Ninja Van: E-commerce surge was both a boon and challenge

FOR courier company Ninja Van, the transformation of e-commerce into a lifeline for companies and consumers in 2020 was a boon for business, but a headache in the initial stages of Singapore’s partial lockdown.

Ray Chou, country head of Ninja Van Singapore, compared the effects of Covid-19 to “a rising tide, lifting all boats in the sea of e-commerce”.

 “Although a surge in parcel volume was expected, the extent of it wasn’t,” he said. “Overnight, customers turned to online shopping for almost everything, from groceries to electronic products.”

The company faced a three-fold increase in parcels, many of which were bulky items such as keyboards, telecommunications equipment and furniture that required special handling.

At the same time, it had to keep staff and customers safe and improve communication throughout the delivery process.

Moving quickly, it launched its proprietary Ninja Chat system for instant messaging between delivery staff, shippers and customers. It also added a contactless-delivery option, doubled its warehouse capacity, and widened its network of pick-up and drop-off points. Other existing automated systems and processes enabled the company to scale up its operations without increasing headcount.

To further improve its services, it has expanded its account management, cross-border and operational excellence teams and plans to improve Ninja Chat’s time-slot delivery and proximity notifications.

Mr Chou expects e-commerce to continue to boom, now that customers have become comfortable with shopping online. “Covid-essential items” like hand sanitisers and face masks have driven demand for “Covid-accessories” such as mask straps and sanitiser holders, many of which are sold by social sellers who use Ninja Van’s services.

“As work-from-home remains the default workplace arrangement, we foresee that we will continue to deal with bulky office-related items,” he said. “We have since invested in a new conveyor belt system that helps to sort bigger parcels, which has translated to a five-time increase in parcel processing efficiency.”

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