Entrepreneur sees shift to the web
Bermuda's shopping landscape could look very different when the Covid-19 pandemic is over because of changes in how people buy and how island businesses sell their products and services.
Colin Rego, an entrepreneur at the head of a technology-based delivery firm, said limitations created by the shelter-in-place regime were among the reasons for the drive to change how things were done in the sector. He predicted the island could soon be more aligned to the shift to online shopping seen around the world since the dotcom boom of the late 1990s.
Mr Rego, of food and grocery delivery business Sargasso Sea, said: “I find these types of phenomenons, and how people respond, very interesting.
“There has been such a gap. There have been companies around the globe, like Amazon, who have been doing delivery for over the past ten years — we are just keeping up. I believe the dotcom bubble really skipped Bermuda.
“If we look at two to five years ago, there was maybe a dozen shops where you could actually shop and pay online. Now it is inevitable that people are being forced to take this route.”
He added businesses would be quick to understand the reasons for the shift to online and the value in it.
He added: “One of the reasons it is going on is that people only have 24 hours per day — so it comes down to convenience, to value.”
Mr Rego said younger people were at ease with the use of technology to shop, but many older people were not, or had concerns about online cash transactions.
He added that impersonal online shopping where there was no personal contact was “very foreign to the Bermuda culture”.
But Mr Rego said, with limited opportunities to shop in person due to the pandemic, many people had taken to the internet to shop and have goods delivered to their home.
He added there was still a gap between younger and older generations over online shopping, but that the pandemic was “forcing that gap to get smaller and smaller. So it is going to be a long-term effect for sure”.
Mr Rego said Sargasso Sea planned to run a webinar in the next few weeks for island businesses who wanted to know more about going online, how to get started and learn from the experience of others.
The company has an app and online marketplace where several businesses sell their services and products, which are delivered to customers by independent delivery agents.
Mr Rego said the webinar conversation would focus on the digital ecosystem and was designed to “empower retailers right now”.
He added that could be achieved by businesses joining the Sargasso Sea platform to sell their products and becoming a partner.
But Mr Rego said the webinar would also look at “trying to give them some inspiration so that they can walk away with optimism and tools they can use to make their digital presence more available”.
He added: “We will talk about the value that Sargasso can bring as one option to the many selling platforms in the world.
“Getting your products and services on Etsy and Amazon and like platforms that are powerful in terms of selling — that's what Sargassum can offer here, locally.”
Mr Rego said every merchant and brand should have a presence on the web, whether it was through a website, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, or another platform.
Mr Rego explained: “They have to have multiple selling platforms, and that is the way they are going to make it through. In fact, they may see greater sales than ever before by using these types of platforms.”
He said retailers could shift their target market from the foot traffic in their stores to a wider potential customer base.
Mr Rego added: “There are a few places in Bermuda that do that, like Coral Coast and Alexandra Mosher — their biggest market is not just in Bermuda, it is the global economy that they can sell to.”
He pointed out the downtime businesses had experienced due to the state-of-emergency shutdown was an opportunity to get a digital marketplace presence up and running.
Mr Rego said: “Usually time is the biggest obstacle. Restaurants and retailers are using the downtime to explore their options to pivot and stay competitive and stay afloat.”
• Sargasso Sea's website is at https://sargassosea.app/en/ and is on Facebook at sargassoseabda