How to maintain your ecommerce business through COVID-19

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Date: 20 April 2020

Delivery driver in a truck wears a face mask and protective gloves for coronavirus

With the UK's 'non-essential' businesses under indefinite lockdown, consumer behaviour is changing.

As people embrace this new life of social distancing and self-isolation, 'bricks-and-mortar' shopping behaviours have declined.

The result?

Online purchasing seems to be taking on at least some of the extra weight with a survey by Klaviyo finding at least 25% of their respondents report an increase in sales.

But while our instincts are to simply purchase online those things we would normally be purchase in person, there are still difficulties that online ecommerce brands must overcome.

What are the challenges facing ecommerce businesses?

Online retailers must navigate breaks and delays in their supply chains as a result of the pandemic.

China accounts for 28% of global manufacturing output. Consequently, the COVID-19 outbreak has caused massive disruption to the manufacturing and distribution of products for ecommerce businesses across the world.

And this isn't exclusive to brands whose manufacturing is stationed abroad.

Factories and distribution centres throughout the UK are running at minimal capacity to safeguard the wellbeing of their employees.

As a result, there are breaks and delays in supply chains that inevitably affect stock and delivery for ecommerce businesses.

The virus has affected everything from production and shipping to delivery, but for those businesses who are weathering the storm, there are certain actions to be taken to aid the process.

What can you do?

  • Keep your customers informed as to how your business is being affected and what that means for them.

Now is the time to practice transparency with your audience as they know that everyone is being affected in some way or another - the important thing is to be clear on how you are managing within your business and how this might affect your customer.

"COVID-19 update" is becoming a staple subject line in people's inboxes as brands reach out to their customers to let them know if and how the virus is altering their business.

Whether you're running the business as usual or you're making structural changes, you need to keep your audience up to date with what you're doing.

  • Keep yourselves informed on how the spread of the virus is changing consumer behaviour and understand what this could mean for your business.

Research is showing that as a result of the pandemic, consumers are paying more attention to online marketing messages like email, social and PPC.

32% of consumers admit to spending more time than usual browsing online and 25% of those people admit to making more online purchases more than usual.

In addition, there are evolving trends in consumer behaviour relating to how people are prioritising their purchases.

The top three priorities for purchasing are...

  1. Food
  2. Health & wellbeing products
  3. Cleaning products

And keeping track of these is crucial for keeping your marketing relevant to consumer needs.

It's also worth noting that consumers are becoming increasingly willing to sacrifice brand familiarity in exchange for the products they desire.

This provides the opportunity for smaller businesses to reach out to new audience members.

But if you're going to do so, make sure that you do so with grace.

  • Communicate with empathy and be mindful that your consumers are dealing with COVID-19 on a personal level.

Although consumers are becoming increasingly inclined to make online purchases to adhere to the recommended lifestyle guidelines, there are still concerns surrounding online shopping.

As an ecommerce Marketing Agency, we highly recommend that you are sensitive when it comes to marketing.

It's fine to promote your products as the solution to an issue that's arisen as a result of the virus but there's a fine line between relevancy and what people might view as "profiting from misery".

In light of this, you should be monitoring all your content (new and old) to make sure the messaging is appropriate for the current situation.

Furthermore, you can take this opportunity to soothe the concerns of the public, surrounding things like home delivery.

Contactless delivery is all well and good, but people want to be reassured that their delivery drivers are sanitising their hands.

And with that in mind, another way to maintain your ecommerce business through COVID-19 is to ensure you are abiding by best-practices.

  • Warehouse and distribution centre best-practices are crucial to safeguarding the health and wellbeing of your employees, as well as maintaining your business.

There is a lot of debate circulating about the nature of warehouse work and whether it's a safe environment for people to be working.

In light of this, many companies are setting out strict guidelines in order to safeguard workers.

These measures include alternating shift patterns, increased levels of sanitation and measures to maintain strict social distancing within warehouses and factories.

The government offers a ton of information about how you can ensure that your business is adhering to these guidelines.

  • Have a sale... because why not?

There's a lot to be said for following best-practice and getting into the nitty-gritty to weather a pandemic but there's still room for a good old sale to help you maintain your ecommerce business.

People need something to lift their spirits - whether that's yet another set of loungewear, some updated interior pieces or a new addition to their ever-growing self-care regime.

And it would appear that every business owner and their mother has cottoned on to this.

That's why if you check most online retail websites, you'll see a sale.

It's a classic technique and we can't fault it.

Plus, people deserve a cheeky discount now more than ever… right?

All in all, ecommerce businesses have the potential to thrive where many businesses do not.

And while this is something to be celebrated, the priority must be to protect the safety of employees and consumers.

This article has discussed ways in which you can help your ecommerce business weather COVID-19 whilst still safeguarding the health of your employees and respecting the sensitive nature of our current situation. 

Copyright 2020. Featured post made possible by Tom Welbourne of The Good Marketer, a marketing agency in London which drives more traffic, generates conversions and increases sales for small- to medium-sized businesses

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