enough to early signs of trouble, while other boards needed someone to blame. Whatever the specific reasons, our last crisis created or accelerated significant changes at the top.

At this point we can’t predict whether the same will happen with our current pandemic and the economic damage that will follow. But even though we’re still in the middle of this crisis, we can make sure transitions from one leader to the next one are managed well.

As directors confined to their homes are replacing face-to-face meetings with tele-conferences and learning to use Zoom, what should they be saying to one another about the succession plans they had initiated? Is a crisis the time to change leaders? Or is it better to avoid dramatic changes during uncertain times?

As boards debate this complex issue, answers to four questions will help them select the right path..

The first question is: Who should be in charge during the crisis? Even if the succession process is in its late stages and an offer is close, it’s usually better for the sitting CEO to remain at the helm, assuming he or she has the confidence of the organization and the board. For one thing, the competent incumbent will have in place mechanisms to maintain as much stability as possible, such as established working relationships, decision-making procedures, and communication forums. Also, at times of high stress, employees prefer to be led by someone familiar who projects a steady presence and keeps a strong hand on the tiller as the company enters troubled waters.

Further Reading

One example of a delayed transition is at Harvard Business School, where dean Nitin Nohria was due to step down on June 30, after a decade in the role. In March, Harvard University announced that Nohria instead would stay on as dean until December 31. In a letter explaining the change in plans, Harvard president Lawrence Bacow expressed a desire for Nohria’s “steady hand as we navigate the unprecedented circumstances now before us.” Bacow also referred to how the crisis was making it hard to focus on the search, writing that the university wanted to postpone selecting a new dean until the administration can “give the ongoing dean search the full attention it deserves.”

The exception would be if the CEO had shown any reluctance to hand over the mantle of leadership to a successor, and might view the crisis as an opportunity to show how indispensable he is and stay in place. If the board does ask the CEO to stay longer than planned, limits on the extension should be negotiated; the terms might include a fixed time frame plus the existence of certain signs of stability, such as positive cash flow and sales forecasts.

A second question is: When should an outside successor join the company? If the objective of the search was to hire a designated successor who would work with the CEO for a transition period before assuming the title, and if a final candidate had been identified, the right path might be to hire that person so that he or she could join the company as soon as possible. Arriving quickly enables the designated successor to gain credibility by being part of the top group as it deals with the crisis and also to use this period to get to know the company and vice versa.

This opportunity comes with two caveats.

The research on succession is quite clear about the importance of the period after accepting an offer and before day one on the job. (See “After the Handshake,” HBR, December 2016.) The successor must use this time to get materially and emotionally prepared for her start, and the CEO must ensure that the organization is ready for the successor. If the successor is able to join more quickly than anticipated, the CEO should make sure that early days on the job are used to complete that getting-ready task; otherwise, the transition will not be as smooth or efficient.

Also, recognize that announcing the designated successor sooner than expected accelerates the risk that some senior managers, perhaps coveting the top job themselves, might prepare to leave as soon as the crisis passes. While a common fallout of CEO successions is for passed-over managers to leave, a crisis is not the time for them to be distracted because they’re planning their departure. Before the announcement, the CEO and board should agree on a plan to ensure key people remain 100% engaged. That might include committee chairs who have good working relationships with key people checking in with them and reporting back to the CEO, or retention packages to keep them in place until the company stabilizes.

A third question boards should ask is: How is the company being changed by the crisis? The longer the crisis lasts, the more challenges the company will face as a result of it. In some cases, that means the characteristics, skills, and experiences that are needed in a successor will change from  specifications that had been approved months before, when the economy was still growing.

For example, if a company that was performing well in a growth environment and brimming with confidence and cash was seeking a new leader before the crisis, the board’s objective might have been to find someone who could aggressively move the company into new markets by expanding its operations, driving innovation, and pushing the culture to take risks.

But because of the coronavirus crisis, that same company now faces an economy that’s likely to be stalled for months, customers who are reluctant to buy, a supply chain that’s been devastated, and an organization that will need to be rebuilt after furloughs and layoffs. Instead of aggressive expansion, this company will need to cut product lines, rein in costs, and rebuild confidence both internally and externally. That scenario requires a different leader than the type the board had been envisioning just a few months ago.

One non-executive chairman of a company that’s searching for the next CEO told me that his board was divided on whether to make an offer to their favored candidate and get her aboard as soon as possible, or to instead pause and wait until the crisis ends to take stock of where things stand. When I asked if he’d considered moving forward but with revised expectations for the next leader because the coronavirus had changed conditions so much, he said: “We haven’t thought of that, but that’s probably something else we have to talk about.”

A fourth question is: What can the board learn during the crisis? If there are internal candidates to be the next CEO, the crisis presents an important test of leadership capacity. Observing them closely will reveal who is resolute in the face of uncertainty, who is able to make tough choices and stay calm under intense pressure, who helps peers and rallies people to go the extra mile, and who shows compassion and empathy for what front-line workers are going through. For external candidates, the same sorts of issues should be probed in interviews and with their references.

In addition to individuals, directors will learn much about the character of the organization during the crisis that should shape the next leader’s agenda. For example, directors who pay attention will see how adaptive its processes and systems are when stretched beyond previous limits, its resilience in the face of adversity, and whether borders between departments come down and cooperation replaces political squabbles.

The selection of a new leader and the hand-off from a predecessor are delicate and difficult challenges in the most stable of times. When these handoffs take place during a crisis, the degree of difficulty increases. When thought through in a careful way, however, boards can find the right direction that can benefit the company in both the short and the long term.

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