With so much going on around the current Coronavirus, Tal and Liron look at the lessons we’ve already learned from this and previous outbreaks, sharing their top tips for eCommerce merchants looking to keep their business thriving during these times of change. Hint: make sure you’re on top of your game with customer service and experience.
In the short term, eCommerce retailers will see significant sales gains due to the Coronavirus, especially if their business is selling facemasks, toilet paper and/or hand sanitiser. Long term, however, retailers are concerned about the negative impact that Coronavirus might have, in particular in terms of supply chain disruptions that may negatively impact their 2020 revenue.
This is not the first time a viral outbreak has positively impacted eCommerce sales. Alibaba and JD.com both grew significantly through the SARS crisis of 2002 and 2003. In this current crisis, there have been more than 222 million downloads in China from Apple’s online store since the beginning of February – a surge of 40% compared to the 2019 average.
With so much chaos around this present outbreak, it is important that retailers not lose sight of the customer. We’ve put together a few key tips to help online merchants stay a step ahead of the rest, in such uncertain times.
1 – Contact your customers
Text your customers, notify them that it’s business as usual. Utilise text message applications as a vital communication channel with your customers and as a delivery tool (tip: check the business version of these apps which allows ‘off the shelf’ answers to repeat questions). You can also set up a landing page letting your customers know that you are open for business, what the top selling products are, information about delivery solutions, email/phone number/ chat… for orders and questions.
2 – Sales. But first, customer experience
Customer experience reflects how a brand relates to its customers. In days of crisis such as these, the digital ‘fingerprint’ you leave on your customers is more important than ever. Brands that understand the changing needs, fears and difficulties of their customers in the light of Coronavirus are far more likely to earn themselves higher revenues, more positive reviews and, ultimately, lifelong customers. Worth remembering.
3 – Check (and re-check) the shipping address
Before you ship, check your customer’s delivery address. Since carriers are not allowed to deliver shipments to households within quarantined areas, this extra effort on your part will help you to avoid costly additional shipping charges.
4 – Review your digital strategy
In extraordinary times like these, both offline and online businesses need to completely review their digital strategy to match current behavioural patterns. In Italy, traditional shoemakers have merged their boutique stock with eCommerce businesses. In China, instant noodle manufacturers tilted their focus away from large offline retail channels to O2O (online-to-offline – an online trigger that prompts the customer to go to a physical location to complete their purchase), eCommerce, and smaller stores. Moving to omni-channel distribution can also reduce the risk of disruption to business due to the spread of the virus.
5 – Accept. Adapt. Act
With customers spanning a growing number of countries, it is important to be aware of the constantly changing restrictions of local governments, and the evolving recommendations of international bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO). For example, restrictions on importing certain goods in your customer’s country might damage your business, as may delivery method restrictions. In times of crisis, it’s important to remember that dramatic decisions, regulations and by-laws can be made and changed quickly. You will need to be versatile enough to understand those changes, think on your feet and quickly put in place new plans. You will also need to keep a close eye on any small legislative changes that could impact your online business…
In summary – even though the Coronavirus will no doubt place enormous challenges on sales and supply chain processes, it is also an opportunity to register a stronger digital presence, to go omni-channel and, most importantly, to gain vital experience in manoeuvring in a constantly changing environment. These indeed are difficult but fascinating times that will no doubt leave us with many important lessons and valuable conclusions for years to come.
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